A Kingdom Parable

 

Introduction and Background

 

We have traveled together so far this year together, studying the bible chronologically.   From the creation of man and the fall from Eden, to God’s promises to Abraham to make him a great nation.   Jacob moved his family to Egypt after a famine, then the Israelites grew to over 2 million people and then escaped from Egypt through the Red Sea to the promised land. From the first king of Israel to the many kings that led to the divided kingdom.

Through it all, God is faithful. When God brought the Israelites into the Promised Land like God promised He would, God gave warned them not to get complacent. God tells them in Deuteronomy 6:10-19 and 8:11-20 about the dangers of ingratitude and taking credit for their own prosperity. God has provided a land of milk and honey, and the Israelites are not to say, “we did this ourselves; we don’t need God.”

God’s next promises to the Israelites are conditional – if you do these good things, I will bless you. If you do those bad things, I will curse you. Through these blessings and curses, God will guide Israel. But the most dire curse God gives to the Israelites is in Deuteronomy 28:58 & 63 –

If you do not carefully follow all the words of this law, which are written in this book, and do not revere this glorious and awesome name—the Lord your God …

…Just as it pleased the Lord to make you prosper and increase in number, so it will please him to ruin and destroy you. You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess.

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God is not to be trifled with. He provides blessings, and He is owed thanks and praise. All too often, His gifts are met with a dismissal from us – as if we don’t need God. And in every instance I could think of in the bible, God provides His blessings first, and then only removes those blessings when His people say they don’t need Him.

God’s Kingdom was supposed to consist of His covenant people, the nation of Israel, following Him as God and King. But the people of Israel basically told God they didn’t need Him, and each generation repeated the blasphemy.

In 722 BC, the Assyrians arrive in Israel and drive the Israelites out. Then a few decades later, King Hezekiah, one of the good kings of Judah, brought the people back to worship the Lord, and God rescued Judah by killing 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in 2 Kings 19:35.

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The Assyrian empire began to weaken and retreated from Jerusalem. Their strongest rival was the Babylonian empire, and King Hezekiah foolishly invited the Babylonians to come and visit, to see King Hezekiah’s weaponry and wealth in Jerusalem. Perhaps Hezekiah wanted to show off, or perhaps he was trying to gain favor with the Babylonians and make an alliance with them. Either way, God was unhappy with Hezekiah for making political alliances based on his own wisdom. God’s expectation was that a king in Israel or Judah would follow the Lord and rely on Him for protection.

1 Kings 20 tells us that God sent the prophet Isaiah to explain to Hezekiah that at some time in the future, his descendants would be taken into Babylonian exile along with all the valuable items from the temple. Years later when Jehoiakim was the king of Judah, the Babylonians forced Judah to make an alliance with Babylon, and the Babylonians took hostages from the nobility of Judah. In 598 BC, Jehoiakim tried to rebel against the Babylonians, but he was killed and his son Jehoiachin became king of Judah.

I pause here for a moment to remind all of you that pronouncing bible names isn’t easy, and Hebrew is not my native language. Here is how the name of Jehoiakim’s son is spelled:

Jehoachin

And here is how it is pronounced apparently:

https://biblespeak.org/jehoiachin-pronunciation/

I don’t get it, but I’ll pronounce it “Jeh HO ash” even if it doesn’t look like that to me.   Which is confusing, because there is a completely different king in the kingdom of Israel named Jehoash who has nothing to do with our study today.

Where was I?   Oh yes.

So Jehoiachin, “sorry Jeh HO ash”, did not listen to the prophet Jeremiah nor trust in the Lord, so he tried to make an alliance with Egypt to fight against the Babylonians.   That alliance did not work, and after three months Jehoiachin and many other people from Judah were taken into exile to Babylon along with many of the treasures of the temple. Within 10 years, the city of Jerusalem was torn down and burned, and almost all of Judah’s remaining inhabitants were taken into exile to Babylon in accordance with Isaiah’s prophecies.

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So now in our scripture for today, it’s 605 BC, and what’s left of Judah has been banished to the banks of the Kebar River in Babylon. A young priest named Ezekiel who was taken in the second wave of exiles under king Jehoiachin, “sorry Jeh HO ash”, is preaching the word.

