EZEKIEL 18:1-19:14 | HEBREWS 9:1-10 | PSALM 106:32-48 | PROVERBS 27:10
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We continue to plow through the book of Ezekiel, and find God in deep and detailed discourse with Ezekiel.
Ezekiel is the prophet in exile who is receiving his commission from the Lord to go and preach to his people in Judea. God is making a point here of how sin is to be attributed to the person who commits it, and cannot transcend to the previous or next generation.
In line with the consequences of willful sin, the wicked person will die as a result of his wrongdoing, and a righteous person will live for the good choices he makes. And yet, there is a third option.
It is never black and white, you see; there is an amazing burst of color, if you will, in this third and mind-blowing option. It pertains to a wicked person who turns from his ways. What do you think ought to be the fate of such a person?
God says the consequences of repentance is forgiveness and life. Just like that!
This is exactly what God says: 21 “But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die. 22 None of the offenses they have committed will be remembered against them. Because of the righteous things they have done, they will live. 23 Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?
Likewise, I am made to draw a parallel from the evil person to the righteous person, in that for a righteous person also, that person’s righteousness is credited to him, and him alone. It cannot be derived from his father, and neither may it be passed down to his children. Both sin and righteousness are attributed directly to the individual—and this individual must bear the consequences of either state.
A person cannot expect the righteousness of his parent to save him from his own sin, and certainly cannot build up an inheritance of goodness that would serve as a legacy to his children. It doesn’t work that way. God has no grandchildren, you see. He is a father only; not a grandfather!
But coming back to the text, it is nothing short of fascinating to see this style of reasoning that God exhibits with Ezekiel. Remember, this is under the original covenant that was made by God and Abraham, and then further consolidated in the office of Moses by way of the Mosaic Law, of which the first and foremost commandment was that the people would refrain from idolatry.
And yet, in spite of all the many warnings over the many generations since the inception of that covenant, and the many failings of the people, we see a certain quality in God that is as stubborn and steadfast as the erring ways of the people themselves. God is offering forgiveness to the most wicked of wicked in saying that he is prepared to forgive and forget: that’s right—that’s exactly where that phrase “forgive and forget” has originated from.
God says “none of the offenses they have committed will be remembered against them.”
This is not justice, folks—this is mercy.
Justice warrants that the Law be applied equally to one and all when it is violated. Mercy, however, is completely irrational in not only offering forgiveness, but then going a step further to say that she has no recollection of past violations, i.e., sins.
Is that mind-blowing, or what?
This is the face of forgiveness that God was prepared to offer to his people—time and time again. But did they listen? I’m not too sure about that…
This is what the Lord says: 30 “Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 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? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!
We turn now to our reading of the book of Hebrews, and find the writer laying out all the details of the old style of worship in the temple. This comes after a very lengthy explanation of how within this new dispensation of grace, there is now no need for priest, and therefore, now, no need of temple, even.
This must have truly been shocking to the first-century Jew who was used to certain practices of worship, and yet, the reader must slowly and surely be coming to an understanding of how the past is truly the past, and the new covenant in the person of Jesus Christ allows for a new style of worship.
In order to understand this concept clearly, I reproduce these few verses in their entirety below:
The writer explains: 1 Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. 2 A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand and the table with its consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. 3 Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, 4 which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. 5 Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now. 6 When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. 7 But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. 8 The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning. 9 This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. 10 They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order.
Is that sufficiently clear, gentle reader?
The new order is upon us. No ceremonial washings are necessary anymore. Perhaps a more apt way of thinking would be to consider a washing of your heart and your spirit, in line with what the Lord was telling Ezekiel to begin with, thousands of years earlier.
Get a new heart and a new spirit—and you know how you ought to do that, right?
To paraphrase the author of the book of Hebrews, this is what he is saying: Believe in the absolute and complete work of the son of God, Jesus Christ, who became flesh and dwelt among you, and took upon himself the sin of the world. God incarnate became the perfect sacrifice, and with the shedding of his own divine blood, he satisfied the perfect law of atonement.
So now, if you accept this atonement as one that has been made on your behalf, you are invited to enter into a pure and perfect union with God Almighty, and his son, Jesus Christ will be your mediator, and the Holy Spirit will your comforter.
This divine Trinity, that is God in one, wishes to commune with you forever—first, in your earthly surroundings whilst you possess your human body, and then in the everlasting where you will be given a new body and will be in eternal rest with him.
This, dear reader, is the new covenant and the new order of things!
We turn now to our reading of the Psalms, and find ourselves still within Psalm 106. This is a recounting of the chronological history of the people of Israel, and in these particular verses, we see a direct correlation to the Psalmists’ words and the words of Ezekiel.
David, the Psalmist says, speaking of the great mercies of the Almighty:
43 Many times he delivered them,
but they were bent on rebellion
and they wasted away in their sin.
44 Yet he took note of their distress
when he heard their cry;
45 for their sake he remembered his covenant
and out of his great love he relented.
46 He caused all who held them captive
to show them mercy.
Finally, we have a proverb for the day, in which Solomon, wise king of Israel, speaks to the great gift of friendship in this verse:
10 Do not forsake your friend or a friend of your family,
and do not go to your relative’s house when disaster strikes you—
better a neighbor nearby than a relative far away.
May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word. Amen.