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He shall surely live; he shall not die.

A Lent reflection on Ezekiel 18:21-28 


“But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live.” Ezekiel 18:21, 22


You may have lived a good life all along. You have never harmed a soul.


Then one day, in a fit of road rage, you grievously hurt someone.


All the goodwill and positive image you have built up over the years cannot negate the inevitable. You have to face the lawful consequences of your action.  As v24 says, “None of the righteous deeds that he has done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which he is guilty and the sin he has committed, for them he shall die.”


Is that fair? Should one action be definitive of one’s life? As the person complained in v25, “The way of the Lord is not just.”


One may say it is harsh but it will not be unjust. It is irrelevant to the victim of your deed whether you were a good or bad person prior to your harmful act. Just because you have lived a good life, it does not inoculate you from the consequence of this one deed. Past merits and our sins will not weight in the balance.  


Here is where deep in the heart of the Old Testament, in this passage, we encounter God's grace again:


when a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life. Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions that he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die.” (v27-28)


He does not have any pleasure in the death of the wicked. And if one turns away from his sins and walk in righteousness (i.e. repent), he will reap life. While our past righteousness cannot be counted against future unrighteousness, there is still hope if we repent. And if we read this passage carefully, true repentance is not just remorse for our past deeds. It includes doing what is “just and right.”


What is truly definitive is His grace. 


If it is unfair to the human eye, it is because we have failed to see that God is gracious and chooses life over death. We can also see this in the story of Jonah, where he thought it was unjust that he himself was judged for disobedience while Nineveh’s repentance was spared her of judgment. God's answer was “Should I not pity Nineveh..?” (Jonah 4:11). 


As a Judge who also loves, the supreme revelation of this is in the life, death and resurrection of His Son. In His grace, compassion and love, He will always seek a way to help us to experience life rather than judgment. 


He offers His grace to us. Will we accept His grace, leave our broken past behind and live on?


Prayer: Gracious Father, help us to always live in with a spirit of brokenness and contrition, so that daily we may receive your grace, forgiveness for every evil thought word or deed and find help in time of need. Amen.


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