In today’s lesson, God addresses the people through Ezekiel and teaches us all an important lesson about personal accountability.
What are some common things we blame for our current situations?
The government is out of control. The boss is a jerk, my spouse doesn’t listen to me, the kids were driving me crazy, the devil made me do it. We point the finger of blame at just about everyone but ourselves.
This blame game has been going on since the beginning of time. Adam, “Don’t blame me, I didn’t take the fruit from the tree; she gave me some fruit and I ate it. In essence he was blaming God-- Gen. 3:12, “The woman you put here with me…” In other words, “Don’t blame me; you’re the one who put this woman here. If you hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t be in this mess right now.”
Eve, “Don’t blame me. I was tricked into eating it. I wouldn’t have eaten it if it hadn’t been for that serpent. And by the way, you created that serpent and put him here.”
So was God to blame? The serpent played a role in Eve eating the fruit and Eve played a role in Adam eating the fruit but ultimately, the choice was each of theirs. They didn’t have to give in. They knew the rules. They had a choice. They were perfect. They had all the power necessary to resist temptation.
While others may contribute to problems and behaviors in our lives, at some point we must step up and take personal responsibility for our own sins and our own lives.
By the time Ezekiel had received his call into the ministry, the northern kingdom of Israel had already been conquered by the Assyrians for over 100 years. Things were not looking much better for southern kingdom of Judah. Several attempts at rebellion on the part of the kings of Judah were finally met with the deportation to Babylon of 10,000 Jews, including Ezekiel, and ultimately to the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple.
And so it was in these dark days that Ezekiel was called to serve as God’s prophet. God called him, saying, “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their fathers have been in revolt against me to this very day. The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says.’ And whether they listen or fail to listen— for they are a rebellious house—they will know that a prophet has been among them” (Ezekiel 2:3-5).
Ezekiel was being sent to a people that were experiencing the harsh reality of what happens when a nation rejects God. Nevertheless, the very fact that God chose to call a prophet to speak his Word to them with the intent of leading them back to repentance demonstrates the lengths to which God will go to rescue his people.
Unfortunately, the people were having a hard time accepting that they had done anything wrong that could possibly merit the punishment of exile they were currently experiencing. Instead they laid the blame on their forefathers. They liked to quote a proverb: 18 2 “The parents ate green apples, The children got the stomachache?”
In essence they were saying: “Why should we have to endure the consequences of our parents’ and grandparents’ mistakes? They’re the ones who messed up so badly, so why is it being taken out on us? After all,” they reasoned, “it was King Manasseh’s detestable practices that got them into so much trouble. He was the one that returned to idolatry, even sacrificing his own son to false gods. He led God’s people down the path that got them into so much trouble. Take out your wrath on him and the people of his generation, not us.”
From a worldly standpoint, such an argument seems to make some sense. It has merit. But then through the mouth of his prophet Ezekiel, God set his people straight, reminding them, 3-4 “As sure as I’m the living God, you’re not going to repeat this saying in Israel any longer. Every soul—man, woman, child—belongs to me, parent and child alike. You die for your own sin, not another’s.
As adults, what are some excuses we use in avoiding personal responsibility?
What does this verse teach us about accountability and blame?
Each individual is fully accountable for their own sin and its consequences. It is not someone else’s fault, and there is no one else to blame.
Although, some things are hereditary— receding hair line, poor eyesight, and so forth; and some problems are results of our parents’ sin--children of alcoholics or abusive parents deal with emotional problems, God makes it clear that no longer would He allow us to point our accusing fingers to past generations; now He reminds us that we are accountable for our own actions.
While it may be 2600 years later, we hear a lot of the same cries of unfairness today. We lament over the deterioration of society today and want to blame someone else, even being so brash as to blame God himself, when it is our own actions that continue to corrupt the moral fibers of society.
A Nebraska state senator brought a lawsuit against his maker, requesting “a permanent injunction ordering [God] to cease certain harmful activities and the making of terroristic threats.”
Chambers, an atheist, requested that the court acknowledge the presence of God in the courtroom so he wouldn’t be required to “serve notice” of the trial.
Chambers argued he attempted to contact God on multiple occasions and he should not be required to verify his existence when the U.S. government acknowledges him by printing “In God We Trust” on its currency.
Chambers filed the lawsuit against God last year for creating “fearsome floods, egregious earthquakes, horrendous hurricanes, terrifying tornadoes, pestilential plagues, ferocious famines, devastating droughts, genocidal wars, birth defects and the like.”
Chambers also blames God for causing “calamitous catastrophes resulting in the wide-spread death, destruction and terrorization of millions upon millions of the Earth’s inhabitants including innocent babes, infants, children, the aged and infirm without mercy or distinction.”
Isaiah 63:10 (NLT) 10 But they rebelled against him and grieved his Holy Spirit. So he became their enemy and fought against them. Ezekiel 15:7 (NLT) 7 And I will see to it that if they escape from one fire, they will fall into another. When I turn against them, you will know that I am the L ORD.
