Today both Ezekiel and Luke highlight how God looks to see a repentant spirit among individuals. When it happens “there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). We note the emphasis on one sinner. The Jewish psyche had a tendency to think in national terms, ‘I am right in God’s sight because I am a member of His chosen people. Is there the same attitude in Christianity?

At the time of Christ the Jews were in two broad camps, the self righteous and the unworthy. The Pharisees grumbled about Jesus saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2) and huddled together in their self-righteousness. The chapter records three parables that show God is concerned about individuals. They are the lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son (or perhaps better, the parable of the forgiving father). “The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness but is patient toward you, not wishing that any (of you) should perish, but that all (of you) should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

The words “of you” in brackets are not in the text, but are implied, especially given the words in chapter 2 about the “false prophets” and “destructive heresies” leading them astray. God is not willing that anyone at all should perish, but some don’t want to be saved, so “God gave them up to a debased mind …” (Romans 1:28).

Ezekiel 18 twice tells us “the soul who sins shall die” (verses 4,20), proving the soul is not immortal. See the point in verse 21, the one who “turns away from his sins … and keeps my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live: he shall not die” (eternally) – creating “joy before the angels of God”.