יחזקאל 18:31-32 (WLC):
הַשְׁלִ֣יכוּ מֵעֲלֵיכֶ֗ם אֶת־כָּל־פִּשְׁעֵיכֶם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר פְּשַׁעְתֶּ֣ם בָּ֔ם וַעֲשׂ֥וּ לָכֶ֛ם לֵ֥ב חָדָ֖שׁ וְר֣וּחַ חֲדָשָׁ֑ה וְלָ֥מָּה תָמֻ֖תוּ בֵּ֥ית יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃
כִּ֣י לֹ֤א אֶחְפֹּץ֙ בְּמ֣וֹת הַמֵּ֔ת נְאֻ֖ם אֲדֹנָ֣י יְהוִ֑ה וְהָשִׁ֖יבוּ וִֽחְיֽוּ׃ פ
“Cast off from upon you all of your transgressions which you have committed! Then make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in anyone’s death!” says the Lord Yahweh. “Now repent so that you may live!”
Biblical Context: Yahweh called and appointed Ezekiel as a prophet over the house of Israel after he had been carried off into exile. Much of Ezekiel’s ministry was warning God’s people of their sin and Yahweh’s coming judgment (i.e., the destruction of Jerusalem and exile) so that they could repent, turn from their sin to the Living God. Within Ezekiel 18, Yahweh addresses an Israelite proverb which accused Yahweh of injustice! The people declared they were being punished for their ancestors’ sin(s), not their own (v. 2)! Yahweh answered His people by saying that each individual is judged for their own sin or righteousness and He declared two truths: 1) The righteous shall live, but the sinner shall die (vv. 5-20); and 2) The sinner who repents of their sin shall live, but the righteous who repents of their righteousness shall die (vv. 21-29)! In light of these things, in Ezekiel 18:31-32, Yahweh commands His people Israel to act!
Having been found guilty of sin, Israel is given 4 commands from Yahweh: 1) Cast off (הַשְׁלִ֣יכוּ) ALL of their transgressions; 2) Make (וַעֲשׂ֥וּ) for themselves a new heart and spirit; 3) Repent/turn (וְהָשִׁ֖יבוּ); and even 4) Live (וִֽחְיֽוּ)! Yes, Yahweh commands His people to live! Each of these imperatives are interrelated. The first two imperatives function to show us the meaning of the third: repentance requires casting off sin AND making oneself right towards God from the inside out! The fourth imperative shows us the result of such action: when people repent they will live and not die! Praise the Lord!
These commands by themselves express Yahweh’s desire for people to live and not die. Yet, in order to make this point even more clear, Yahweh interrupts His commands to make His desire for His people to live emphatic. First, Yahweh asks His people a rhetorical question, “Why should you die, O house of Israel?“ Second, Yahweh reveals His heart’s desire in regard to anyone who is facing the judgment of sin (i.e., death), “I have no pleasure in anyone’s death!” Both of these interruptions serve to emphasize Yahweh’s desire for His people to repent and live! Yahweh is attempting to motivate His people to act according to His will and reap the blessing thereof: life with Him! Though Israel was guilty of sin and beginning to experience their deserved death, Yahweh commands them to repent so that they would live!
Life Application: Many people struggle with a loving God Who judges sin, especially when they realize that the penalty of sin is death (Rom. 6:23)! God is love (1 John 4:8), but He is also Ruler and Judge. God does and will judge all people according to their way of life, but as He makes clear in this passage: He takes no pleasure in the death of anyone! Just as Yahweh desired for and even commanded Israel to repent so they would live, He desires and commands all people everywhere to do the same today (Acts 17:30)! Yahweh wants you to live and not die! And because of what our Lord Jesus has done, you can! Repent so that you may live!
Repentance requires casting off all of our sins and making a new heart and spirit for ourselves, living in renewed and right relationship with God from the inside out. The Good News is that by repenting and believing (placing your active trust and love) in the Lord Jesus, we receive the Holy Spirit Who enables us to both receive and live with that new heart and spirit! Though God does judge sin, He desires for us to repent so that we may live and not die. Please! Do not ignore Yahweh’s command to repent! For why should YOU die, O beloved of the Lord? Repent so that you may live!
New Testament Scriptures for Further Meditation: Mark 1:14-15; Luke 5:32; 24:47; 2 Peter 3:9
Personal Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You that You do not desire anyone’s death, including mine! Though I do not deserve to live, for I have transgressed against You and others, I praise You for the life You desire me to have! I now cast off ALL of the transgressions I have committed, and by the power of the Holy Spirit I will make for myself a new heart and new spirit which delights in You! I repent from all my sins and place my trust and love in Your Son Jesus. I praise You for I now know according to Your Word that I shall live! Thank You for Your amazing love! I pray these things in the Name of Christ Jesus, my Lord, Amen!
-Pastor Chris Montgomery