Today’s Reading: Ezekiel 17-33
Have you ever lost a pet and gone days looking for it? You worry that it’s out in the cold, or that something has happened to it. Worse yet, have you ever turned around in the store and been unable to find your child? You instantly panic and begin yelling their name, praying they will answer. It is one of the worse feelings in the world. God loves each one of us with that kind of love – a love that wants to bring every lost soul home.
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance – 2 Peter 3:9.
This same message is evident in the book of Ezekiel. Even as God is prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem as a punishment to His people for their sins, He speaks of His desire that all should come to repentance – that none should perish. He appointed Ezekiel as a “watchman” to tell those who were sinning to repent and to encourage those who were not sinning to continue in their righteousness (Ez.33:7-9). The same message of God’s desire to save the lost and to bless His people is presented in chapters 18 and 33 of Ezekiel.
“As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live…
“The righteous behavior of righteous people will not save them if they turn to sin, nor will the wicked behavior of wicked people destroy them if they repent and turn from their sins. When I tell righteous people that they will live, but then they sin, expecting their past righteousness to save them, then none of their righteous acts will be remembered. I will destroy them for their sins. And suppose I tell some wicked people that they will surely die, but then they turn from their sins and do what is just and right…then they will surely live and not die. None of their past sins will be brought up again, for they have done what is just and right, and they will surely live” (Ez.33:11-16).
I love that our God never gives up on us – that He is always willing to forgive, always desiring for His children to come to repentance. Often we give up on the chance that our friend or loved one will ever turn from their sinful lifestyle but God never gives up. Just like Ezekiel, He has appointed us all as watchmen. He wants us to help bring back the lost sheep and watch over those who are not lost to help them stay in the flock. He is a loving God who wishes to extend grace to His people. But our God is also a jealous God and a just God. We have a choice to either sin or not sin, and we will be judged by our choices.
“Do you think that I like to see wicked people die, says the Sovereign Lord. Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live. However, if righteous people turn from their righteous behavior and start doing sinful things and act like other sinners, should they be allowed to live? No, of course not! All their righteous acts will be forgotten, and they will die for their sins” (Ez. 18:23-24).
A grapevine exists for the purpose of producing fruit. But what if it stops producing fruit? What else is it good for?
When the ground soaks up the falling rain and bears a good crop for the farmer, it has God’s blessing. But if a field bears thorns and thistles, it is useless. The farmer will soon condemn that field and burn it. – Hebrews 6:7-8
Then this message came to Ezekiel:
“Son of man, how does a grapevine compare to a tree? Is a vine’s wood as useful as the wood of a tree? Can its wood be used for making things, like pegs to hang pots and pans? No, it can only be used for fuel, and even as fuel, it burns too quickly. Vines are useless both before and after being put into the fire!
“And this is what the Sovereign Lord says: The people of Jerusalem are like grapevines growing among the trees of the forest. Since they are useless, I have thrown them on the fire to be burned. And I will see to it that if they escape from one fire, they will fall into another. When I turn against them, you will know that I am the Lord. And I will make the land desolate because my people have been unfaithful to me. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!” – Ezekiel 15
Vines are only good for bearing fruit. If they are not going to bear fruit, then they are only useful for building fires – but even their fires burn too quickly, so they are still useless. We are created to live a fruitful life – a life of righteousness and good works that flow out of our faith relationship with God.
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.” – John 15:1-6
Father God, thank you for creating us with a purpose in mind for our lives. Thank you for placing a desire in our hearts to please you and to serve you. As we go through our day, give us quiet moments of pondering the purpose for which you have us here today. Prune us and mold us into a grapevine whose produce comes straight from the desires of your heart. CREATE IN US A WATCHMAN’S HEART so that we would care about the lost souls around us. Give us eyes to see the lost and a heart of grace to reach out to them. Use us to bring back the lost sheep and care for those in your flock, that none would be lost. Thank you for being a loving God who wishes to extend grace to all your people. Amen.