Ezekiel 18:21–24, 30–32 comment (0)
June 12, 2014
By Kenneth B.E. Roxburgh, Ph.D.
Related Scripture: Ezekiel 18:21–24, 30–32
Bible Studies for Life
Chair and Armstrong Professor of Religion, Samford University
God is Just
Ezekiel 18:21–24, 30–32
Ezekiel is an unknown character in the Old Testament. He comes before us as a man of faith, who through many distressing circumstances, which made him doubt and cry out in despair, still lived a life devoted to God. In the midst of the trauma of living in Babylon during the days of Israel’s exile, he stood steadfast and his life shows us the possibilities of living for God in a “godless” society. The eighth century was a terrible time of anguish for God’s people; they sometimes felt abandoned by God and prophets such as Ezekiel came to remind the people of their failure but also of God’s free forgiveness.
God is Just and Merciful (21–23)
As Ezekiel reflected on the nature of Israel’s exile in Babylon, he called the people to realize their sin of injustice and unrighteousness had brought them into an experience of God’s chastening mercy. After years of prophetic warnings that the people of Israel ignored and rejected the consequences of their sins suddenly impacted their way of living. Ezekiel reminded them that their misfortunes were not because of God’s injustice or the wickedness of others but their own failures.
Ezekiel also reminds them that God’s justice is not a negation of His mercy and love. He takes no pleasure in judging. His essential nature is one of mercy and grace, but His love is holy and He cannot overlook injustice and sin. He would far rather that His people turned from their sin in confession and repentance, but sometimes they need to face the consequences of their misdeeds to come to their senses.
God’s Justice Cannot Be Ignored (24)
God is often portrayed as a God who doesn’t remember our sins when He forgives us. However, sin that is unconfessed is rightly remembered by God. The tension between God remembering sins that we commit and His promise to “forgive and forget” comes on many occasions in Scripture. The offer of free and full forgiveness is never meant to make us take God’s grace for granted. Yet His knowledge of every area of our lives can be overwhelming, and so the psalmist declares, “If You, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, so that You may be revered.” God’s grace calls us to acknowledge our sin. Scottish pastor Samuel Rutherford used to say that Christians “break off a piece of sin every day” as we return to the Lord and He refreshes our souls.
God Calls Us to Turn to Him for Mercy (30–32)
At the center of God’s purposes for human history is the cross of Calvary because it is through the cross that God reveals His plans for this world and through the cross that we experience His presence with us in the midst of the perplexity of life in all its pain and problems. Prior to the awful predictions of judgment in Revelation 6–19, it is significant that John sees a vision of the Lamb who was slain for this sinful world. Because of His grief over sin, judgment flows from a God who loves the world He created so much that He sent His one and only Son to die for it at Calvary.
One of the purposes of God’s judgment is to call men and women to repentance and once again give an opportunity for salvation. It is as a slaughtered Lamb that God comes to reveal His holy love against human sinfulness. He has “no pleasure in the death of anyone” but says, “Turn then and live.”