- June 1, 2014
- By Carolyn Porterfield / Multicultural Consultant, Texas WMU, Dallas
• The Bible Studies for Life lesson for June 15 focuses on Ezekiel 18:21-24, 30-32.
The speed limit in Texas varies depending on the part of the state in which you are driving. We all know that to drive the speed limit can endanger your health because so many tend to exceed the posted limit. Someone said, “If you don’t speed, you will get run over.”
What do you want to happen to the one who is going in and out of traffic at a high rate of speed endangering those around him? If you are like me, you are wondering where the state patrol is so the guy can be stopped and brought to justice.
However, when I am slightly exceeding the speed limit and see those red lights flashing in the rear view mirror, I hope the officer who stops me will have mercy and let me off with a warning.
What’s the difference? Human nature is such that we all want to get off easy ourselves but may demand a different display of justice for others. God is not like us. God is just in all his dealings. He is holy, which means his just acts are clothed in holiness. His justice is unlike any other because of who he is.
Just toward all
Ezekiel lived during a dark period in Israel’s history. He prophesied in late 500s B.C. when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. The people were carried into exile, including Ezekiel. This should have been no surprise to the people, because more than one prophet told them God was going to judge his people for their sinful ways. Death and destruction were coming if they did not repent.
God was clear in what he expected from his people. In the Mosaic covenant of Exodus 19:5-6, God said: “’Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’”
The Israelites were to be a people who stood out from the nations around them. They were to worship God alone and treat their families and neighbors in ways that honored God and were distinctly different from the kingdoms of pagan kings. But time and time again, the Israelites turned away from God.
Hundreds of years later, God spoke these words through the prophet Ezekiel: “And you will know that I am the Lord, for you have not followed my decrees or kept my laws but have conformed to the standards of the nations around you” (Ezekiel 11:12). It is almost as if God is saying: “I am a just God. I cannot ignore your sin any more than I can ignore the sin of the nations around you. You will know that I am the Lord as I deal with your sin.”
Sins of the wicked and the righteous
Ezekiel 18:21-24 examines the sins of the wicked and the righteous. The wicked were those who were hostile to God. They neither cared for nor obeyed the laws and decrees of God. Perhaps they worshipped at the altars of many different gods, oppressed the poor and committed immoral acts.
God says if this one who has rejected God turns away from the sins he has committed, keeps God’s laws, and does what is right and just, he will live (v. 21). God will not remember his sins or hold them against the man (v. 22). He doesn’t take pleasure in the death of those who have rejected him (v. 23).
But what about the righteous man who has kept God’s law and lived a moral life? How does God judge this one who turns away from doing what is right and just? Will his prior righteous acts keep him from death? Ezekiel 18:24b reveals the answer: “None of the righteous things he has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness, he is guilty of and because of the sins he has committed, he will die.”
Both the “wicked” and the “righteous” earn death because of their sin. God is just in declaring all guilty because all have sinned (Isaiah 53:6; Romans 3:23). This is hard for some to accept. We like to put sin in categories like “little white lie” kind of sins versus “major sins” like murder, stealing and more. God doesn’t look at sin in this way because he is just.
Repent and live
The Israelites felt God was unjust. How could God treat them the same way he was treating the wicked around them? Somehow they expected special treatment in their sin because they were “righteous.”
God, as Sovereign Lord, will judge each one according to his or her ways (Ezekiel 18:30). Sin is the downfall for every man, woman, boy and girl. God instructs us to repent, have a change of mind that results in a change of action. “Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit” (Ezekiel 18:31).
We each have a choice to make. Continue in our sin and die. Repent of our sin and live. In different ways, people ask how a loving God can send people to death. God is not only loving, but also just. He does not compromise on what we earn for our sin. But no one has to die. Here’s the answer: “For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!” (Ezekiel 18:32).
Who around you needs to hear this message? Whether it is you or someone else, don’t delay. Choose life today.