This young priest, Ezekiel, who has obviously a much easier name to pronounce, sees a vision of God and all His glory. He sees clouds of lightning, living creatures with four faces and four wings, he sees wheels within wheels. And God called Ezekiel to be a prophet and speak the word of God.

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And so he did.   And the elders of what remained of Jerusalem found Ezekiel’s message to be religious entertainment and paid no heed.

Which brings us to today’s scriptures. The Lord God gave Ezekiel parables of actions to motivate Jerusalem to think about God’s truth. In 3 messages, Ezekiel speaks about a vine, an unfaithful wife, and a tree to convey God’s truth to those who truly wanted to understand. The people, sitting in banishment on the shores of a river in Babylon, were claiming that God had rejected His own people and God was breaking His own covenant. But through God’s parables, Ezekiel tells the people of Jerusalem how God sees them, and we’re going to focus just on the second parable, God sees Judah as God’s own adulterous wife.   Here’s our outline for today –

        • Helpless, Ezekiel 16:3-5
        • Honor, Ezekiel 16:6-14
        • Harlotry, Ezekiel 16:15-52
        • Hope, Ezekiel 16:53-63

 

Helpless, Ezekiel 16:3-5

 

In God’s eyes, He sees the people of Israel as helpless, Ezekiel 16:3-5 –

‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says to Jerusalem: Your ancestry and birth were in the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths. No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised.

(Ezekiel 16:3-5, Chronological Bible, August 19, p.1088)

Ezekiel reminds Jerusalem where they came from. Their history is ugly. Instead of being God’s pure people after the flood, Noah’s son Ham intermingled and became father of the Canaanites. Intermarrying with the Canaanites and worshiping their gods has corrupted Israel.   Israel has proved, by their immorality and idol worship, that they are no different from the Canaanites.   Nothing about Jerusalem as a city or the people that live there is attractive to God.

If I am going to be honest, nothing about me was attractive to God before I came to know Christ. I was the product of a broken home when my parents divorced when I was 17. Later, despite my good intentions, I myself went through divorce. In my college years I was maybe agnostic, thinking that if God existed he probably gave the world a spin and then sat back to watch what happened. It wasn’t until I was 40 that I realized how involved God had always been in my life.

Even before I was born, my family history isn’t pretty. I grew up as a Roman Catholic, yet I have a German last name. Germans aren’t Catholic, why was my family?   Turns out my Great Grandmother is Irish and a Roman Catholic. She married a German boy who may have been Lutheran, and I don’t know because his brother was so mad that his brother had married a Roman Catholic that he killed my Great Grandfather. So my Great Grandmother emigrated to the United States as a pregnant Irish widow and gave birth to my grandfather with the German surname.

My history is ugly.   I don’t know each and every one of you, but I’d be surprised if there weren’t sordid stories in your family.   It’s just who we are. We are helpless, and we are ugly in God’s eye.   Our umbilical cord with our family history was not cut, there was no reason to show us compassion, and if we are honest, because we were born with a sin nature that traces all the way back to Adam and Eve, on the day that we were born, we, too, were helpless and despised.

 

Honor, Ezekiel 16:6-14

 

And yet, God loved us anyway. Not because we were free of blemish, or because we were such great people, or had great potential. Not because of anything we did or anything we were. God loved us because of who He is. He loved us, despite the fact we were unlovable. God felt the same way about Jerusalem.

Jerusalem had soiled herself with disobedience, yet God loved her and put her in a position of honor. Verse 6-8 –

“‘Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, “Live!” I made you grow like a plant of the field. You grew and developed and entered puberty. Your breasts had formed and your hair had grown, yet you were stark naked.

 “‘Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your naked body. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign Lord, and you became mine.’”

God chose her.   God cared for her, dressed her, adorned her, loved her. Look at all the ways God describes Jerusalem and her people in Ezekiel 16:6-14 –

      • Vs. 7, “I made you thrive like a plant of the field.”
      • Vs. 8, “Yes, I … entered into a covenant with you so that you became Mine,”
      • Vs. 9, “I washed you with water, washed off the blood from you and I anointed you with oil.”
      • Vs. 10, “I also clothed you….wrapped you….covered you….”
      • Vs. 11, “I adorned you with ornaments and jewelry.”
      • Vs. 12, “I put a jewel in your nose, earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head,”
      • Vs. 13, “You became very beautiful and rose to be a queen.”
      • Vs. 14, “Because of the splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect.”

