4 October 2007

Ezekiel 18:5-24

"A child shall not suffer for the iniquity of a parent, nor a parent suffer for the iniquity of a child; the righteousness of the righteous shall be his own, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be his own". (v.20)


The book of Ezekiel contains the God-given messages and visions of the prophet Ezekiel, who was one of those taken into exile in Babylonia by Nebuchadnezzar II in 597 BC. This was a traumatic time for the people of Israel and the city of Jerusalem. In these early chapters Ezekiel focuses on sin and punishment and warnings of further disasters. 

God's people have been so faithless and disobedient that the remedy required is the extreme one of destruction and exile. They have resorted to the worship of idols; they have broken God's covenant in the agreements they have made with other nations; lawlessness and violence are to be found everywhere. 

In an attempt to avoid their responsibilities, the people are claiming that they are being punished for the sins committed by their ancestors. Ezekiel is keen to reject such a view and in a rather long-winded manner does so; each person and generation has to accept responsibility for their behaviour and its consequences. 

Thankfully, this message of judgement is not the final word. If the people will turn away from their wrongdoing there is the promise of forgiveness and restoration; in the case of Israel a return from exile and a renewed prosperity. Such a promise is rooted in the gracious love of God.

To Ponder

How easy it is to seek to avoid responsibility and to deflect blame on to others. Are there situations of injustice or suffering for which we ought to take a greater responsibility and what could we do to effect change?

To repent means to turn around and face a new direction. Where is there a need for you to do just that?

Forgiveness is not to be earned; it is a free gift of God to be gratefully received. Give some attention to receiving the gift.

Bible notes author

The Revd Graham Jones

Graham Jones is a Methodist presbyter serving as a member of the Discipleship and Ministries Learning Network in the Yorkshire Plus region of the Methodist Church, with particular responsibility for ministry development. Graham is committed to developing ministry in its broadest sense, enabling both lay and ordained to live out their vocations, and to share in God's mission in the most fulfilling and effective ways.