God's Message came to me:
"Son of man, speak to your people. Tell them: 'If I bring war on this land and the people take one of their citizens and make him their watchman,
and if the watchman sees war coming and blows the trumpet, warning the people,
then if anyone hears the sound of the trumpet and ignores it and war comes and takes him off, it's his own fault.
He heard the alarm, he ignored it - it's his own fault. If he had listened, he would have saved his life.
"You, son of man, are the watchman. I've made you a watchman for Israel. The minute you hear a message from me, warn them.
If I say to the wicked, 'Wicked man, wicked woman, you're on the fast track to death!' and you don't speak up and warn the wicked to change their ways, the wicked will die unwarned in their sins and I'll hold you responsible for their bloodshed.
But if you warn the wicked to change their ways and they don't do it, they'll die in their sins well-warned and at least you will have saved your own life.
"Son of man, speak to Israel. Tell them: 'You've said, "Our rebellions and sins are weighing us down. We're wasting away. How can we go on living?"'
"Tell them, 'As sure as I am the living God, I take no pleasure from the death of the wicked. I want the wicked to change their ways and live. Turn your life around! Reverse your evil ways! Why die, Israel?'
"There's more, son of man. Tell your people: 'A good person's good life won't save him when he decides to rebel, and a bad person's bad life won't prevent him from repenting of his rebellion. A good person who sins can't expect to live when he chooses to sin.
It's true that I tell good people, "Live! Be alive!" But if they trust in their good deeds and turn to evil, that good life won't amount to a hill of beans. They'll die for their evil life.
"'On the other hand, if I tell a wicked person, "You'll die for your wicked life," and he repents of his sin and starts living a righteous and just life
- being generous to the down-and-out, restoring what he had stolen, cultivating life-nourishing ways that don't hurt others - he'll live. He won't die.
None of his sins will be kept on the books. He's doing what's right, living a good life. He'll live.
"'Your people say, "The Master's way isn't fair." But it's the way they're living that isn't fair.
When good people turn back from living good lives and plunge into sin, they'll die for it.
And when a wicked person turns away from his wicked life and starts living a just and righteous life, he'll come alive.
"'Still, you keep on saying, "The Master's way isn't fair." We'll see, Israel. I'll decide on each of you exactly according to how you live.'"
In the twelfth year of our exile, on the fifth day of the tenth month, a survivor from Jerusalem came to me and said, "The city's fallen."
The evening before the survivor arrived, the hand of God had been on me and restored my speech. By the time he arrived in the morning I was able to speak. I could talk again.
God's Message came to me:
"Son of man, those who are living in the ruins back in Israel are saying, 'Abraham was only one man and he owned the whole country. But there are lots of us. Our ownership is even more certain.'
"So tell them, 'God the Master says, You eat flesh that contains blood, you worship no-god idols, you murder at will - and you expect to own this land?
You rely on the sword, you engage in obscenities, you indulge in sex at random - anyone, anytime. And you still expect to own this land?'
"Tell them this, Ezekiel: 'The Message of God, the Master. As sure as I am the living God, those who are still alive in the ruins will be killed. Anyone out in the field I'll give to wild animals for food. Anyone hiding out in mountain forts and caves will die of disease.
I'll make this country an empty wasteland - no more arrogant bullying! Israel's mountains will become dangerously desolate. No one will dare pass through them.'
"They'll realize that I am God when I devastate the country because of all the obscenities they've practiced.
"As for you, son of man, you've become quite the talk of the town. Your people meet on street corners and in front of their houses and say, 'Let's go hear the latest news from God.'
They show up, as people tend to do, and sit in your company. They listen to you speak, but don't do a thing you say. They flatter you with compliments, but all they care about is making money and getting ahead.
To them you're merely entertainment - a country singer of sad love songs, playing a guitar. They love to hear you talk, but nothing comes of it.
"But when all this happens - and it is going to happen! - they'll realize that a prophet was among them."
"'But if the watchman sees war coming and doesn't blow the trumpet, warning the people, and war comes and takes anyone off, I'll hold the watchman responsible for the bloodshed of any unwarned sinner.'
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)