2 What do you mean, you who keep repeating this proverb concerning the soil of Israel, “Fathers eat sour grapes, and their sons’ teeth are set on edge”? 3 As surely as I live, declares the Lord God, you will never again use this proverb in Israel. 4 Indeed, all souls are mine. The soul of the father is mine just like the soul of the son. The soul who sins is the one who will die.
25 But you say, “The Lord’s way is not fair.” Listen now, house of Israel. Is it my way that is not fair? Is it not your ways that are not fair? 26 If a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and practices unrighteousness, he will die because of it. Because of the unrighteousness that he has practiced, he will die.
27 But if a wicked man turns from his wickedness that he has done and practices justice and righteousness, he will preserve his life. 28 Because he has seen and turned away from all the rebellious acts that he had committed, he will surely live, and he will not die. 29 But the house of Israel says, “The Lord’s way is not fair.” Is it really my ways that are not fair, O house of Israel? Is it not your ways that are not fair?
30 Therefore, I will judge each one of you according to his ways, O house of Israel, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn away from all your rebellious acts, so that you will not set out a stumbling block that makes you guilty. 31 Throw off from yourselves all your rebellious actions by which you have rebelled, and obtain a new heart and a new spirit for yourselves. Why should you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies, declares the Lord God. So repent and live!Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32
We’re on a roll talking about fine vines and good grapes last week, and this week we get to talk about grapes again! But, these grapes are sour grapes. Have you ever heard anyone use this cliché about sour grapes? It has to do with blaming someone else for your own mistake. Ezekiel lived during the Babylonian invasions when they deported the rich and famous from Judah to Babylon who could be heard saying, “That’s not fair! Why would God do this to us? We’re not nearly as bad as our ancestors were. What did we do to deserve this?” So, “The word of the Lord came to me. [Ezekiel, which he passed on to the Israelites] 2 What do you mean, you who keep repeating this proverb concerning the soil of Israel, “Fathers eat sour grapes, and their sons’ teeth are set on edge”?” If you’d like to see what this looks like, then give a slice of lemon to a two-year-old and enjoy watching them. Just watching them make your lips pucker! Or watch someone bit down on a piece of aluminum foil. Or have someone scratch their fingernails on a chalk board. You get the picture. What they meant was this, “Our forefathers did something dumb—sinned (ate sour grapes), and we, the children, are paying the price for it (teeth are set on edge). Was that okay? No!! But, they were complaining as if they themselves never sinned, as if they hadn’t done anything wrong, stupid or disgusting as their parents had done.
But God set the record straight. They may have thought their sins were tiny compared to their ancestors, but not one of them had lived up to the perfect, high standards set by God. They may have thought they sacrificed enough, worshiped enough and lived a good enough life to get right with God, but failed to realize that God demanded perfection every day, all day. Therefore, they had no right to complain about being deported. That’s sour grapes—blaming someone else. God said enough! “3 As surely as I live, declares the Lord God, you will never again use this proverb in Israel. 4 Indeed, all souls are mine. The soul of the father is mine just like the soul of the son. The soul who sins is the one who will die. ….. 29 But the house of Israel says, “The Lord’s way is not fair.” Is it really my ways that are not fair, O house of Israel? Is it not your ways that are not fair? 30 Therefore, I will judge each one of you according to his ways, O house of Israel, declares the Lord God.”
What the Holy Spirit is teaching us here is the same thing he teaches us from Genesis. After Adam and Eve sinned their relationship with God and ruined the perfect world he gave to them, God called them on it. “9 The Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 The man said, “I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself.” 11 God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman you gave to be with me—she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” 13 The Lord God said to the woman, “What have you done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Adam blames God for giving her the women and the woman blames the devil. What happened in the garden is happening in Ezekiel, and is still happening today. But, today I want you to take God at his Word and realize
It’s Your Turn!
To be Turned Away From Sin
When Joel & Amanda were vicaring in Arizona we had the chance to visit the Grand Canyon and Devil’s Bridge in Sedona. Maybe it’s no big deal for you to stand on the edge of a cliff that drops down a mile. Or to walk across a rock bridge that is only 10 or 15 feet wide and drops a long way down. Maybe you’re one that would like to ride a rollercoaster without seat belts or do sky diving without a parachute, too. Well, the consequences of sin means that every sin opens the door of hell a little wider and puts us one foot closer to falling in. Ezekiel said it, “The soul who sins is the one who will die.”