God saw the good in Jerusalem despite her helplessness. He removed her helplessness and replaced it with honor.   Jerusalem was blessed and lacked nothing.

Ezekiel preaches that the people of Israel and Judah were completely dependent on God for their protection and provision. Every good and perfect thing that they experienced was the result of God’s generosity.

And I look at our great nation where we live in more comfort, prosperity, and wealth than any other population in the history of the world. And yet, we as a nation assume that our success and our comfort comes from our hard work, our intelligence, our character. But James 1:17 reminds us that

“every good and perfect gift is from above”

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Our very lives are dependent upon the generosity of God. We are called to live in a state of thankfulness and reverent worship toward God because He has provided us with every good thing in our lives. On top of that, every one of us was in the same situation as the baby in Ezekiel’s metaphor. We were left on the side of the road, cared for by no one, wallowing in our own blood and filth because of our sin.

And despite my family history and sordid generations, God gave me everything because He loved me. And I thought He didn’t care, I thought God was absent. Going to college, I relied on my intellect and wisdom to get a degree and a job, never once considering that God had given me the intellect in the first place. All God asked of me was to glorify Him for the gifts He had given, but I thanked myself for where I was in life.

 

Harlotry, Ezekiel 16:15-52

 

Jerusalem did no less. Wallowing on the banks of the river, taking credit for every good thing and blaming God for every bad thing, Jerusalem turned from God, despite all the beautiful ways God felt about her. Jerusalem worshipped other gods, engaged in spiritual idolatry and adultery. Look at verse 15-17, this is how Jerusalem treated God after all His goodness –

“‘But you trusted in your beauty and used your fame to become a prostitute. You lavished your favors on anyone who passed by and your beauty became his. You took some of your garments to make gaudy high places, where you carried on your prostitution. You went to him, and he possessed your beauty. You also took the fine jewelry I gave you, the jewelry made of my gold and silver, and you made for yourself male idols and engaged in prostitution with them.

I think there are some words bible study teachers shouldn’t say in bible study class, and if there was a list of such words, I’m pretty sure “prostitute” and “whore” would be on that list. I’m double sure I’m also not supposed to use any illustrations for this PowerPoint either. But there’s no easy way to avoid these words, and they are, in fact, God’s words, so just bear with me for this section while we discuss the harlotry of Jerusalem.

God is the source of all things good. When we give credit to ourselves or to somebody else other than God, we are not acknowledging God’s provisions. Our entire purpose in life is to know God and make God known. And any credit we give to anything or anyone else but God is spiritual adultery. Here is how Jerusalem treated God after all He had done for her –

      • Vs. 15-19. She takes all that God has given to her and uses those things to make images to other gods for worship.

When I think back at the Ten Commandments with it’s “Thou shall not murder” and “Thou shall not steal,” I think it’s too easy to skip over rule number 1 from Exodus 20:1-6 –

And God spoke all these words:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. 

      • Vs. 20-22. She offers the fruit of her womb to the deities of pagan nations.

In other words, she raises her children without regard to God. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard in movies or in person from a young couple, “oh, we don’t raise him/her in any particular religion, we want them to be open-minded and to make their own choice.” I think that’s a form of child abuse, not to tell them that everything they have and everything they are comes from the Lord.

      • Vs. 23-30. She builds idols throughout her land and beckons the nations around her to enter her land.

God responds to this by describing her heart as ‘degenerate’. Jerusalem wasn’t following God’s laws, and she invited nations to bring their gods and their cultures into God’s land, and God considered this another form of adultery.

      • Vs. 31-35. Not only does she give herself away cheaply to the nations around her, but she hires them to come to her as lovers.

In Ezekiel’s metaphor, the young woman, Jerusalem, enjoyed the fame and attention that she received from the rest of the world, and she decided to make herself a prostitute to all the men who gave her attention. God had saved Israel from a life of death and prostitution, He provided for her, He made her beautiful, He chose her as His bride, but she responded by making herself a prostitute. God says that Israel prostituted herself to the Canaanites, Egyptians, Assyrians, and the Babylonians. And not only is she prostituting herself, unlike most prostitutes, Jerusalem is paying her lovers and not the other way around.

