Summary: A pastoral sermon to encourage discouraged parents
(1) Reading, studying, and applying the Bible is considered to be one of the most important ‘habits’ that Christians are encouraged to developed. It ranks right up there (and perhaps equally) with prayer, church attendance, and personal ministry as the core set of habits necessary for a growing faith.
Reading and applying the Bible is, at times, hard work. The Bible is a book but it is also the inspired and inerrant Word of God. It was written in another time and place in two ancient languages. But God has given it to us to discern correctly His will and purpose for humankind.
The Bible is a book that reveals supernatural power. Men wrote it but God inspired it for God’s purposes.
The Bible contains history, poetry, and wisdom that can draw us in and make us think and struggle with our conscience and our souls. While it describes portions of verifiable human history, it transcends that history and enfolds it into divine history and the divine story.
The full range of human emotions is a part of scripture. There is love, hate, joy, sorrow, anger, peace, and a host of other emotions with which we can identify.
Yet there are times when we forget about this great and wonderful plan of God when we read certain portions of the Old Testament. I am referring to sections such as the ‘begat’ sections where we read about who ‘begat’ who followed by more ‘begetting.’ I do sometimes wonder why the Lord did not do more divine editing to shorten those sections, but one day we all might know why.
Then there is the latter half of Exodus, specifically chapters 25 though 39, in which the construction of the Tabernacle is given and carried out in detail. Again, after reading several chapters that give the measurements and type of materials used in the construction of it, my eyes have tended to glaze over and I revert to a childhood desire – show me a picture! (2) (I could not find a legally usable drawing of the tabernacle but here is a drawing of what the Ark of the Covenant that went in the Tabernacle may have looked like.)
However, there are moments when as you read the Spirit is at work and a verse or two, or even an entire chapter, grabs a hold of you and you sit up and take notice! You begin to ask, ‘What are you saying God? What were you saying then? What are you saying now? What are you saying to me now?’ That’s what happened to me when I read our main text for this morning last November 8 when this text was part of my yearly Bible reading.
As I read it I thought, (3) ‘Why haven’t I noticed this before?’ ‘What is God saying to the Israelites?’ ‘Why is God saying it to the Israelites now?’ ‘What does it truly mean for us today?’
The first question is beyond the scope of this sermon but a short answer to it is, “It was the Holy Spirit showing me something important!” As for the remaining questions, they are worth pursuing.
(4) ‘What is God saying to the Israelites?’
God is saying something very important: Each person is responsible for his or her own actions and life.
Ezekiel is using a contrast and comparison method as we read in verses 1 through 4: Then another message came to me from the Lord: “Why do you quote this proverb in the land of Israel: ‘the parents have eaten sour grapes, but their children’s mouths pucker at the taste’? As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, you will not say this proverb anymore in Israel. For all people are mine to judge—both parents and children alike. And this is my rule: The person who sins will be the one who dies.
The contrast and comparison in this passage is concerned with a commonly used phrase that appears in verse 2, ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, but their children’s mouths pucker at the taste.’ In verse 1, we realize that this is a widely held belief and a view by the Israelites regarding the effects of parental choices on children.
In reading verses 3 and 4, however, we get the contrasting view of God. ‘As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, you will not say this proverb anymore in Israel. For all people are mine to judge—both parents and children alike. And this is my rule: The person who sins will be the one who dies.’
So, compared to the commonly held belief that the actions of the parents will have an impact on the children, God says, ‘Not any more.’ When you read commentary on this passage you are reminded that this very deeply held belief was rooted in The Ten Commandments where we read in Exodus 20:5 ‘I do not leave unpunished the sins of those who hate me, but I punish the children for the sins of their parents to the third and fourth generations.’