Lauantai 24.2.2018
Jos te taivutatte mielenne kuulemaan minua, te saatte syödä maan hyvyyttä, mutta jos kovetatte mielenne ja torjutte minut, miekka syö teidät. Herran suu on puhunut. Jes. 1:19-20

Turn yourselves, and live ye

in English 17.12.2014 17:55 | Siionin Lähetyslehti
God takes care of His children like a shepherd cares for his flock. He searches for, tends, and feeds his sheep. The Good Shepherd does not avoid sinners or drive them away, but loves them and calls them to Him. God pardons the weak and penitent in His kingdom. 
Man’s pathway in life is rarely smooth and level. We unavoidably encounter adversities in our life. Neither does man always travel along the path that the scriptures exhort him to. Many stray from the way of God’s will. This happens to both individual people and entire nations.

Prophet  Ezekiel was a priest in the temple of Jerusalem. God had a lifelong task reserved for him that differed from the ordinary. King Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem in 587 B.C. After that the people of Israel were brought into captivity in Babylon. Prophet Ezekiel also had to go to Babylon, where his task was to be a prophet, a counselor, and an encouraging shepherd of his people. He comforted the people by promising that God would yet give them an opportunity to return to their homeland.

God often rebuked his people about sin and warned them of its consequences through prophets. Prophet Ezekiel gave a clear message that everyone is personally responsible for his own deeds. The son is not responsible for the sins of the father, neither is the father responsible for the sins of the son (Ezek. 18:20).

Ezekiel received a message from the Lord describing how God takes care of his children like a shepherd cares for his flock. The shepherd searches for those that are lost, binds the broken leg, brings them to a fertile pasture to feed, and tends his flock (Ezek. 34:14–16). This parable brings to mind the familiar psalm of the shepherd written by David (Ps. 23) and the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, who gives up his life for his sheep (John 10:11).

Merciful God

God does not want anyone who has strayed from the way of His will to perish. Instead His will is that everyone would turn and live (2 Peter 3:9). The Good Shepherd does not avoid sinners or drive them away, but loves them and calls them to Him. The grace of God is needed where there are sinful people. Jesus says: “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick.” (Mark 2:17).

According to the Christian Doctrine of 1948, repentance is penitence and fear because of sin. At the same time it is belief in absolution—that sins are forgiven through the merit of Christ’s atonement. Repentance is followed by a change in life and rejection of sin (CD 72). When sins are forgiven, according to Ezekiel, God no longer remembers them. This speaks to us of the essence of God’s grace, its unfathomable power and immensity.

The Book of Ezekiel says that if the righteous strays onto the wrong paths, to the ways of the ungodly, he will surely die. There is only one way to leave the kingdom of God—by following the enticements of sin. A person who repents receives life and will not perish (Ezek. 18:21).

Trials allowed by God

Captivity was a heavy phase in the lives of the people of Israel. It is often difficult for individuals or nations to understand the purpose of trials and God’s intentions. God’s thoughts are above our thoughts (Isa. 55:8–9). God sees much further ahead than man does. He guides the phases of nations and speaks to people through them (CD 4).

The people of Israel had transgressed against God’s will and wanted to travel their own ways. Nonetheless God was merciful toward His people. He did not destroy them, but was ready to be merciful. God’s love is directed toward the entire sinful world: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).

The message of the word of God is clear. Those who have fallen into sin can hear the promise: “Turn yourselves, and live ye!” (Ezek. 18:32). When a person believes the gospel, proclaimed through the Holy Spirit, he is freed of his sins. The heart of stone is replaced by a living heart (Ezek. 36:26–27).

In the fellowship of the kingdom of God

Ezekiel comforted the people: “And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.” (Ezek. 36:28). The time of captivity of the people of Israel ended in time, according to God’s promises. They were able to return to their homeland.

The children of God are pilgrims here on earth. We are travelers in a strange land (Hebr. 11:13). We fall into sin on the journey, but God pardons the weak and penitent in His kingdom.

The destination of the children of God is eternal life in our heavenly home. We can own everlasting life already now in the message of forgiveness. In the care of the Good Shepherd we will one day reach our true homeland, where there is no sin or death.

Text Juha Seppälä
Translation K. K.
Published Siionin Lähetyslehti 6/2013

Tekstissä käsitellään seuraavia raamatunkohtia: Ezek. 18:20–32
Julkaistu englanninkielisessä kieliliiteessä 11/2014.

Toim. Toivo Määttä

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