What is God talking about in this metaphor? He is talking about the worship of other gods.   God made Himself clear to the people of Israel, but they effectively prostituted themselves to the other nations of the world by worshiping their gods and asking for their approval and protection. The people of Israel showed that they were insecure, impressionable, and unfaithful by rejecting the Lord and worshiping these other gods.   They would pay lip service to the Lord, but then they would completely ignore His commandments and turn their backs on Him by indulging in the worship and recognition of false idols and gods of other nations. Ezekiel’s metaphor tells us that Israel, the dying baby rescued by the Lord, turned into a beautiful woman and then rejected her husband for the favors of much lesser men.

      • Vs. 36-41. She is abused by those whom she paid to protect her.

Jerusalem entered into agreements with other nations for protection instead of relying on the Lord.   Now those nations are abusing Jerusalem which would have never happened if Jerusalem had trusted in the Lord in the first place.

      • Vs. 42-43. She experiences the outpouring of anger from the One who had previously poured out love and blessing.

God’s love for Jerusalem has been taken for granted. Like any jealous lover, God’s patience for His adulterous wife leads to anger. God permits the Assyrians to take Israel into captivity, Judah is taken captive by the Babylonians, and still, Jerusalem participates in sexual sin, idol worship, and alliances with the nations around her. There is a limit to God’s patience and love before God’s wrath is revealed.

      • Vs. 51. The LORD reveals the root of Samaria and Sodom’s sin, and finds Jerusalem’s sin twice as bad: “Samaria did not commit half of your sins; but you have multiplied your abominations more than they.”

Ezekiel lists the sins of Samaria and Sodom illustrating that sexual sin and idol worship are symptoms of a root problem. Sodom had sexual immorality and pride and idleness, but Jerusalem piled on adultery and idol worship on top of that. The Lord God has every right to be angry. And if the Lord would destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, should He not destroy Jerusalem also?

 

Hope, Ezekiel 16:53-63

 

And that’s where all of us find ourselves.   Despite all of God’s gifts, His blessings, His love, His patience, we all turn to sin.   We all prostitute ourselves to manmade gods of our own making. John 8:44, Jesus says,

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

We oppose God, and any opposition to God is the same as worshipping the devil. Despite God’s love, we choose pride. And like Jerusalem the prostitute, God’s wrath burns against our sin.

But there is hope anyway. God, despite our failings, has plans for us, plans to give us hope and a future.   Though Jerusalem and her people broke their covenant with the Lord and were living in gross sin, sexual immorality and idol worship, God promises to make atonement for their sins. Ezekiel 16:59-60,63 –

“‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will deal with you as you deserve, because you have despised my oath by breaking the covenant. Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you. …

Then, when I make atonement for you for all you have done, you will remember and be ashamed and never again open your mouth because of your humiliation, declares the Sovereign Lord.’”

God is gracious, even when we are not. It’s humbling to know how bad I have sinned against the Lord, yet there is no sin that can keep me from His love.

In spite of Judah’s prostitution and idolatry against God, and in spite of their exile into Babylon, God still promises that He will restore an everlasting covenant with His people. This covenant would help them forget their shame and pain, and it would lead them into a new era with their God.

Fortunately for the people of Judah, this exile in Babylon was temporary. In about 70 years, they would return to their homeland because of the Persian empire. While they were in exile, the people held on to the hope that if they followed God’s laws and stayed faithful to Him, that He would keep His promise and restore them to the covenant.

 

Conclusion

 

And fortunately for you and me, our exile, our relationship with our father the devil, is also only temporary, if we just accept the atonement God provided for us.   Not because we are great, but because God is.

Here’s our outline for today –

      • Helpless, Ezekiel 16:3-5
      • Honor, Ezekiel 16:6-14
      • Harlotry, Ezekiel 16:15-52
      • Hope, Ezekiel 16:53-63

But maybe we should be looking at Ezekiel’s message this way –

      • Helpless – when we are without God
      • Honor – we are made in God’s image
      • Harlotry – in our sin nature, we follow the devil
      • Hope – Christ died for us while we were still sinners

I want to finish with a message of hope for you and me. Despite my unbelief, despite by unworthy generational history, despite my sexual immorality and pride, God loves me and gave His son that I may live.   He no longer sees my adultery against Him; He sees the atonement in Jesus that He provided for me. All I have to do is accept it and believe that Jesus died for me. Ephesians 2:1-9 is probably the most beautiful message of hope for believers in Christ,

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

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It is amazing to me how much God loves us. To God be the glory.

