Ezekiel 18

Our Righteous God.

“Therefore, I will judge each of you, O people of Israel, according to your actions, says the Sovereign Lord. Repent, and turn from your sins. Don’t let them destroy you! Put all your rebellion behind you, and find yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O people of Israel? I don’t want you to die, says the Sovereign Lord. Turn back and live!” – Ezekiel 18:31-33 NLT

There was a common proverb among the Israelites in Ezekiel’s day that said, “The parents have eaten sour grapes, but their children’s mouths pucker at the taste.” It was a subtle form of the blame game. Rather than accept responsibility for their sins and the subsequent consequences, they preferred to blame their problems on their ancestors. In the case of the Israelites, there was no doubt about the sinful behavior of their forefathers. God had made it clear that previous generations had failed to live their lives in faithful obedience to Him. But He was not going to allow the present generation to blame their current condition on others. They were just as guilty and just as deserving of punishment as their grandparents and parents had been. God was clearing up a common misunderstanding in their day and letting them know that each and every individual was responsible for their own behavior. “What?’ you ask. ‘Doesn’t the child pay for the parent’s sins?’ No! For if the child does what is just and right and keeps my decrees, that child will surely live. The person who sins is the one who will die. The child will not be punished for the parent’s sins, and the parent will not be punished for the child’s sins. Righteous people will be rewarded for their own righteous behavior, and wicked people will be punished for their own wickedness” (Ezekiel 18:19-20 NLT).

Then God shares something that is highly confusing and disturbing for us as believers to read. “However, if righteous people turn from their righteous behavior and start doing sinful things and act like other sinners, should they be allowed to live? No, of course not! All their righteous acts will be forgotten, and they will die for their sins” (Ezekiel 18:24 NLT). Wow! If I read that passage correctly, it sounds like if I suddenly fail to live righteously, everything I have done that was righteous up until that point will become null and void, and I will end up dying for my sins. At first glance, it appears as if this passage is saying I can lose my salvation just for sinning. I am responsible for living a righteous life – continually and consistently. As long as I do, I am safe. But if I fail to do so, I am condemned. But we have to remember that this passage was written before the cross. It is stating the condition of things prior to the Good News of Jesus Christ. And what makes the Good News good news is that when God sent His Son into the world, He was providing a way for men to get right with Him and stay right with Him that was not going to be based on SELF-righteousness. No longer would the requirement be that I somehow live a righteous life in my own strength. I would no longer be expected to live up to God’s righteous standard on my own. And let’s face it, God’s standard of righteousness was demanding. He expected obedience, faithfulness, adherence to His Law and unflinching worship of Him and Him alone. And no man was able to meet that standard. Which is why He sent His Son. Because God is righteous and holy, He could not lower His standard to accommodate man’s weakness, so He sent His own Son to earth as a man to live a purely righteous life and die a sinless death on our behalf. Jesus Christ did what no man before Him had ever or could ever have done. He met God’s righteous standard and paid the high price for man’s sinfulness with His own death on the cross. And God was satisfied. So in return, those who place their faith in His Son receive His righteousness. He took my sin upon Himself on the cross and exchanged it with His righteousness. So that now, when God looks at me, He sees me as righteous because of the blood of Jesus Christ. When I read the Old Testament, I am reminded of just how great the gift is that I have received. There was a time when men were expected to earn and keep God’s favor on their own. They were required to meet the exacting standards of God’s righteousness or reap the consequences. But because of what Christ has done, my righteousness is no longer based on what I do. Now that does not free me to live my life in sin, expecting God’s grace to overlook my guilt and excuse it with a dismissive boys-will-be-boys attitude. “Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2 NLT). Because of Christ’s sacrificial, substitionary death on the cross, I have been given a new capacity to NOT sin. I don’t have to sin. I am no longer a slave to sin. I can obey the Spirit of God who lives within me. I have a new heart and a new power to live righteously. Paul tells us, “For everyone has sinned; we fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood” (Romans 3:23-25 NLT). I was once a sinner, responsible and culpable for own sinful behavior. I was guilty and deserving of death. But God sent His Son to pay the penalty for my sin and die the death that I deserved. God showered me with His grace and gave me something I didn’t deserve – salvation. He extended mercy, and didn’t give me what I DID deserve – death. “God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus” (Romans 3:26 NLT).

Father, You are a righteous, holy God and Your standards are perfect. When man could not live up to your standards, You sent Your Son to do what we could not do. He lived the life we couldn’t live and paid the price for our sin we deserved to pay. Now we enjoy a right standing with You – all because of Him. Thank You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men