“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, each according to his conduct,” declares the Lord GOD. “Repent and turn away from all your transgressions, so that iniquity may not become a stumbling block to you.” Ezekiel 18:30 (T. Hegg translation)
Stumbling Block – We might think we know this word since the same translation is applied to Yeshua as a stumbling block for the Jews (1 Corinthians 1:23). But the Greek term skandalidzo (“to cause one to fall”) doesn’t have the same meaning as this Hebrew word, mikshol. Here the sense of the word is more like the use in Psalm 64:8. The ESV renders it “your ruin.” Iniquity brings ruin. It destroys life. It produces pain and sorrow. As Berkouwer notes, iniquity is insanity.
God clearly says that He will judge each of us according to our conduct. Since this is true, we must know what He requires of us so that we do not fall under His judgment. Therefore, we must know what God means by “iniquity” and what He means by “repent.”
The word “iniquity” is not the word we usually find for “sin.” Rather than hatah, this verse uses the word pesha’. It is principally about broken relationships. It includes violations of treaties, breaches of contract and refusal of agreements. In a word, pesha’ means rebellion. It is the rejection of God’s rightful authority over our lives. Pesha’ is declaring that I will live my life my way! It is not some individual transgression or some particular violation of an expected norm. It is an attitude of indifference toward God. In other words, God examines a life, its direction, its final intent, its willingness to obey. He looks on the attitude of the heart.
This gives us hope – and at the same time – severe consternation. We have hope because, as John tells us in his first letter, there is forgiveness for our individual transgressions. We may disobey and still be brought back as long as we are men and women after God’s own heart. This explains why David is so loved by God in spite of his enormous sins. But we also encounter concern for, if upon examination we do not find “fruit in keeping with repentance” (as John the Baptist puts it), we must call a halt to the direction of our lives. We must reconsider our trajectory. We must stop and wait on the Lord.
The Jews may have fallen over the stumbling block according to Paul, but when we hear the word of the Lord in Ezekiel, we are confronted with the possibility of falling under the monolith of His holiness.
Topical Index: mikshol, stumbling block, ruin, skandalidzo, pesha’, iniquity, rebellion, Ezekiel 18:30