Ezekiel 20:1 In the seventh year, in the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month, some of Israel’s elders came to investigate Yahveh, and they sat down in front of me. Ezekiel 20:2 Then the word of Yahveh happened to me: Ezekiel 20:3 “Son of Adam, speak with the elders of Israel and tell them, ‘This is what the Lord Yahveh says: Are you coming to investigate me? As I live, I will not let you investigate me. This is the declaration of the Lord Yahveh.’ Ezekiel 20:4 “Will you pass judgment against them, will you pass judgment, son of Adam? Explain the repulsive practices of their fathers to them. Ezekiel 20:5 Say to them, ‘This is what the Lord Yahveh says: On the day I chose Israel, I swore an oath to the descendants of Jacob’s house and made myself known to them in the land of Egypt. I swore to them, saying, “I am Yahveh your God.” Ezekiel 20:6 On that day I swore to them that I would bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land I had searched out for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most beautiful of all lands. Ezekiel 20:7 I also said to them, “Throw away, each of you, the repulsive things that you prize, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt. I am Yahveh your God.” Ezekiel 20:8 ” ‘But they rebelled against me and were unwilling to listen to me. None of them threw away the repulsive things that they prized, and they did not abandon the idols of Egypt.
repulsive things that they prized
What kept these elders from getting close enough to investigate God and the things of God? They insisted on hanging on to some repulsive things — things that they prized and would not repent of.
Our generation wants to get to know God on their terms as well. They want to hang on to their bigotry and greed and sexual promiscuity and chemical addictions, but they want to search out a spiritual experience with God as well. The prophet reveals that God will not allow that. If we really want a relationship with God, it has to be on his terms. He demands that we all meet him at the cross. He commands us all to repent of our sins. That means all our sins — even the ones that our culture refuses to call sin.
LORD, forgive us for deluding ourselves into thinking that we can have you without denying ourselves.
Ezekiel 19:10 Your mother was like a vine in your vineyard, planted by the water; it was fruitful and full of branches because of abundant water. Ezekiel 19:11 It had strong branches, fit for the scepters of rulers; its height towered among the clouds. So it was conspicuous for its height as well as its many branches. Ezekiel 19:12 But it was uprooted in fury, thrown to the ground, and the east wind dried up its fruit. Its strong branches were torn off and dried up; the fire consumed them. Ezekiel 19:13 Now it is planted in the open country, in a dry and thirsty land. Ezekiel 19:14 Fire has gone out from its main branch and has devoured its fruit so that it no longer has a strong branch, a scepter for ruling. This is a dirge and should be used as a dirge.”
out from the main branch
In previous passages, Ezekiel responds to the tendency of his people to blame God for cursing them because of the sins of their fathers. In this allegory, it is clear that the fire came out from the main branch of Judah itself. God is only guilty of bringing upon them the result of their own disobedience.
LORD, give us the wisdom to own up to our sin and to come to you in repentance.
Ezekiel 19:1 “As for you, take up a dirge for the princes of Israel, Ezekiel 19:2 and say: What was your mother? A lioness! She lay down among the lions; she reared her cubs among the young lions. Ezekiel 19:3 She brought up one of her cubs, and he became a young lion. After he learned to tear prey, he devoured people. Ezekiel 19:4 When the nations heard about him, he was caught in their pit. Then they led him away with hooks to the land of Egypt. Ezekiel 19:5 When she saw that she waited in vain, that her hope was lost, she took another of her cubs and made him a young lion. Ezekiel 19:6 He prowled among the lions, and he became a young lion. After he learned to tear prey, he devoured people. Ezekiel 19:7 He devastated their strongholds and destroyed their cities. The land and everything in it shuddered at the sound of his roaring.
Ezekiel 19:8 Then the nations from the surrounding provinces set out against him. They spread their net over him; he was caught in their pit. Ezekiel 19:9 They put a wooden yoke on him with hooks and led him away to the king of Babylon. They brought him into the fortresses so his roar could no longer be heard on the mountains of Israel.
she reared her cubs
Judah, the lioness — produces two significant cubs — Jehoahaz and Jehoiachin. Both of these kings are notorious for their evil and violence. Alexander [Ezekiel, 1976, p. 63] says that through “this figure Ezekiel is demonstrating the wickedness of these last kings of Judah and, by implication, the judgment which they are helping to bring upon Judah through their wicked leadership.