It’s Not My Fault!

I. Introduction

Ezekiel 18 opens with a discussion of a proverb, “”The fathers eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” I thought, for illustrative purposes, I’d go to HEB and buy a bunch of sour grapes, but I couldn’t find them anywhere. I guess they were all sold out. Super popular, those sour grapes. Anyway, I bought some Extreme Sour Warheads. I’ll need a volunteer, Chris. I want to try an experiment to see if this proverb is true. Those of you in the class, can you tell how sour this candy is? Does it make your face pucker just thinking about how sour the candy that somebody else ate is? Well, I don’t want anybody to be left out of this face-puckering illustration, so pass the box around and everybody help yourself.

Well, I’m going to make an observation that the proverb we’re going to study today is not true.

II. Sour Grapes and Other Bad Proverbs, Ezekiel 18:1-3

In the meantime, let’s open to the book of Ezekiel, chapter 18, verses 1-3. The prophet Ezekiel says:

The word of the Lord came to me: “What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel:

“‘The parents eat sour grapes,
and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?

“As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel.

As we’ve seen, just because Chris ate an Extreme Sour Warhead, my teeth were not set on edge, my face didn’t pucker. And like the Lord says, “you will no longer quote this proverb,” it doesn’t appear in the book of Proverbs.

Let’s put our lesson today in the context of time – what’s going on, and when. The Assyrian empire was an early world superpower, and at its height ruled much of the middle east, including modern-day Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Palestine and Cyprus, together with large swaths of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Sudan, Libya, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. But with the death of the Assyrian king in 627 BC, civil war erupted.

map

During this time, Egypt regained independence, and then seized Judah and made it a vassal state, and Jehoiakim was installed as king of Judah. But then Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians (wouldn’t that be a great name for a rock band?) defeated Egypt during a crucial battle and seized Judah. Jehoiakim must have thought this was a good time to revolt and regain their freedom, but Nebuchadnezzar crushed the revolt, killed Jehoiakim, and took 10,000 Jews, including our prophet Ezekiel, to Babylon.

Egypt was still fighting the Babylonians, and they promised Judah military support in another rebellion against the Babylonians. Different factions in Judah developed – some wanted to side with the Egyptians and revolt. Others, including the prophet Jeremiah, warned against another revolt, remain in Babylonian captivity.

The occupation of Judah, first by Egypt and then by Babylonians, were the result of the rebellion of the people of Judah and God’s discipline. But the people living in Jerusalem at the time took no responsibility on their own. The blamed their problems on previous generations. They sinned, rebelled, offered gifts to false idols, worshipped pagan gods, they were rebellious and disobedient, engaged in sexual immorality, there were dogs and cats living together, and the people threw up their hands, saying, “Hey, it’s not my fault. It’s my parent’s fault, and my grandparent’s fault. *They* are the ones who sinned. They made me who I am. And it’s not fair for God to punish *me* for what they did. My parents ate sour grapes, and my teeth are set on edge. I can still taste what they ate. God isn’t fair.”

In essence, the people of Judah claimed that they were not responsible for their own sins. The sins were the result of something their parents did, so they weren’t responsible. The blamed their ancestors and perhaps God Himself, and the people of Judah are simply being punished for the sins of their fathers.

Where did they get this idea? One likely source is the beginning of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 which begins:

And God spoke all these words: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

The Lord’s Words, of course, are true. In many respects, we are the product of our upbringing and our environment. Whatever life our parents chose to live and the other choices they made have an impact on us, and likewise our grandparent’s choices had an impact on our parents. But while past sins influence our lives for generations, they are not an excuse for our behavior. In other words, we are not always responsible for our circumstances, but we are always responsible for our response to those circumstances. How we react is entirely up to us.

Ezekiel tells us the Lord holds us individually responsible with several examples:

First, the case of a righteous man. Let’s call him the Righteous Grandfather. Turn to Ezekiel 18:5,

“Suppose there is a righteous [Grandfather] who does what is just and right. He does not eat at the mountain shrines or look to the idols of Israel. He does not defile his neighbor’s wife […], he does not oppress anyone, but returns what he took in pledge for a loan. He does not commit robbery but gives his food to the hungry and provides clothing for the naked. He does not lend to them at interest or take a profit from them. He withholds his hand from doing wrong and judges fairly between two parties. He follows my decrees and faithfully keeps my laws. That man is righteous; he will surely live,” declares the Sovereign Lord.

