Ezekiel 18

 

 

1The word of the LORD came unto me again, saying,  2 What mean ye,

that  ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers

have  eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?”

What mean ye, that ye use this proverb, etc.? Another

and entirely different section opens, and we see at once from what it

started. Ezekiel had heard from the lips of his countrymen, and had seen its

working in their hearts, the proverb (already familiar to him, it may be,

through Jeremiah 31:29) with which they blunted their sense of

personal responsibility. They had to bear the punishment of sins which they

had not committed. The sins of the fathers were visited, as in Exodus

20:5; 34:7; Leviticus 26:39-40; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:9,

upon the third and fourth generations. Manasseh and his people had

sinned, and Josiah and his descendants and their contemporaries had to

suffer for it. The thought was familiar enough, and the general law of the

passages above referred to was afterwards applied, as with authority, to

what was then passing (II Kings 23:26; 24:3). Even Jeremiah

recognized it in Lamentations 5:7 and Jeremiah 15:4, and was

content to look, for a reversal of the proverb, to the distant Messianic time

of the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:29-31). The plea with which Ezekiel

had to deal was therefore one which seemed to rest on the basis of a Divine

authority. And that authority was confirmed by the induction of a wide

experience. Every preacher of righteousness in every age has to warn the

evil doer that he is working evil for generations yet unborn, to whom he

transmits his own tendencies, the evil of his own influence and example. It

is well that he can balance that thought with the belief that good also may

work in the future with a yet wider range and mightier power (Exodus 20:5).

Authority and experience alike might seem to favor the plea that

the fathers had eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth were set on

edge. Ezekiel was led, however, to feel that there was a latent falsehood in

the plea. In the depth of his consciousness there was the witness that every

man was personally responsible for the things that he did, that the eternal

righteousness of God would not ultimately punish the innocent for the

guilty, he had to work out, according to the light given him, his vindication

of the ways of God to man, to sketch at least the outlines of a theodicy.

Did he, in doing this, come forward as a prophet, correcting and setting

aside the teaching of the Law? At first, and on a surface view, he might

seem to do so. But it was with him as it was afterwards with Paul He

established the Law” in the very teaching which seemed to contradict it.

He does not deny (it would have been idle to do so) that the sins of the

fathers are visited upon the children, i.e. affect those children for evil. What

he does is to define the limits of that law. And he may have found his

starting point in that very book which, for him and his generation, was the

great embodiment of the Law as a whole. If men were forbidden, as in

Deuteronomy 24:16, to put the children to death for the sins of the

fathers; if that was to be the rule of human justice, — the justice of God

could not be less equitable than the rule which He prescribed for His

creatures. It is not without interest to note the parallelism between Ezekiel

and the Greek poet who was likest to him, as in his genius, so also in the

courage with which he faced the problems of the universe. AEschylus also

recognizes (‘Agam.,’ 727-756) that there is a righteous order in the

seeming anomalies of history. Men might say, in their proverbs, that

prosperity as such provoked the wrath of the gods, and brought on the

downfall of a “woe insatiable;” and then he adds —

 

“But I, apart from all,

Hold this my creed alone.”

 

And that creed is that punishment comes only when the children reproduce

the impious recklessness of their fathers.  Justice shines brightly in the

dwellings of those who love the right, and rule their life by law.  Into the

deeper problem raised by the modern thought of inherited tendencies

developed by the environment, which itself originates in the past, it was not

given to Ezekiel or AEschylus to enter.

 

Sinful men always attempt self-justification.  These murmurers in Chaldea

felt the severity of their chastisement, but did not feel the gravity of their sin.

They imagined that it must have been their fathers’ sins which were being

avenged in them. This state of mind has always been a characteristic of the sinner.

The sinner thinks his punishment is excess of his sin and like Cain, complains

“My punishment is greater than I can bear  (Genesis 4:13).  Now, a part of

the penalty of sin is the blinding of the mind, the perversion of the judging

faculty. The man fastens his attention on his suffering, thus losing sight of his

secret sin.

 

3  As I live, saith the Lord GOD, ye shall not have occasion any more

to use this proverb in Israel.”  Stress is laid on the fact that the proverb

which implied unrighteousness in God is no longer to be used in Israel.

There, among the, people in whom He was manifesting His righteousness

for the education of mankind, it should be seen to have no force whatever.

The thought was an essentially heathen thought — a half-truth distorted

into a falsehood.

 

 

An Old Proverb Discarded (vs. 2-3)

 

The proverb of the sour grapes was but an expression of a prevalent belief

of the Jews, viz. that guilt is hereditary. Whatever element of truth there

may have been in this proverb was overlaid and lost in a monstrous notion,

which destroyed both the sense of personal responsibility and the

conception of Divine justice, substituting doctrines of unavoidable fate and

unreasonable vengeance on the innocent.

 

  • THE TRUTHS BEHIND THE PROVERB. This saying and the doctrine

which it embodied were based upon dark, mysterious, but still true, facts of

experience.

 

Ø      Children share in the sufferings produced by the sins of their parents.

Sins of the fathers are visited on the children. This dread fact was

recognized in the ten commandments (Exodus 20:5). We see it

confirmed by our daily observation of the world. The vices of the father

and mother bring poverty, disgrace, and disease on the children. When

the thief is sent to prison his children are left without bread. Fearful

diseases appear in the constitution of innocent children following their

parents’ profligacy.

 

Ø      Children inherit the appetites and habits of their parents. The child of

the drunkard is predisposed to inebriety. This physical inheritance in

brain and nerve is confirmed by the ceaseless, powerful, unanswerable

LESSONS OF EXAMPLE!   Where the head of the family leads a

loose life the children are brought up under evil influences.

 

  • THE FALSITY OF THE PROVERB.

 

Ø      God does not inflict real punishment on innocent children. They

suffer, but they are not punished; for there is no element of Divine

anger towards them in what they endure. God permits the suffering,

and He uses it, as He uses other troubles of His children, for discipline.

But He cannot look upon the poor victims of the vices of others with

any disfavor. It is a piece of hypocritical Pharisaism on the part of

society to treat the children who come of sinful parentage as though

they were disgraced by their birth. The effect of sour grapes is purely

physical. When we transfer the physical fact to the moral world we

fall into a mistake.

 

Ø      Actual sin is not hereditary. If it were, men would be doomed to sin

apart from their own choice. But the essence of sin is a self-willed

rebellion against God. When freedom of choice is taken out of it

the evil thing ceases to be sin; it becomes a moral disease. So long as

we have individuality and personal wills we can choose for ourselves.

No one is utterly the slave of moral disease, or, if such a person exists,

he is a moral lunatic, and not responsible for his action. Therefore he

should be put under lock and key. Moreover, responsibility is measured

by opportunity, and moral conduct is seen in the amount of resistance

offered to the terrible slavery of an inherited tendency to evil habits.

The proverb of the sour grapes was not only a discouragement to children;

it was an excuse for impenitence among grown men.

 

4  Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul

of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.”

Behold, all souls are mine, etc. The words imply, not only

creation, ownership, absolute authority, on the part of God, but, as even

Calvin could recognize (in loc.), “a paternal affection towards the whole

human race which He created and formed.” Ezekiel anticipates here, and

yet more fully in v. 32. the teaching of  Paul, that “God willeth that all

men should be saved” (I Timothy 2:4). The soul that sinneth, it shall

die. The sentence, though taken from the Law, which ordered capital

punishment for the offences named, cannot be limited to that punishment.

