Saturday, December 20, 2014


For the week beginning Sunday December 21, 2014

(A funeral song for Israel’s kings)
Ezekiel 18-19

In Ezekiel 18 the prophet Ezekiel receives yet another message from GOD, this time regarding HIS sovereignty and righteousness in judgment, and how we are all, as individuals, responsible for our own actions and behavior. In chapters 15-17 Ezekiel had already delivered three other messages, or parables that were designed to convict the nation of Judah of her sins against GOD. Here in this chapter, the prophet’s message returns to the bluntness necessary to drive home to Judah, their personal, individual responsibility for their own iniquities.
He begins this chapter with a proverb that must have been very familiar to Israel, because it had also been quoted by the prophet Jeremiah, just a few years earlier (Jeremiah 31:29). Here GOD asks Ezekiel about this proverb since it had been circulating among the Israelites for some time now. The proverb states that, “The parents have eaten sour grapes, but their children’s mouths pucker at the taste” (Ezekiel 18:2 - NLT).
The point of this proverb was that, the children of Israel believed that they were suffering because of the sins of their parents. In other words, the Israelites felt that GOD was punishing them because of the sins of their ancestors, and not because of any fault of their own, and this of course, was ridiculous. In fact, the very thought of this proverb depicts GOD as being “unjust”. GOD saw a great need to refute this false doctrine, and so HE called it to the attention of HIS prophet Ezekiel. Like most false doctrine, a trace of truth is used in order to make it sound plausible, and this particular proverb was no exception.
In the “Decalogue” (Ten Commandments) of GOD’s Word (Exodus 20:5, 34:6-7, & Deuteronomy 5:9), we see a few examples of where GOD talks about punishing the children of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate HIM. However, the whole point of these passages is that “the effects of sin are serious and long-lasting”, not that GOD punishes the innocent for their ancestors evils literally. There is always a chance that our iniquities and mistakes will affect others at some future date, but that backlash lies with us as responsible human beings, not with GOD. GOD gives us wills that are free (freedom of choice), and our choices always, invariably, will affect someone else, be they family members or not, in the future.
Here in this passage, GOD presents us three hypothetical case examples to show how we as individuals are responsible for our own choices in life:

·         In case number one HE presents to us, the example of a righteous man who does what is lawful and right under GOD. He does not worships idols, or engage in forbidden sexual activities such as adultery, homosexuality, etc. He is merciful to his creditors, does not rob the poor, he gives food to the hungry and provides clothing to those in need. He gives loans without interest, stays away from injustice, and faithfully considers at all times, what is right by GOD. This particular person is just, and will be honored, and be allowed to live with GOD in eternity.
·         In case number two GOD presents us with another supposition. Suppose the son of that same righteous man grew up to be a robber, or a murderer and just refuses to do right, in fact, he does exactly the opposite of the father. Should such a sinful person go unpunished because of the reputation of his father? No! GOD says, that person must be punished according to his own iniquities, and not spared because of his father’s righteous behavior.
·         In the third case scenario GOD says, “Suppose that sinful son, in turn, has a son, who sees his father’s wickedness and decides against that kind of lifestyle” for himself. He, instead, chooses to live the righteous lifestyle of his grandfather. That son will not be punished because of his father’s sins, but rather will be blessed as his grandfather was. And bear in mind, it is not because of his grandfather’s righteous choices and decisions that he is blessed, but rather, it will be because he himself personally made the right choices under GOD.

