Editor’s Note: I’m thankful to guest blogger Brandon Hershey for this week’s study of Ezekiel 18!
In God’s words to the Jews in Ezekiel 18 (which we started studying here), God does not want to see us suffer the consequences of our sin. Instead, he wants to see us repent and live. Unlike the exiles living in Babylon, we know how this story ends. We know that it is impossible for us to live a perfectly righteous life. The apostle Paul tells us this in Romans 3:10, “There is no one righteous, not even one,” and in verse 23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.
We can’t live a perfect life. We can’t always make the righteous decision. We are going to screw up. We are going to make mistakes. God in his infinite wisdom understood this, so he did the only thing that he could do to make things right between us and him. He sent his son Jesus to be the perfect sacrifice for us so that we wouldn’t have to bear the penalty for our unrighteousness. He sent Jesus to fulfill the requirements of the old covenant that he made with his chosen people, the descendants of Abraham, and to establish a new covenant with everyone who declares Jesus Lord of their lives. Jesus himself tells us this himself in the Sermon on the Mount: “I have not come to abolish [the law] but to fulfill it.”
Jeremiah predicted this new covenant 600 years before Jesus was born. He describes this new covenant right after he just finished saying “whoever eats sour grapes—their own teeth will be set on edge.” Jeremiah continues in verse 31:
“The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
“when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to them,”
declares the Lord.
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
Because we live under this new covenant, we do not need to make excuses for our sins. We simply need to follow the words of the apostle John in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” When we take this step, when we stop justifying our sinful behaviors with any number of excuses, but instead take responsibility and admit our weakness. When we humbly admit that we can’t do this on our own, then the grace and mercy of Jesus creates in us a new heart and a new spirit, writing his laws on our hearts of flesh not on tablets of stone. Then by the power of nothing other than the Holy Spirit at work in our lives we become more like our perfect, righteous savior, Jesus. We become new creations. This is exactly what Paul is referring to in Ephesians 4:22-24: “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” And again in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come.”
Who doesn’t want that in their life?
God is pleading with the exiles in Babylon to turn away from their sin, to repent, and to live. He doesn’t want sin to be their downfall. He desires nothing more than to see his people return to Him.
He desires the same thing for you and me today. No matter where you are at in your journey with Jesus, God wants to refine you to be more like him. So I ask you again, what excuses are you making? What’s holding you back from living the full, abundant life that God desires for you?