“Death” and “life” are both used in their highest and widest meaning —

life as including all that makes it worth living, “death” for the loss of that

only true life which is found in knowing God (John 17:3).

 

 

The Death Penalty (v. 4)

 

  • THE PENALTY OF SIN IS DEATH. This is taken for granted in the

present passage. The prophet is not now describing the kind of punishment

that follows sin; he is indicating the persons on whom that punishment shall

fall. When asked who is to die, he answers — The sinner; not his child, but

the sinner himself. But the very fact that the nature of the death penalty is

taken for granted makes it the more apparent that the prophet had no

doubt about it. Now, we cannot say that Ezekiel’s language about the

dying of the soul had any reference to a second death in Hades in which the

conscious personality is annihilated. We should be missing the historical

perspective if we supposed that any such idea would occur to a Hebrew

prophet of the Old Testament. The Old Testament religion was concerned

with this present life, and its sanctions were secular. The penalty of

transgressions of the Law was to be “cut off” from among the people, i.e.

to be killed — stoned or stabbed. The soul is the life, and to the ancient

Hebrew for the soul to die is just for the man to have his earthly death.

Still, there is in this no hope of a glorious resurrection for the sinner. His

doom is final as far as man can follow it. Moreover, dying, not merely

suffering, is the penalty of the impenitent, while wholesome pain is the

chastisement of the penitent (Hebrews 12:6). Sin destroys body,

character, faculty, affection. It is a killing influence in all respects

(Romans 6:23).

 

  • THE DEATH PENALTY OF SIN FALLS ONLY ON THE SINNER.

Other consequences of sin reach the innocent; but not this. Herein lies the

solution of the terrible enigma presented by the spectacle of children

suffering for the sins of their fathers — or rather, a partial solution of it.

The real punishment of the sin does not fall upon them.  When the guilty

father is drowned in his own wickedness, he sprinkles some of the foul

spray on his children, and it burns them like spots of fire; but he does not

drag them down with him to his dismal doom unless they freely choose to

follow HIS BAD EXAMPLE!   Now, for the guilty man there is this dark

prospect — he cannot shirk his responsibility and cast his punishment upon

another. THERE IS AN AWFUL LONLINESS IN GUILT!   Every one

must bear the load of his own sin.

 

  • THIS JUST ARRANGEMENT IS SECURED BY GOD’S

OWNERSHIP OF SOULS. All belong to God; therefore He will not permit

final injustice. The discarded proverb (v. 2) rested on a sense of fatalism.

The idea it contained was not just, but it seemed to be inevitable. The

tragedies of AEschylus and Sophocles exhibit the operation of a Nemesis

pursuing the descendants of a guilty man until the original crime of their

ancestor is expiated. Physically, something of the kind does often occur;

but in the higher moral and spiritual realm it is impossible, so long as a

personal God takes personal interest in individual souls. The modern

Nemesis is physical law. We can only escape from some form of unjust

fatalism by a belief in a personal God and His direct dealings with souls.

 

  • CHRIST DIES FOR THE SINS OF OTHERS.

 

Ø      Here is a grand exception to the order of punishment. THE SOUL

THAT DID NOT SIN DIES FOR THE SOULS THAT DO!

But with this fact we are in a new order. Christ’s death is not a

consequence of moral law.

 

o       He comes in grace.

o       His act is voluntary.  (“I lay down my life that I may take

it again.  No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of

myself,  I have the power to lay it down, and I have the

power to take it again.” – John 10:17-18)

 

Ø      Here is the hope of our deliverance from death. We have all sinned.

Therefore we all deserve death, for there is no exception to the law,

The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (v. 20).  But not only has Christ

died for us; He dies in us, we are crucified in Him, and dying to sin

through His grace we are spared the fearful dying for sin.

 

In vs. 5-9 is one of the most complete pictures of a righteous life presented in the

Old Testament. It was characteristic of Ezekiel that he starts from the avoidance of

Sins against the first table of the commandments.

 

5 “But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right,

6 And hath not eaten upon the mountains, neither hath lifted up his

eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, neither hath defiled his

neighbor’s wife, neither hath come near to a menstruous woman,

To eat upon the mountains was to take part in the sacrificial feasts on the

places, of which he had already spoken (ch. 16:16; compare ch.22:9;

Deuteronomy 12:2).  The words, lifted up his eyes, as in Ibid. ch. 4:19 and

Psalm 121:1, implied every form of idolatrous adoration. The two sins that

Follow seem to us, as compared with each other, to stand on a very different

footing. To Ezekiel, however, they both appeared as mala prohibita, to

each of which the Law assigned the punishment of death (Leviticus 18:19;

20:10, 18; Deuteronomy 22:22), each involving the dominance of animal

passions, in the one case, over the sacred rights of others; in the

other, over a law of self-restraint which rested partly on physical grounds,

the act condemned frustrating the final cause of the union of the sexes;

partly, also, on its ethical significance. The prominence given to it implies

that the sin was common, and that it brought with it an infinite degradation

of the holiest ties.

 

7 And hath not oppressed any, but hath restored to the debtor his

pledge, hath spoiled none by violence, hath given his bread to the

hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment;”

Hath restored to the debtor his pledge. The law, found in

Exodus 22.25 and Deuteronomy 24:6, 13, was a striking instance of

the considerateness of the Mosaic Law. The garment which the debtor had

pledged as a security was to be restored to him at night. Such a law

implied, of course, the return of the pledge in the morning. It was probably

often used by the debtor for his own fraudulent advantage, and it was a

natural consequence that the creditor should be tempted to evade

compliance with it. The excellence of the man whom Ezekiel describes was

that he resisted the temptation. Hath spoiled none by violence. Compare

Leviticus 6:1-5, which Ezekiel probably had specially in view. The sin,

common enough at all times (I Samuel 12:3), would seem to have been

specially characteristic of the time in which Ezekiel lived, from the king

downwards (Jeremiah 22:13). As contrasted with the sin, there was the

virtue of generous almsgiving (Isaiah 58:5-7).

 

8  He that hath not given forth upon usury, neither hath taken any

increase, that hath withdrawn his hand from iniquity, hath executed

true judgment between man and man,  9 Hath walked in my statutes,

and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly; he is just, he shall surely

live, saith the Lord GOD.”  He that hath not given forth his money upon

usury. The word “usury,” we must remember, is used, not, as with us, for

exorbitant interest above the market rate, but for interest of any kind. This

was allowed in commercial dealings with foreigners (Deuteronomy 23:20),

but was altogether forbidden in the case of loans to Israelites (Exodus

22:25; Leviticus 25:35-37; Deuteronomy 23:19; Isaiah 24:2).

The principle implied in this distinction was that, although it was, on strict

principles of justice, allowable to charge for the use of money, as for the

use of lands or the hire of cattle, Israel, as a people, was under the higher

law of brotherhood. If money was to be lent at all, it was to be lent as to a

brother in want (Matthew 5:42; Luke 6:35), for the relief of his

necessities, and not to make profit. A brother who would not help a

brother by a loan without interest was thought unworthy of the name. The

ideal of the social polity of Israel was that it was to consist of a population

of small freeholders, bound together by ties of mutual help a national

friendly society, rather than of traders and manufacturers; and hence the

whole drift of its legislation tended to repress the money making spirit

which afterwards became specially characteristic of its people, and ate like

a canker into its life. The distinction between the two words seems to be

that “usury” represents any interest on money; and “increase,” any profit

on the sale of goods beyond the cost of production, as measured by the

maintenance of the worker and his family. To buy in the cheapest market

and sell in the dearest was not to be the rule in a nation of brothers, and it

was wiser to forbid it altogether rather than to sanction what we call a

reasonable rate” of interest or profit. Hath executed true judgment. The

last special feature in the description of the righteous man is that he is free

from the judicial corruption which has always been the ineradicable evil of

Eastern social life (I Samuel 8:3; 12:3; Amos 5:12; Isaiah 33:15).

