In this chapter, God explains His justice to Ezekiel in powerful words. “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?” (See also 36:33-36 for another glimpse of the compassion in God’s judgement). The Creator of the Universe is distressed about the future of a nation that has repeatedly abandoned Him. I look at the compassion in His pleading and am humbled and in awe because I know He says the same to me.
Another clear theme in this chapter is that each person is judged according to his/her deeds (vs. 1-20). We are not judged by any measure that society uses- our social status, our background or our success. We are not judged by something that is hard for us to understand or out of our control. We are judged by our actions, by the outward expressions of our internal selves which have consequences (for better or worse) on those around us. This is the most fair measure for us to be judged by. We are judged by our Creator who is desperately urging us to make our choices wisely. Our judge is on our side. So much so that He gives us the option to have a perfectly clean slate through His mercy, grace and sacrifice of His Son. Why would we choose anything else?
While thinking about God’s judgement, one question always crosses my mind– Why were we given choice in the first place? It doesn’t take long to reason that love is not love without a choice. Recently I’ve realized this answer has even further implications. I believe that since God gave us choice from the beginning, it is a sacred right that we must offer and preserve for every human. One of the most frustrating things we can experience is trying to force someone to do something. If our Creator does not force us into anything, why then do we feel the need to force others?
As we see in the analogy of the watchman in chapter 33, the shepherds in chapter 34 and in the promises God gives to Israel in chapter 36, one individual’s or group’s actions has far reaching effects because we are all connected to each other. In chapter 33, the hearers of the watchman reserve the right to make their own choice and will be judged accordingly, as does the watchman himself. Chapter 34 reveals the importance of our choices by showing how the shepherds had an opportunity to build up the flock but instead chose to only look out for themselves to the detriment of others. Chapter 36 shows the opposite effect; God cleanses the people and “then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes” (vs. 23). Our choices matter because they affect other people. Our choices matter because they can either speak for truth (which is glorifying God and His grace) or contribute to further destruction and hurt. Nearly every story in the Bible shows how God is constantly reaching out to humans to encourage them to make the choice that is in their best interest. He is always near, we just have to turn and look.