Commentary by Walter Albritton


August 12, 2007


Despite Our Sins God Offers Us Forgiveness and Reconciliation


Ezekiel 18


Key Verse: For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live. – Ezekiel 18:32


As Christians we are people of one Book – the holy Bible. Both the Old Testament and the New reveal the unchanging character of our God. We are not surprised then to find grace in the Old Testament. This week we may celebrate the gospel – the good news of God’s love – revealed in the teaching of the Prophet Ezekiel.

The prophet grew weary of the popular idea that God held people responsible for the sins of their parents. So he challenged the familiar proverb that said “the parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (18:2). He did not say there is no truth in the saying. He did say that God’s mercy puts individual responsibility in a new context.

There is no denying that we all suffer for the sins of our parents. Ezekiel is not so blind as to deny all this. He knows that the actions of one person profoundly affect many others. But Ezekiel saw the bigger picture or God’s larger perspective.

If we have been cursed by the actions of our fathers, we must deal with those consequences. But the curse of the past is not everlasting; the curse can be broken. We are not locked in bondage to the past. Freedom is possible for those who trust God. Mercifully God allows us to choose whether we shall be a blessing or a curse to the next generation.

Ezekiel urged the Israelites to seek a fresh start with God. Though they are in captivity, they can still worship the Lord God almighty. They can remember and renew the covenant God made with them. They can choose to be faithful in spite of their suffering.

The Israelites were indeed suffering because of the sins of their ancestors. But that did not excuse them from personal responsibility for the present. God would judge each of them for their own actions. Even more wonderful, Ezekiel says, God is willing to forgive their past sins if they will turn to him in true repentance. Here is the gospel in a nutshell!

Our past sometimes can have a devastating influence upon us. Our own sins generate misery and guilt that can ruin the present for us and cause us to lose hope for the future. We can be filled with resentment against those who have hurt us. The combined weight of sin, guilt, hate, resentment and despair can cause us to “die” spiritually.

When people we love hurt us, it often feels like something within us has died. If we “nurture” this feeling and hold on it, the past soon will have a stranglehold on us. By our own choices we are now in bondage to our own sin – the sin of resentment. Perhaps Ezekiel is saying that God has no pleasure in seeing anyone “die” like that.

So Ezekiel hears God saying to the Israelites, “I don’t want you to die in your sins. I want you to live, and the way you do that is to turn to me and become alive!” That is my somewhat “free” translation. A more trustworthy re-wording is this one from the New Living Translation:

Put all your rebellion behind you, and find yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O people of Israel?  I don’t want you to die, says the Sovereign Lord. Turn back and live! (18:31-32).

          Where do we find a new heart? We find it in the hands of the Father when we are willing to repent of our sins. When we genuinely repent of our transgressions, we have chosen life instead of death. To stubbornly remain rebellious toward God is to choose death instead of life.

          Remember the truth of the gospel. Jesus is life. Sin is death. To refuse Jesus is to be satisfied with death for there is no true life apart from Jesus. This truth became crystal clear with the life and teaching of Jesus. But long before Jesus was born, Ezekiel understood that death awaits those who refuse God’s invitation to “turn back and live!”

          So we have the gospel of Ezekiel: God offers us a way out of bondage to past sins, our own and those of others. Repent and be free. You don’t have to die in your sins. You have a choice about the future. You need not remain a slave to your past. You can turn to the Lord and live! And rest assured, God will be pleased when you do!

          It is an offer no one should refuse!

          After all, we see clearly what Ezekiel saw only dimly – that God wants life for us so much that he gave his only Son to die upon the cross for our sins so that we might have the gift of eternal life!

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