Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ezekiel 18 & 19 - Repentance and a Funeral Dirge

LINK: Ezekiel 18 & 19 

BACKGROUND

Ezekiel 18 - Repent and Live!

The proverb quoted in 18:1-4 must have been popular because Jeremiah quoted it also (Jeremiah 31:29-30). The gist of its meaning was that Jerusalem thought they were suffering because of their parents' sin and God was punishing them for no reason except that he had stated that he would punish the children to the third and fourth generation (Exodus 20:5). The people were blaming their ancestors and denying their own sin!

We are all individually responsible to God for our sin. Ezekiel used three examples of a grandfather, father, and son to get this point across and prove the fallacy of the proverb. Each is individually responsible before God; "The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him" (18:20).

There was still hope for the wicked man if he "turns away" (18:21) from his wickedness and follows God! "None of the offenses he has committed will be remembered against him . . . he will live" (18:22). Why? It is because God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked! That is a phenomenal truth about God. It is also true that if a righteous man turns to wickedness, there is no hope for him.

In all of this, God said that He was just and the people were unjust.

Bottom line message of this chapter:


“Repent and turn away from all your transgressions, so that iniquity may not become a stumbling block to you. “Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel? “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord God. “Therefore, repent and live.” (Ezekiel 18:30b–32)  

Ezekiel 19 - A Funeral Dirge for Judah's Leaders

This is the first of five laments or dirges in the book of Ezekiel (26:17-18; 27; 28:12-19; 32:1-16). A lament was a funeral song that was recited to honor the dead person. This one is about Israel and her leaders. Three of the other laments concern Tyre, and the fourth (32:1-16) concerns Egypt.

The time was 592 B.C., five years before the fall of Jerusalem, and Zedekiah was king. The "lioness" symbolized the nation of Judah. The first cub was King Jehoahaz who reigned after Josiah and was taken captive to Egypt in 609 B.C. by Pharaoh Neco II (2 Kings 23:31-33). The second cub was King Jehoiachin who reigned only three months before he was taken into captivity to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar for 37 years before he was released (2 Kings 24). He did not return to Israel.

In 19:10-14, Ezekiel spoke of King Zedekiah. Judah was the fruitful vine that was to be uprooted, thrown, stripped, and consumed by fire. The "east wind" (known as a sirocco) in 19:12 refers to the mighty Babylonian army.

After Zedekiah was overthrown, there would be no Davidic king to replace him until Christ's return with a "ruler's scepter".

Stay tuned. Christ is coming in 84 days!

REFLECTION

He who conceals his sins does not prosper,
but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.
Blessed is the man who always fears [the consequences of sin],
but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble. 
Proverbs 28:13-14, NIV

God wanted repentance from His people so that they could live the life He had intended for them, but they passed the blame for their sin to their ancestors and continued to live in bondage to it. God was standing there in His mercy asking them to "Repent and live!" Sadly, they would not take Him up on His offer. It was their loss and the consequences were serious.

I could not help but think about the people of Jerusalem when I was reading the chapter entitled "Life Beyond Regret: The Practice of Confession" in the very simple book called The Life You've Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People by John Ortberg. He writes:
To confess means to own up to the fact that our behavior was not just the result of bad parenting, poor genes, jealous siblings, or a chemical imbalance from too many Twinkies. Any or all of those factors may be involved. Human behavior is a complex thing. But confession means saying that somewhere in the mix was a choice, and the choice was made by us, and it does not need to be excused, explained, or even understood. The choice needs to be forgiven. The slate has to be wiped clean.
They thought their suffering was because of their parents' sin, but God was saying, "Take responsibility for your own sin!" He does not want repentance because He is a "cosmic kill joy" and wants to limit us. Quite the contrary, He wants to free us from its tight grip on our lives. He wants to heal us and change us so that we might truly live!

APPLICATION

Place yourself in God's loving hands today and ask Him to reveal any thoughts, words, or deeds that might not be pleasing to Him. Then take responsibility for your sin by acknowledging it to God. Ask God to reveal to you why you sinned and ask Him to get to the bottom of it.

You may have sinned against another person and need to ask them for his or her forgiveness. Lastly, resolve, with God's help, to change.

PRAYER

Tender, merciful God, we praise You that, "As far as the east is from the west. So far have You removed our transgressions from us" (Psalm 103:12). We thank You that You are a forgiving God. You are a God of grace, and "You long to be gracious to us and wait on high to have compassion on us" (Isaiah 30:18). We ask that You will search our hearts and reveal any areas of unconfessed sin so that we might confess and walk in the light of Your grace and mercy today. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.
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