It’s so like God, to pronounce judgment but also to offer salvation. After, listing the repulsive sins of the Israelites and after expressing how angry He was to Ezekiel, in chapter 33, He compassionately says, “I desire that the wicked turn from his evil ways and live. Turn, turn from your wickedness, for why will you die, O Israel? (vs 11). In chapters 18 and 33, God pleads with the people to turn from their ways. Ezekiel and Jeremiah listed some very atrocious and ghastly sins that the people committed against the Lord, yet God pleads for them to turn, turn and live. No sin mentioned in their world is absent from ours, and like them God is calling us to turn, turn and live.
The people had forsaken God as their source of life and went to other gods, just like our world. They didn’t care for the things of the Lord, just like many do not. They ignored the prophets who came to them, just like many do. Despite their blatant insult, this is the message God gives to Jeremiah who was in a similar predicament as Ezekiel. He says, “But I will not give you up—I will plead for you to return to me and will keep on pleading; yes, even with your children’s children in the years to come!”(Jeremiah 2: 9).
How beautiful! How consoling! How eternal! How loving! How patient!
God wants to get you out of ruins of this world and of your personal circumstances, but getting you out of the ruins depends on your response to his offer of salvation. Will you turn, turn and live?
Getting out of the ruins requires acknowledgement and acceptance: Only acknowledge your guilt; admit that you rebelled against the Lord your God (Jeremiah 3: 13).
Getting out of the ruins requires a “turning”…repentance: This is an important step. God instructed Jeremiah, “therefore, go and say to Israel, O Israel, my sinful people, come home to me again, for I am merciful; I will not be forever angry with you (Jeremiah 3: 12). Oh, turn from your sins while there is yet time (Ezekiel 18: 30).
Getting out of the ruins will give you new life, new relationship with God and eventually eternal life. But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins and begins to obey my laws and do what is just and right, he shall surely live and not die (Ezekiel 18: 21). None of his past sins shall be brought up against him, for he has turned to the good and shall surely live (Ezekiel 33: 16).
Getting out of ruins means waiting for God’s timing. Sometimes, the ruins are not because we are living in sin as we discussed earlier, but it’s about God’s power in our lives. Joseph who had daily communion with God, was in the ruins of prison a few years before he became governor. Job was in the ruins of sickness before God healed him. Hannah was in the ruins of emptiness, longing for God to fulfill the desires of her heart years before Samuel was born. Sometimes we have to wait for God to act on our behalf.
Getting out of ruins requires total dependence on God. Nothing about us, makes us unfit for the ruins… we are not better than the ruins. Nothing about us makes unfit for restoration…we are not too wretched for restoration. God is Lord of the ruins and Lord of the restorations. He decides. He told Ezekiel, “And everyone shall know that it is I, the Lord, who cuts down the high trees and exalts the low, that I make the green tree wither and the dead tree grow. I, the Lord, have said that I would do it, and I will” (Ezekiel 17; 24).
God laid out the truths in plain language for Ezekiel to understand. He used some perplexing and profound imagery to communicate to the people about their sinfulness, but He uses these four simple words to call the people to surrender to Him, “turn, turn and live.” He leaves no cloud of ambiguity. He leaves no mark of uncertainty. He leaves no room for questions. He told Ezekiel simply to tell the people to, “turn.”
Turn your eyes, your ears, and your appetite towards the things of God. He calls us to turn from our ways and turn to His ways. No one heading in the wrong direction can head in the right direction without a turn of some sorts. We make all kinds of turns in life, but this kind of “turning” is the U-turn from destruction to the path of eternal life. I pray that God will enable you to turn.
Ezekiel 18: 32, “I do not enjoy seeing you die,” the Lord God says. “Turn, turn and live!”
Artwork: Donald Keefe (Used with Permission)