As we wrap up several articles from the book of Ezekiel, chapter 36, we have found that the Israelites’ behavior at that time had been pretty foreign to God’s calling for them. However, God was going to restore them, not because of their good choices, but because of His name.
Before we leave this chapter in the current study, though, there is one more point in the prophecy that I’d like for us to consider: When God restores His people for His name’s sake, they are going to regret their sins. They are going to really, really regret the evil things that were done before.
Then you will remember your evil ways and wicked deeds, and you will loathe yourselves for your sins and detestable practices. I want you to know that I am not doing this for your sake, declares the Sovereign LORD. Be ashamed and disgraced for your conduct, people of Israel!
Ezekiel 36:31-32 NIV
I suppose that the people should have been ashamed of their sins at the time of the prophecy (or even well beforehand; after all, they had clear instructions from Moses about God’s expectations of them). It would have been better if they had chosen to shape up ahead of time. Still, like all of us, change for the better – especially on their own – was difficult. Sometimes God needs to get our attention more dramatically.
To be clear, though, when God does – or promises to do – something for His name’s sake (while we’re still sinning), we should understand that we are not the ones earning any blessings that we might receive along the way, and we should be embarrassed because of how far we have gotten from Him.
The good news that we have today is that God does forgive our sins if we accept Jesus, and we can find a new life. We don’t have to dwell in the past, but we should feel badly enough about our sins to drive us to repentance.
In fact, the reality that God rescued His people when they least deserved it was a look ahead to His salvation of us when we least deserved it (ref. Matthew Henry, cited below).
If it seems exceptionally gracious of God to rescue the Israelites when they were still sinning, let’s read Romans 5:6-8.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:6-8 NIV
So, may we each take a close look at our own life today, and evaluate where sin, rebellion, or selfishness might have retained a beachhead in our lives. Accepting God’s forgiveness (made available through Jesus Christ) is the first step, but where there are unrighteous behaviors that remain in our lives, there is room for improvement.
To be clear, I’m not wishing a prolonged state of despair upon you. I’m merely suggesting that we each – myself included – look at ourselves, spend at least a little bit of time contemplating how offensive our sins are to God (who loves us), and use the conviction that we receive from God to motivate ourselves to return to His calling.
The way I see it, we aren’t going to become more righteousness by just “trying harder”. Rather, we become more like God’s ideal for ourselves by giving our lives over to Him, listening to His guidance (through the Bible and through the Holy Spirit’s direction), and following His path. Righteousness isn’t about the force of our will, but rather giving our wills over to God’s will.
May you not dwell on your sin for too long today, but if you are frustrated with it, don’t let the sin win. Turn your sins over to God, and ask for His help to break free from them. Then, let Him help you out of it, and into something so much better.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for September 11, 2022
- The Lookout, September 11, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible (Complete). Matthew Henry. 1706, via BibleGateway.com.