August 31, Ezekiel 18-20

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18 The word of the Lord came to me: “What do you mean by using this proverb concerning the land of Israel:

‘The fathers eat sour grapes,
and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?

As I live”—this is the declaration of the Lord God—“you will no longer use this proverb in Israel. Look, every life belongs to me. The life of the father is like the life of the son—both belong to me. The person who sins is the one who will die.

“Suppose a man is righteous and does what is just and right: He does not eat at the mountain shrines[a] or look to the idols of the house of Israel. He does not defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman during her menstrual impurity. He doesn’t oppress anyone but returns his collateral to the debtor. He does not commit robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with clothing. He doesn’t lend at interest or for profit but keeps his hand from injustice and carries out true justice between men. He follows my statutes and keeps my ordinances, acting faithfully. Such a person is righteous; he will certainly live.” This is the declaration of the Lord God.

10 “But suppose the man has a violent son, who sheds blood and does any of these things, 11 though the father has done none of them. Indeed, when the son eats at the mountain shrines and defiles his neighbor’s wife, 12 and when he oppresses the poor and needy, commits robbery, and does not return collateral, and when he looks to the idols, commits detestable acts, 13 and lends at interest or for profit, will he live? He will not live! Since he has committed all these detestable acts, he will certainly die. His death will be his own fault.[b]

14 “Now suppose he has a son who sees all the sins his father has committed, and though he sees them, he does not do likewise. 15 He does not eat at the mountain shrines or look to the idols of the house of Israel. He does not defile his neighbor’s wife. 16 He doesn’t oppress anyone, hold collateral, or commit robbery. He gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with clothing. 17 He keeps his hand from harming the poor, not taking interest or profit on a loan. He practices my ordinances and follows my statutes. Such a person will not die for his father’s iniquity. He will certainly live.

18 “As for his father, he will die for his own iniquity because he practiced fraud, robbed his brother, and did among his people what was not good. 19 But you may ask, ‘Why doesn’t the son suffer punishment for the father’s iniquity?’ Since the son has done what is just and right, carefully observing all my statutes, he will certainly live. 20 The person who sins is the one who will die. A son won’t suffer punishment for the father’s iniquity, and a father won’t suffer punishment for the son’s iniquity. The righteousness of the righteous person will be on him, and the wickedness of the wicked person will be on him.

21 “But if the wicked person turns from all the sins he has committed, keeps all my statutes, and does what is just and right, he will certainly live; he will not die. 22 None of the transgressions he has committed will be held against him. He will live because of the righteousness he has practiced. 23 Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked?” This is the declaration of the Lord God. “Instead, don’t I take pleasure when he turns from his ways and lives? 24 But when a righteous person turns from his righteousness and acts unjustly, committing the same detestable acts that the wicked do, will he live? None of the righteous acts he did will be remembered. He will die because of the treachery he has engaged in and the sin he has committed.

25 “But you say, ‘The Lord’s way isn’t fair.’ Now listen, house of Israel: Is it my way that is unfair? Instead, isn’t it your ways that are unfair? 26 When a righteous person turns from his righteousness and acts unjustly, he will die for this. He will die because of the injustice he has committed. 27 But if a wicked person turns from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he will preserve his life. 28 He will certainly live because he thought it over and turned from all the transgressions he had committed; he will not die. 29 But the house of Israel says, ‘The Lord’s way isn’t fair.’ Is it my ways that are unfair, house of Israel? Instead, isn’t it your ways that are unfair?

30 “Therefore, house of Israel, I will judge each one of you according to his ways.” This is the declaration of the Lord God. “Repent and turn from all your rebellious acts, so they will not become a sinful stumbling block to you. 31 Throw off all the transgressions you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. Why should you die, house of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in anyone’s death.” This is the declaration of the Lord God. “So repent and live!

A Lament for Israel’s Princes

19 “As for you, take up a lament for the princes of Israel, and say:

What was your mother? A lioness!
She lay down among the lions;
she reared her cubs among the young lions.
She brought up one of her cubs,
and he became a young lion.
After he learned to tear prey,
he devoured people.
When the nations heard about him,
he was caught in their pit.
Then they led him away with hooks
to the land of Egypt.

