Thursday, April 26, 2012

Judged According to our own Ways...

In Ezekiel 18, God has a word for the nation of Israel regarding His judgement. He refutes a popular proverb of the time purporting the sins of the father carry over to the son and vice-versa. The Israelites were saying, "The fathers eat sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge", indicating that what the father does in terms of sin will carry over to his children.

God immediately forbids them to use the proverb anymore. (18:3) Moreover, He declares that every life belongs to Him - both father and son - and the person who sins is the done who will die. (18:4) When Israel cries, "The Lord's way isn't fair", God replies, "Is it My way that is unfair? Instead, isn't it your ways that are unfair?...I will judge each one of you according to his ways." (18:25, 30)

As I read this, there is both hope and a warning in what God says. While some would trust in the position of being a part of a Covenant people, the warning is that each of us are still accountable and responsible for our choices and sins. True, there is privilege and a certain measure of assurance of being a part of a corporate body but in the end, each individual member will have to answer both good and bad not only for the corporate results but their individual choices as well.

I wonder if this speaks a word to the church today? How many of us are comfortable with our corporate identity in the church? How many are banking on the fact that we are members of a group and thus our value and even destination in life goes with that group? I wonder how many of us will wake up one day to a judgement where we will say, "But Lord, we attended church faithfully, we sacrificed for You, we tithed, etc..." but then hear, "But what about the way you treated the poor or the way you shared your faith?"

It is interesting to me when God in Ezekiel 18 describes the actions of the righteous man as doing "just and right", most of what he describes in relation to our social responsibilities. He paints the picture of the righteous as (Ezekiel 18:6-9)...

* He does not eat at the mountain shrines or raise his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel (God-centered)
* He does not defile his neighbor's wife or come near a woman during menstrual impurity (Community-centered)
* He doesn't oppress anyone but returns his collateral to the debtor. (Community-centered)
* He does not commit robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with clothing. (Community-centered)
* He doesn't lend at interest for profit but keeps his hand from wrongdoing and carries out true justice between men. (Community-centered)
* He follows My statutes and keeps My ordinances, acting faithfully. (God-centered)

He then declares (18:9b) that, "Such a person is righteous; he will certainly live."

It is interesting to note that two of the descriptors are God-centered and the remaining four are fellow man-centered (societal and community relationships). It is also worthy of noting that the societal/community related righteous acts are couched within the God-centered acts (numbers 1 and 6). To me this signifies not the balance but the intricate interlacing of non-separation of love for God and love for fellow man. You cannot truly have one without the other. Both ways.

In the end, the whole discourse on God's teaching on the personal responsibility of our sins is a plea from Jehova God for His people to repent and truly turn to Him. At the end of the chapter, He sums up his word to Israel by saying (18:32)...

"'For I take no pleasure in anyone's death.' This is the declaration of the Lord God. 'So repent and live!'"

Comforting yet disturbing...judged according to our own ways... 

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