What kinds of leaders are being brought up by this generation? What are the principles they will live by? What kinds of action will they produce? Will they lead our nations closer to God or away from him? Cubs grow up to be young lions, experts at destroying life and devouring flesh. Is that what we want?
Judah reared her cubs to be the kind of leaders who brought judgment down from heaven. If our nations continue the same kind of activity, we will suffer the same kind of judgment.
LORD, give us the wisdom to stop producing leaders who lead us to sin and shame.
Ezekiel 18:30 “Therefore, house of Israel, I will judge each one of you according to his ways.” This is the declaration of the Lord Yahveh. “Repent and turn from all your rebellious acts, so they will not become a failing stumbling block to you. Ezekiel 18:31 Throw off all the rebellions you have committed and get yourselves a new heart and a new breath. Why should you die, house of Israel? Ezekiel 18:32 For I take no pleasure in anyone’s death.” This is the declaration of the Lord Yahveh. “So repent and live!
I cringe when I hear someone explain the death of their loved one by saying that God needed another angel in heaven. What an insult to God to blame him for a person’s death. He has made it clear in this Scripture and many others — that he takes no pleasure in anyone’s death.
The first death was caused by our ancestor’s rebellion, and the second death is caused by our own. If we want to blame anyone for death, the finger has to be pointed back to us. The good news is that God has a Way for us to avoid the second death. What God wants is not for us to die and be with him, but to repent and live.
LORD, thank you for making a way for us to escape the second death.
Ezekiel 18:25 “But you say, ‘Yahveh’s way isn’t fair.’ Now listen, house of Israel: Is it my way that is unfair? Instead, isn’t it your ways that are unfair? Ezekiel 18:26 When a righteous person turns from his righteousness and acts unjustly, he will die for this. He will die because of the injustice he has committed. Ezekiel 18:27 But if a guilty person turns from the guilt he has committed and does what is just and right, he will preserve his throat. Ezekiel 18:28 He will certainly live because he thought it over and turned from all the rebellions he had committed; he will not die. Ezekiel 18:29 But the house of Israel says, ‘Yahveh’s way isn’t fair.’ Is it my ways that are unfair, house of Israel? Instead, isn’t it your ways that are unfair?
random acts of unfairness
Greenhill suggests that the charge against God is that his “way is not well weighed, artificially framed, and exactly done, but irregular, crooked and sinful” (462). They are accusing God of acting randomly. It most certainly seems to be the case sometimes. But we do not see things from the eternal perspective that the LORD does. He sees beyond the immediate. If we could see what God sees, and know what he knows, we would be able to perceive his fairness. The fact that we are limited in our vision and insight means that we must learn to trust him when we think he is acting unfairly.
LORD, forgive us for failing to trust you and accusing you of random acts of unfairness.
Greenhill, William, and James Sherman. An Exposition of the Prophet Ezekiel, with Useful Observations Thereupon, Delivered in Several Lectures in London A.D. 1650. 1837.
Ezekiel 18:19 But you may ask, ‘Why doesn’t the son suffer punishment for the father’s violation? ‘Since the son has done what is just and right, carefully observing all my prescriptions, he will certainly live. Ezekiel 18:20 The throat who fails is the one who will die. A son won’t suffer punishment for the father’s violation, and a father won’t suffer punishment for the son’s violation. The righteousness of the righteous person will be on him, and the guilt of the guilty person will be on him. Ezekiel 18:21 “But if the guilty person turns from all the failures he has committed, keeps all my prescriptions, and does what is just and right, he will certainly live; he will not die. Ezekiel 18:22 None of the rebellions he has committed will be held against him. He will live because of the righteousness he has practiced. Ezekiel 18:23 Do I take any pleasure in the death of the guilty?” This is the declaration of the Lord Yahveh. “Instead, don’t I take pleasure when he turns from his ways and lives? Ezekiel 18:24 But when a righteous person turns from his righteousness and acts unjustly, committing the same repulsive acts that the guilty do, will he live? None of the righteous acts he did will be remembered. He will die because of the treachery he has engaged in and the failure he has committed.
You are a Christian — you say. You have repented and trusted Christ as your savior. But I want today’s text to challenge you as it does me. This text defines repentance. A repentant person is someone who has turned from his ways. God takes pleasure in the person who has turned from his ways and now follows God’s ways. That is the person who will live.
LORD, make us into people who are truly repentant. Give us the strength to turn — and keep turning — until we are walking in your ways, not our own.