When she saw that she waited in vain,
that her hope was lost,
she took another of her cubs
and made him a young lion.
He prowled among the lions,
and he became a young lion.
After he learned to tear prey,
he devoured people.
He devastated their strongholds[c]
and destroyed their cities.
The land and everything in it shuddered
at the sound of his roaring.
Then the nations from the surrounding provinces
set out against him.
They spread their net over him;
he was caught in their pit.
They put a wooden yoke on him[d] with hooks
and led him away to the king of Babylon.
They brought him into the fortresses
so his roar could no longer be heard
on the mountains of Israel.

10 Your mother was like a vine in your vineyard,[e]
planted by the water;
it was fruitful and full of branches
because of abundant water.
11 It had strong branches, fit for the scepters of rulers;
its height towered among the clouds.[f]
So it was conspicuous for its height
as well as its many branches.
12 But it was uprooted in fury,
thrown to the ground,
and the east wind dried up its fruit.
Its strong branches were torn off and dried up;
fire consumed them.
13 Now it is planted in the wilderness,
in a dry and thirsty land.
14 Fire has gone out from its main branch[g]
and has devoured its fruit,
so that it no longer has a strong branch,
a scepter for ruling.

This is a lament and should be used as a lament.”

Israel’s Rebellion

20 In the seventh year, in the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month, some of Israel’s elders came to inquire of the Lord, and they sat down in front of me. Then the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, speak with the elders of Israel and tell them, ‘This is what the Lord God says: Are you coming to inquire of me? As I live, I will not let you inquire of me. This is the declaration of the Lord God.’

“Will you pass judgment against them, will you pass judgment, son of man? Explain the detestable practices of their ancestors to them. Say to them, ‘This is what the Lord God says: On the day I chose Israel, I swore an oath[h] to the descendants of Jacob’s house and made myself known to them in the land of Egypt. I swore to them, saying, “I am the Lord your God.” On that day I swore[i] to them that I would bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land I had searched out for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most beautiful of all lands. I also said to them, “Throw away, each of you, the abhorrent things that you prize,[j] and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

“‘But they rebelled against me and were unwilling to listen to me. None of them threw away the abhorrent things that they prized,[k] and they did not abandon the idols of Egypt. So I considered pouring out my wrath on them, exhausting my anger against them within the land of Egypt. But I acted for the sake of my name, so that it would not be profaned in the eyes of the nations they were living among, in whose sight I had made myself known to Israel by bringing them out of Egypt.

10 “‘So I brought them out of the land of Egypt and led them into the wilderness. 11 Then I gave them my statutes and explained my ordinances to them—the person who does them will live by them. 12 I also gave them my Sabbaths to serve as a sign between me and them, so that they would know that I am the Lord who consecrates them.

13 “‘But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness. They did not follow my statutes and they rejected my ordinances—the person who does them will live by them. They also completely profaned my Sabbaths. So I considered pouring out my wrath on them in the wilderness to put an end to them. 14 But I acted for the sake of my name, so that it would not be profaned in the eyes of the nations in whose sight I had brought them out. 15 However, I swore to them in the wilderness that I would not bring them into the land I had given them—the most beautiful of all lands, flowing with milk and honey— 16 because they rejected my ordinances, profaned my Sabbaths, and did not follow my statutes. For their hearts went after their idols. 17 Yet I spared them from destruction and did not bring them to an end in the wilderness.

18 “‘Then I said to their children in the wilderness, “Don’t follow the statutes of your fathers, defile yourselves with their idols, or keep their ordinances. 19 I am the Lord your God. Follow my statutes, keep my ordinances, and practice them. 20 Keep my Sabbaths holy, and they will be a sign between me and you, so you may know that I am the Lord your God.”

