In chapter 18 of Ezekiel the prophet deals with the Israelites because of a mindset that has entered in to their collective conscience based on this proverb:
"The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge" (Ezekiel 18:2).
For some reason this proverb had become a mantra for the Israelites. This proverb communicates the perception that the failures of the previous generation have reaped negative results for the current generation. This proverb is not untrue. At the time of the writing of Ezekiel the Israelites have been exiled to Babylon because of the sin of the previous generations.
But there is something more happening here.
This proverb has become the anthem by which the Israelites free themselves of personal responsibility.
It is the excuse that is used for their lot in life.
It is a reason to blame others for their issues.
"It's not my fault. They did this to me."
Does this attitude sound at all familiar in our culture?
This mentality had gripped the Israelites and God takes it upon himself to deal with it.
God speaks through Ezekiel concerning this proverb and says, "As I live, declares the Lord, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die" (Ezekiel 18:3-4).
What is the point that God is making?
God is telling the Israelites that there is personal responsibility for their spiritual actions. The soul of the father is responsible to God and the soul of the son is responsible to God regardless of the actions of the other. God goes on in verses 5-20 to emphasize that a person who lives a righteous life will receive their reward from God while a person who lives a wicked life shall receive judgment from God. It is all about personal responsibility.
But God is clear that it is not his desire that the wicked should be judged and die. God says, "Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?" (Ezekiel 18:23).
God declares that if a person turns away from a life of wickedness and obeys he will surely live and not die (Ezekiel 18:21). On the flip side, if a person was obedient and falls into a life of wickedness, he shall be punished (Ezekiel 18:24).
God makes it clear that he will judge every person according to his own ways (Ezekiel 18:30). This means that an individuals right standing before God is a person one. It is not about the righteousness of an individuals parents or grandparents nor is it about the failings of ones ancestors. Ezekiel clearly indicates that God deals with salvation on a personal level.
I have met people over the years who, when asked about their faith, will reference a grandparent or close family member who had a strong relationship with God, and they speak of their own faith as being tied to their faith. In other words, people can assume salvation because of their family history. But this is not how salvation or a relationship with God works. A relationship with God does not come via proxy, it comes by a personal decision of surrender and repentance.
In the last part of chapter 18, God says something profound, "For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn and live" (Ezekiel 18:32). This is the Gospel message that is confirmed later in John 3:16 and 2 Peter 3:9. The message of the Gospel is that God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to faith in Him through Jesus.
How does this happen?
God makes it clear by petitioning to the Israelites, "Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!" (Ezekiel 18:30-31).
Your relationship with God does not depend on parents, grandparents, or anyone else. Repentance and surrender are personal decisions that determine your relationship with God.
Faith or lack of faith in an individuals family history does not mean anything.
The issue at hand is personal responsibility.
This is the Gospel according to Ezekiel.
If you have never made a personal decision for Jesus then I would like to walk you through a prayer of repentance and surrender. Use this prayer as a guide to help you make a personal decision for Jesus today.
I realize that I have sinned. I realize that I am not in right standing with you. I ask you to forgive me for my sins. Thank you for sending your Son, Jesus, to die in my place for my sins. I receive the new life that you offer me. I surrendering my life to you and commit to follow you the rest of my life.
If you prayed this prayer than please email me so that I can give you some guidance in your next steps as a follower of Jesus. This is the greatest decision that you can make and I want to help you as you being this journey.