Ezekiel 33:10, 11
Therefore, O you son of man, speak to the house of Israel; Thus you speak, saying, If our transgressions and our sins be on us…
Taking these words apart from their immediate application, as we may do without departing from their spirit and inner meaning, we are invited to think of -
I. HUMAN HOPELESSNESS. "Our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we pine away in them." The men into whose lips these words are put are very far from being the only ones to whom they apply. All men everywhere may say the same - all who live on in conscious departure from the will of God.
1. Sin bears its penalty with it; it enfeebles the body, it injures the mind, it lowers the life, it degrades the soul, - it robs of Divine favor, of spiritual worth, of abiding peace.
2. It may become an increasing burden. It may indeed lead down to a most dangerous and deplorable insensibility, so that the sinful man no more knows how serious and fatal is his condition than does the man who lies down to sleep in the snow, or he who talks freely and happily in a delirium; but often the conscious burden of sin rests with a heavy and growing weight upon the soul, and despondency leads down to despair.
3. It ends in hopelessness; the man feels that he is "pining away," that there is nothing for him in the future, his heritage is forfeited; there is nothing beyond but the gates of death. But he has not taken into his account -
II. THE DIVINE DISPOSITION. "As I live... I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked," etc. There is much in this statement:
1. Regarded in its negative aspect. "God has no pleasure," etc. That may not seem much to us who have become habituated to think of him as a Divine Father; but it was very much indeed to those who had not thus learnt of Christ, very much indeed to those who lived in an age when the Divine powers were supposed to find a terrible satisfaction in the miseries they inflicted on their enemies. Then the cruelty of man was transferred, in thought, to the beings who were worshipped, and they were believed quite capable of taking pleasure in the sorrows and in the death of their devotees. But God tells us here that that is not his disposition. The reaping by guilty men of the full consequences of their sin against himself would give him no pleasure at all; it would not be to satisfy him that their course would go downward until it ended in death.
2. Regarded in its positive aspect. God would "that the wicked turn from his way and live." If the absence of any desire on the part of the Supreme that sin should go on and down to death gives a gleam of hope to the hopeless, how much light may not be gained from the presence of a distinct and positive desire on his part that the sinner should live? If God wills that it should be so, there can be no occasion to despair; there must be reason, and strong reason, to hope. To know that this is the Divine disposition is a great thing indeed; it is to have left midnight a long way behind; it is to have entered the dawn of the morning. But we have much further to go into the light of day; for the prophet's message includes -
III. THE DIVINE CHALLENGE. "Turn ye... for why will ye die?" This includes:
1. A summons to repentance. Clearly repentance is an act which it is open to any soul to render at once if he will. It is not therefore either
(1) the feeling of a certain amount of emotion, for this is not always at command; or
(2) a certain amount of good works done or sacred services performed, for this can only be the issue of time. Repentance is the turning of the heart and of the will to God and righteousness; it is the act of the soul by which it turns away from its evil course of godlessness and wrong-doing, and turns toward the Divine Father with the full and fixed intention of henceforth serving him in the ways of righteousness. To do that which any and every soul may do and should do without a day's delay, God is summoning his disloyal servants (see Acts 17:30).
2. A gracious and powerful appeal. "Why will ye die?" Why should we die, when:
(1) Death means so sad and so great a sacrifice - the loss of a human soul, capable of such beauty and such blessedness on the one hand, and of such baseness and such misery on the other hand?
(2) God has done such great things to save us; has so loved us as to give his only begotten Son to die for us, and by his death to restore us.
(3) The way of life is so free and so open to us all: "Whosoever believeth...shall not perish, but have everlasting life."
3. The life that is offered us in Christ means all that eternal life is found to be here and will prove to be hereafter. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Therefore, O thou son of man, speak unto the house of Israel; Thus ye speak, saying, If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live?