John Carter – January 15, 2017 – Ezekiel 18
Fearfully Made in The Image of the Living God & Those Who Seek to Destroy That Image – Ezekiel 18
Ever since 1970 it has been legal to abort unwanted babies. According to pubic data it is estimated that during 1970 to 2013 there have been 43,963,070 abortions in the US. That means that there were 1.89 Abortions per minute for those 44 years. That number should cause your stomach to sink. Unfortunately the numbers are worse than that. “During 2010–2014, an estimated 56 million induced abortions occurred each year worldwide.” That means that in 2014 an estimated 106 babies were aborted every minute. It is depressing, maybe even numbing to hear these numbers. But these numbers do not even include undocumented abortions, and deaths from euthanasia, or even the number of people that die from war and violence.
You would do well to ask, “why are you bringing up these numbers and directing attention to this issue?” I am addressing this issue primarily because this is a Biblical issue. Secondarily, January 22, 2017 is Sanctity of Life Sunday where many Christians around the country take a moment to specifically mourn and pray over this disastrous reality. It is a sad reality that we who bear the image of God, so willingly, kill other image bearers of God. Not only do we do this through abortion but we also do this through euthanasia, through war and even through words. It is my hope that as we see and hear the word of God in Ezekiel 18 we will each better orient our minds on the truth that God finds “no pleasure in the death of anyone.” (Ez. 18:32)
In Ezekiel 18 we find that the word of God that was delivered to Ezekiel was dealing with the House of Israel (v30) who had been deported to Babylon. They were an arrogant people who were refusing to accept why they were in exile. Their arrogance had grown to such a degree that they were beginning to call YHWH unjust in his judgments. They believed that the sins of their fathers were not their sins and so therefore their current exile was unjustified. This is where we pick up in the text.
18:1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? 3 As I live, declares the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. 4 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.
5 “If a man is righteous and does what is just and right— 6 if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman in her time of menstrual impurity, 7 does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, 8 does not lend at interest or take any profit, withholds his hand from injustice, executes true justice between man and man, 9 walks in my statutes, and keeps my rules by acting faithfully—he is righteous; he shall surely live, declares the Lord God.
10 “If he fathers a son who is violent, a shedder of blood, who does any of these things 11 (though he himself did none of these things), who even eats upon the mountains, defiles his neighbor’s wife, 12 oppresses the poor and needy, commits robbery, does not restore the pledge, lifts up his eyes to the idols, commits abomination, 13 lends at interest, and takes profit; shall he then live? He shall not live. He has done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon himself.
14 “Now suppose this man fathers a son who sees all the sins that his father has done; he sees, and does not do likewise: 15 he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife, 16 does not oppress anyone, exacts no pledge, commits no robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, 17 withholds his hand from iniquity, takes no interest or profit, obeys my rules, and walks in my statutes; he shall not die for his father’s iniquity; he shall surely live. 18 As for his father, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother, and did what is not good among his people, behold, he shall die for his iniquity.
19 “Yet you say, ‘Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?’ When the son has done what is just and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. 20 The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.
21 “But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 22 None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. 23 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? 24 But when a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice and does the same abominations that the wicked person does, shall he live? None of the righteous deeds that he has done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which he is guilty and the sin he has committed, for them he shall die.
25 “Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? 26 When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die. 27 Again, when a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life. 28 Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions that he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 29 Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, are my ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?
30 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.”
We see YHWH acting as judge in verse 4 (‘All souls are mine’), verse 9 (‘he is righteous; he shall surely live declares YHWH’), verse 11 (‘he shall not live, he shall surely die’), verse 17 (‘he shall surely live’), verse 18 (‘he shall die’), verse 19 (‘he shall surely live’), verse 20, verse 21 (‘he shall surely live’), verse 24 (‘he shall die’), verse 26 (‘he shall die’), verse 27 (‘he shall save his life’), verse 28 (‘he shall surely live; he shall not die’) and verse 30 (‘I will judge you’). His final statement is that he will judge each person of the House of Israel according to his or her ways. For an Israelite, this would bring to mind Exodus 21:22-25.