 

 

The Description of a Good Man (vs. 5-9)

 

  • The good man is characterized by justice in dealing with his fellow men.
  • He refrains from idolatry of every kind.
  • He avoids adultery and every form of impurity.
  • He refrains from oppressing those who, for any reason, are within his power.
  • He abstains from violence in the treatment of others.
  • He is charitable to the poor and needy.
  • He forbears taking advantage of those who, by misfortune and poverty,

are within his power.

  • He scrupulously and cheerfully obeys the Divine laws.

 

It stands to reason that the bad man is directly opposite of these traits.

 

10  If he beget a son that is a robber, a shedder of blood, and that doeth

the like to any one of these things,”  A robber. The Hebrew implies robbery

with violence, perhaps, as in the Authorized Version margin, the offence of the

housebreaker. That doeth the like to any of these things. The margin of

the Revised Version, following the Chaldee paraphrase, gives, who doeth

to a brother any of these things. Others (Keil and Furst) render, “who

doeth only one of these things,” as if recognizing the principle of James

2:10. On the whole, there seems sufficient reason for keeping to the text.

 

11 “And that doeth not any of those duties, but even hath eaten upon

the mountains, and defiled his neighbor’s wife,”  The word “duties” is not

in the Hebrew, but is legitimately introduced as expressing Ezekiel’s meaning,

where the mere pronoun by itself would have been ambiguous. In English we

might say, “He does these things: he does not do those;” but this does not fall

in with the Hebrew idiom.

 

12 “Hath oppressed the poor and needy, hath spoiled by violence, hath

not restored the pledge, and hath lifted up his eyes to the idols,

hath committed abomination,”  The word abomination probably covers

the specific sin named in v. 6, but not here.

 

13 “Hath given forth upon usury, and hath taken increase: shall he then

live? he shall not live: he hath done all these abominations; he shall surely

die; his blood shall be upon him.”  One notes the special emphasis, first of

the question, and then of the direct negative, as though that, in the judgment

alike of God and man, was the only answer that could be given to it in the

very words of the Law (Leviticus 20:9,11,13).

 

14 “Now, lo, if he beget a son, that seeth all his father’s sins which he

hath done, and considereth, and doeth not such like,  15 That hath not

eaten upon the mountains, neither hath lifted up his eyes to the idols of

the house of Israel, hath not defiled his neighbor’s wife,  16 Neither hath

oppressed any, hath not withholden the pledge, neither hath spoiled by

violence, but hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the

naked with a garment,  17  That hath taken off his hand from the poor,

that hath not received usury nor increase, hath executed my judgments,

hath walked in my statutes; he shall not die for the iniquity of his father,

he shall surely live.”  Now, lo! etc. The law of personal responsibility had been

pressed on its darker side. It is now asserted in its brighter, and that with

the special emphasis indicated in its opening words. The proverb of the

sour grapes” receives a direct contradiction. The son of the evil doer may

take warning by his father’s example, and repent, as Ezekiel exhorted those

among whom he lived to do. In that case he need fear no inherited or

transmitted curse. He shall surely live; Hebrew, living he shall live. That

truth came to Ezekiel as with the force of a new apocalypse, and it is

obviously “exceeding broad,” with far-reaching consequences both in

ethics and theology.

 

 

The Breach of Heredity (v. 14)

 

It is possible for the son of the sinner not to tread in his father’s evil

footsteps. Here we have the door of escape from the odious proverb of the

sour grapes (v. 2).

 

  • A FATHER’S SIN IS A SHAMEFUL SIGHT FOR HIS SON. The

verse before us presents a distressing picture, though one with bright

features in it. The father should be an example to his children, and they

should be able to look up to him with reverence. Indeed, very little children

naturally regard those who have charge of them as good. When first a child

discovers that one who has directed his conduct is doing wrong, the

revelation comes upon him with a painful shock of surprise. How sad that

this should become a familiar sight! The very center of authority in the

home is then degraded. The child may still obey from a sense of fear, from

a feeling of duty, or from mere force of habit. But all reverence is gone,

and contempt is beginning to take its place. There must be something sadly

wrong when a right-minded child is forced to despise his father or his

mother. Surely such a prospect should be a warning to parents when

personal considerations fail to influence them.

 

  • A SON MAY BE SAVED FROM SHARING HIS FATHER’S SIN

BY ITS VERY SHAMEFULNESS. There is an influence which is just the

contrary of heredity in sin. Unconsciously, by force of physical

constitution, and by the influence of example no doubt, a child is drawn

towards his father’s sin. But when he reflects upon it and exercises his own

judgment, he has miserable opportunities for witnessing its shamefulness

which are not accorded to the happily guarded children of purer homes.

(As a child, I had a good friend whose father was an alcoholic and I

remember him saying he would never do that and to this day, my friend

has kept his word.  – CY – 2014).  The child of the drunkard knows the

evil of strong drink only too well.  Thus if he “considereth” he has an ever

present warning. Do we not see children who have turned with loathing from

the habits of disgraceful parents, shunning the first approaches to the evil

which has wrought such havoc in their homes, when other children who

have not been to so painful a school TOY WITH IT IN THE

CONFIDENCE OF IGNORANCE!

 

  • IT IS THE DUTY OF CHRISTIANS TO RESCUE THE

CHILDREN OF WICKED PARENTS. The problem furnished by the

wreck of broken down character among the degraded creatures who haunt

the slums of great cities is well nigh insoluble, because so many of those

hopeless beings refuse to be reclaimed. If they are removed to decent

dwellings and supplied with the means of conducting respectable lives, they

sink back to their old stats of degradation.

 

18 “As for his father, because he cruelly oppressed, spoiled his brother

by violence, and did that which is not good among his people, lo,

even he shall die in his iniquity.”  The reappearance of the father, with the

same emphatic “lo!” seems to imply that Ezekiel thought of the two

phenomena as possibly contemporaneous. Men might see before them, at the

same time:

 

·         the father dying in his sins, and

·         the son turning from them and gaining the true life.

 

19 “Yet say ye, Why? doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father?

When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath

kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live.

20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the

iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of

the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and

the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.”  Why? doth not the son, etc.?

The words are better taken, with the Septuagint, Vulgate, Revised Version, and

most critics, as a single question, Why doth not the son bear, etc.? What is the

explanation of a fact which seemingly contradicts the teaching of the Law?

The answer to the question seems at first only an iteration of what had been

stated before. The son repents, and therefore does not bear his father’s iniquity.

A man is responsible for his own sins, and for those only. To think otherwise

is to think of God as less righteous than man.

 

 

Personal Character and Destiny (vs. 10-20)

 

Personal principles and piety cannot be transmitted from father to son as

property is transmitted. The son of a good man may repudiate his father’s

God, and refuse to tread in his father’s footsteps. Eli was a good man, but

his sons were “sons of Belial, they knew not the Lord” (I Samuel 2:12). 

David was a great and godly man, but he begat an Absalom. And Solomon

begat a Rehoboam. “Grace does hot run in the blood, nor always attend the

means of grace.” On the other hand, a wicked parent may beget a son who

shall shun his father’s sins, and live a righteous and religious life. The son

does not inherit either the righteousness or the wickedness of his father as

he inherits the paternal possessions.