Ezekiel 18:14 “Now notice he has a son who sees all the failures his father has committed, and though he sees them, he does not do likewise. Ezekiel 18:15 He does not eat at the mountain shrines or look to the idols of the house of Israel. He does not defile his neighbor’s wife. Ezekiel 18:16 He doesn’t oppress anyone, hold collateral, or commit robbery. He gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with clothing. Ezekiel 18:17 He keeps his hand from harming the poor, not taking interest or profit on a loan. He practices my rules and follows my prescriptions. Such a person will not die for his father’s violation. He will certainly live. Ezekiel 18:18 “As for his father, notice he will die for his own violation because he practiced fraud, robbed his brother, and did among his people what was not good.
tolerating the small things
I want to focus on just one sin of the many mentioned in today’s text. It may have seemed like a small thing, but Ezekiel called it a violation if someone ate at a mountain shrine. These were places set apart for pagan worship. It was probably something lots of peoiple did in secret because they were interested in how the pagans did things.
There are some small things that our generation indulges itself in, and those small things are killing us.
LORD, purify us before our toleration of the “small things” brings about our destruction.
Ezekiel 18:10 “But suppose the man has a violent son, who sheds blood and does any of these things, Ezekiel 18:11 though the father has done none of them. Indeed, when the son eats at the mountain shrines and defiles his neighbor’s wife, Ezekiel 18:12 and when he oppresses the poor and needy, commits robbery and does not return collateral, and when he looks to the idols, commits repulsive acts, Ezekiel 18:13 and lends at interest or for profit, will he live? He will not live! Since he has committed all these repulsive acts, he will certainly die. His death will be his own fault.
repentance begins here
If someone had an unfortunate experience, people in Ezekiel’s day would be quick to assume that it was a result of a curse being put on that someone, perhaps because of some distant offense by a member of his family. Ezekiel discourages that kind of thinking. It is important for each individual to look first at his own life. Repentance begins here — at personal recognition of one’s own failure.
LORD, open our eyes to the ugly reality of our own sin. May our repentance be sincere and complete.
Ezekiel 18:5 “Suppose a man is righteous and does what is just and right: Ezekiel 18:6 He does not eat at the mountain shrines or look to the idols of the house of Israel. He does not defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman during her menstrual impurity. Ezekiel 18:7 He doesn’t oppress anyone but returns his collateral to the debtor. He does not commit robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with clothing. Ezekiel 18:8 He doesn’t lend at interest or for profit but keeps his hand from injustice and carries out true justice between men. Ezekiel 18:9 He follows my prescriptions and keeps my rules, acting faithfully. Such a person is righteous; he will certainly live.” This is the declaration of the Lord Yahveh.
the righteous will certainly live
If we just take this passage out of its context, we would be tempted to suggest that anyone could avoid death by simply living right. That is the case, but it is more complicated than that. None of us continue to do right, thus we all deserve death. But the LORD’s point in sharing this truth is that God “has a heart for every being who has fallen away from him” (Lange,185)*. There is a right way to live, and if we were to live that way consistently, we would not see the second death. But since we all fail to live that way, enter Christ. He is the way to live apart from the righteousness of the law.
LORD, thank you for your mercy in giving us a way to live, apart from the law, which we have broken.
*Lange, Johann Peter, and Philip Schaff. A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical, with Special Reference to Ministers and Students. New York: C. Scribner & Co, 1865.
Ezekiel 18:1 The word of Yahveh happened to me. This is what it said: Ezekiel 18:2 “What do you mean by using this proverb concerning the land of Israel: ‘The fathers eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? Ezekiel 18:3 As I live” – this is the declaration of the Lord Yahveh – “you will no longer use this proverb in Israel. Ezekiel 18:4 Notice, every throat belongs to me. The throat of the father is like the throat of the son – both belong to me. The throat who fails is the one who will die.
defense or defender
The LORD was tired of a people who kept blaming someone else for their sins. He reminded them that each individual possessed his own throat — and thus was responsible for his own life and his own appetite. Yet each was also responsible to him because every throat was his.
Our generation is also adept at blaming those who have gone before us. But on judgment day, “someone else did something else” will not cut it as a defense for our own sins. The books will be open, and those books record the personal choices of each defendant. The throat who fails is the one who will die.
The gospel challenges us all to realize that we have no one to blame but ourselves, so we have no defense. Therefore, we need a defender. Christ — the one who went to the cross for us — offers himself. We would be fools not to accept his offer.
LORD, we accept responsibility for our own actions and plead the blood of Christ for their atonement.