Summary: The soul that sins shall die
SOUR GRAPES AND TEETH ON EDGE
As a kid I remember one time that we went and ate sour grapes. We were so excited about them that we ate beyond control. As a result in the evening at home I was suffering from two things: 1) my teeth were set on edge, and 2) my stomach was aching. This was the price I had to pay.
The Jews rebelled against God, even though sent them prophet after prophet to warn them to reform their ways and turn to Him. He warned them that if they did not repent, they would be taken into Babylonian Exile, following the destiny of their brothers the Israelites who were taken into exile by the Assyrians. Since they didn’t repent and turn to God, He used the Babylonians as an instrument of His judgment. While in exile, instead of restoring their relationship with God, they were complaining and shifting the blame. They were quoting a proverb: “The fathers eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (18:2). God, through His spokesman, the prophet Ezekiel told them:
1. They were personally responsible (18:1-24).
2. They were righteously judged (18:25-29).
3. They were compassionately offered forgiveness (18:30-32).
I. PERSONALLY RESPONSIBLE (18:1-24)
A. You are responsible for your actions, not the actions of someone else. Twice the text says “the soul who sins is the one who will die” (18:4, 20).
B. The consequences of our actions are not transferable.
1. They are not transferred from one generation to another (18:5-17). The exiles were saying we are here because of our ancestors.
a. Righteous father (18:5-9) who has done much good will not go unnoticed.
b. His unrighteous son (18:10-13) does exactly what refused to do and fails to do the good things his father did. What will his outcome be? “…he will surely be put to death…” (18:13).
c. His righteous grandson (18:14-17) will not be judged on the sins of his unrighteous father. He will live because of his righteousness.
d. Illustration: It should not have been far removed in the memory of this exilic community that the righteous king Hezekiah (who was told of the exile) had an unrighteous son, Manasseh and a righteous grandson Josiah.
2. Neither are they are not transferable from one life period to another (18:21-24). They were saying but this is not how we have been and that should count something. Ezekiel would give two examples:
a. An unrighteous man who turns to righteousness (18:21-23).
b. A righteous man who turns to unrighteousness (18:24).
C. Every person when he or she stands before God will fall or stand based in his/her unrighteousness or righteousness accredited to him by the grace of God (Eph 2:8-9; Rom 3:24; Titus 3:5). This has both bad and good news:
1. The bad news: I will not stand before God based on the righteousness of my ancestors or descendants, neither will I because of previous faithfulness (once saved I am not always saved)
2. The good news: I will stand before God based on my relationship with God. I have the opportunity to stand before God if I place my faith in God and live faithfully to the end with Him.
II. RIGHTEOUSLY JUDGED (18:25-29).
A. Our physical ancestor Adam blamed God for his fall when he said: “The woman that YOU put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” (Genesis 3:12). He blamed God for his shortcoming.
B. One of the indications of a spiritually sick person is pointing the finger at somebody else and blaming him/her. The exiles were saying “God is not just.” Our being in exile is not fair and we are receiving an unfair judgment.
C. God’s answer for them came through Ezekiel in verses 25-29.
1. God is not unjust.
2. The Jews were the one who were unjust.
D. So, these verses bring us the bad news of the Judah’s injustice and the good news of God, the righteous Judge.
III. COMPASIONATELY OFFERED FORGIVENESS (18:30-32).
A. The Jews were saying that God does not love us. He takes pleasure in afflicting us. But this was farthest from true. Not only were the Jews being judged by a righteous God, but they also had a compassionate and forgiving Lord.
B. “Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his 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, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!” (18:30-32)