 

  • THE HOLY CHARACTER OF A PARENT WILL NOT

AVAIL FOR THE SALVATION OF HIS CHILDREN. The just man by

his holiness does not save his wicked son. That son “shall not live: he hath

done all these abominations: he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon

him.” The children of the godly have great religious advantages. In the

instructions, examples, and prayers of their parents they have most valuable

aids to personal piety. Moreover, they probably inherit from them

tendencies and aptitudes to the true and the good. Still, the parental

character will only avail for the salvation of the parents. The children of the

godly can only realize the salvation by realizing a character like unto their

parents. David’s godliness, though joined with intense love for his son, did

not save Absalom from ruin. Hezekiah was a good man, but his son

Manasseh was terribly wicked. Josiah was eminently pious and patriotic,

but his children were notoriously depraved. True religion is an intensely

personal thing; it is an individual life and experience and practice. All its

important experiences and acts are essentially personal and solitary. Only

the sinner himself can repent of his sins. No one can believe on Jesus Christ

for us. If faith is to benefit us it must be our own willing and cordial act

and exercise. We cannot work out our salvation by proxy. Every man must

work out his own salvation with fear and trembling”  (Philippians 2:12).

The Jews prided themselves on their descent from Abraham, as though by

that their salvation was secured; but John the Baptist declared to them the

worthlessness of their hope (Matthew 3:7-11), and our Lord exhibited

its utter delusiveness (John 8:33-44). True religion is not ours in virtue

of any human connection or relationship. It is a thing not of flesh and

blood, but of spirit and principle; not of human generation, BUT OF

DIVINE REGENERATION!

 

  • THAT THE WICKED CHARACTER OF A PARENT DOES NOT

NECESSITATE THE WICKEDNESS AND DEATH OF HIS

CHILDREN. “Now, lo, if he” (i.e. the wicked son of just father) “beget a

son, that seeth all his father’s sins which he hath done, and considereth, and

doeth not such like,” etc. (vs. 14-17). Great are the disadvantages of the

children of wicked parents. Poor parental example and influence are

decidedly hostile to their highest and best interests. If they become true and

good it will be notwithstanding their parents, not because of them. Yet such

children may grow up righteous and religious, useful and godly. The son

may behold his father’s sins, not as an example, but as a warning, and may

form quite a different character and lead quite a different life. The prophet

mentions certain steps in this process which we may glance at with

advantage.

 

Ø      Parental sins seen. “A son, that seeth all his father’s sins which he

hath done.” Sons are close observers of their fathers’ acts and ways.

This should lead fathers to act wisely and to follow the ways that

are good. It is a sad thing for a son to see follies and sins in his

own father.

 

Ø      Parental sins considered. “And considereth.” Observation is of little

benefit without reflection. By reflection we are enabled to realize the

true significance and bearings of facts and circumstances. By reflection

facts become forces unto us. Inconsideration often leads to sin. At a

time when Israel was “laden with iniquity” one of the grave charges

laid against them was, “My people doth not consider.”  (Isaiah 1:3)

 

Ø      Parental sins shunned. “Considereth, and doeth not such like.” A due

consideration of the ways and works of the wicked, their real character

and certain tendencies, would lead us to regard them as solemn lessons

to he earnestly shunned. Thus, according to our text, the son of a sinful

parent may avoid that parent’s sins, and practice the opposite virtues.

Examples of this are happily numerous. The excellent Hezekiah was

the son of the wicked Ahaz. (I recommend II Chronicles 28 – Spurgeon

Sermon – That King Ahaz – this web site – CY – 2014)  Good Josiah

was the son of the notoriously depraved Amon, and the grandson of

the still more notoriously wicked Manasseh.

 

  • INDIVIDUAL DESTINY IS DETERMINED BY INDIVIDUAL

CHARACTER. “Yet say ye, Wherefore doth not the son bear the iniquity

of the father? When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and

hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live. The soul

that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father,

neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the

righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be

upon him.” No statement could be more explicit and decisive than this.

And it is corroborated by other declarations of Holy Writ. “If thou art

wise, thou art wise for thyself; and if thou scornest, thou alone shalt bear

it  (Proverbs 9:12); “Each one of us shall give account of himself to God”

(Romans 14:12); “Each man shall bear his own burden.” (Galatians 6:5). 

Individual destiny grows out of individual character.  “As righteousness

tendeth to life: so he that pursueth evil pursueth it to his own death.”

            (Proverbs 11:19)

 

21 “Yet say ye, Why? doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father?

When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath

kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live.

22 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the

iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of

the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and

the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.”

But if the wicked will turn, etc. Here, however, there is

a distinct advance. The question is carried further into the relations

between the past and the present of the same man, between his old and his

new self. And in answering that question also Ezekiel becomes the

preacher of a gospel. The judgment of God deals with each man according

to his present state, not his past. Repentance and conversion and obedience

shall cancel, as it were, the very memory of his former sins (Ezekiel’s

language is necessarily that of a hold anthropopathy), and his

transgressions shall not be mentioned unto him (compare ch. 33:16;

Isaiah 43:25; 64:9; Jeremiah 31:34). Assuming the later date of

Isaiah 40-66, the last three utterances have the interest of being those of

nearly contemporary prophets to whom the same truth had been revealed.

 

Repentance at any stage of human probation is possible.   It is recognized,

throughout the Bible, that a man may turn from evil ways. If, at any point

short of death, a man is disposed to turn from a vicious course, all the

resources of God’s skill and power are on his side. There is no hindrance

to a man’s reformation and restoration SAVE HIS OWN UNWILLINGNESS!

 Incessantly, God is inviting such repentance.

 

Repentance leads to complete and perfect righteousness.   Repentance is not

merely a negation; it is a positive good. It is the first link in a golden chain

that shall bind the soul in sweet allegiance to God. It is the first drop in a

precious shower of blessing. It is the foundation-stone of a new character.

It is the seed of a magnificent harvest. From true repentance every virtue,

every excellence, every noble quality, shall spring. Give it time, and it shall

bear upon its branches all the figures and fruits of goodness. It is the first

 ray of heaven struggling to find entrance into man’s heart.

 

 

Personal Responsibility (vs. 19-22)

 

  • THE WITNESS OF THE CONSCIENCE TO INDIVIDUAL AND

INALIENABLE RESPONSIBILITY. Reference has been made to the

attempts too often made by sinners to cast their responsibility upon others.

But it may unhesitatingly be asserted that those who put forward such

excuses are never themselves convinced by them. In their hearts they are

well aware that there is no sincerity in such excuses, that they are mere

subterfuges. The conscience within, which accuses and excuses, gives no

uncertain sound. The religious teacher, the Christian preacher, who seeks

to convince men of sin has the assurance that the inner monitor of his

hearers supports his endeavor, that he neither upbraids nor pleads alone.

When the Lord God exclaims by the voice of His prophet, “Hear now, O

house of Israel; Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal?” every

man, convicted by his conscience, is reduced to silence; for there is no

reply to be made. When conscience is awakened, its witness is plain and

unmistakable.

 

  • THE EXPRESS AND AUTHORITATIVE STATEMENT OF GOD’S

OWN WORD AS TO MAN’S INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNTABILITY.

The language of this chapter is peculiarly explicit upon this matter. “The soul

that sinneth, it shall die;… the righteous shall surely live, he shall not die.”

And these statements are in harmony with the whole tenor of Scripture teaching.

