Today: [Ezekiel 18] The Subject of Generational Sin. In this chapter God answers through Ezekiel an accusation of the people against His own sense of justice. The people of Jerusalem and the captives at Chebar feel they have been treated unfairly. They feel that God is unleashing punishments upon them for things they had nothing to do with. Do you ever feel that what you are going through is not fair? Do you ever have the thought that you have “paid your dues” in God, and therefore it is time for God to do His part? This chapter will bring clarity to that misdirected thinking that plagues us all from time to time when we are suffering under the long term pressures of life.
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[Eze 18:1-32 KJV] 1 The 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? 3 [As] I live, saith the Lord GOD, ye shall not have [occasion] any more to use this proverb in Israel. 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. 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 neighbour’s wife, neither hath come near to a menstruous woman, 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the naked with a garment; 8 He [that] hath not given forth upon usury, neither hath taken any increase, [that] hath withdrawn his hand from iniquity, hath executed true judgment between man and man, 9 Hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly; he [is] just,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. 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], 11 And that doeth not any of those [duties], but even hath eaten upon the mountains, and defiled his neighbour’s wife, 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, 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.
In verse 2 the word of the Lord by Ezekiel challenges a complaint of the people against God that they are suffering because of the sins of their fathers. It is a challenge against the fairness of God. Jeremiah addressed this in a measure, and now Ezekiel addresses it in even stronger language. Generational sin is something that does exist, yet not in the sense of an unjust application of the principle of accountability. In verse 4 there is a reminder that the soul of every man is the possession of the Lord and that one generation does not excuse the transgression of the generation after it. Many times we hear the excuse regarding some moral or spiritual failure “well, that is just the way I was raised, therefore I can’t be expected to do anything different…” The lesson of this chapter repudiates that disingenuous argument.
The universal truth is that “the soul that sinneth, it shall die…” This the truth of Adamic transgression. To those that reject the idea of generational sin we need only to point to Adam, whose disobedience in the fall condemned every man and woman of the human race who came after him. 1 Cor. 15:22 tells us “as in Adam, all die…” In Romans 5 Paul elaborates on this truth by stating:
[Rom 5:19 KJV] 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
Original sin, perpetrated by Adam in the fall is a dreadful inheritance, generational in nature from whence springs every heartache of men from birth to the grave. Even the innocent who have had no opportunity to obey or disobey are born into a state of enmity against God, because of generational sin. Psa. 58:3 tells us we are estranged from the womb and are born speaking lies from our first breath. What is the lie that babies speak upon birth? After Adam and Eve sinned, we see in Gen. 3:7 that they became aware that they were naked. Up to that point it had never occurred to them because they were more God-conscious than they were self-conscious. Upon their transgression however self-consciousness eclipsed the God-consciousness that was inherent in man’s sinless state and Rom. 1:21 tells us – man’s foolish heart was darkened. A newborn baby come out of the womb the epitome of self-consciousness. It’s very first cry reflects the assumption that this child is center of its own universe. Such is the nature of the sin condition, passed from one generation to the next.
What God is answering in Ezekiel is the accusation of a sinful generation against the equitable judgments of God. They are saying that God is not fair, that they are suffering through no fault of their own. This is the wickedness of man and the character in which the carnal mind casts dispersions upon God. Men’s rationale always accuses God by taking the implication of His word and extenuating it beyond what it actually says. For instance, when Eve was tempted by the serpent she said that God had commanded them (Gen. 3:2-3) not to eat NOR TOUCH the tree of the knowledge of good and evil lest they die. The fact of the matter is, however that God didn’t say they couldn’t touch the tree, but that they were only forbidden to eat of the tree. Man’s responsibility was to tend and to keep all the trees of the garden including the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In administrating the garden man would have come into contact with the tree he was forbidden to eat. Thus man in his sin nature always accuses God and excuses himself for being held to an unjust and unattainable level of accountability.
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 neighbour’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. 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. 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. 21 But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. 22 All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live. 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? 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. 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? 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? 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? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn [yourselves], and live ye.
In answering the accusation of the people against God’s equitable standard of righteousness, Ezekiel cites a litany of 16 areas of sin for which a man, withholding himself would not be condemned, if:
- He is just (Ezek. 18:5,9).
- He does that which is lawful and right.
- He has not eaten upon the mountains (in idolatrous worship, Ezek. 18:6).
- He has not lifted up his eyes to idols.
- He has not defiled his neighbor’s wife.
- He has not come near a menstruous woman.
- He has not oppressed any man (Ezek. 18:7).
- He has restored the pledge to the debtor.
- He has spoiled no man by violence.
- He has given his bread to the hungry.
- He has covered the naked with garments.
- He has not lent money on interest (Ezek. 18:8; Ex. 22:25; Lev. 25:36-37 Dt. 23:19-20).
- He has not taken any increase.
- He has withdrawn his hand from iniquity.
- He has executed true judgment between man and man.
- He has walked in God’s statutes, to deal truly in all things.
The underlying truth behind what is being said is that these transgressions were systemic in Jerusalem and among the peoples of the southern kingdom. Not only themselves, and the fathers, but their father’s fathers were guilty of all these things that brought into this conversation that was predicated by the accusation of the people that there were just and thereby being unjustly punished for the sins of their fathers which they contended (falsely) that they were not guilty of. Just as we need to understand the forgiveness of God afforded us in Christ we need a reminder from whence we came, as Paul declares in the book of Romans:
[Rom 3:10-19 KJV] 10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. 13 Their throat [is] an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps [is] under their lips: 14 Whose mouth [is] full of cursing and bitterness: 15 Their feet [are] swift to shed blood: 16 Destruction and misery [are] in their ways: 17 And the way of peace have they not known: 18 There is no fear of God before their eyes. 19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
In verse 19 the specific complaint of the people against God is that they are being held responsible for that which they did not commit. God’s answer is that the soul that sins – it shall die. The hope extended however is in verse 21 “…if the wicked will turn from “all” sin… he shall surely live…” The question then, is it possible not to commit sin? Under the Old Covenant, the law was not given to establish a sinless people. Rather the law was given, Paul tells us to make us aware of our need of a savior:
[Gal 3:24 KJV] 24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster [to bring us] unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
The condemnation of the sinner and his prior and successive generations is intended to show man two things: 1.) that there is accountability and consequences for sin; 2.) and that left to himself, separated from God man is hopelessly condemned with no recourse whatsoever to avoid punishment for transgression both in this life and in eternal hell forever. It is a brutal lesson, imposed by the burden of the law upon the descendants of Abraham as an example to all humanity for 1700 years from Moses to the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Nonetheless, the heart of God is expressed in v. 23 that God takes no pleasure whatsoever in the suffering or death of mankind. The answer for us is that we might TURN from our ways and live. Yet, from the perspective of Ezekiel’s day, how might we turn? Sin is an inveterate condition from which none can escape. Paul said in Romans 7:
[Rom 7:24-25 KJV] 24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord…
The equity cannot justly be challenged by a people blind to their own transgression. Simply because we think we are to be excused because of the mitigating circumstances of our birth, upbringing or environment does not mean we are without guilt. Guilt is universal upon all mankind, outside of Christ. Jesus said in John 14:6 that no man comes to the Father but by Him. There is no other advocacy to be found. Not our good works, nor the realities of our upbringing, or abuses inflected upon us by others, that assuages our sin before God. God does not judge as man judges. Only by the shed blood of Calvary and our acceptance of Jesus as Lord and savior in an abandonment of our old life and living daily subject to Him do we find reprieve from the universal condemnation brought generationally upon man, manifest in our own disobedience from which no relief is found accept in the work of the Cross.
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