In other words, the Lord is pleased with the Righteous Grandfather because he does what is right. But let’s say Righteous Grandfather has a son. We’ll call him the Faulty Father. Righteous Grandfather was so pleasing to the Lord that the Lord will give the Faulty Father some of that good credit, won’t he?

Ezekiel says no, Faulty Father is faulty and will take the blame for his own actions. Look at Ezekiel 18:10-13 (and I’m going to use the Michael’s Abridged Translation because the Faulty Father’s rotten behavior is the exact opposite of Righteous Grandfather:

Suppose he has a violent son, who sheds blood or does any of these other things (though the father has done none of them): Will such a man live? He will not! Because he has done all these detestable things, he is to be put to death; his blood will be on his own head.

No credit for his Righteous Grandfather there; no fix for Faulty Father’s fantastic first-class failures. But then Faulty Father has a Super Son who does what is right. Surely he takes some of the blame for what his Faulty Father did, right? Ezekiel 18:14-19, again Michael’s Abridged Translation,

But suppose this son has a son who sees all the sins his father commits, and though he sees them, he does not do such things. He will not die for his father’s sin; he will surely live. But his father will die for his own sin, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother and did what was wrong among his people. Yet you ask, ‘Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?’ Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live.”

So, Super Son’s sacrificial service saves his soul from supernatural servitude in Sheol. Faulty Father may have led a terrible sinful life that surely had an influence on his son, but the son alone is responsible for his actions. If he does what is right, the Lord is pleased with him.

The Prophet sums it all up in Exodus 18:20:

“The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.”

One would think this settles it; if you’re wicked, you’re wicked, and if you’re good, you’re good. But the stubborn people of Judah would still like to lay the blame somewhere. “It’s not our fault!” they exclaim. Well, if it isn’t their own fault, and it isn’t their parent’s fault… then it must be God’s fault. It was God who punished our parents, and I’m having to live with the punishment! God is not fair!”

God answers this charge directly; the people of Judah cannot charge God with being unfair because God, by His very nature, is fair and just. By what standard can we use to judge, if not the standard of God? The Lord again speaks through Ezekiel, verses 25-29:

“Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear, you Israelites: Is my way unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust? If a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin, they will die for it; because of the sin they have committed they will die. But if a wicked person turns away from the wickedness they have committed and does what is just and right, they will save their life. Because they consider all the offenses they have committed and turn away from them, that person will surely live; they will not die. Yet the Israelites say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Are my ways unjust, people of Israel? Is it not your ways that are unjust?

Well, I’m having a little trouble here finding somebody to blame. The Lord says I can’t blame my parents, and I can’t blame my circumstances, and I can’t blame the Lord. Who’s left to blame? Who should they blame?

III. Take Responsibility, Ezekiel 18:29-32

The Lord God tells them to man-up. Take responsibility, there is no one else to blame. Ezekiel 18:29-32, the challenge from the proverb:

“Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!”

Get a new heart and a new spirit. Rid yourselves of all offenses. Repent and live.

God doesn’t pleasure in the death of anyone, including the wicked. God would have all come to repentance, get a new heart and a new spirit, repent and live. God’s message, through Ezekiel, is clear. The people of Judah may object, yes, but they cannot claim they do not understand the message. Repent and live.

Our world is like that today. John 3:16-21 says,

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

It’s still the same message. God takes no pleasure in death. Rid yourselves of all offenses, get a new heart and a new spirit, repent and live.

It’s been the same message from the beginning. Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, hiding in shame due to their original sin. God said, the garden is yours, just don’t eat the fruit of this one tree. And of course they ate it, and then the finger-pointing begins. Adam blaming Eve *and* God simultaneously, “This woman, who you made, gave me the fruit.” And Eve says, “Me? Wasn’t my fault. The serpent tricked me.” And if there was anything about this story that disturbs me is that the serpent doesn’t blame anyone.

And the people of Israel in the time of Moses: God had just finished amazing them by leading them out of Egypt. There were ten plagues and there were pillars of fire and then, while Moses is up on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments, the people make a golden calf to worship. Their excuse? “We don’t know what happened to Moses! We need to make a god to worship!” So Aaron, Moses’ second in command, collects all the gold, melts it in the fire, and makes a golden calf. And the worst excuse I’ve ever heard throughout history is in Exodus 32, Moses asks Aaron, “Why did you do that?” And Aaron answers, “The people gave me the gold and I threw it in the fire, and out came this calf!”

