1 “The word of the LORD came unto me again, saying, 2 What mean ye,
that ye use this proverb concerning the
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
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
3 “As I live, saith the Lord GOD, ye shall not have occasion any more
to use this proverb
which implied unrighteousness
in God is no longer to be used in
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.
which it embodied were based upon dark, mysterious, but still true, facts of
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
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.
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)
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
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.
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.
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
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
of lands or the hire of cattle,
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
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)
are within his power.
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
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).
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.
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!
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
· 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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.”
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)
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
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
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
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)
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.
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
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
pleasure in their death, He will welcome any avenue of escape. Nay, He will
provide all possible means of deliverance. HENCE, THE GOSPEL
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)
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
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
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
The way of the
LORD is not equal. O house of
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
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)
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)
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.
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)
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.
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.”
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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)
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)
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
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!”
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
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.
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
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
ways. But pride will be humbled in the day of ruin. There is no pride in
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
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!
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.”
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 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.
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)
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.
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.
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:
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