The Bible magnifies man’s personality, and never represents man as a machine,

an organism. Each living soul stands in its own relation to THE FATHER

OF SPIRITS  before whom every moral and free nature must appear to

render an account for itself, and not for another. The teaching of our Lord

and of His apostles is as definite and decided upon this point as the teaching

of the Lawgiver and the prophets of the earlier dispensation. We are throughout

Scripture consistently taught that THERE IS NO EVADING THE

GREAT ACCOUNT!

 

23  Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the

Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?”

Have I any pleasure, etc.? Ezekiel’s anticipations of the

gospel of Christ take a yet wider range, and we come at last to what had

been throughout the suppressed premise of the argument. To him, as

afterwards to Paul (I Timothy 2:4) and Peter (II Peter 3:9),

the mind of God was presented as being at once absolutely ABOSOLUTELY

RIGHTEOUS AND ABSOLUTELY LOVING!   The death of the wicked,

the loss, i.e., of true life, for a time, or even forever, might be the necessary

consequence of laws that were righteous in themselves, and were working

out the well being of the universe; but that death was not to be thought of

as the result of a Divine decree, or contemplated by the Divine mind with

any satisfaction. If it were not given to Ezekiel to see, as clearly as Isaiah

seems to have seen it, how the Divine philanthropy was to manifest itself,

he at least gauged that philanthropy itself, and found it FATHOMLESS!

 

 

 

How God Views the Death of the Wicked (v. 23)

 

  • HE HAS NO PLEASURE IN IT.

 

Ø      It might appear that He has.

 

o       Men transferred to God their own low notions of vengeance.

“Revenge is sweet” among men; therefore it was supposed

that God must take some pleasure in avenging Himself on

those who have offended Him.

 

o       The rigor of the Law of God appeared to favour this notion.

If God had no pleasure in the death of the wicked, why did

God let him die? Such a question goes on the assumption that

the only motive of action is the personal pleasure of the agent.

 

Ø      But on the other hand, it is certain that the fate of the sinner is no

pleasure to God.

 

o       God is righteous. The pleasures of vengeance are sinful. It

cannot be good to feel anything but distress at the ruin of a

soul. There might be a certain pleasure in the infliction of

useful chastisement, because of its happy end; but the death

of a soul is wholly dark.

 

o       God is merciful. God does not hate His enemies. “He hateth

nothing that He hath made.” God loves the souls that perish.

 

§         His long suffering and delay of punishment,

§         His readiness to forgive the penitent, and, above all,

§         the gift of His Son to redeem the world from death,

 

are PROOFS that He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked.

 

  • STILL GOD PERMITS IT.

 

Ø      God has given freedom to His children. It can scarcely be said that God

kills a wicked man. The sinner is his own executioner; his sin is its own

sword of vengeance. SIN SLAYS ITSELF!   The sinner is practically

A SUICIDE!   God has no pleasure in the ruin which the foolish man

brings on his own head.  But there would be no moral nature left for him,

and therefore no possibility of goodness, if God did not leave him the

use of that freedom which he abuses in slaying his own soul.

(I find it interesting that we have such an obsession with freedom

in America, a desire to control our own bodies, we have a

Libertine political party, etc., to the point that American citizens,

in the name of liberty and freedom, succeed in slaying their own

Souls!? – CY – 2014)

 

Ø      God is just, though justice may be painful. It may be said that we cannot

throw the whole burden of his death on the sinner, because God has made

him and has made the laws which connect death with sin. No doubt,

therefore, there is a certain Divine retribution in the punishment of sin. But

then God is just “and the Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” 

(Romans 3:26), and does not regard His own pleasure. It is only an

epicurean deity who would refuse to punish sin because he took no

pleasure in the death of the sinner.

 

Ø      There can be no escape for the impenitent. If it were merely a question

of God’s pleasure, we might appeal from that to His mercy. But He

already denies Himself to permit the punishment. It is therefore the

more sure.

 

  • GOD PREFERS THE LIFE OF HIS CHILDREN. If He has no

pleasure in their death, He will welcome any avenue of escape. Nay, He will

provide all possible means of deliverance. HENCE, THE GOSPEL

OF CHRIST!

 

Ø      There is a possibility of escape through amendment. It can come no

other way, or justice would be outraged; for it is better that the soul

should die THAN THAT IT SHOULD CONTINUE FOR EVER

IN SIN!   THE LIFE OF SIN IS A CURSE TO THE SINNER

AND A BLIGHT ON GOD’S WORLD!   A return to the better

way is OPEN TO ALL OF US  THROUGH CHRIST!   

II Corinthians 5:20).

 

Ø      This escape gives life. God loves life, or He would not have created a

world teeming with living beings. He loves to gives us A NEW

LIFE IN CHRIST!  (I John 5:12)  LET NO ONE DESPAIR!   

God does not desire our death; GOD WILLS OUR LIFE!

 

 

God’s Benevolence (v. 23)

 

Israel, as a nation, had abundant evidence of the loving kindness and long suffering

of Him who chose the people as His own, trained them for His service, instructed

them in his Law, bore with their frequent disobedience and rebellion, and ever

addressed to them promises of compassion and of help. But all proofs of the

Divine benevolence pale before that glorious exhibition of God’s love and

kindness which we Christians have received in Him who is the unspeakable

Gift of Heaven.  Had the Almighty felt any pleasure in the death of the wicked,

He would not have given his own Son, while we were yet sinners, to die for us.

He took pleasure, not in the condemnation and death, but in the salvation of

men. In Christ His love and kindness appeared; for Christ came, not to

condemn the world, BUT THAT THE WORLD THROUGH HIM MIGHT

BE SAVED!  (John 3:17)  The pleasure of God is that the wicked “should

return from his way, and should live.” Thus there is coincidence between

the good pleasure of the Omnipotent upon the one hand, and the best desires

and truest interests of penitent sinners on the other. He who repents of his evil

deed, who looks upwards for forgiveness, and who resolves upon a new and

better life, has not to encounter Divine displeasure or ill will; on the contrary,

he is assured of a gracious reception, of immediate pardon, of kindest

consideration, and of help and guidance in the carrying out of holier purpose

and endeavor. The demeanor and the language of God are those of the

compassionate Father, who welcomes the returning prodigal, accords him

a benign reception, and proffers him all those blessings, now and

HEREAFTER which alone can answer to the glorious and comprehensive

gift of Divine love — ETERNAL LIFE!       

 

24 “But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and

committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations

that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that

he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath

trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.”

In the previous argument (v. 21) the truth that the individual

character may change had been stated as a ground of hope. Here it appears

as a ground, for fear and watchfulness. The “grey-haired saint may fail at

last,” the apostle may become a castaway (I Corinthians 9:27), and the

righteousness of a life may be cancelled by the sins of a year or of a day.

Whether there was an opening for repentance, even after that fall, the

prophet does not say, but the law that a man is in spiritual life or death

according to what he is at any given moment of his course, seems to

require the extension of the hope, unless we assume that the nature of the

fall in the case supposed fetters the freedom of the will, and makes

repentance impossible (Hebrews 6:4-6; II Peter 2:20).

 

25 “Yet ye say, The way of the LORD is not equal. Hear now, O house

of Israel; Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal?”

Are not my ways equal? The. primary meaning of the

Hebrew adjective is that of something ordered, symmetrically arranged.

Men would find in the ways of God precisely that in which their own ways

were wanting, and which they denied to Him — the workings of a

considerate equity, adjusting all things according to their true weight and

measure.

