International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday August 16, 2015
Purpose: To admit that because God is just, we are each responsible for our own conduct and its consequences
Bible Lesson: Ezekiel 18:1-13, 30-32
Background Scripture: Proverbs 21:2-15; Ezekiel 18
Key Verses: Ezekiel 18:30-31 Therefore, I will judge each of you according to your ways, house of Israel. This is what the Lord God says. Turn, turn away from all your sins. Don’t let them be sinful obstacles for you. Abandon all of your repeated sins. Make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. Why should you die, house of Israel?
Ezekiel 18:1-13 (CEB)
(1) The Lord’s word came to me: (2) What do you mean by this proverb of yours about the land of Israel: “When parents eat unripe grapes, the children’s teeth suffer”? (3) As surely as I live, says the Lord God, no longer will you use this proverb in Israel! (4) All lives are mine; the life of the parent and the life of the child belong to me. Only the one who sins will die. (5) People are declared innocent when they act justly and responsibly. (6) They don’t eat on the hills or give their attention to the idols of the house of Israel. They don’t defile the wives of their neighbors or approach menstruating women. (7) They don’t cheat anyone, but fulfill their obligations. They don’t rob others, but give food to the hungry and clothes to the naked. (8) They don’t impose interest or take profit. They refrain from evil and settle cases between people fairly. (9) They follow my regulations, keep my case laws, and act faithfully. Such people are innocent, and they will live, proclaims the Lord God. (10) But suppose one of them has a violent child who sheds blood or does any one of these things, (11) even though his parents didn’t do any of them. He eats on the mountains, defiles his neighbor’s wife, (12) oppresses the poor and needy, robs others and doesn’t fulfill his obligations, pays attention to the idols and does detestable things, (13) and takes interest and profit. Should he live? He should not. He engaged in all these detestable practices. He will surely die, and his blood will be on him.
Ezekiel 18: 30-32 (CEB)
(30)Therefore, I will judge each of you according to your ways, house of Israel. This is what the Lord God says. Turn, turn away from all your sins. Don’t let them be sinful obstacles for you. (31)Abandon all of your repeated sins. Make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. Why should you die, house of Israel? (32) I most certainly don’t want anyone to die! This is what the Lord God says. Change your ways, and live!
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
Ezekiel was among the exiles of 597 B.C. who were forcibly separated from the Temple, Ezekiel had to consider whether God’s presence could be encountered in the foreign land. Eventually, however, in the fifth year of his captivity (1:2), God came to Ezekiel in visions (1:1). From that point and for at least 20 years thereafter, Ezekiel proclaimed God’s words to his fellow exiles, those who had entered captivity with him and, later, those who joined them there after the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.
In Chapter 18, Ezekiel starts his speech to the people by quoting a proverb commonly known among them. Like most of us, the people in captivity were looking for someone to blame for the situation they were in. The proverb blames the parents and forefathers for all of the problems they were going through.
If you were to go back to the giving of the law by Moses, you can see where this idea came from. As it was used among the people of Israel, it reflected an age-old notion that when God punishes a sinner, the punishment extends to one or more generations of the sinner’s family. That idea may have gained traction because of the second commandment, the one forbidding idolatry, which includes these words, “I punish children for their parents’ sins even to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me” (Exodus 20:5).
First, the commandment says that the punishment extends “even to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me.” In other words, when the punishment affects those down the generational tree, it is no longer because of the family connection but because they choose on their own to copy and practice the wrong behavior of the family elder.
The Israelites failed to see that when a son or daughter or grandchildren did not hate God, the curse had no effect. God is only interested in you and your relationship with Him. God does not care what your parents or grandparents believed or taught.
However it should be noted that circumstances created by parents and grandparents do influence how we live. Our living conditions may well be based on our parents or grandparents behavior.
It is easy for us to mistake the consequences of previous sins as punishment. However the LORD assures us that we are all responsible for our own actions. God did not deny that the sins of their ancestors affected them; but he wanted them to know that their ongoing relationship with God was their own responsibility, even in Babylon, even far removed from the Temple.
Then the prophet declared a thus-says-the Lord truth of the matter: “All lives are mine; the life of the parent and the life of the child belong to me. Only the one who sins will die” (verse 4). The penalty of death here should be contrasted to the reward of life, as stated in verse 9, where those who do right “are innocent, and they will live, proclaims the Lord God.”
I think the great hymn of Robert Robinson “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” comes to mind as I read this lesson. Take special note of the 2nd verse, “Here I raise mine Ebenezer” This has nothing to do with Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens Christmas Carol. See (1 Samuel 7:13–14) Ebenezer means “stone of help.” From then on, every time an Israelite saw the stone erected by Samuel, he would have a tangible reminder of the Lord’s power and protection. The “stone of help” marked the spot where the enemy had been routed and God’s promise to bless His repentant people had been honored. The Lord had helped them, all the way to Ebenezer. Maybe the cross represents our Ebenezer.