You can’t blame others for your sins: Ezekiel 18


Today’s reading: Ezekiel 18-20.

“It’s not my fault that God isn’t blessing me. I’m suffering because of what the generations before me did.”

The Jews in exile had a problem. They had lost their homeland. They were prisoners. Things weren’t getting any better, either, and they were looking for an explanation. The easy answer? “Our fathers are the reason we are suffering.”

The word of the LORD came to me: “What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel: ‘The fathers 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. For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son–both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die.” Ezekiel 18:1-4

When you read the proverb about sour grapes, your first reaction is to sympathize with the exiles and accept their reasoning that they are suffering for their fathers’ sins. God says, “No, you’ve got it all wrong.” He then goes on to explain that each person is accountable for their own sins.

  • A righteous man will have his righteousness credited to him.
  • A wicked man will have his wickedness charged against him.
  • Each man will bear his own guilt, no matter whether his father was guilty or not.

God then brings up the situation where a person’s righteousness changes.

  • If an unrighteous man repents and begins to keep God’s commands, he becomes right with God.
  • If a righteous man quits obeying God and begins doing despicable things, God declares him guilty and he faces spiritual death.
  • God declares his wish that no guilty person die, but that each one would repent and be restored to a right relationship with him.

God was telling the exiles to look no further than themselves for the cause of their continued suffering. They were accountable for their own sin, and according to God there was plenty to account for. We’ve seen, as in the case of Job, that not all suffering is due to personal sin. In this situation, however, God declared that sin was the root cause. It was their own sin and no one else’s. But God said, “Why will you die, Israel? Get a new heart and a new spirit, for I take no pleasure in the death of anyone.”

I’m glad God offers the wicked man a chance to repent. You and I would be lost without that grace. It’s troubling, though, to think about losing our right relationship with the LORD. Many have argued over this issue of the security of our salvation. I would note that Ezekiel was addressing those who lived under the old covenant of the law. The letter of I John strikes a similar note, however.

No one who lives in him (Jesus) keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. I John 3:6-7

Image by rottnapples on Flickr, CC by 2.0

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