Vol.XI No.VI Pg.4
August 1974

Sour Grapes And Justice

Robert F. Turner

Ezekiel 18: is a marvelous chapter on the fairness and justice of God. Its message is in an Old Testament setting, but it portrays an attribute of God which is unchanged; and it should be read today — with care.

The Israelites had a proverb: The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the childrens teeth are set on edge —by which they blamed their troubles on an earlier generation. God said, yes, your fathers sinned, but ye have done evil more than your fathers. Every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge. (Jer. 16:l0-f. 31:29-30)

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 physical and environmental consequences of one generations sin may affect generations to come (Ex. 20:5, 34:7) but God categorically denies that the guilt of one is passed to another. By one man (Adam) sin entered the world, and so spiritual death; but all die (spiritually) for that all have sinned. (Rom. 5:12) THE death (see Greek) and THE righteousness (the extremes, viewed metaphorically) are through or by Adam and Christ respectively. But we are condemned as individuals, on the basis of individual sins; and made righteous, through forgiveness, as we individually come to Christ. (Rom. 5:17-21, Acts 2:38-41) As Ezekiel records: Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord Jehovah. (v.30) We have such a God now. (Rom. 2:2-11)

Our text also shows that man can change — from wicked to righteous and from righteous to wicked. Free agency is not limited to a one-way street. If the wicked turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes...he shall surely live. But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness ... None of his righteous deeds...shall be remembered in his trespass...and in his sin in them shall he die. (Vs. 21-24)

We are not judged by our past performance. To put it in N.T. words, it is not enough that we once came into: Gods light; we must continue walking in the light. The Jew pointed to his ancestry and past glory; and we drag out our baptismal certificate but God says, What are you now! Are you striving to follow me today? If you have been tempted to believe some sort of cloak of righteousness is spread over the impenitent sinner that his past answers for today, read Ezek. 18: carefully. (And study the subjunctive present IF we walk and confess of 1 Jn. 1:7-9.)

God says, through Ezekiel, For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth,-- wherefore turn you selves, and live. (v. 32) This idea is expressed in 2 Pet. 3:9 where are told, The Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. The decision, in this life, is ours. We say Yes or No to God — for a time! But we must meet Him in final judgement, where He will determine our eternal destiny. Are we doomed to repeat the errors of Ezekiels day despite our advantage in Christ??