21 “‘But the children rebelled against me. They did not follow my statutes or carefully keep my ordinances—the person who does them will live by them. They also profaned my Sabbaths. So I considered pouring out my wrath on them and exhausting my anger against them in the wilderness. 22 But I withheld my hand and acted for the sake of my name, so that it would not be profaned in the eyes of the nations in whose sight I brought them out. 23 However, I swore to them in the wilderness that I would disperse them among the nations and scatter them among the countries. 24 For they did not practice my ordinances but rejected my statutes and profaned my Sabbaths, and their eyes were fixed on their fathers’ idols. 25 I also gave them statutes that were not good and ordinances they could not live by. 26 When they sacrificed every firstborn in the fire,[l] I defiled them through their gifts in order to devastate them so they would know that I am the Lord.’

27 “Therefore, son of man, speak to the house of Israel, and tell them, ‘This is what the Lord God says: In this way also your ancestors blasphemed me by committing treachery against me: 28 When I brought them into the land that I swore to give them and they saw any high hill or leafy tree, they offered their sacrifices and presented their offensive offerings there. They also sent up their pleasing aromas and poured out their drink offerings there. 29 So I asked them, “What is this high place you are going to?” And it is still called Bamah[m] today.’

30 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what the Lord God says: Are you defiling yourselves the way your ancestors did, and prostituting yourselves with their abhorrent things? 31 When you offer your gifts, sacrificing your children in the fire,[n] you still continue to defile yourselves with all your idols today. So should I let you inquire of me, house of Israel? As I live—this is the declaration of the Lord God—I will not let you inquire of me!

Israel’s Restoration

32 “‘When you say, “Let’s be like the nations, like the clans of other countries, serving wood and stone,” what you have in mind will never happen. 33 As I live—the declaration of the Lord God—I will reign over you with a strong hand, an outstretched arm, and outpoured wrath. 34 I will bring you from the peoples and gather you from the countries where you were scattered, with a strong hand, an outstretched arm, and outpoured wrath. 35 I will lead you into the wilderness of the peoples and enter into judgment with you there face to face. 36 Just as I entered into judgment with your ancestors in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will enter into judgment with you. This is the declaration of the Lord God. 37 I will make you pass under the rod and will bring you into the bond of the covenant. 38 I will purge you of those who rebel and transgress against me. I will bring them out of the land where they live as foreign residents, but they will not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord.

39 “‘As for you, house of Israel, this is what the Lord God says: Go and serve your idols, each of you. But afterward you will surely listen to me, and you will no longer defile my holy name with your gifts and idols. 40 For on my holy mountain, Israel’s high mountain—the declaration of the Lord God—there the entire house of Israel, all of them, will serve me in the land. There I will accept them and will require your contributions and choicest gifts, all your holy offerings. 41 When I bring you from the peoples and gather you from the countries where you have been scattered, I will accept you as a pleasing aroma. And I will demonstrate my holiness through you in the sight of the nations. 42 When I lead you into the land of Israel, the land I swore to give your ancestors, you will know that I am the Lord. 43 There you will remember your ways and all your deeds by which you have defiled yourself, and you will loathe yourselves for all the evil things you have done. 44 You will know that I am the Lord, house of Israel, when I have dealt with you for the sake of my name rather than according to your evil ways and corrupt acts. This is the declaration of the Lord God.’”

Fire in the South

45 The word of the Lord came to me: 46 “Son of man, face the south and preach against it. Prophesy against the forest land in the Negev, 47 and say to the forest there, ‘Hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Lord God says: I am about to ignite a fire in you, and it will devour every green tree and every dry tree in you. The blazing flame will not be extinguished, and every face from the south to the north will be scorched by it. 48 Then all humanity will see that I, the Lord, have kindled it. It will not be extinguished.’”

49 Then I said, “Oh, Lord God, they are saying of me, ‘Isn’t he just composing parables?’”

“Repent and live!”(18:32) Restoration is the theme of chapters 18-20. A long list of Israel’s sins and betrayals is given through these chapters. One reminder after another, that begins to seem like a verbal beating. The words weren’t meant to beat down someone already in a low place. Rather they were a call to repentance. A chance to turn away from every wrong they had done and find joy and peace with God. What areas in our own lives need repentance? No matter what sins may be creating a stumbling block for us, God can restore the path. 

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