God’s Renewing Word of Peace and Justice
Ezekiel 18:1-20: The book of Ezekiel is set against the backdrop of the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. Today’s reading focuses on the issue of intergenerational punishment. It describes various scenarios of parents and children committing sins, and it is the sinner alone who will be punished.
18 The Lord spoke to me 2 and said, “What is this proverb people keep repeating in the land of Israel?
‘The parents ate the sour grapes,
But the children got the sour taste.’
3 “As surely as I am the living God,” says the Sovereign Lord, “you will not repeat this proverb in Israel any more. 4 The life of every person belongs to me, the life of the parent as well as that of the child. The person who sins is the one who will die.
5 “Suppose there is a truly good man, righteous and honest. 6 He doesn’t worship the idols of the Israelites or eat the sacrifices offered at forbidden shrines. He doesn’t seduce another man’s wife or have intercourse with a woman during her period. 7 He doesn’t cheat or rob anyone. He returns what a borrower gives him as security; he feeds the hungry and gives clothing to the naked. 8 He doesn’t lend money for profit. He refuses to do evil and gives an honest decision in any dispute. 9 Such a man obeys my commands and carefully keeps my laws. He is righteous, and he will live,” says the Sovereign Lord.
10 “Then suppose this man has a son who robs and kills, who does any of these things 11 that the father never did. He eats sacrifices offered at forbidden shrines and seduces other men’s wives. 12 He cheats the poor, he robs, he keeps what a borrower gives him as security. He goes to pagan shrines, worships disgusting idols, 13 and lends money for profit. Will he live? No, he will not. He has done all these disgusting things, and so he will die. He will be to blame for his own death.
14 “Now suppose this second man has a son. He sees all the sins his father practiced, but does not follow his example. 15 He doesn’t worship the idols of the Israelites or eat the sacrifices offered at forbidden shrines. He doesn’t seduce another man’s wife 16 or oppress anyone or rob anyone. He returns what a borrower gives him as security. He feeds the hungry and gives clothing to the naked. 17 He refuses to do evil and doesn’t lend money for profit. He keeps my laws and obeys my commands. He will not die because of his father’s sins, but he will certainly live. 18 His father, on the other hand, cheated and robbed and always did evil to everyone. And so he died because of the sins he himself had committed.
19 “But you ask, ‘Why shouldn’t the son suffer because of his father’s sins?’ The answer is that the son did what was right and good. He kept my laws and followed them carefully, and so he will certainly live. 20 It is the one who sins who will die. A son is not to suffer because of his father’s sins, nor a father because of the sins of his son. Good people will be rewarded for doing good, and evil people will suffer for the evil they do.
Today’s Key Verse: Ezekiel 18:4
[The Sovereign LORD said:] “The life of every person belongs to me, the life of the parent as well as that of the child. The person who sins is the one who will die.”
The proverb quoted in verse 2 implies that children suffered because of the actions of their parents. Some of the Israelites living in exile blamed their situation on the sins of their ancestors and did not take responsibility for their own sins. In what way does today’s reading refute the proverb stated in verse 2? Reread verse 20. What are your thoughts about this verse?
Sovereign God, you are my God, and I will worship and honor you alone. Teach me to keep your laws and obey your commands. Guide me each day along the path of righteousness. In your holy name, I pray. Amen.
Ezekiel 18:21-32: God forgives those who repent and turn back to him.