Responsibility and Accountability – 2

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Scripture Text – Ezekiel 18-21

Responsibility is one of the major themes of these four chapters. By dealing with the subject of personal and national responsibility, Ezekiel was able to answer the frequent complaints of the people that the Lord was treating them unfairly. Responsibility and accountability are needed themes in our own day. Irresponsibility is rampant and very few people are willing to take the blame for wrongs committed or mistakes made.

Individual Responsibility – Continued

Please read Ezekiel 18:1-32 for the background to this section.

You cannot blame your ancestors (Ezekiel 18:5–18). The prophet refutes the proverb by imagining a situation involving three men in a family, people with whom his listeners certainly could identify. He began with a righteous father, a hypothetical Jew who kept God’s law and therefore was just and would not die because of sin. Death is frequently mentioned throughout this whole chapter and refers to physical death and not necessarily eternal punishment, although any Jew who didn’t exercise saving faith in the Lord would not be accepted by Him. Whether people lived under the Old Covenant or the New Covenant, before or since the cross, the way of salvation is the same; faith in the Lord that is evidenced by a new life of obedience (Hebrews 11:6; Habakkuk 2:4; and see Romans 4).

In describing this righteous man, Ezekiel named eight negative offenses along with eight positive virtues. The negative sins this man avoids are:

  • attending idol feasts in the “high places,”
  • worshiping idols in his own land,
  • committing adultery,
  • incurring ritual uncleanness,
  • exploiting people,
  • using violence to rob people,
  • lending money with interest,
  • demanding a profit.

The eight positive virtues are:

  • returning a debtor’s pledge,
  • feeding the hungry,
  • clothing the naked,
  • living justly,
  • promoting justice,
  • living by God’s statutes,
  • obeying God’s ordinances,
  • living with integrity.

et new heart - spirit

These offenses and virtues are mentioned in the “Law of Moses” but the man acted as he did because he loved God and had “a new heart and a new spirit” within him. He put God first in his life, treated people with kindness and mercy, and used his material wealth to honor God and serve others. As evidence of his faith in Jehovah, he obeyed the two great commandments of the law, to love the Lord and to love his neighbor (Matthew 22:34–40).

This righteous father had an unrighteous son (Ezekiel 18:10–13). About them Ezekiel had nothing good to say. He listed nine offenses against God’s law, three of them capital crimes: murder, idolatry, and adultery. This godless son exploited the poor and took interest from his debtors. He never returned the debtor’s pledge (Exodus 22:26; Deuteronomy 24:12–13) and he did all he could to make a profit, even if it meant hurting people and defying God’s laws in the process. The verdict is clear: “he shall surely die.”

The third character in this drama was a righteous grandson (Ezekiel 18:14–18). How strange that the godly man of verses 5–9 should raise an ungodly son who himself had a godly son! The grandson followed the righteous example of his grandfather and not the evil example of his father. King Hezekiah was a godly father whose son Manasseh was evil, although late in life he did repent. Manasseh’s son Amon was evil, but he fathered godly King Josiah! (See Matthew 1:10–11). The ways of the Lord are sometimes strange and hard to comprehend, “but where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.” – Romans 5:20.

Twelve godly character traits are mentioned about this third man. The four that are lacking are ritual cleanness, living justly, promoting justice, and acting with integrity. This doesn’t mean that the man was actually guilty of these sins, because the first list doesn’t mention every possible law in the Mosaic code. The point is that the third man, the grandson, resisted the bad influence in the home and obeyed the Lord in spite of his father’s bad example. The Lord didn’t condemn to death the grandson because of his father’s sins or even spare him because of his grandfather’s righteousness, but dealt with the man on the basis his own faith and righteousness.

You can blame yourselves (Ezekiel 18:19–24). In this part of his message, Ezekiel responded to the questions of his hearers given in verse 19, just as he had responded to their question in verse 2. He described a wicked man who repented, turned from his sins, and lived, and then described a righteous man who returned to his sins and died in them. The lesson from these two examples is obvious and answered their questions; people determine their own character and destiny by the decisions that they make. Neither the exiles in Babylon nor the citizens in Jerusalem were the prisoners and victims of some cosmic conspiracy that forced them to act as they did. Their own unbelief (remember, they rejected Jeremiah’s message) and disobedience (they worshiped pagan idols and defiled the temple) brought the Babylonian army to their gates as God’s tool; and Zedekiah’s breaking of the covenant with Nebuchadnezzar brought the army back to destroy Jerusalem.

To Be Continued

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Adaptation of excerpts from Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Reverent, “Be” Commentary Series.
Unless otherwise noted, Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, NKJV © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.

About Roland Ledoux

Pastor of Oasis Bible Ministry, an outreach ministry of teaching, encouragement and intercessory prayer from the Holy Bible, the written Word of God and author of the ministry website, For The Love of God. He lives in Delta, Colorado with his beautiful wife of 50+ years and a beautiful yellow lab whom they affectionately call Bella.
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