Lauantai 22.9.2018
Tomuun vaipuneet, herätkää ja riemuitkaa! Sinun kimaltava aamukasteesi virvoittaa maan, ja niin maa palauttaa kuolleet elämään. Jes. 26:19

Repent, and you shall live

in English 10.5.2017 08:13 | Siionin Lähetyslehti
Sin is a bad thing. It breaks love. It separates man from God and from his neighbor. Ezekiel writes: “When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die” (Ezk. 18:26).
Although the prophet writes in this way, God does not seek revenge on a sinner. He wants to bring a lost person back into unity with Him. The Lord has a salvation plan. He will help.

Does God act wrongly?

Prophet Ezekiel has seen the unfaithfulness of the people of Israel. He depicts the sins of the Israelites in chapter 18 of his book. The Israelites had added religious rites of the surrounding nations to the correct worshiping of God. This led to worshiping of idols, where some earnestly given sacrifices had ended up in the wrong hands. Greedy usurers had threatened debtors, and marital infidelity had caused distress.

Ezekiel says: “What do you mean by repeating the proverb concerning the land of Israel, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?” (Ezl. 18:2.) This sentence describes the impact of evil, which extends over generations.

God became angry with His people. For this reason Ezekiel foretells of punishment in which God places His people under judgement: “Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die.” (Ezl. 18:4.) Did God act wrongly when he warned of the coming judgement?

Sin of the individual or the community?

The Old Testament often speaks about Israel, God’s people, as if about a single person from whom God expects absolute faithfulness. Because God required faithfulness from the entire nation, also the transgressions of individuals were counted as sins of the whole nation. If the people of God allowed evildoers in their midst, they all together became partakers in the transgressions. Ezekiel warns about rejecting God’s will and the dangers that would follow.

The difficulty of recognizing one’s own error

It is difficult to recognize one’s own or the community’s error. We may often think that there is nothing wrong in me or us.

I remember a certain family who lived on an island. Once they found a valuable object that the sea had washed up onto the shore. According to the law they were supposed to inform the authorities and also pay a customs duty. The matter prompted a lively discussion in the family. They finally reached agreement and decided to take care of the matter as required by the law.

This correct decision spawned a new problem, though, because the family wanted to pay the duty as publicly as possible. They wanted to display their virtue. The poverty-stricken family resisted the temptation of theft, but at the same time fell into the sin of spiritual proudness.

Everyone has their own experiences of people’s mutual competitiveness, greed, envy, and pride. Displaying one’s own righteousness is also regrettably common, but it is extremely difficult, even impossible, to recognize one’s own error. In a dispute, the fault is often seen as being in the other.

This portion of Ezekiel’s book awakens a person to examine his or her own life in the mirror of God’s word. A conscience that is bound to the word of God reveals what a person does not notice himself or wishes to hide or consider insignificant.

I will give you a new heart

God is able to awaken a desire to repent and also gives the strength to do so. God does not wish death or punishment upon even someone who has fallen into a grievous sin, even though according to our human sense of justice such judgement would seem justified. The Lord has a salvation plan: “Repent, return.” Through repentance it is possible to leave behind one’s abandonment of faith, former life, and all sins. The forgiveness of sins in Jesus’s name and blood spawns new life; it gives a new spirit into the heart.

Man cannot create a new spirit or heart for himself. Only God is able to cleanse: “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezl. 36:26.)

Ezekiel’s God has the quality of the prodigal son’s father: he is merciful. The gospel of the kingdom of God helps a person to repentance. It gives the spirit of childhood.

Text: Juho Kopperoinen
Source: Siionin Lähetyslehti 1/2016
Translation: K. K.

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