Today's Lectionary Text
Ezekiel 18:1-18The word of the Lord came to me: What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”? As I live, says the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die.
If a man is righteous and does what is lawful and right — if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman during her menstrual period, does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, does not take advance or accrued interest, withholds his hand from iniquity, executes true justice between contending parties, follows my statutes, and is careful to observe my ordinances, acting faithfully—such a one is righteous; he shall surely live, says the Lord God.
If he has a son who is violent, a shedder of blood, who does any of these things (though his father does none of them), who eats upon the mountains, defiles his neighbor’s wife, oppresses the poor and needy, commits robbery, does not restore the pledge, lifts up his eyes to the idols, commits abomination, takes advance or accrued interest; shall he then live? He shall not. He has done all these abominable things; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon himself. But if this man has a son who sees all the sins that his father has done, considers, and does not do likewise, who does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife, does not wrong anyone, exacts no pledge, commits no robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, withholds his hand from iniquity, takes no advance or accrued interest, observes my ordinances, and follows my statutes; he shall not die for his father’s iniquity; he shall surely live. As for his father, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother, and did what is not good among his people, he dies for his iniquity.
Today’s text serves as a reminder that we are all accountable for our own actions. And while we may be forgiven, we still face consequences.
The prophet Ezekiel lived in an era when the southern kingdom of Judah was conquered by Nebuchadnezzar, and prominent Jews were led off to exile in Babylon. The full lectionary extends through verse 32, but this shorter passage starts by giving a common saying for the time – that the sins of one generation continue to require punishment for subsequent generations. In essence, the people were trying to cast blame on their predecessors without taking responsibility for their own actions.
The prophet is helping the people of Israel understand that they are in exile to start with because of poor decisions by their ancestors. But they “earned” their own circumstances.
Verses 30-32 say: “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live.”
How can Israel fix this? By taking responsibility for their continued sin.
Just as a son broke the cycle of unrighteousness in verses 14-18, Israel can break the cycle by turning back to God.
– Todd Seifert, Director of Communications
Prayer for Reflection
Gracious God, we know that all too often we rebel, and we make excuses. Help us to recognize our faults and to repent so that we may be of help, and not a hindrance, to others.
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