When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
We see here that that God not only judges generally but he judges specifically. Further, he not only judges corporately but he also judges personally. The fact that God judges anyone is an offensive doctrine in our present culture. It is offensive to the wicked and it is offensive to the self-righteous. Remember, it was primarily the Pharisees and religious leaders who were offended by the judgments of Jesus.
THE SIN OF DEVALUING GOD
Consider the words of the prophet Jeremiah when he is prophesying and says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (17:9) I can show this by simply asking you to consider your thoughts. So far as I have spoken about the wicked and the righteous. Who do you most associate with? Would you most associate yourself with the wicked person or the righteous person? Let me ask that another way. When I mentioned the wicked were you thinking primarily of things you need to repent of or things others need to repent of? Interestingly in an act of self-righteousness we might call ourselves sinners saved by grace, but we still tend to think primary of other people who are more in need of repenting than ourselves. This only scratches the surface of what Jeremiah meant when he called our heart ‘deceitful above all things.’
We more easily identify the sins of other because we fail to recognize the depth of the consequences of our own sins. We think when we have sinned we have only sinned against another. But the gravity (the weight) of sin is not most clearly seen when we only consider the human(s) that we have sinned against. Rather the gravity of sin is most clearly seen when we see that all sin is truly against YHWH (Psalm 51:4); who is the fearfully-wonderful living God and who demands perfect holiness.
When we sin against another human we not only mar their image. Instead, and most grievous, we mar the image of the one in whose image that every human was created in. When we sin against another we mar an image bearer of God. This in effect is marring the image of God. It is for this reason why the Son of God had to die to repair the marred image of God. I don’t think we ever quite get our heads wrapped around this. When you sin against you father, your mother, your husband, your wife, your brother, your sister, your boss, your co-worker, your neighbor, and even your enemy, you are assaulting the image of God. And if God continues to use Exodus 21:22-25 as a model of his standard of judgment then YHWH demands your image for his. Which is why it was necessary to send himself as Jesus of Nazareth (the Christ); the only acceptable sacrifice to repair the damage that was done by sinful man and sinful woman. Although the repair has been made, that does not mean all receive the benefit of such repair. God’s wrath still burns the sin that still tries to stain his holiness.
One might yell, “Where is the grace of God? Where is the mercy of God? I’m a good person. I do good things. I do my best to live a good life. Why must I suffer the wrath of God?” And the word of God responds, “Here is the grace, mere is the mercy… Repent and sin no more!” It is not good enough to do good. You must also turn from evil. This is because all that is stained with sin will be consumed by his wrath. The only alternative to wrath is repentance. Those who acknowledge their sin against YHWH and repent, they will escape the certain wrath of God.
This escape is possible because of the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ—through whom there is forgiveness for those who repent. Forgiveness is not for those who feel bad and keep doing the same evil things. Forgiveness is for those who cry out for mercy and turn away from sinful habits, actions, and even belief systems. It says in the Gospel of Matthew 4:17 that “from that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Or in the Gospel of Mark 1:14-15 “now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” Repentance was not a minor issue to the Jesus. It was his first recorded messages according to Matthew and Mark. But Peter a disciple of Christ also taught that all people should,
“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago” (Acts 3:19-21).
And Paul, the persucuter turned martyr, said in his letter to the church in Corinth, “Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame” (1 Corinthians 15:34).
It is at this point that the word prophesied by Ezekiel becomes clear, “God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezekiel 18:23). There is not a single sinner in the world who has died that God found pleasure in. God’s holiness demands that his wrath must be poured out on any who infringe upon it. But his love provides opportunity for any who might repent to be forgiven and to live.
