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Author: Ron Graham


Ezekiel Chapters 18-19-20
—Outline and Notes

1 Context Overview

As Nebuchadnezzar’s final assult on Jerusalem draws nearer, those who are in denial are discussing God’s justice or lack of it. They say that the guilt and punishment for one generation’s errors should fall upon the following generations. If we do wrong our children should be punished, and if we are punished it is for the sins of our fathers.

Of course this is foolish, so God sets the record straight. The present generation is held accountable for their own sins, not the sins of a former generation, and not the sins of following generations. Chapter 18 is a lesson on this. The soul who sins shall die. That's what God says is fair and just.

Chapter 19 is a lament given to Ezekiel by God, concerning two sons of Josiah. They reigned in Jerusalem after Josiah’s death, but they were not good kings like their father had been. The lament is delivered as two parables, One about a lion and two of her cubs, and the other about a strong and fruitful vine reduced to a stump in a dry and thirsty land.

2 Outline of Ezekiel 18, 19, and 20

The Soul Who Sins Shall Die (Ezekiel 18).

A Lament for the sons of Josiah (Ezekiel 19).

Parable: Lion and Her Cubs

Parable of the Vine

7th YEAR (Ezekiel 20:1).

The Rebellion of Israel (Ezekiel 20).

Judgment and Restoration

A Bushfire in the Forest

3 Are the Innocent Punished?

Regarding the consequences of sin, there are two considerations that can be easily confused.

I. Punishment of Sin.

There are times when God has punished sin by destroying cities and killing wicked people. As a consequence, their families and children died too. Those who died innocent will be compensated in heaven, whilst the guilty will face eternal punishment.

When God says, "The soul who sins shall die" (Ezekiel 18:1-4) he is referring to eternal punishment, not to death of the body. It's the same as he said to Adam and Eve, "In the day that you eat of [this tree] you will surely die." (Genesis 2:17). The death they died, on the day they ate, was spiritual death.

When God in his wrath finds it necessary to punish the wicked in this world, innocent people suffer. They may even suffer death. However they are not being punished. Not all the pain and death in this world is punishment for guilt.

II. The Effects of Sin.

It is a consequence of sin that others suffer who are not guilty. Over time, even one’s children and grandchildren can suffer because of one’s sin. We probably all know of people who suffer because someone in a previous generation sinned.

For example, God tells Ezekiel that, after Jerusalem is ruined, God will gather the scattered remnant of Israelites and they will return to rebuild Jerusalem. But they will remember with loathing the wickedness and defilement of their ancestors, and the loss of beautiful Jerusalem which they will labour in hardship and pain to rebuild (Ezekiel 20:43-44).

As the word says, God is "keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children s children, to the third and the fourth generation" (Exodus 20:5, 34:7, Jeremiah 32:18)

This does not mean God punishes later generations for sins they didn't commit. Rather, it means that normally God allows the consequences of sin to run their course. This is so whether or not the person who transgressed has been forgiven.

We cannot expect God, when he forgives sin, to trace and cancel every present and future consequence of that sin upon the innocent. You don't have to think very hard to realise that this would make a very strange world.

For example suppose a drunk driver causes a crash, smashes the other car and kills the people in it. But they nevertheless remain alive, unharmed, and their car shows not a scratch because God cancels the suffering of the innocent.

So we must accept that sin causes harm sooner or later, but when that consequence falls into the lap of innocent people, they are not being punished for something they didn't do.

Furthermore God doesn't abandon the innocent who suffer. He supports them in their trials. He says, "I will never leave you or forsake you" (Deuteronomy 31:8, Hebrews 13:5).


Webservant Ron Graham

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