Ezekiel 18:21-23 (Message) 21-23 “But a wicked person who turns his back on that life of sin and keeps all my statutes, living a just and righteous life, he’ll live, really live. He won’t die. I won’t keep a list of all the things he did wrong. He will live. Do you think I take any pleasure in the death of wicked men and women? Isn’t it my pleasure that they turn around, no longer living wrong but living right—really living?
How can a transgressor escape the just judgment that comes about as a result of their sin? What does genuine repentance look like?
What is God’s response to the one that truly repents? What is the spiritual condition of those whom God has forgiven?
Does God take pleasure in the death of the wicked? What is His will regarding them? How closely does your will regarding the wicked align with His?
25 “Do I hear you saying, ‘That’s not fair! God’s not fair!’?
Homosexuality and gay marriage continue to be promoted and demand to be tolerated. Then, when met with any sort of resistance, the blaming and excuses come out. “God made me this way. I was born like this. Should I have to suffer inequality because of the way he made me?” And the cry goes out, “The way of the Lord is not just” (v. 25a).
Pro-abortionists justify the taking of a life that God himself brought about. When met with opposition, however, they reason that abortion is in the best interest of everyone involved. “Even your Christian God wouldn’t want me to bear this burden of a child at this time.” The shout is heard, “The way of the Lord is not just.” When the quality of an individual’s life is not what it once was, and it is argued that ending one’s life is the most compassionate course of action.
Today, more than ever before, there is an epidemic of irresponsibility. Parents Brock and Rhea Wuth were awarded $50 million by a Washington jury for the “wrongful birth” of their five-year-old son, Oliver. Oliver was born with a genetic defect that affects the little boy mentally and physically.
The Wuth’s blamed the lab and the genetic counselor for the inaccurate results. The lab blamed with Wuth’s for not providing all the necessary information.
The skeptic or unbeliever will say, “The way of the Lord is not just,” because He sends people to hell. He sends people to an eternal punishment for a temporal crime. He sends people to hell simply for not accepting Jesus.
25-28 “Listen, Israel. I’m not fair? You’re the ones who aren’t fair! If a good person turns away from his good life and takes up sinning, he’ll die for it. He’ll die for his own sin. Likewise, if a bad person turns away from his bad life and starts living a good life, a fair life, he will save his life. Because he faces up to all the wrongs he’s committed and puts them behind him, he will live, really live. He won’t die.
The “wicked people can be saved on the same basis as the “good people…that doesn’t seem fair! How does God answer this charge?
The New Testament teaches clearly and repeatedly that a person who has been truly born again cannot lose his/her salvation. In light of this truth, what is the meaning of this particular verse?
Ezekiel lived and prophesied before the incarnation of Christ. While his description of repentance is absolutely true, what further details would you add as a Christian living on this side of the cross?
30-32 “The upshot is this, Israel: I’ll judge each of you according to the way you live. So turn around! Turn your backs on your rebellious living so that sin won’t drag you down. Clean house. No more rebellions, please. Get a new heart! Get a new spirit! Why would you choose to die, Israel? I take no pleasure in anyone’s death. Decree of G OD, the Master. “Make a clean break! Live!”
The wages of sin is death – and the only means of salvation is repentance and acceptance of Jesus Christ. It is God’s desire that all people be saved.
The way to death is when we fail to take responsibility for our sin. For instance, the Lord says, you shall not kill. At face value we agree whole-heartedly with this commandment. But when we examine it carefully we find it means we should not only condemn those who murder innocent people, but we should also care for everyone who honestly needs our help. Martin Luther: We should fear and love God so that we may not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and befriend him in every bodily need
So why don't we donate to the poor, take time to volunteer at a shelter or soup kitchen, or work to provide housing for those with none?
At that point we feel pressured by the law of God and we tell ourselves things like, "It's not my fault that people are poor. They should have stayed in school, not spent all their money, not gotten sick. Maybe they are all lazy. If their parents would only have taught them how to make a living. I pay taxes, why doesn't the government do something?"
When we insulate ourselves from the responsibility to care for our neighbor, and we fix the blame somewhere else, when we fail to take responsibility for our sin, but blame the way we are on other causes, we miss the opportunity to repent and receive the forgiveness of God.
Do we share the burden to see our nation saved as Ezekiel did? How do we show it?
We are all sinners before God. Jesus died not only for the sins we readily admit to, but every sin, including the ones we have a hard time taking responsibility for.
When things don’t go the way you’d like, do you tend to blame others? Is everything that’s wrong in your life someone else’s fault? The Bible teaches that God holds us individually accountable for our sin – no placing blame. We will be judged, based on a just and righteous standard. If we rely upon our own works as the means of salvation, we will surely die. The only hope we have is repentance…to cast ourselves into the arms of Christ and ask Him to forgive us of our sin. It is never too late and one can never stray so far that God can’t redeem them if they humbly turn to Him.
Ronald Cress (Lifeway nExtra) Russell Roberts (Lifeway nExtra) James F. Wright--Take Responsibility Tom Chryst—The Blame Game