Bible Focus: Ezekiel 33-37
"Tell them, 'As I live--this is the declaration of the Lord GOD--I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked person should turn from his way and live. Repent, repent of your evil ways! Why will you die, house of Israel?'"Ezekiel 33:11,17-20 CSB
"'But your people say, "The Lord’s way isn’t fair," even though it is their own way that isn’t fair. When a righteous person turns from his righteousness and commits injustice, he will die for it. But if a wicked person turns from his wickedness and does what is just and right, he will live because of it. Yet you say, "The Lord’s way isn’t fair." I will judge each of you according to his ways, house of Israel.'"
Children often complain about things not being fair. Ask them why, and they will often be glad to tell you exactly how they have been wronged. Sometimes their observations are correct, especially about other kids. They are much less likely to recognize when their own wrong behavior is part of the problem. But things really get interesting and funny when kids argue that responsible, well-meaning adults aren’t being fair.
For example, suppose a boy asks his mom to stop by their favorite ice cream shop on the way home from school one day. The mom might have good reasons to refuse his request. Maybe she’s trying to limit his sugar intake. Maybe they are eating dinner early, and ice cream would ruin his appetite. Maybe finances are tight, so she’s trying to save money. Maybe her schedule is packed, and stopping for ice cream would make her late for her next appointment.
Whatever the reason, she tells her son no, and no amount of explanation satisfies him. “It’s not fair!” he cries, as if ice cream on the way home from school is a universal right. But his mom holds firm, and tries to be understanding as he melts down over this terrible unfairness that has robbed him of ice cream.
I wonder if God sometimes looks at us in a similar way when we remain despondent over our troubles. God created this universe and gave us life. We owe to God our every breath and every good enjoyment in this life. If we believe the good news, we owe to God the forgiveness of all our sins, his presence and power in our life now, and the promise of heaven forever when we die.
Of course, God still understands our pain, and he longs to comfort us in our suffering. But no matter what kind of life we’ve had, God has never treated us unfairly. Whether we realize it or not, God’s always been more than fair.
Ezekiel, like Jeremiah, was a prophet that lived during the last years of the kingdom of Judah. But while Jeremiah was living in Jerusalem, Ezekiel was living in Babylon among the exiles that had already been deported. At first, the exiles hoped that they would soon return to their homeland. But through Ezekiel, God showed the exiles that God’s glory would soon leave Jerusalem and God’s temple would be destroyed.
During those final years, a complaint arose among the exiles in Babylon that God’s ways were unfair. But through Ezekiel, God warned that it was the people, not God, who were being unfair. God didn’t want them to perish; he longed for them to repent of their sin and turn back to him. God was also appalled that their leaders were taking advantage of the people, when they should have given them justice and compassion and helped them return to God. So God told the leaders that he would be taking back his people for himself.
"'For this is what the Lord GOD says: See, I myself will search for my flock and look for them. As a shepherd looks for his sheep on the day he is among his scattered flock, so I will look for my flock. I will rescue them from all the places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and total darkness. I will bring them out from the peoples, gather them from the countries, and bring them to their own soil. I will shepherd them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the land. I will tend them in good pasture, and their grazing place will be on Israel's lofty mountains. There they will lie down in a good grazing place; they will feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I will tend my flock and let them lie down. This is the declaration of the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, bring back the strays, bandage the injured, and strengthen the weak, but I will destroy the fat and the strong. I will shepherd them with justice.Ezekiel 34:11-16 CSB
Jesus is the one who ultimately fulfilled Ezekiel’s prophecies of God pursuing his flock. As God’s Son, he laid down his life for his sheep. Through the spread of the good news, he calls his flock from every corner of the world. His sheep know his voice and follow him. Jesus reconciles them to God, gives them a new heart, and brings them home.
“‘For I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries, and will bring you into your own land. I will also sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place my Spirit within you and cause you to follow my statutes and carefully observe my ordinances. You will live in the land that I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.Ezekiel 36:24-28 CSB
Here’s the good news. In Jesus Christ, God has given us more than we ever deserved. He’s given us more good than we could ever imagine. His salvation far outweighs any suffering we will ever experience. The question is, will we refuse his gift? Will we let it pass by? Or will we recognize Jesus as the good Shepherd, and receive from him what he longs to give us?
Featured image from Luca Onniboni on Unsplash.
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1 thought on “More than Fair”
The last paragraph sums up a lot. Even the first sentence has a very big impact.
I like how you say it and sit down. It is powerful.