Repent and Live!

by Catherine McNiel on September 15, 2022

Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!
                                                                                             —Ezekiel 18:30b-32

Finally, the fever pitch of Ezekiel is abating a bit. In today’s chapter, we have a fairly straightforward list of what God considers right and wrong, righteous and evil.

First, the righteous man. He doesn’t worship idols, mistreat women, steal from or oppress others. The list goes on to include what he does do: keeps his word, gives food to the hungry, gives clothing to the naked. He does not accept interest on loans to those who are struggling. All in all, he has oriented his life around loving God and loving his neighbors.

Then, the unrighteous man. I won’t elaborate but, essentially, he’s the opposite. All the evil he should avoid, he pursues. All the good deeds he should embrace, he does the opposite.

You might note that this straightforward list sounds like the ten commandments. And like similar lists and stories told in the law, the prophets, the wisdom literature, the gospels, and the epistles. God isn’t hiding His will from us. God has made it quite clear: choose to live in ways that brings harm to no one, but helps those who are struggling. Love God and love your neighbor. Don’t keep for yourself something that could be used to benefit someone in need—whether food, clothing, or interest on a loan.

I wonder if we gloss over these sorts of chapters, knowing that Jesus has paid the price for all our sins and that God’s own righteousness is what God sees in us. Those things are true, the heart of the gospel! But these commands are true, too, and they are also the heart of the gospel. In fact, Jesus says we will know we are His true children if we love as He loves and obey His commands. Paul says again and again that because we are eternally forgiven and blameless in Jesus therefore we should all the more boldly get down to the business of creating lives and communities centered on God’s commands.

Shall we do the same?   

Questions for reflection and discussion: What do you notice in the two lists in this chapter? Where have you heard some of these commands elsewhere in the Bible? What would obeying them look like today? Which ones seem straightforward, and which ones very difficult? Why do you think so many of them deal with economics (while so few of our own rules for Christian living do)?

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