Daily Update #223

Pause:  As we prepare to look at God’s Word let us quieten our minds, so that
   His Holy Spirit may speak to us today.

Readings:  Ezekiel 18 : 21 – 28;   Psalm 130;  Matthew 5 : 20 – 26

“But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die.  None of the offences they have committed will be remembered against them.  Because of the righteous things they have done, they will live.  Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord.  Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”  Ezekiel 18 : 21 – 23

Our reading from Ezekiel chapter 18 comes in the middle of a message from the Lord, to the prophet and so to the people, warning them of the perils of sinning against the Lord.  Such words from the Lord are nothing new; from the very beginning God made it very clear that although the people of Israel were to be his chosen ones that didn’t mean that they could do just as they pleased.  Very early on in their history God gave them the Law, setting out what he expected of them.  This was not done to bring the people into submission, but to open up the way to a life of joy with their Lord.  Obedience to God’s law brings peace with one another and with God.

However, as we know only too well, knowing the law, and keeping it, are often two completely different things.  Thankfully we have a gracious God who, whilst condemning the sin, confirms his love for the sinner over and over again.  In the Old Testament we see this in the role of the priest, leading the people to confession of their wrongdoing and then the offering of a sacrifice to God to bring about forgiveness.  Of course, this was only a temporary solution to the problem of sin; the shed blood of a goat, even one with no blemishes, could not fully take away the people’s sins; the sacrifice and ceremony had to be repeated annually until a permanent “solution” could be found.

Which is where Jesus comes into the picture.  In Galatians chapter 4 Paul writes, “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.”  That phrase “born under the law” is important, because Jesus was fully human when he lived on earth, and was, like each one of us, subject to the Law laid down by God hundreds of years earlier.  What sets Jesus apart is that he lived a sinless life, even though he faced all of the temptations and problems that we do.  When Jesus shed his blood on the cross of Calvary his sacrifice was a perfect offering for the sins of the whole world, and as a result we can know God’s forgiveness at any time.  We don’t have to wait for an annual offering; as I said in the Reflection a couple of weeks ago, when we turn to God and ask for his forgiveness he is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 

God is always ready to hear us, always ready to forgive, and as we see from the reading in Ezekiel when we do confess, “none of the offences (we) have committed will be remembered against (us).”  The psalmist knew this; in verses 3 and 4 of today’s Psalm we read, “If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?  But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.”   

Thank you, Heavenly Father, that you were willing to send your beloved Son to bring us back into your loving arms.  Thank you, Jesus our Saviour, that you were willing to give yourself for us that we might be adopted into your heavenly family.  Thank you, Holy Spirit, for revealing these truths to us.  Thank you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.