The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.
But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins that he has committed and keeps my statutes and does what is right and just, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? But when a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice and does the same abominations as the wicked person does, shall he live? None of the righteousness deeds that he has done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which he is guilty and the sin he has committed, for them he shall die.
Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just’. Hear Now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die. Again, when a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life. Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions that he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die. Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not just’. O House of Israel, are my ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?
Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of the anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.”
The reason this passage resounds with me so deeply in our present culture is the Lord’s rhetorical questions, “Is not my way just? Is it not your way that is not just?”
I love these dual questions because they not only reaffirm the Lord’s ultimate authority but also ask Israel to recalibrate her own. This is also a two-fold reminder to the believer to take heart in the face of the world’s questioning the Lord’s moral law while also challenging the believer to constantly assess his or her own outlook and ways in light of the Lord’s (and adjust accordingly as needed).
I am a proponent of course correction. I see immense value in identifying one’s fault, repenting before the Lord (and others if needed), and undertaking new habits or disciplines in order to reshape one’s behavior to better model Christ’s. This passage, I believe, will be of great value to the believer in this area, particularly when one is convicted about a practice that they should begin or, on the flip side, cease. I have had a great many of these convictions in the last several years, and looking back, I see the immense wisdom in the Lord’s ways rather than my own. His ways have been just. They have proven themselves just—far more just than the cultural standards that I adopted as normative.
Like all passages, this one is full, but as I continue to muse on it, I cannot help but focus on the Lord’s heart for his people’s adherence to his just ways in order to avoid ruin. I just become overwhelmed by his goodness, for he has “no pleasure in the death of anyone”. What a good God, he is.
Thanks for reading,