Ezekiel 18:1-4; 25-32 (NRSV)
Chapter 18The word of the Lord came to me: Verse 2What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, "The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge"? Verse 3As I live, says the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Verse 4Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die. Verse 25Yet you say, "The way of the Lord is unfair." Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? Verse 26When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. Verse 27Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. Verse 28Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die. Verse 29Yet the house of Israel says, "The way of the Lord is unfair." O house of Israel, are my ways unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?
Verse 30Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. Verse 31Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? Verse 32For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live.
What did I do to deserve this? In exile in Babylon the people of Israel wonder. Is it fair for God to punish them for what their parents did? But the prophet points out that they are suffering for their own sins: “It is only the person who sins that shall die.” (vs. 24). They aren’t being punished for what someone else did. God is calling the people of Israel to turn from their self-deceit: “Turn away from all your transgressions, otherwise iniquity will be your ruin,” (vs. 30). They are being given a chance to repent, to turn back to the Lord. They’ve been on the wrong path, and God is setting the true path in their sight. “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn then and live,” (vs. 32).
God, help us understand the reality of our lives, and by your Spirit help us to see ourselves clearly. Amen.