“Yet saith the house of Israel, The way of the Lord is not equal. O house of Israel, are not my ways equal? are not your ways unequal? Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord God. Repent and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin” (Eze. 18:29-30).
Ezekiel was told of a people who saw themselves as victims. They used the proverb, ”The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Eze. 18:2). In other words, the blame was put on the previous generation while the next generation claimed innocence claiming unfair treatment. The eighteenth chapter of Ezekiel is a classic explanation of how the Lord deals with sin and righteousness. Consider the three aspects of God’s righteous ways.
- Treatment of the Righteous. The first example is that of a person who strives to follow the will of God. Ezekiel wrote, “But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right, . . . Hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly; he is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord God” (Eze. 18:5-9). While doing what is lawful and right does not mean sinless perfection in that he would be walking in the statutes that would involve sacrifices for sin, he would not be practicing the sinfulness outlined in verses six through eight. In other words, he would be seeking to walk in the light of God’s revelation. This would be illustrated by Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, etc. (cf. Heb. 11:2ff). Ezekiel further illustrated a righteous one in a son who saw his father’s sins “and considereth, and doeth not such like” (Eze. 18:14). Since the son refused to follow the wickedness of his father’s ways and “hath executed my judgments, hath walked in my statutes; he shall not die for the iniquity of his father, he shall surely live” (Eze. 18:17). Therefore, following God’s righteous laws brought blessing, not a curse.
- Treatment of the Rebellious. Ezekiel follows the example of a righteous father with a rebellious son (cf. Eze. 18:10-13). Though the father practiced the will of the Lord, the son would not benefit such blessings if he did not personally follow the same course. It is clearly stated, “he shall not live: he hath done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him” (Eze. 18:13). Following up with a son that sees the father’s wickedness and does not walk in such ways, there is still the emphasis that the father who would not turn from his wickedness “lo, even he shall die in his iniquity” (Eze. 18:18). Therefore, personal sin brings personal judgment (cf. Eze. 18:20).
- Treatment of the Repentant. The heart of the message of chapter eighteen is in the emphasis on the need for repentance. If the wicked would turn from his sins and keep the statutes and what is lawful and right, then “he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live” (Eze. 18:21-22). Note also if a righteous one turns from righteousness and pursues wickedness, he shall die (cf. Eze. 18:24). God’s righteous way is clearly set forth to bless the pursuit of obedience and to punish the way of the wicked who will not repent. While sin must be punished where not repented, God does not desire to punish (cf. Eze. 18:31-32).