For an introduction to this series, click here.
Oct. 2, 2006
Once again we find ourselves in Ezekiel, and we find him pronouncing more messages of doom for the Jews. Eventually he will turn the conversation to a more positive level, but right now he has his hands full dealing with the sins of Israel. In chapter 17, God says that he will pluck a small branch of the vine that is Israel and replant it on a mountain. The rest will be destroyed. Chapter 19 is a lamentation for the demise of Israel.
In chapter 18, however, is an important transition passage. I think it points toward the age of the New Testament church, but that's just me. I could be wrong, I certainly have been from time to time. That's one of the joys of being a newspaper reporter. Everything you write is read by thousands of critical eyes, and they have no qualms about walking in, calling, writing an e-mail or a letter pointing out your mistake. Usually it's my fault, and I try as best I can to smooth the situation over, but it is frustrating when someone will not talk to you when they know you're trying to report the facts about them, but they will holler and scream when you make an honest mistake that could have been easily prevented with a little bit of cooperation beforehand.
But enough about me. The people of Israel had a saying, "The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge." Kind of like when we say "Like father, like son" today, except theirs went deeper. It was based on verses like Exodus 20:5, in the middle of the Ten Commandments, which reads, "For I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me." This attitude can also be seen in Jesus' disciples, who asked Jesus about the man born blind, "Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" The Jews believed that God punished people's descendants for their ancestors' sins. And in some cases He did. There are examples (specific ones escape me at the moment) where God told a wicked king that his son's kingdom would be cut off for his sin. Indeed, the very people Ezekiel was prophesying to, the captives of Israel, were in large part suffering for the sin of preceding generations.
But God said that the time of this proverb was at an end. He said that now "The soul who 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." (18:20, ESV)
We each are personally responsible to God for our own actions, not the actions of others. Thank God for that. I have enough to worry about without having to worry about the problems of the rest of my family or co-workers or church family or whatever. Part of our responsibility is to encourage others to do right, but others' sins are their problem, not ours. I could wax eloquent on that, but it's time to go.