And today? Here’s a story from Ewing, NJ. Florence Schreiber Powers, age 44, was on trial for shoplifting two watches, and called her psychiatrist to testify that Florence Powers was under stress at the time of the incident and was unaware of her actions from “one minute to the next” for the following 19 reasons: a recent auto accident, a traffic ticket, a new-car purchase, overwork, husband’s kidney stones, husband’s asthma (and breathing machine that occupies their bedroom), menopausal hot flashes, an “ungodly” itch, a bad rash, fear of breast cancer, fear of dental surgery, son’s need for an asthma breathing machine, mother’s and aunt’s illnesses, need to organize her parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, need to cook Thanksgiving dinner for 20 relatives, purchase of 200 gifts for Christmas and Chanukah, attempt to sell her house without a realtor, lawsuit against wallpaper cleaners, purchase of furniture that had to be returned, and a toilet in her house that was constantly running. She was convicted anyway.

It’s still the same message. God takes no pleasure in death, rid yourselves of all offenses, get a new heart and a new spirit, repent and live. But in order to do that, we have to recognize the source of our disobedience. Our disobedience doesn’t come from our parents or our location or our circumstance or our friends or our children or our spouse or a cheeseburger or Nordstrom’s or an Apple iPhone or the government or our boss. Regardless of our circumstances, our disobedience comes from within us.

IV. Deliver Us from Evil

Many times we want to do the right thing, but sometimes the right thing is too hard. Or the wrong thing is too easy. I think Paul said it best in Romans 7:14-24:

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Thanks be to God who delivers us through Christ Jesus. We are afraid to take ownership of our sin and say, “The blame rests on me. I did it.” Because we want to value ourselves more highly than we should or we fear the punishment of being bad. Especially if we have to face the almighty power and glory of God and say, “Look what a mess I did.”

But that’s exactly what God would have us do. Say to God, “Look what a mess I did. Look what a mess I am.” And it’s still the same message today as it was in Ezekiel’s time, God takes no pleasure in death, get a new heart and a new spirit, repent and live. We accept the grace and forgiveness through the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, we receive the Holy Spirit, we get a new heart of forgiveness and humility, we repent of our sins, and we live forever in Him.

We do not have to be afraid of the punishment God would have as a sacrifice for our sin. I want to make sure you fully understand this point; there is no punishment, but often times there is God’s discipline. There is a huge difference. Punishment looks backward in anger and wrath and demands a price for the offense. Discipline looks forward in mercy and kindness in order to make our paths straight. If we eat too much, our weight is our punishment, going to the gym is discipline. If we shop too much, credit card debt is our punishment, a budget for future spending is discipline. God does not punish his children, but he may discipline them.

Our sins still demand God’s justice and His wrath and His punishment, but the Good News, the gospel, is that Christ has already born the stripes for our transgressions, He has paid the price, He has willingly accepted our punishment. We’re still in Romans 7, right where we left off, but let’s continue into Romans 8:

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

Why can we be brave and confess? Because there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. We are not going to surprise God with how bad we are. God already knows. But God so loved the world, including you and me, *especially* you and me, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Our sin has already been paid for. God wants us to confess it to Him and instead of punishment, we receive cleansing. We receive peace. We receive grace, God’s favor on the undeserving. While we are wretched sinners, God doesn’t see us as wretched sinners. If we read further down in Romans 8, verse 14,

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

We cry, “Abba, Father.” We can confess freely our sins to God because we have already been forgiven. One of the great mysteries of God’s creation is that if only just admit our sins to God and confess our unworthiness and say, “I did it, it’s my fault, and I’m sorry,” God separates us from those sins as far as the east is from the west, and instead of wretched sinners, we become children of the Living God. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.

V. Conclusion

Ezekiel’s message to the people of Judah from the Lord hasn’t changed in 2600 years. Stop blaming others, accept responsibility for our thoughts, our behaviors, and our sins. God takes no pleasure in death. Rid ourselves of all offenses, get a new heart and a new spirit, repent and live.

God promises to forgive us all trespasses and make us heirs in the kingdom of God. Amazing grace. To God be the glory.