 

26 When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and

committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath

done shall he die.  27 Again, when the wicked man turneth away from

his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful

and right, he shall save his soul alive.  28 Because he considereth, and

turneth away from all his transgressions that he hath committed, he

shall surely live, he shall not die.  29  Yet saith the house of Israel,

The way of the LORD is not equal. O house of Israel, are not my

ways equal? are not your ways unequal?”  The equity of the Divine

judgments is asserted, as before, by fresh iteration rather than by new

arguments. In a discourse delivered, as this probably was, orally, it was

necessary, so to speak, to hammer in the truth upon men’s minds so that

it might be driven home and do its work.

 

 

Reversals of Character (vs. 26-28)

 

We have here an instance of man’s misjudgment of God, and wrongful

accusation of injustice against Him. People who have borne good

characters are punished by God, and others who have earned themselves

odious reputations are spared. This is the stumbling block. But our text

supplies the explanation of the apparent inconsistency. The good men have

fallen into sin, and the bad men have repented and mended their lives.

Therefore it is not unjust in God to treat them no longer according to their

old characters.

 

  • GOD JUDGES ACCORDING TO PRESENT CHARACTER. Human

judgment is stiff and blunt. Having formed our estimate of a man, we hold

it after all justification for it has vanished. We are blind to those traits in his

character which do not agree with our theory; or, if we are forced to

recognize them, our first impulse is to twist them into harmony with the

theory. Thus men’s characters in the world outlive the facts on which they

are founded. They are not all equal in this respect. A good character is

more easily lost than a bad character. (I have heard that it takes a

lifetime to gain a reputation and only a moment to lose it! – CY – 2014)

If a man has once earned an evil name, it is almost impossible for him to

divest himself of it. People will not believe in his thorough conversion.

This suspicion is partly due to ignorance of the hearts of men, and to a

consequent danger of being imposed upon by hypocrisy. But God knows

hearts. He is not bound by names and reputations. He sees present facts,

and He judges men as they are. Then He judges according to present

condition. He does not spare the fallen man on account of past goodness,

and He does not rake up old charges against the penitent. We must not

suppose, however, that God judges by a man’s latest act. This would throw

in an element of chance. A man is not condemned because he happens to

be doing wrong at the moment of death, or saved because death finds him

on his knees in prayer.  But when the whole life is turned round, God judges

by its present character, and not by its former state.  (We ought to live

our lives for God to the point that if someone said something bad about

us, no one would believe it! – CY – 2014)

 

  • REVERSALS OF CHARACTER ARE POSSIBLE. We are not

arguing on hypothetical cases. The ways of God to men are to be justified

in part by the knowledge that such cases exist.

 

Ø      The good man may fall away into sin. When this happens, the world

lifts up its hands in horror at what it supposes to be a revelation of

monstrous and long continued hypocrisy; but there may be no hypocrisy

in the case.  The fallen man may have been sincere in his earlier life of

goodness. But he has turned aside from it. Here is a terrible warning.

No character is crystalline; all characters are more or less mobile.

The best man may fall.  (“Wherefore let him that thinketh he

standeth take heed lest he fall.”  - I Corinthians 10:12)

Then all his former goodness will not save him. We have reason for

watchfulness, diffidence, and prayer for GOD’S PROTECTION!

 

Ø      The bad man may be recovered. The stern and changeless judgment of

the world dooms one who has fallen to lifelong ignominy. This is cruel

and murderous. If we lend a helping hand, the fallen may be lifted up.

BY THE GRACE OF CHRIST the most hardened sinner may be

 softened to penitence and turned into the ways of goodness. Then his

former sin will not hang like a millstone about his neck to keep him

forever down. God forgives it, and never mentions it again. It is the

elder son, not the father, who refers to the former sins of the returned

prodigal (Luke 15:30).

 

 

A Deplorable Moral Transformation (v. 26)

 

  • Its nature. When the righteous turneth away from his righteousness,

and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that

the wicked man doeth.” Here is the transformation of a righteous man into

a wicked man; of a doer of righteousness into a worker of iniquity. The

prophet does not set forth an occasional or temporary aberration from the

right and the true; but the habitual and persistent practice of wickedness.

Moreover, in the case supposed, the sinner “doeth according to all the

abominations of the wicked, and continues therein to the end of his

earthly existence: he “committeth iniquity, and dieth therein.”

That such a turning from righteousness to wickedness is possible is

Evident from the moral constitution of man. He is free to obey or to

disobey God; to do that which is right or to commit iniquity.

 

  • Its consequences.

 

Ø      He forfeits the benefit of his former righteousness. “All his

righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned;” Revised

Version, “None of his righteous deeds that he hath done shall be

remembered.” This is the antithesis to that which was declared of

him who turns from sin unto righteousness: “All his transgressions

that he hath committed shall be remembered  against him.”  (v. 22) 

Unless we persevere we lose what we have gained. “Look to

yourselves, that ye lose not the things which we have wrought,

but that ye receive a full reward.”  (II John 1:8).

 

Ø      He incurs the penalty of his persistent wickedness. “In his trespass that

he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall

he die;… for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die.” (vs. 24, 26). 

On this death, see our remarks on v. 4, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die;”

and on v. 31.)

 

 

A Desirable Moral Transformation (vs. 27-28)

 

  • ITS NATURE.   Several stages of it which are here specified will make this

clear.

 

Ø      Serious consideration. “He” (i.e. the wicked man) “considereth”

(v. 28). Reflection is an indispensable step towards repentance.

Thinking must precede turning. Thus it was with the psalmist:

I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies.

I made haste and delayed not to keep thy commandments.”

(Psalm 119:59-60). So also with the prodigal son: “when he came to

Himself,” and thought upon his father’s house, and his  own wretched

condition, it was not long before he arose and penitently went to his

father (Luke 15:17-20). Consideration leads to conversion.

 

Ø      Resolute forsaking of sin. “If the wicked will turn from all his sins

that he hath committed” (v. 21); “Because he considereth, and

turneth away from all his transgressions that he hath committed”

(v. 28). There is no true turning or repentance apart from the

renunciation of sin; and where repentance is both true and

thorough there is a renunciation of “all his sins;” the sinner

turneth away from all his transgressions.” He makes no

reservation; he does not long or plead for the retention of any

 because they are small or comparatively uninjurious. He loathes

sin, and endeavors to eschew it altogether.

 

Ø      Hearty following after righteousness. “And keep all my statutes,

 and do that which is lawful and right.” Getting rid of the evil

is not enough; we must needs get possession of the good.  (Else

we will be like the man which Jesus talked about in his self-help –

“Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits

more wicked than himself, …….and the last state of the man

is worse than the first”  (Matthew 12:44-45).  Ceasing to do

evil must be followed by learning to do well. Not only are we

not to be overcome of evil; we are to go on to overcome evil

with good.  (Romans 12:21).  He that would love life… let him

turn away from evil and do good” (I Peter 3:10).  If the evil

spirit be expelled from our heart, and the Holy Spirit be not

welcomed therein, the evil spirit will return with other spirits

worse than himself, and they will take possession of our heart

and dwell there (As stated above – CY – 2014). The desirable

moral transformation includes hearty abandonment of sin and

hearty cultivation of goodness.

 

  • ITS CONSEQUENCES

 

Ø      Forgiveness of his sins. “All his transgressions that he hath

 committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him;” Revised

Version, “None of his transgressions that he hath committed

shall be remembered against him.”  They shall be so completely

pardoned that there shall be no reproach because of them,

no recall of them, no recollection of them. HOW FULLY AND

HOW ABSOLUTELY GOD FORGIVES! 

