In this same appeal God, who had been ignored time and time again by these people, made an incredible offer to them. “Again, when I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ if he turns from his sin and does what is lawful and right, if the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has stolen, and walks in the statutes of life without committing iniquity, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of his sins which he has committed shall be remembered against him; he has done what is lawful and right; he shall surely live.” The reality is that only a few of those to whom this was addressed took it to heart.
Our Creator continues to hold out an almost identical offer to every person today, but the majority once again seek to avoid taking any notice of it. Of course, everyone who takes seriously the thought that life does not end on this planet hopes for a future which is far better than the present. In one form or another we all look for a luxury home where everything is at peace. It makes little difference what type of religion people follow, there is always some form of paradise as the reward - some religions see this Nirvana as something to be gained after repeated lives climbing ever upwards. Others portray it as an endless life of human pleasure. For Christians, the real hope is that we will spend eternity in company with the very best Father we could ever have. Given that people do hope for a better future, why is it that we persistently ignore His offer to rescue us from the death in which sin has trapped us ?
The problem seems to be that His offer is conditional. He requires something of us! Many think that a loving God would be nice to them no matter how they have treated Him and other people. Yet even those people still conceive of a line beyond which they would not be so generous. Hitler and Pol Pot are examples of characters from history who are often judged by popular opinion to be beyond the pale of mercy. Most people are not opposed to the idea of there being a limit to divine mercy - we just want to be in control of where it is placed. We want the boundary to be somewhere where we and most of our family and friends can benefit from it without effort. This is one expression of the selfishness from which our Creator calls us to turn away. In the passage quoted above, He offers life to those who are prepared to change the way they live. In the New Testament this is called repentance and it is something far more radical than remorse or feeling sorry.
On our part, repentance is the first step we must take towards the Father from whom we are estranged, if we are to benefit from His rescue plan. It was key to Christ’s message when He began to preach in Israel, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” We have already seen that He said, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” It is an important theme throughout the Bible and is often mentioned in the New Testament. However, it does require us to put our heart into living differently. The Israelites were told to restore pledges, return stolen items and money, and to start living according to The LORD’s laws.
Jesus met one man for whom this truth had hit home. He was a tax collector for the occupying Roman forces and they allowed him to keep anything which he could extort from his fellows Jews over and above the taxes due. People like that were loved less than the tax man today! When he met Jesus, who had invited Himself to the tax collector's house for a meal, this man replied “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” Jesus recognised this as a demonstration of repentance and He told the crowd who were amazed that He would even talk to such a despicable person, “Today salvation has come to this house.” On other occasions He drew criticism from the religious leaders of the time because He claimed to release people from their sins. How was Jesus able to speak with such authority?
Next: The “L” word
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