Clearly, there was a need for watchmen then and there is still a need for them today. They are responsible for watching out for danger and giving warning. They are appreciated by those being protected but often resented by those who prey on others.
Some communities have signs concerning neighborhood watches. Neighbors are to be looking out for each other. Seeing a danger and not warning those endangered makes the person who sees responsible to a degree. We are responsible for accepting risk for each other as good neighbors.
But, what about the church? The Lord has always required leaders to be responsible for those they are leading. The prophets were to warn those in danger even at the risk of their own lives. Jesus spoke to this point in Matthew 23:34,37 - "Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city...O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!" Jesus told His apostles that they would be persecuted and that those who put them to death would think that they were doing God a favor. Matthew 24:9 reads - "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake." John 16:2 - "They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service."
There are some important spiritual lessons to apply regarding watchman. I realize that the ideal watchmen in a congregation will be the elders, first and foremost, and then the preacher. However, that is not to say that other spiritually-minded Christians should not also serve as watchmen (cf. Gal. 6:1). In truth, if you see a danger for a congregation or an individual, you need to take it upon yourself to warn those affected by it. In other words, we should all be watchmen!
At this time, let us emphasize the great need for watchmen in the church today. We need great watchmen for at least two reasons:
(1) The devil continues seeking to devour.
I Peter 5:8,9 exhorts - "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world." Consider also II Corinthians 2:11 - "Lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices."
(2) False teachers continue to abound.
And some false teachers claim to be apostles (even today). Paul wrote in II Corinthians 11:13-15 - "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works."
Some false teachers are elders. Paul warned the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:29,30 - "For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves."
Some false teachers claim to be from the Spirit of God. I John 4:1 warns - "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world."
Things that happen in our culture often affect the church rapidly and we need to be ready (e.g., the feminist movement, homosexual movement, postmodernist thought, etc.). Good watchmen help keep the church prepared by sounding the warning and leading the way for righteousness and against wickedness.
We will continue this study in our next lesson.