Friday, September 28, 2012

individual responsibility

"Yet your people say, 'The way of the Lord is not just,' when it is their own way that is not just. When the righteous turns from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it. And when the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is just and right, he shall live by this. Yet you say, 'The way of the Lord is not just.' O house of Israel, I will judge each of you according to his ways."
Ezekiel 33:17-20

Israel's perspective on God's justice was skewed. They made the casual observation that God was not just or fair. The text does not give us clarity as to the exact nature of the genesis of their theology, but it appears they were using observations about human culture to deduce what they believed about God. This is almost always a bad idea. God illustrates it by pointing out that human inconsistencies do not change His nature or His methods of dealing with the salvation of people.

All individuals are personally accountable to God. If a man who appears to be outwardly righteous commits a sin, he shall die for it. If a wicked man truly repents, God forgives. God makes the clear claim that He alone is the judge of each person's heart. And that was a message that the nation needed to heed as His judgment fell. Not one person who suffered in the exile was an innocent soul. No sinless or guiltless person could exist, so only the mercies of God would extend to spare any life.

The reminder that mercy exists even in judgment is vital. God never gives up on loving His people. The exile was a mercy extended to those who survived the ransack of Jerusalem. He will be merciful to those who humbly turn to Him, no matter how bad their past. Genuine repentance is known by God and He works in trial to lead hearts back to Him. Ezekiel's passionate defense of the character of God in judgment was just such an evidence of God's mercy at work.

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