THE VALUE OF A HUMAN LIFE
This of course begs the question, if God went to such great lengths to save those who have sinned, then why would we for a moment find it acceptable to devalue the life of any human? Not just reckless evil sinners, like you and I, but even those who have not yet been born? YHWH didn’t just say that he doesn’t take ‘pleasure in the death of the wicked’ (Ezekiel 18:23), he goes further to say that he doesn’t take ‘pleasure in the death of anyone’ (Ezekiel 18:32). From this statement we can conclude that abortion is a sin against God on two accounts. First (1), abortion is killing a person who has been created in the image of God. Second (2), abortion is delighting in something that God does not delight in. In fact, it is delighting in something that mars his image. You cannot kill an unborn child and expect God to believe you when you say you value who he is any more than you can murder your enemy and claim that you value who God is.
But the discussion does not just end with abortion. The discussion must also expand its sights on other human life issues. For example, racism is also a sin against God and his image because through racism you are saying certain people are more important to God than others. But Paul destroys this lie when he says, “there is neither Jew nor Greek” (Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11). In other words, there are not people who are important to God and people who are not important to God. You cannot fly the flag of racism on one day and expect God to accept your worship on another. You cannot murder and you cannot hate another human while singing the praises of God. That is hypocrisy.
THE GOSPEL AND SANCTIFICATION
There are two specific ways that we should take and apply this prophecy of Ezekiel 18. The first (1) way is that we should go and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. The second (2) way is that we should purge that which is evil from among us.
(1) Preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ may not seem like an appropriate response. But without hearing the Gospel how is one ever to repent? Was it not Paul who said that no one can call on the name of the Lord unless someone is sent to preach the gospel (Romans 10)? We must regularly preach the gospel to ourselves so that we are reminded that we need to repent and be saved so that we might live. Yet we also need to preach the gospel to others so that they too might hear, believe and call on the name of the Lord, Jesus. Because there is no other name by which we MUST be saved (Acts 4:12).
Even more, when we preach the gospel we validate the worth of the lives of those to whom we preach. Think about that reality. That every time you communicate the Gospel to another human, you are demonstrating the worth of their life. You are communicating to them why they exist and clarifying their greater purpose for existence.
That is why (2) purging that which is evil from among us is the next natural application of this text. Many people falsely believe that judging and Christianity have nothing to do with each other. But that is an illegitimate interpretation of the Scriptures. I have never heard a fireman accused of being judgmental for saying that, ‘a building is on fire and anyone inside is going to die if they do not get out.’ In fact, it is the job of the fireman to make such statements. Further, it is also the job of the fireman to hold to a different standard of living then those who are not firemen. A fireman who is an arsonist will, and should be, fired. In the same fashion, Christians should let everyone know that a fiery end will meet anyone who refuses to repent and turn to God. Further, Christians must remove wicked people from among themselves. Just like Paul said in his letter to the church in Corinth, “God judges those outside. ‘Purge the evil person from among you’” (1 Corinthians 5:13). Our message and our life should match.
We must all come to the realization that a life of rebellion to God will result in in terrifying judgment. But to those who repent wonderful and joyous life will be enjoyed forever. But just because we repent that does not mean that we are free from the responsibilities of the gospel and the truth that YHWH does not take ‘pleasure in the death of anyone’ (Ezekiel 18:32). Instead, those who turn from their sin are bound by truth to forever seek the glory and pleasure of the fearful and beautiful living God. We are bound because we are Fearfully Made in The Image of the Living God. That is why we must never take pleasure in Those Who Seek to Destroy That Image. But instead we must take pleasure in offering life to a dying people. Which is why we say, like the prophecy Ezekiel, “Turn and Live” (19:32)!
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion_statistics_in_the_United_States – Accessed January 12, 2017
 44 years x 365 day + 11 (leap years) = 16,071 Days x 24 x 60 = 23,142,240 Minutes = 1.89 Abortions per minute. If all of the abortions that happened in the US between 1970-2013 happened this year it would result in 83 abortions every minute. (525,600 minutes in a year).
 https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/induced-abortion-worldwide – Accessed January 12, 2017
 365 x 24 x 60 = 106.54 abortions per minute
 https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ezekiel+18 Accessed January 14, 2017