casket in cemetary August 31 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Ezekiel 32:1–33:20

How Will We End?

No one likes to think about death—it’s a morbid thought. We want to think about living! Still, the subject of death is worthy of consideration, for at a funeral we don't just think about the loved one who has passed on—we consider our lives.

What is the purpose of our life? How are we spending it? What will people say about us? Will they say he was a good neighbor, husband, wife, son or daughter? Or, will there be a mixed review of our life?

He was a good businessman, but he was too busy for his family.

She was very talented and offered her services at charitable and community based organizations, but she was never home for her kids.

Would there be a bad report?

Good riddance! He was a troublemaker!

She was a wretched woman!

What will be our end? Hopefully, we will end well.

Israel, at this time in Jewish history, is in exile. Many nations rejoiced at her fall to Assyria, and now they rejoice at Judah’s fall to Babylon. They even plunder her land and city. They have no remorse until Babylon comes and destroys them as well.

Egypt, a very powerful foe of Babylon, remains to be conquered. In poetical fashion, God says she has the strength of a lion or a crocodile. For this reason, Jewish refugees from the city of Jerusalem flee to Egypt. Although the LORD warns them not to go to there, they go anyway, believing they will be safe from Babylonian revenge for the murder of Governor Gedaliah (Jeremiah 41-44).

Egypt thinks she is invincible until she, too, is destroyed by Babylon in 585 B.C.. Egypt does not lament her death and destruction, yet in this fourth proclamation of judgment, Ezekiel composes a lament for her. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked but wishes for their repentance (Ezekiel 33:11). At her destruction (her funeral), like the other nations around Israel, there are words of judgment spoken against her.

In America and in other places around the world, it would be considered bad taste for words of judgment to be spoken at the funeral of anyone; however, we should remember that after death the LORD will judge every person. He will judge Christians for the quality of the works they have done for Him (1Corinthians 3:10-13); and He will judge non-Christians for their sins and for rejecting His Son Jesus Christ (John 3:36), the one who could have forgiven them and given them peace and spiritual life. What can we do to prevent judgment?

When much of Judah is exiled in Babylon, God assigns Ezekiel as a watchman over her. Like a watchman in a tower looking for enemy attacks to come upon a city, Ezekiel is to warn Israelites of coming judgment because of their idolatrous and wicked behavior (Ezekiel 3:16-22 is very similar to Ezekiel 33:1-11 except the purpose is different).

What about us? God has assigned parents to be watchmen over their children, employers to be watchmen over their employees, pastors to be watchmen over their flock, the leaders of our military to be watchmen over their troops, and even our government to be watchmen over its citizens. Are we faithfully fulfilling our responsibilities as watchmen? Are we warning them of serious consequences for bad, evil, or even poor decisions? Are we watching out for their good?

Ezekiel has been bringing messages of judgment against Judah and the other nations. Now, in chapters 33-48 he brings messages of hope for all Israel. After hearing about the destruction of their land, temple, and people, they need hope. Leaders should not just be watching over their people for evil, but when possible they should inspire hope. The LORD says to Ezekiel,

Now as for you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, “Thus you have spoken, saying, ‘Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we are rotting away in them; how then can we survive?’”

[Israel was lamenting her sins and the consequences. Weeping over our sins is the first step to repentance.]

Say to them, “As I live!” declares the Lord GOD, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back; turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:10-11, NIV).

The answer to lessening judgment is repentance. In turning away from our sins to God for mercy and forgiveness, there is hope. The LORD is a just and righteous God, but He is also merciful and kind. If Israel repents, God will be merciful and save her from total destruction. After seventy years in exile and in the distant future, the LORD will restore her land, people, and blessings. But genuine remorse is first required. When is the last time we have ever wept over our sins and cried out to God for mercy? If we humble ourselves, the LORD will hear and forgive.

Lessons to Live By

  • We reap what we sow in this life, so let's do good and end well.
  • There is hope for us, even for the wicked. Although we are not Israel and do not inherit her promises, we know the principles are the same—if we genuinely turn from our sins to God, He will forgive us and restore us (1John 1:9). God takes no pleasure over the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11)—the LORD is good (more...).
  • Most Christians have some responsibility over the watching of souls. Let's be concerned for them to warn them if they stray. Let's help them find their path to eternal life and end well.

Focus Verse

James 5:19-20 (NIV) “My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”

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A Look Ahead: Although Israel has sinned and is being punished, God shows her Amazing Grace—He details plans for a new temple in her land. Find out about Ezekiel's temple and how God can be gracious in your life.

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