Sin is not a word in use today. I even met a teenager who had never heard the word ‘adultery’ and had no idea what it meant. The attitudes of today are as they were in the days of Hosea who wrote, “the LORD has a controversy with the inhabitants … There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God” (4:1). That is exactly the case with today – “the LORD has a controversy with the inhabitants” – and soon this will become evident.

In the days of Jesus, people believed that God was the ultimate arbiter of punishment for their sins. Ezekiel shows this, showing that God had been merciful to His people, yet there comes a point when God, seeing that his people do not change despite His mercy, brings destruction. Jerusalem came to a terrible end because of the abundance of their sins and lack of repentance. It is significant that only once does Ezekiel use the word ‘mercy’ – although Jeremiah uses it frequently. God’s people abused His mercy in Jeremiah’s time. Ezekiel mentions it in chapter 39, “Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel, and I will be jealous for my holy name” (verse 25), a latter-day prophecy we believe will soon occur.

Now Jesus makes an interesting point in Luke. People had been saying that when a tower collapsed in Siloam and killed 18 people (13:4), they must have been worse sinners than others. “No” says Jesus, “I tell you they were not, and if you fail to repent you will all likewise perish”. Where is the spirit of repentance today?

We must look at ourselves! If we are not on God’s side, trying to do His will, there is no future for us. Jesus followed up his warning by telling a parable about a man who planted a tree (verses 6-9) and who came for three years looking for fruit, but found none. It was given one more year to produce fruit and a special effort was made to fertilise it. If it remained unfruitful it would be destroyed. Jesus came to the lost sheep of Israel, most would not follow him, and forty years later there was terrible destruction in Jerusalem.

On the day of Pentecost when the people were ‘cut to the heart’ realizing they had killed the Messiah, Peter told them to “Repent and be baptised” (Acts 2:38). Have we done that? Are we heeding the lessons of God’s word with a repentant attitude? And are we producing fruit?