When we blame others for our faults and misfortunes, we inevitably deny our own guilt, and, through human ingenuity, claim innocence and perfection, that, in our own minds, justify our sinful behavior against GOD. In this passage of scripture, GOD is clearly saying, in no uncertain terms, that, “the person who sins is the person who pays the consequences”, not our children, and, not anyone else.
Every human being has to make an account for the deeds done in his or her lifetime. GOD will judge each of us according to our own actions, good or bad, and so we must turn away from our sins and be drawn instead to the more GODly things in life, lest we allow our sins to destroy us. We have to put our rebellious ways behind us, in order that we may grasp and obtain “a new heart” (new GODly way of thinking), and “a new SPIRIT” (new GODly influence), walking in “the newness of life”, that is, CHRIST JESUS. When we make the right and GODly decisions, GOD’s mercy towards us will “win out” over HIS judgment against us (James 2:13b).
GOD does not wish to see any of us perish by permanently separating ourselves from HIM through our sins. Instead, HE wishes for us live eternally with HIM through our new found relationship with CHRIST JESUS. GOD does not enjoy punishing us for sins, but rather HE relishes in the thought that we will choose to be blessed by HIM for our obedience.
GOD’s wish has always been that all men will be saved by their freedom to choose CHRIST JESUS over the lure of satan, who wishes for us to lose our hearts to the temporal pleasures of this world, and thereby, follow him into the pits of Hell.
In Ezekiel 19 we see a “dirge”, “lament”, or, “funeral song” composed especially for the kings of Israel (who are actually referred to as “princes” in this passage) who had led the nation into sin and rebellion against GOD. This is the first of five funeral songs in the book of Ezekiel, the one here directed against Israel, three others that were directed against Tyre (26:17-18, 27:32-36, 28:12-19), and a fourth directed against Egypt (32:1-16).
These songs are usually recited in honor of the dead, and they expressed the good qualities of that person, and the tragedy felt by their death. Israel’s last human hope was that Zedekiah would be able to free them from the yoke of oppression that was put on them, in their minds, by Nebuchadnazzer. They still hadn’t accepted the fact that it was GOD, not Babylon, who was in control of their destiny.
Here in chapter 19 Ezekiel dashes Israel’s false hopes in a funeral lament that is chanted over Israel’s leaders, specifically, Jehoahaz, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah, the last three “cubs of the lioness”, in “the Davidic Line of kings”. Jehoahaz had been captured and taken to Egypt by Pharaoh Neco, where he later died. Jehoiachin had already been captured by the Babylonians in their first invasion in 605 B.C., and now Zedekiah, was destined to be taken into captivity in Babylon in less than five years (586 B.C.). And so Israel’s obituary is written well before the ultimate fall of Jerusalem, and it was being sung here for the Davidic Dynasty, and the end of its rule (Vs.1-9).
In verse 10-14, we see encrypted into this funeral song, the fourth of the Old Testament’s five “Vineyard Analogies” that GOD uses to depict the nation of Israel.

10“Your mother was like a vine
    planted by the water’s edge.
It had lush, green foliage
    because of the abundant water.
11 Its branches became strong—
    strong enough to be a ruler’s scepter.
It grew very tall,
    towering above all others.
It stood out because of its height
    and its many lush branches.
12 But the vine was uprooted in fury
    and thrown down to the ground.
The desert wind dried up its fruit
    and tore off its strong branches,
so that it withered
    and was destroyed by fire.
13 Now the vine is transplanted to the wilderness,
    where the ground is hard and dry.
14 A fire has burst out from its branches
    and devoured its fruit.
Its remaining limbs are not
    strong enough to be a ruler’s scepter.
“This is a funeral song, and it will be used in a funeral.” (NLT)
Ezekiel had already stated in chapters 16 and 17 just why Israel went from a state of blessings, to a state of disaster. Israel (the vine) had forgotten the source of her blessing, and here in this analogy, we can clearly see how Israel’s past glory contrasted sharply with the condition that she now appears to be in, in the final years leading up to the Babylonian invasion and destruction, at the hands of Nebuchadnazzer, the worker of GOD’s judgment.
We know now that ultimately, Israel fell to Babylon, and GOD’s judgment also affected the royal Davidic line of kings. These prophecies against Judah, all focus on her history and that history now records, that, after Zedekiah, no king from the Davidic line ever replaced him. In fact, it will not be until CHRIST returns, that a ROYAL KING, in the line of David (JESUS) will come to reign, not only over Israel, but indeed, over the whole world. 

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

                                           LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

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