Who is Er?
Luke 3: 28 “the son of Er”
It means ‘watcher’ or ‘protector’.
In ancient Biblical cities, built into the walls were huge watchtowers and watchmen were posted day and night to protect the population.
In the same way God has always had ‘watchers’. “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me.” Ezekiel 3:17
Jesus appointed ‘watchers’, “Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matt 26:40-41
They called Australian retired salesman Don Ritchie “the watchman.” Each day, he sat in his favourite chair at his cliffside home, he would look up and scan the precipice that took the lives of approximately 50 suicide jumpers each year, trying to discern the intentions of visitors.
When somebody seemed to be lingering too long at the cliff, he walked out to talk to him.
“You can’t just sit there and watch them, you gotta try and save them. It’s pretty simple.”
According to official estimates, Ritchie and his wife Moya saved 160 lives during the 45 years they lived near the Gap Park, a famous cliff frequented by sightseers that affords a beautiful view of the Sydney Harbour. However, the unofficial tally is closer to 400, according to newspaper reports.
Although he occasionally used force over the years, his usual approach was friendliness and persuasion, which often ended in an invitation to join himself and his wife at their home for a cup of tea. A former salesman, he saw himself in a different line of sales at the Gap.
“I used to sell kitchen scales and bacon cutters, then I was state manager of a life insurance company,” he told a reporter. “At the Gap I’m trying to sell people life.” Ritchie didn’t pry or preach, but rather smiled and listened, a technique that often worked, though not always. He lost many to the cliff, but saved more than he lost, and didn’t suffer feelings of guilt for his failures. “You can’t do much about it,” he said.
Although it was difficult for him to remember all of the faces he had seen at the cliff during his decades of residency there, he often recalled a woman who had taken off her shoes and had scaled the small fence bordering the ledge, where she sat with a look of confusion on her face. After talking to her and inviting her in for tea, the woman explained that she suffered from depression, and that the medication she had been given was not working. Ritchie and his wife suggested that she ask for a second opinion. Months later, she sent them a bottle of French champagne, and then a Christmas card thanking them for their help.
For his decades of effort to prevent suicides, Ritchie was awarded the Order of Australia, which is the country’s second highest honour, in 2006, and he and his wife were named citizens of the year by the local city council.
Dianne Gaddin, an anti-suicide activist whose daughter killed herself at the cliff in 2005, thought Ritchie may have talked her daughter out of previous attempts and told a reporter, “It takes an enormous amount of courage just to go up to a person who is going to jump. Don has a charisma about him. He makes people feel safe, secure, and calm. I really think he is one special man.”
Now that is a ‘watcher’!
Don carried on being ‘The Watchman’ until his death in May 2012.
Where is the watchmen now I wonder?
Where are the ER people?
You may not be living on a cliff-face, but where you are right now is the appointed place and all around you are people who God loves and is trying to reach.
So what is the role of ER, the watcher people?
- To pray.
I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night.
You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth. Isaiah 62: 6-7
- To pray and not give up.
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up… And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? Luke 18: 1,7
- To pray with listening.
I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint. Habbakuk 2:1
- To pray with an awareness of what is around you.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5: 8
- To pray with action
Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Revelation 3: 2.
We are all called to be ER people. To be faithful watchers of God and those around us.
May we rise and take those appointed positions today.