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Law and Gospel in Ezekiel 33: Devotion for the Third Sunday in Lent

Today we focus on the Old Testament Reading, Ezekiel 33:7–20. Our devotion comes from Concordia Commentary: Ezekiel 21–48.

Scripture Readings

Ezekiel 33:7–20
Psalm 85
1 Corinthians 10:1–13
Luke 13:1–9

Read the propers for today in Lutheran Service Builder.

Devotional Reading

For the first time in the entire Book of Ezekiel, the people admit that their guilt is the cause of their suffering, depicting themselves in terms of Yahweh’s predictions (4:17; 24:23). But they still don’t desire to be with God. Their question is obviously rhetorical, assuming the negative answer that survival is impossible. In Lutheran terms, it represents a classical instance when the Law has done its work, but a Gospel-less vacuum still exists, which Yahweh will then fill in chapters 34–48.

Yahweh cannot but agree with the people’s diagnosis of the reason for their plight, but must contest the despair that they are inferring from it. And first of all, they must (re)learn Yahweh’s nature and his ultimate intent for them. He begins his rejoinder in the strongest possible way, by an oath based on his own life to counter their despair of life. And the Christian will not neglect to add that the God of Israel ultimately did back up that oath by sacrificing his own Son on the cross for the life of the world. It is even proper to affirm that in the death of God the Son, Gott selbst ist tot, “God himself is dead,” as the hymn has it—yet of course he also rose from the dead on the third day. To emphasize that the true God is the God of life, he repeats almost verbatim again an earlier solid declaration of the point (18:23; cf. 18:30b–32). In chapter 18, it had been couched as a rhetorical question, but here it is turned into an emphatic disavowal of the assumption underlying the people’s despair. Yahweh parries their question with one of his own—another rhetorical one, implying the needlessness of anyone’s death if he will only “repent, turn, return.”

Ezekiel functions here as no mere therapist pointing the people to their own inner resources, but as a herald of the Gospel, as he proceeds to apply Law and Gospel, expounding them in terms he has already laid down. Dire as the situation may look, there still is time between the present and an irreversible death sentence—if they will only “turn.” God himself is the only one who can avert death and provide everlasting life; this he has done in the death and resurrection of his Son (Psalms 16 and 22).

Devotional reading is adapted from Concordia Commentary: Ezekiel 21–48, pages 973–75 © 2007 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Hymn

Hymn is “May God Bestow on Us His Grace” from Luther’s Divine Service: A Festival Setting for Small Choirs © 2017 Concordia Publishing House.

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