Ezekiel 18, Choose Life

Lets have a look at one of the most neglected passages in the Bible. It is one of those passages that make the whole congregation squirm with anxiety. No preacher wants his congregation squirming, so they never mention this one. A squirming congregation is not a generous congregation, nor is it growing in numbers.

Having said, that we have nothing to fear. We don’t make our living from this. So lets squirm together, shall we?

FYI: The death and life here is the eternal kind.

Sour-Grapes-CentralSour Grapes

Many don’t approve of God’s laws. They say they have passed away, that they are null and void. [Rom 3:31] They hate them while claiming to love God. Their teeth are on edge.

1   The word of the LORD came to me again:  2 “What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?  3 As I live, says the Lord GOD, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel.  4 Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sins shall die.

Basically God is saying that their current exile in Babylon is their own fault. They had agreed to God’s conditions and they had not lived up to their end of the bargain. [Ex. 19:8] He states that they all belong to Him and He will discipline them as He see fit.

5   “If a man is righteous and does what is lawful and right —  6 if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman in her time of impurity,  7 does not oppress any one, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment,  8 does not lend at interest or take any increase, withholds his hand from iniquity, executes true justice between man and man,  9 walks in my statutes, and is careful to observe my ordinances — he is righteous, he shall surely live, says the Lord GOD. 

Now that nice and comforting, eternal life is given to the righteous. So why do the preachers skip this? Because there is no Messianic sacrifice, no salvation by grace. That is salvation by works, and we can’t have that. But there it is. (It’s in James too.)  James 2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. James 2:26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.

10   “If he begets a son who is a robber, a shedder of blood,  11 who does none of these duties, but eats upon the mountains, defiles his neighbor’s wife,  12 oppresses the poor and needy, commits robbery, does not restore the pledge, lifts up his eyes to the idols, commits abomination,  13 lends at interest, and takes increase; shall he then live? He shall not live. He has done all these abominable things; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon himself. 

The righteous cannot guarantee the salvation of their children. Remember there once was a perfect parent, with perfect children, in a perfect environment, with only one rule, DO NOT EAT OF THAT TREE. Good parenting in not enough, salvation is a work of God and no one else.

However the unrighteous can have righteous children.

14   “But if this man begets a son who sees all the sins which his father has done, and fears, and does not do likewise,  15 who does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife,  16 does not wrong any one, exacts no pledge, commits no robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment,  17 withholds his hand from iniquity, takes no interest or increase, observes my ordinances, and walks in my statutes; he shall not die for his father’s iniquity; he shall surely live.  18 As for his father, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother, and did what is not good among his people, behold, he shall die for his iniquity. 

Again righteousness by works.

19   “Yet you say, ‘Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?’ When the son has done what is lawful and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live.  20 The soul that sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. 

We are not responsible before God for another’s action. There are some that teach that this does away with the generational curse and the blessing.

. . . you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, Ex. 20:5

. . . keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” Ex 34:7

However this curse and blessing is exactly what God confirmed to Ezekiel. The more of God’s law a person, a people, a nation, apply to their lives, the more blessed they are, and their descendants. The more a person, a people, or a nation rebel against God’s laws the more cursed they are, and their descendants. Individuals are alway free to step out of their circumstances and change sides.

Now it gets Scary

21   “But if a wicked man turns away from all his sins which he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die.  22 None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness which he has done he shall live.  23 Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?  24 But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity and does the same abominable things that the wicked man does, shall he live? None of the righteous deeds which he has done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which he is guilty and the sin he has committed, he shall die. 

Everything was fine till we get half way through, then the “once saved, always saved” people got a board upside the head. Just one sin, just one slip, just one temptation not dealt with, and your out. Is this unjust? The Lord says, “NO.”

25   “Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?  26 When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, he shall die for it; for the iniquity which he has committed he shall die.  27 Again, when a wicked man turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is lawful and right, he shall save his life.  28 Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions which he had committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.  29 Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, are my ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?  

You can hear the inherited church people yelling at the top of their lungs, “But that’s just the OLD Testament.” However there is a whole book on the same subject in the NEW Testament, James.

For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead. James 2:26

Repentance is a Choice

30   “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, says the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin.  31 Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel?  32 For I have no pleasure in the death of any one, says the Lord GOD; so turn, and live.” 

Everyone will be judged by his own deeds. Not your fathers and not your sons. We cannot inherit eternal life. It is a free gift that we must then live to keep.

I don’t know about you but I want more blessings, not curses. I want more of God’s law, and not stand in judgment saying that they are Jewish.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, Deut. 30:19

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