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Ezekiel 18:14, 2123, 2527, 3032comment (0)

June 12, 2014

By Douglas K. Wilson, Ph.D.

Related Scripture: Ezekiel 18:14, 2123, 2527, 3032

Explore the Bible
Dean, School of Christian Ministries, University of Mobile


Ezekiel 18:1–4, 21–23, 25–27, 30–32

Do we focus on problems or solutions? Should we blame or shame? How do we address broken relationships and broken fellowship with each other? If a man follows his father’s bad habits, is it right to blame Dad? On this Father’s Day weekend, these are serious questions to consider.

Cultures address problems in different ways. Collectivistic societies seek to bring honor to the leader and the group; failure leads to dishonor and shame. By contrast, people in individualistic cultures are more apt to find fault, to blame someone or even to accept responsibility personally — “mea culpa,” my fault.

Ezekiel 18 may seem like a chapter focused on blame, but God speaks to the prophet, offering a solution to the problem of sin. The symptom is disobedience to God in every generation; the cure is forsaking sin and trusting the perfect Lawgiver.

Who’s to Blame? (1–4)

In the last days of Judah, people recited a common proverb: “A man eats sour grapes, and his children’s teeth are set on edge.” This pithy observation is comparable to our proverb: “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” meaning that children grow up to be like their parents. Jeremiah quotes the proverb (Jer. 31:29), though he writes that in the time of the New Covenant, people will no longer say it. God forbids Ezekiel from saying it ever again.

People have a misconception that disobedience to God leads to “generational curses.” After all, God mentions that idolaters and the unrepentant will see the consequences of their sins in the lives of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, “to the third and fourth generations” (Ex. 20:5; 34:7). In the passages to follow, the Lord makes it clear that each generation and each individual is accountable for his own sins.

What to Do? (21–23)

No man has the right to blame his father. Righteous men often have rebellious sons. Aaron had Nadab and Abihu, priests who were executed by God for their unauthorized worship (Lev. 10:1–2). Samuel’s sons were judges, but no one trusted Joel and Abijah to render justice (1 Sam. 8:1–5). Godly king Jotham (2 Chron. 27:2) had a wicked son Ahaz (28:1–4), but King Ahaz was succeeded by his godly son Hezekiah (29:1–2). Neither godliness nor wickedness is guaranteed from one generation to the next.

The only remedy for wicked men is to reject their sins and submit themselves to God. Death is God’s just penalty for sin, yet God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked. Our proper response is to repent.

What’s Right? (25–27)

We live in a day and age when the pervading attitude is that man is the measure of all things. As a result, God is put on trial. His goodness, justice and fairness are questioned because they do not meet humanity’s expectations.

What arrogance. People hear that they are sinners before the holy God, and they are offended. They do not consider the fact that each of their acts of disobedience is an offense to God, nor do they realize God’s willingness to rescue them from the whirlpool of their sin.

What Could Be? (30–32)

Repent and live. How could the prophet make the message any clearer? Ezekiel is sounding the shofar to warn of impending judgment. He points out the sins of his people, redirects them to repentance and communicates the covenant of Christ. In these verses, we see the connection between an ancient prophetic Jewish prophecy and 21st century Christian faith.

Like Hebrews 12, Ezekiel 18 encourages readers to cast off sins and entanglements. The New Covenant through Jesus provides each believer a new heart and new spirit. As we repent and live, we are able to fix our eyes on Jesus. We run with endurance, keeping in mind that Jesus is the beginning and the end of our race.

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