 

o       “I will forgive their  iniquity, and their sin will I remember no

more;” (Jeremiah 31:34)

o       “I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine

 own sake; and I will not remember thy sins;”  (Isaiah 43:25)

o       “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed

our transgressions from us;”  (Psalm 103:12)

o       “Thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back;” (Isaiah 38:17)

o       “He delighteth in mercy. ….He will turn again and have

 compassion upon us; He will subdue our iniquities,

 and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”

(Micah 7:18-20)

 

Ø      Bestowment of spiritual life. “He shall surely live, he shall not die.

 In his righteousness that he hath done he shall live He shall save

 his soul alive.”  In the favor and fellowship of God is the soul’s life.

“In His favor is life” (Psalm 30:5).  And that favor is granted to the

soul that penitently turns from sin unto God. (For additional

suggestions concerning this life, see our notes on v.9.)

 

Ø      Its great encouragement. “Have I any pleasure in the death of the

wicked? saith the Lord God: and not rather that he should return

from his way, and live?” God delights in the conversion, not in the

condemnation, of the sinner; in the inspiration of life, not in the

infliction of death. “The God of the Old Testament,” says Havernich,

has a heart: Himself the essence of all blessedness, and mirroring

Himself in the blessedness of the creature, He has a heart for every

being who has fallen away from Him, and who is exposed to death.

The fundamental feature of His character is holy love: He

delighteth in the return of the sinner from death to life.” “He

 delighteth in mercy” (Micah 7:18).  This is the great encouragement

for the sinner TO TURN IN PENITENCE UNTO HIM!

 

30 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according

to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from

all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.

31 Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have

transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why

will ye die, O house of Israel?”  That work was to produce repentance, hope,

and fear. The goodness and severity of God alike led up to that. For a man

to remain in his sin will be fatal, but it is not the will of God that he should

so remain.  What he needs is the new heart and the new spirit, which are primarily,

as in ch. 11:19, God’s gift to men, but which men must make their

own by seeking and receiving them. So iniquity shall not be your ruin;

better, with the margin of the Revised Version, so shall they not be a

stumbling block (same word as in ch. 3:20; 7:19; 14:3) of iniquity

unto you. Repented sins shall be no more an occasion of offence. Men may

rise on them to “higher things,” as on “steppingstones of their dead selves.”

 

 

Divine Remonstrance (v. 31)

 

There is something very impressive in the form of this remonstrance. If the

question were taken in its literal sense, and published among men upon

Divine authority; if men were invited to accept immunity from bodily

dissolution; — in how many cases would the appeal meet, not only with

earnest attention, but with eager response! The death which is here referred

to must be that which consists in Divine displeasure, or, at all events, that

death in which such displeasure forms the most distressing ingredient. The

appeal may be enforced by several obvious but weighty considerations.

 

  • WHY WILL YE DIE, WHEN DEATH IS THE WORST OF DOOMS?

If the death of the body is in itself and in its circumstances and

consequences of a repulsive nature, all the more fitly may it serve to set

forth and to suggest the evils denoted in Scripture as spiritual death.

Insensibility and dissolution may be taken as figures of that spiritual state in

which interest in Divine truth and righteousness and love has departed, in

which there is no occupation in the service of God. The soul that has any

just sense of its own good must needs shrink from such a condition.

 

  • WHY WILL YE DIE, WHEN LIFE IS THE GREATEST OF

BLESSINGS? The life of the body, if accompanied by health and favorable

circumstances, is desirable and delightful. No wonder that in Scripture the

highest blessings of which the nature of man is capable are designated by

the suggestive and comprehensive term “life.” The spirit that truly lives is

open to all heavenly appeals and influences, finds in the just exercise of its

powers the fullest satisfaction, experiences the blessedness of fellowship

with the ever-living God. Our Lord Christ Himself came to this world, and

wrought and suffered as He did, in order that “we might have life, and

might have it more abundantly.” The appeal of the text calls upon us to

accept this priceless boon.

 

  • WHY WILL YE DIE, SEEING THAT THE MEANS OF LIFE ARE

WITHIN YOUR REACH? There would be mockery in the appeal of the

text were this not so. But He who alone can provide both the means and the

end compassionately addresses those who have forfeited life and have

deserved death, and urges upon them the remonstrance, “Why will ye die?”

It is a remonstrance which comes home with tenfold force to those who

listen to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, “the true God and the Eternal

Life.” Knowledge and faith, the Holy Spirit of God Himself, and the truth

which He reveals and applies to the nature of man; — here are the means,

here is the living agency, by which men may rise “from the death of sin

unto the life of righteousness.” When such means and such agency are

provided, the guilt and folly are manifest of those who CHOOSE

DEATH RATHER THAN LIFE!

 

  • WHY WILL YE DIE, WHEN GOD HIMSELF WISHES FOR

YOU LIFE RATHER THAN DEATH? The benevolence of the Divine

nature finds expression in the virtual entreaty of the text. It is as though a

kind of infatuated willfulness were presumed to exist in the breasts of sinful

men; as if, while their Maker and Judge wishes to be their Saviour, they

were indisposed to accept the boon offered by His pity and loving kindness.

It is as though the eternal Lord Himself, against whom sinners have

offended, urged His own compassion upon those who have no pity upon

themselves.  (I remember many years ago, Bro. Steve Holland, preaching

a message at Little River Baptist Church.  He emphasized that it seems

as if God has to beg people to come to  Him!  I think of the University

of Kentucky’s Basketball Midnight Madness, when people camp out

in a long line the night before to get free tickets to watch the new team

practice and scrimmage.  One would think, that when it comes to a person’s

own soul, that a man would line up at the church door to obtain

direction on how to attain to “ETERNAL LIFE!” - CY – 2014)

 

  • WHY WILL YE DIE, WHEN CHRIST HAS DIED FOR YOU?  He

gave His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).  The Saviour’s death is

represented as the redemption, the purchase price, securing the exemption

from death of those who accept the provision of Divine mercy and love.

The appeal is powerful which is made to sinful men not to refuse the boon

so graciously offered, and SECURED AT A PRICE SO COSTLY! 

  CHRIST DIED THAT WE MIGHT LIVE!

 

 

Why Will Ye Die? (v. 31)

 

  • GOD EARNESTLY DESIRES TO SAVE HIS CHILDREN. He

repeatedly repudiates the notion that He has any pleasure in their death (e.g.

vs. 23 and 32). He does not regard that terrible fate with indifference, as

though it were no concern of His, after the manner of an epicurean divinity.

He might say that, as men have foolishly and sinfully earned their own ruin,

He would regard their doom with complacency. But instead of doing so, He

manifests the utmost concern, urgently expostulating with the self-willed

sinners, and entreating them to save themselves. Nay, has He not gone

further, in sending His Son to save the world before His guilty children

began to repent and to call for deliverance?  (“But God commendeth

His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, CHRIST DIED

FOR US!”  - Romans 5:8).  In like manner, Christ, lamenting the

coming ruin of Jerusalem, exclaimed, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou

that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee,

how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen

gathereth her chickens under her wings, and YE WOULD NOT!”

(Matthew 23:37).

 

  • THE DEATH OF SINNERS IS IN THEIR OWN HANDS. “Why will

ye die?” It is not written by God. It is not fated by destiny. It does not fall

out by chance. It is not a consequence of circumstances. Secondary and

external events may appear to be traceable to one or other of these causes.

but UTTER SOUL-RUIN depends on the soul itself. If the soul dies it is

because IT WILL DIE!  The reasons for this position are two.

