Some combinations of words surprise us. We have been trained not to associate them together. When we see them in Scripture, they are deserving of special study. This verse holds such a combination.
So when I tell the wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ but he repents of his sin and does what is just and right— he returns collateral, makes restitution for what he has stolen, and walks in the statutes of life without practicing iniquity—he will certainly live; he will not die.
Ezekiel 33.15 HCSB
This chapter speaks especially of the responsibilities of the wicked and of the sentinels who are posted to warn them of coming judgment. The wicked can be forgiven, if he repents.
The phrase that caught my eye on the reading of verse 15 is “statutes of life.”
Statutes means regulations or ordinances, the establishment of a law. (See Jack Lewis’s article in TWOT.) In some versions it is translated in this verse as laws (ERV, NLT), decrees (NIV), rules (EXB, NIRV), or regulations (CEB, ISV).
What relationship do God’s statutes sustain to life? These statutes are “life-giving” (CEB, NLT). They are laws “that give life” (NET, NIV, ERV, EXB, NJB), or “promote” (ISV) or “ensure” it (NASB, REB).
The phrase reminds one of Jesus words that “his [the Father’s] commandment is eternal life” Jn 12.50 NET.
While some find difficult barriers to such language, seeing God’s grace annulled, there is no contradiction, for God’s laws, both in the Old and New Testaments, are manifestations of his grace. Obedience to God’s commandments brings life (cf. Heb 5.9). Both testaments are clear on this point.
They are also clear that disobedience cancels prior obedience, and that repentance and obedience cancel the condemnation of prior disobedience.
Such a change of heart and life is what we desire in ourselves and work to see occur in others, through the proclamation of the Good News of the Lord Jesus Christ.