Today’s readings.. (1 Chronicles 5), (Ezekiel 18), (Luke 15)

Our readings today in both Ezekiel and Luke highlight how God looks to see a repentant spirit among individuals and when it happens “there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” [Luke 15 v.10].
We noted the emphasis on one sinner.  The Jewish communal way of life under the Law of Moses around the tabernacle and later in the Temple had a tendency to think in national terms, I am “right” in the sight of God because I am a member of his “chosen people.”  Is there not the same attitude within Christianity?
Yet in the time of Christ at least, the Jews saw themselves as split into two camps. The self righteous Pharisees thought this, they grumbled about Jesus saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them” [Luke 15  v.2] and huddled together in their self-righteousness.
The chapter records 3 parables of Jesus that show God is concerned about individuals. First, is the story of the lost sheep, then the lost coin and then the familiar one about the prodigal son – although this may be more appropriate to describe as the parable of the forgiving father. The words of Peter in his 2nd Epistle challenge us, he wrote “The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness but is patient toward you, not wishing that any (of you) should perish, but that all (of you) should reach repentance.” [3 v.9]
The words we put in brackets are not in the text, but the flow of reasoning strongly implies them – especially in view of the opening words in Ch. 2 about the “false prophets” and “destructive heresies” leading them astray.  We are not justified in assuming God does not is not willing that anyone at all should perish. Today there are so many who do “not see fit to acknowledge God, (so) God gave them up to a debased mind …” [Rom. 1 v.28 (see v.24,26).
Ezekiel 18 is the chapter which twice tells us “the soul who sins shall die” [v.4,20]: verses which those who cling to the belief that the soul is immortal ignore, but the Heb. word rendered as soul, both here and elsewhere, basically means, person. See the point in v.21, the one who “turns away from his sins … and keeps my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live: he shall not die” (eternally) – creating “joy before the angels of God.” Finally, look up the last 2 verses of the Epistle of James about our potential for action toward lost or straying sheep.

 

* Click verse text to see cross references.
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