Once again a message came to me from the LORD :
“Son of man, give your people this message: ‘When I bring an army against a country, the people of that land choose one of their own to be a watchman.
When the watchman sees the enemy coming, he sounds the alarm to warn the people.
Then if those who hear the alarm refuse to take action, it is their own fault if they die.
They heard the alarm but ignored it, so the responsibility is theirs. If they had listened to the warning, they could have saved their lives.
But if the watchman sees the enemy coming and doesn’t sound the alarm to warn the people, he is responsible for their captivity. They will die in their sins, but I will hold the watchman responsible for their deaths.’
“Now, son of man, I am making you a watchman for the people of Israel. Therefore, listen to what I say and warn them for me.
If I announce that some wicked people are sure to die and you fail to tell them to change their ways, then they will die in their sins, and I will hold you responsible for their deaths.
But if you warn them to repent and they don’t repent, they will die in their sins, but you will have saved yourself.
“Son of man, give the people of Israel this message: You are saying, ‘Our sins are heavy upon us; we are wasting away! How can we survive?’
As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live. Turn! Turn from your wickedness, O people of Israel! Why should you die?
“Son of man, give your people this message: The righteous behavior of righteous people will not save them if they turn to sin, nor will the wicked behavior of wicked people destroy them if they repent and turn from their sins.
When I tell righteous people that they will live, but then they sin, expecting their past righteousness to save them, then none of their righteous acts will be remembered. I will destroy them for their sins.
And suppose I tell some wicked people that they will surely die, but then they turn from their sins and do what is just and right.
For instance, they might give back a debtor’s security, return what they have stolen, and obey my life-giving laws, no longer doing what is evil. If they do this, then they will surely live and not die.
None of their past sins will be brought up again, for they have done what is just and right, and they will surely live.
“Your people are saying, ‘The Lord isn’t doing what’s right,’ but it is they who are not doing what’s right.
For again I say, when righteous people turn away from their righteous behavior and turn to evil, they will die.
But if wicked people turn from their wickedness and do what is just and right, they will live.
O people of Israel, you are saying, ‘The Lord isn’t doing what’s right.’ But I judge each of you according to your deeds.”