Ezekiel chapter 18
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8
God gave me Micah 6:8 as my “life verse” from the earliest days of my salvation. Other people would tell me their “life verses” and they always sounded so much better then mine, more loving, more life affirming, more evangelistic. I would occasionally look for a different verse to call my own, but the Almighty would not have it, this is the one he gave me. It stuck, and it has fit my ministry.
Why am I telling you about my life verse instead of the next chapter of Ezekiel? It is because my verse fits Ezekiel chapter 18. The Word of YHVH came to Ezekiel, …but this time he did not add an assignment to it. There is no, “Son of Man…” Early on Ezekiel was instructed to faithfully tell the word of YHVH to Israel or what would have come on Israel would come upon the prophet. The message seems to be that the Almighty does not like Israel’s attitude about who pays the price for a mans sin.
“What do you mean by using this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, ‘The fathers eat the sour grapes, But the children’s teeth are set on edge’? Ezekiel 18:2
The rest of the chapter lays out everyone’s responsibility and the basis of God’s judgement and reward. You should read it for yourself, but I’ll tell you that the basics are…
- If a man is righteous and practices justice, if he does not oppress anyone, loans without interest, keeps God’s appointments (statutes and ordinances) and lives faithfully, he will live.
- If a righteous man has a violent son, the son will pay for his own sin and be put to death
- If a man is a sinner but has a righteous son, the father will die for his own sin and the son will live.
- If a wicked man repents, he will live and not die for his former life.
- If a righteous man goes bad, his former righteousness counts for nothing, he will die for his sin.
The Almighty will judge each of us according to our conduct.
“For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord GOD. “Therefore, repent and live.” Ezekiel 18:32
The father cannot be blamed or exonerated for the life style of his son, by the same token, the son cannot ride on the fathers coat-tails or be righteous enough to save his father.
But we have Jesus (I hear what you are thinking). What does this have to do with us? Here is my testimony…
My husband and I have a son who is and was a delight to us. Smart and funny, he seemed to like helping in any way he could with the ministries we had. Sure, we heard our other son tell us he started smoking cigarettes he managed to get from his aunt (that would be “steel” from her, she never gave him any) but we never saw any evidence of it ourselves, so to the irritation of his brother, we did not do anything. Then there were those years when he dressed in black and in goth, but didn’t my mom go crazy when I started wearing jeans to school instead of dresses? It had to be a phase. My husband found a bag of pot and spoke to him about it, but we both smoked pot in high school, we survived, no big deal, right? Then there was that horrible day when his aunt came and told us that he had been molesting her daughter, his little cousin. It rocked my world!
Auntie told me that it happened two years before she told us, the sheriff had been investigating him and us during that time but could find nothing to charge him with. He was a sophomore at the small town school where his aunt worked. He thought his aunt was his best friend, she had kept him close to see if she could find out anything on him. She had him to her house often during that time. He loved her dearly and thought she was the best person in the world. When we sat him down that evening to tell him what his aunt had said, His first response was, “That isn’t right, she did not mean me, I need to go talk to her and find out what is going on… and whoever actually did this to my cousin, I need to talk to him and teach him a lesson.” We discouraged that, but he spoke to her the next day at school, where she let him know she believed her daughter (who wouldn’t?). His life began to spiral down… though truly, it had already started, it just didn’t seem like a big deal to my husband and I. We wanted to get him counseling, but he insisted he did not do what he was accused of.
It was not long before he was in a relationship with a young lady with plenty of trouble of her own, while they were living together, another aunt called my husband at work, and the girl’s mother called me with the same message, “Your son is addicted to meth, just thought you should know.” I did not want to believe it, but there were two witnesses that loved us enough to tell us. When that relationship ended, he added heavy drinking with his buddies to the list of things that broke our hearts. It was not long until he was in jail with out any charges for nearly four months. When I say, “without charge,” I do not mean he was innocent. He had cross-jurisdictional problems. The county and the city wanted to charge him with drunk driving but both wanted the other to pay for jail so they waited for the other to charge him. He would later tell me he was guilty of everything except molesting his cousin, and so much more. While he was in jail I started this habit of writing my daily bible study. I would tuck it into an envelope and send it to the jail for him. He read them and passed them around. The only books he could have were brand new books from amazon. Since we were paying, we chose the titles. The Left Behind series is what we sent, one at a time. We always accepted the phone charges (and they were BIG charges) for him to call from jail. We wanted to keep the connection.
All of that is just background for what was going on with my husband and I. There was something I held in my heart for far too long… if my husband had been a better, more pious father, if he had read just half of the books I had read, none of this would have happened to my little boy. I say that I kept it in my heart but I am sure it leaked out though my attitude; but once my husband let me know that he thought it was my fault that our son went down the wrong path, I let him have all the garbage that was in my heart. We came close to splitting up and filing for divorce. Satan must have had a belly laugh over that one. What saved our marriage and brought us back to being best friends again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus and his people who prayed for us.
Obviously I have skipped a lot of details.
In our distress we each went individually to God’s word and prayer. Our son was lost and our marriage was over, each of us wanted healing. Before our son was out of jail and into rehab (where he finally got the counseling we wanted for him to have), we reconciled, both of us having come to the conclusion that if either one of us had been in charge of our son’s choices, he would have NEVER chose the things that he did. We asked for and extended forgiveness to each other. It changed our prayer life and our marriage. So many friends had lost their children to drugs, either through prison or death. Our son lives, that was a good place to start. He recommitted himself to Christ in jail, but out of jail he was treated poorly in church. I should have looked for another church to attend with him, but I loved that church… what a mistake! He doesn’t really want anything to do with organized religion, and we have since drifted away but we still have hope.
What did we learn? No one pays for anyone else’s choice to sin. Each of us stands before the Almighty by the blood of Christ. There is no other way. Good parents can have children who make wrong choices… and my husband and I were not very good parents, but we tried. We also discovered that the wicked repent, and that we can love the sinner…. AND hate OUR OWN sin. (Thank you Mark Lowry). And a crisis is not the end of the world. In fact it may just be the beginning of eternity. God shows me what is good… sometimes it must be difficult for him to get through my thick head… walk humbly.
And the last line of Ezekiel 18? It is life for the sinner as well as the self-righteous like I was (and can be). Repent and turn… so that iniquity may not become a stumbling block. Repent and live!
Debs in Everett, Washington
February 12, 2018
Here is Ray’s essay on Ezekiel 18. I like it!