The Old Testament text for this Sunday is from the prophet Ezekiel. The text is Ezekiel 33:7-20 and in many ways contains material we have heard before from Ezekiel. Chapter 33:1-9 is almost verbatim to chapter 3:16-21, while 33:10-20 is similar to 18:21-35. Since chapter 3 contains the “call narrative” of Ezekiel, these verses are often referred to as the “second” call, since a different section of Ezekiel’s prophetic ministry is preparing to begin. The difference seems to be chiefly in application.
Ezekiel is living in exile in the land of Babylon while the city of Jerusalem and the Temple are still in existence, albeit under Babylonian appointed governors. However, immediately following this pericope, Ezekiel receives notice that the city and the Temple have fallen. This reality changes everything. Now, Ezekiel begins to live up to his title as the Father of Apocalyptic literature. Being in exile with nothing but a devastated land to return to gives a whole new meaning to “remnant.” This is a difficult time, but Ezekiel is giving great hope in our text for today. In spite of the circumstances, the Gospel predominates.
As Horace Hummel says, the possibility of repentance and life is highlighted more than that of apostasy and death. Yes, the circumstances are grim and from the eyes of man the future is not too bright, but the comfort of the Gospel is strong in these verses. Even in exile there is a true possibility of repentance and a future relationship with God. As Hummel writes, “The unbeliever is damned because of his unrighteous acts. However, a wicked man who repents and believes is justified forensically through faith, which is active in works of love (Galatians 5:6), and none of his sins are remembered on Judgement Day” (975).
Special thanks to Horace Hummel and his fine work in the commentary on Ezekiel 21-48 from the Concordia Commentary Series.
Even in exile there is a true possibility of repentance and a future relationship with God.
33:7 צֹפֶה (tzo-Peh) Qal participle: “to watch; to be a watchman; guard; scout” The participle is being used as a noun. “Watchman; guard”
וְהִזְהַרְתָּ > (ve-hiz-har-Ta) root: זהר (zaw-har) Hiphil: “to caution; to give a warning; teach; enlighten; shining”
Note how these verses 7-9 are nearly identical to 3:17-19.
33:8 לָרָשָׁע, רָשָׁע מוֹת תָּמוּת (la-ra-Sha ra-Sha Mot ta-Mut) Note the alliteration in the Hebrew: “…the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die,…”
לְהַזְהִיר. (la-haz-Hir) Hiphil infinitive: “to warn; to warn about”
33:9 הִזְהַרְתָּ (hiz-Har-ta) Hiphil: “to warn”
לָשׁוּב (la-Shuv) root: שׁוב (shoob) Qal infinitive: “to turn”
33:10 נְמַקִּים (ne-mak-Kim) root: מקק (maw-kak) Niphal, plural participle: “to melt away; to dissolve; to rot; pine away”
33:11 אֶחְפֹּץ (ech-Potz) root: חפץ (khaw-fates) Qal: “to delight in; to have pleasure in” Note the repetition of 18:23, 32.
33:12 וְרִשְׁעַת (ve-rish-At) “offense; wickedness”
יִכָּשֶׁל (yik-Ka-shel) root: כשׁל (kaw-shal) Niphal imperfect: “to fall; stumble; stagger”
מֵרִשְׁעוֹ (me-rish-O) from: רשׁע (reh-shah) “wrong; offense; wicked deed”
33:13 חָיֹה יִחְיֶה (cha-Yoh yich-Yeh) Infinitive construct: “ he shall surely live”
עָוֶל (A-vel) “perversity; injustice” Also, וּבְעַוְלוֹ (u-ve-av-Lo)
צִדְקֹתָו צִדְקָתוֹ (tzid-ka-tov tzid-ko-Tav) Kethib-Qere the same as seen in 3:20 and 18:24. The plural seems the better option; “of his righteous works”
תִזָּכַרְנָה (tiz-za-Char-nah) root: זכר (zaw-kar) Niphal imperfect: “to be remembered”
33:14 וְעָשָׂה מִשְׁפָּט, וּצְדָקָה (ve-a-Sah mish-Pat u-tze-da-Kah) Hummel notes that here and in 33:16, 19, Yahweh uses a standard OT idiom for the sanctification or life of faith of the believer, the sinner who repents: literally, “he does justice and righteousness” (p. 962).
33:15 חֲבֹל (cha-Vol) “pledge”
גְּזֵלָה> (ge-ze-Lah) “loot (as in the thing taken); spoil”
33:16 תִזָּכַרְנָה (tiz-za-Char-nah) root: זכר (zaw-kar) Niphal: “to remember”
33:17 יִתָּכֵן (yit-ta-Chen) root: תכן (taw-kan) Niphal: “to measure up; to be adjusted to a standard; to be in order”
33:18-20: Hummel: The people are addressed both individually (אִישׁ כִּדְרָכָיו) (ish kid-ra-Chav: “every one (singular) according to his own ways”) and collectively ( אֶתְכֶם) (et-Chem: “of you” (plural)) in a way English cannot match. The “house of Israel,” like the NT equivalent “the Church,” the body of Christ is both a corporate whole and an aggregate of many individuals.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Ezekiel 33:7-20.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Ezekiel 33:7-20.