Responsibility and Accountability – 5

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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.

National Responsibility

Please read Ezekiel 20:1-44 for the background to this section.

Ezekiel delivered this message in about August of 591 B.C., to some of the Jewish elders who came to his house to “inquire of the Lord.” But the prophet knew that their hearts were not right with God and that they had no right to ask the Lord for instruction (see also Ezekiel 14:1–3; 33:30–33). A willingness to submit to the Lord and obey Him is the mark of the person who can seek God’s guidance and expect to receive it. Ezekiel’s response to their request was to review the history of the nation of Israel and point out the repeated rebellion of the people and the long-suffering of their gracious Lord.

The American editor and writer Norman Cousins wrote in a Saturday Review editorial from April 15, 1978, “History is a vast early warning system.” But some anonymous historian has also stated, “The one thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history.” The Canadian educator and author, Dr. Laurence J. Peter, stated his perspective on this theme, “History teaches us the mistakes we are going to make.” It’s surprising then that the Jewish historians, prophets, and psalmists were honest enough to declare the sins of the nation and write them down for future generations to read! But you have to ask yourself, why? I would venture to say that aside from the fact that they were inspired by the Holy Spirit to do so, it was also so that future generations of theirs wouldn’t make the same mistakes that they made. But, alas, God’s people haven’t begun to learn the lessons, let alone obey them.

et God's plans at work

Scripture teaches that God is working out His plan for the nations (Acts 14:14–18; 17:22–31; Daniel 5:21; 7:27) and that His people Israel are at the heart of that plan. True there are many scholars who believe that Israel had their chance and all the promises now belong to the Church, but that is not what the Bible declares. Other nations are mentioned in Scripture, but primarily as they relate to Israel, for Israel is the only nation with whom God has ever entered into a covenant relationship. At Sinai, after Israel left Egypt, God gave them His law (Exodus chapters 19–24); and before they entered the Promised Land, He reaffirmed that law and gave them the terms and requirements of the covenant they had to obey in order to possess and enjoy the land (Deuteronomy chapters 5–8 and 27–30). It was because they violated the terms of the covenants that Israel, as a nation has suffered as she did.

Before we review the history of Israel and the lessons we can learn from it, we must deal with an important matter of interpretation. In chapter 18, Ezekiel taught that the children were not punished for the sins of the fathers, but in this chapter, he seems to say that the past sins of the nation (carefully documented) were the cause of Israel’s failure and the Babylonian invasion. “Will you judge them, son of man, will you judge them? Then make known to them the abominations of their fathers.” This statement from the Lord suggests that God was judging the Jews because of what their fathers had done.

However, that wasn’t what the Lord was saying to Ezekiel. By reviewing the history of the nation, God was judging that current generation because they were guilty of the same sins of unbelief and rebellion. The Prophet Jeremiah said that his generation of Jews was even worse than their fathers! (Jeremiah 16:12). In this historical summary, God proved that He had been consistent in His dealings with the Jews. But as you remember from earlier in chapter 18, the exiles had complained that God had not treated Israel fairly, but their national history proved that God was not only fair with them but also very long-suffering and merciful. God wasn’t punishing the Jews in Ezekiel’s day because of the sins their fathers committed centuries before but because Ezekiel’s contemporaries had committed the very same sins! That’s why God reviewed the history of Israel by pointing out that their present sins were the same as their ancestors from the past.

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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