(Part 44)


August 13, 2016

Today’s reading:  Ezekiel 18:1-32

God is a God of mercy, and He is a God of justice. God is merciful and just. The two go together. While it might seem that mercy is at the expense of justice, it is not. The error is precisely when we emphasize God’s mercy without considering God’s justice. Today there is a false mercy, that looks to just accepting the sinner without correcting his sin.

Mercy is about life, while sin is about death. “Only the one who sins shall die!” (v.4b). Justice is also about life. “If a man is just …. he shall surely live” (v.5a,9b). What is justice? It is giving to the other person what is due that person, according to the design of God. It is not taking what naturally belongs to another. Thus it is giving worship only to God (v.6a), it is not defiling another’s wife (v.6b), it is helping the poor and not depriving the poor of such help (v.7), it is not being usurious in lending (v.8a), it is not doing evil to another (v.8b), it is obeying God (v.9a).

So the just shall live and the unjust shall die. The key for moving from spiritual death to life is mercy. The sinner is given a chance. “But if the wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed, if he keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live. He shall not die!” (v.21). No matter how wicked a man is, no matter how great his sin, God is merciful and can forgive him, wiping the slate clean. But he has to act to make his life right. “None of the crimes he has committed shall be remembered against him; he shall live because of the justice he has shown.” (v.22).

God is indeed merciful, but mercy is an invitation to repentance. “Do I find pleasure in the death of the wicked–oracle of the Lord God? Do I not rejoice when they turn from their evil way and live?” (v.23). God’s mercy is abundant. But it is up to us to appropriate His mercy for ourselves. To do so, we turn away from sin, evil and injustice, and turn to obedience to God and living according to His ways. “Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed, and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. Why should you die, house of Israel?” (v. 31).

God is merciful. God wants all to be saved. “For I find no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies” (v.32a). It is up to us. We need to turn away from sin and turn back to God. “Turn back and live!” (v.32b).

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