 

Ø      We have free will. If we sin, therefore, we do it of our own accord.

We cannot lay the blame on our tempters. There is always a way

of escape from temptation (I Corinthians 10:13). The deed that is

done under compulsion is no longer a sin. Every sin is the soul’s

free act.

 

Ø      The death of the soul comes directly from sin. (James 1:13-15)

It is not an extraneous event; it is just the natural fruit of the

soul’s own evil doing. Therefore we cannot accuse God, or

Satan, or nature, or circumstances. The blame rests with ourselves.

 

  • THE REASONS WHICH LEAD SINNERS TO COURT DEATH

SHOULD BE CONSIDERED. Why will ye die?”

 

Ø      Because of indifference. Many are heedless. They do not will to die,

But they will the way to death. But he who chooses the path chooses

its end.

 

Ø      Because of obstinacy. The appeal of the text is made against a stubborn

spirit of self-will. God brings up the battering rams of grace against the

thick walls of the town of Man-soul. Pride makes men hold to their own

ways. But pride will be humbled in the day of ruin. There is no pride in

death.

 

Ø      Because of the love of sin. This love blinds men. They see the attractive

wickedness; they should learn to see also the snake that lurks among the

flowers. 

 

Ø      Because of unbelief. This is not merely a wrong intellectual conclusion.

There is a dangerous unbelief that comes from closing the eyes to

unpleasant facts. Yet they are not the less true.

 

Ø      Because of the rejection of grace. IF WE WILL NOT TO HAVE

CHRIST, WE DO IN FACT WILL TO DIE!

 

  • THE WAY OF ESCAPE FROM DEATH IS OPEN TO ALL.

 

Ø      By casting out sin. Sin is the viper in the bosom, whose bite is mortal.

Any cherished sin brings death. The first step must be not merely to

grieve over sin, but to tear it away and fling it off.

 

Ø      By receiving a new heart. We need to have a better nature. Nothing

less than a new heart will suffice. ONLY GOD CAN GIVE THAT  

(Psalm 51:10).  ONLY THE HOLY SPIRIT CAN REGENERATE

(John 3:5). But the change depends on our seeking and accepting it.

 

 

The Unreasonableness of Persistence in Sin ( v. 31)

 

Why will ye die?” Man is so constituted that he should act from reason. He has

instincts and other impulses which lead to action; but these should be

guided and governed by his reason. His instincts and passions should be

ruled by his reason, which is the glory of his nature, and raises him above

the inferior creatures in this world. When reason holds its proper place and

exercises its proper power, then the lower impulses of our nature

contribute to our true development and progress.

 

“When Reason, like the skilful charioteer,

Can break the fiery passions with the bit,

And, spite of their licentious sallies, keep

The radiant track of glory; passions then

Are aids and ornaments. Triumphant Reason,

Firm in her seat and swift in her career,

Enjoys their violence, and, smiling, thanks

Their formidable flame for high renown.”

(Young.)

 

The Most High appeals TO MAN’S REASON!   “Come now, and let us reason

together, saith the Lord,” etc. (Isaiah 1:18); “Produce your cause, saith

the Lord; bring forth your strong reasons,” etc. (Isaiah 41:21); “Why

will ye die?” This inquiry implies that man should have some reason for

persistence in the way that leads to death. It also implies that he has not a

satisfactory reason. It is, perhaps, designed to bring man to pause, and lead

him to consider his ways, and to ASK HIMSELF WHY HE PURSUES

THE WAY OF DEATH!  THERE IS NO SATISFACTORY REASON

WHY MEN WILL DIE!   PERSISTENCE IN SIN IS UTTER AND

SUICIDAL FOLLY!  “Why will ye die? For I have no pleasure in the

death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: WHERFORE TURN

YOURSELVES AND LIVE! 

 

32 “For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord

GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.”  Turn yourselves, etc. As in

ch.14:6, but there is no ground for the rendering of “turn others,” suggested

in the margin of the Authorized Version.  So we close what we may rightly

speak of as among the noblest of Ezekiel’s utterances, that which makes him

take his place side by side with the greatest of the prophets as a preacher of

REPENTANCE and FORGIVENESS.   In the next chapter he returns to

his parables of history after the fashion of those of ch. 17.

 

 

The Path to Life (vs. 25-32)

 

Sin has a blinding effect upon man’s intellect and reason. It leads to most

ERRONEOUS CONCLUSIONS!   It produces deep-seated and suicidal prejudice.

It puts “darkness for light, and light for darkness” (Isaiah 5:20).  The most perfect

equality it brands “inequality.” It would make heaven into hell.

 

  • THE FIRST STEP HEAVENWARD IS THOUGHTFUL CHOICE.

The chief folly of men is their thoughtlessness. (I would like to recommend

Isaiah 1 – Spurgeon Sermon – To the Thoughtless  this web site CY –

2014) They sink into mental and moral indolence. They will not investigate

truth, nor ponder the demands of duty, nor forecast the future. But when

he comes to himself”  (Luke 15:17), he begins to reflect. “Because he

considereth (v. 28), he turns over a new leaf.  The man allows intelligence

and wisdom and reason to prevail. He resolves to seek his real good. He

chooses the best course, and determines to pursue it.

 

  • WISE DECISION LEADS TO NEW ACTION. Having made an

intelligent resolve, the man “turns away from his transgressions.” He begins

with known sins. He abandons these. That is only a sham decision which

does not lead to action. The will may be a slave to feeling and appetite; in

that case no real decision has been made. The soul is divided. There is

strife and war within! But if the man has decided upon a line of conduct,

new action will at once follow.  (We would all do better if we had our

mind made up about certain things before we get into certain

situations! – CY – 2014)

 

  • ACTIONS REACT UPON THE AFFECTIONS. It is a known fact

that necessary work which was at first repulsive ceases to be repulsive. We

grow to love actions which are oft repeated. Especially if such actions are

right in themselves, if they have a moral loveliness, if others approve them,

if they produce good effects, we learn to love them. Our actions develop

and strengthen our affections. The heart is benefited. The tone and temper

of our spirit are improved. True, it is God that renews and purifies the

heart; but He works through our own activity. He gives Divine efficacy to

the means employed.

 

  • THE AFFECTIONS OF A MAN FASHION HIS CHARACTER. As

a man’s sentiments and affections are, so is he  (Proverbs 23:7).   “A new

 heart, and a right spirit” go together. The character follows the affections.

The man that loves purity will become pure. The man that loves God will

become Godlike.  So long as man is on earth, he is always  becoming, good

or bad, great or mean. Character here is in a state of fusion.

 

  • MAN’S SUPREME GOOD IS IDENTICAL WITH GOD’S

PLEASURE. God has no pleasure in the death of a sinner; He has pleasure

from his ransomed life. If my heart and life are right, I afford pleasure to

God, I add to his joy.   (In fact, God joys and sings over us!  Zephaniah

3:17).  On the other hand, my sin diminishes His joy. For His own sake,

therefore, He will hear my prayer; He will help me in my struggles against sin.

Why, then, should we die? It is unreasonable. Every argument, every motive,

is against it. To continue in sin is:

 

Ø      folly,

Ø      madness,

Ø      suicide.

 

 

"Excerpted text Copyright AGES Library, LLC. All rights reserved.

Materials are reproduced by permission."

 

This material can be found at:

http://www.adultbibleclass.com

 

If this exposition is helpful, please share with others.