“‘Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live’” (Ezekiel 18:31-32).
Ezekiel’s prophetic ministry began in the early years of the exile. In fact, he was one of the people who had been taken to Babylon. His messages weren’t about repenting to avoid the exile. Rather, he preached to warn the exiles that unless they repented, they would die in Babylon. His messages were also against the people who remained in Jerusalem and continued in abominable practices, such as worshiping idols in the very temple of the LORD. There was no more shame in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
Considering all this, no one could say with any logical sense that God was unjust to bring judgement upon His wayward people. For generations, He had been patient with them, warning them of what would happen if they didn’t return to Him. When they continued in their wicked ways, He brought the judgement He had promised. It was as simple as that. The people had rebelled despite every opportunity to do otherwise, and now they were getting what they deserved.
But God still hadn’t given up on them. Despite everything, somehow He still loved them. He had made a covenant with them, and though they broke it at every turn, He would remain faithful to it. He did not take pleasure in destroying them. His heart was for their restoration. He wanted them to come back to Him, so that He would no longer have to be angry with them.
“‘Why will you die, O house of Israel?’” God demanded (18:31b). Their blood was on their own heads. They had chosen to rebel, and in so doing they had chosen to die. If they would but listen to God, He would welcome them back. They could choose to live. If they would only turn back to Him!