The Israelites that were deported did not want to face the consequences of their sin. That’s natural. That’s what Adam and Eve did. That’s what people who are dead in their transgressions and enemies of God do. No one sins and wants to face the consequences of sin. By nature we want to cover it up, pretend it didn’t happen, or hide from the results. But, God is so clear, “The soul who sins is the one who will die.” Wait! How bad does God say this is? He didn’t say the body will die, but the soul will die! I’m confused. I thought souls didn’t die? Yes, you have come to realize that “death” and “Dying” take on various definitions in the Bible. I like to call this my “Death Quiz.” There is physical death—the separation of the soul from the body. There is spiritual death—the separation of the soul from God (unbelief). And there is eternal death—the separation of soul and body from God in hell. If you die physically when you’re spiritually dead, that ends in eternal death—that is your soul is dead in hell forever. This statement stands in Scripture as a testimony to the Israelites and to all people today. It is God’s serious call to repentance so that we might be turned from away from sin. It’s your turn. And let’s love it that God loves us to much to make it our turn to repent.
Think of it like this. If you were going to give a big presentation before a bunch of people and you had broccoli stuck between your teeth, wouldn’t you want someone to care enough about you to let you know that before the presentation so you could head to the restroom and clean it up? If you decided to take a Sunday afternoon ride and came to a fork in the road, wouldn’t you want to know which road led to the highway home and which one would take you to a bridge out? Wouldn’t you want someone to love you enough to turn you away from disaster—to be turned away from sin? Of course you would!
I’m sure you don’t want to ride a financial rollercoaster without a seat belt, so why not go ahead and listen to what God’s Word says about stewardship? I’m sure you don’t want to jump out of a plane without a parachute, so why would you want to post mean things on Facebook for the world to see you falling from love into hate? So, now it’s your turn to take God at his Word in Ezekiel 18 “26 If a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and practices unrighteousness, he will die because of it. Because of the unrighteousness that he has practiced, he will die.” Of course we don’t want to die and that’s why the Lord is getting very personal with us today. He is speaking to your heart and to mine as if he was walking into our garden in the cool of the day in order to speak to sinners. It’s your turn to be turned away from sin. It’s your turn to stop blaming someone else for your sin. Don’t blame someone else for the difficult time you’re having because of the poor choices you’ve made. Don’t blame others as if your record is pure and spotless. Rather, let it be your turn to be turn away from sin
Be Turned To God’s Forgiveness!
Two boys were playing in the park. Just looking at them you couldn’t tell the difference. But one of them came from a home that would give you nightmares. Every time he walked in the door for supper he was yelled at for being late. When he showed his folks his homework from school they belittled him for being so dumb. If he opened his mouth a little to try and explain he got a slap across his face by Mom or a belt on his behind from Dad. The other boy had a Mom and Dad who loved each other as God’s treasured creation, and they shared that love with their son. Sure, he was late, too, but they reminded him how being late makes everyone else late for supper and it gets cold. When he showed his homework they discovered what questions he missed and tried to help him understand. When he tried to explain they listened and then gave him wise advice. At Christmas the 1st boy was told, “If you bother your sister today, you’re getting a lump of coal in your stocking.” He did and tear welled up in his eye as he discovered, they did. The 2nd boy was told to leave his sister alone. But, he couldn’t help himself and bothered her. He was told, “You know you deserve a lump of coal in your stocking, and as tears welled up in his eyes they handed him a gift and said, “We know you’re sorry and we forgive you. You don’t deserve this, but we love you. Merry Christmas!”
Likewise God made threats against the Israelites and carried them out. But that’s not what would get the Israelites in Babylon to turn back to God’s forgiveness. He also promised grace and every blessing to those who kept his commandments. But, that wouldn’t get them back either. That was all law. What would get them back is by sharing a promise with them. I am sending you the Messiah, Jesus, your Savior. Trust in God’s promise and be turned to God’s forgiveness. And that was a miracle! Then after that miracle of God’s grace, after being turned to God’s forgiveness they could reflect that in their lives! The Lord God said, “27 But if a wicked man turns from his wickedness that he has done and practices justice and righteousness, he will preserve his life. 28 Because he has seen and turned away from all the rebellious acts that he had committed, he will surely live, and he will not die.” He promises they will be spiritually alive, now cooperating with the Holy Spirit to produce Spirit-led choices that come from a thankful faith on fire for the Lord. “30 Therefore, I will judge each one of you according to his ways, O house of Israel, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn away from all your rebellious acts, so that you will not set out a stumbling block that makes you guilty. 31 Throw off from yourselves all your rebellious actions by which you have rebelled, and obtain a new heart and a new spirit for yourselves.” Their godly lives were a reflection of their being turned from sin and turned to God’s forgiveness through faith in God’s promise. God gave them the answer to having a new heart and a new life with purpose and meaning, “32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies, declares the Lord God. So repent and live!” and then later in Ezekiel gives an even clearer answer, “25 I will sprinkle purifying water on you, and you will be clean. I will cleanse you from all your impurity and from all your filthy idols. 26 Then I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit inside you. I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put my Spirit within you and will cause you to walk in my statutes, and you will carefully observe my ordinances” (Eze 36:25-27). How about that! After taking them to the edge of the cliff and pushing them out of the airplane, God provided the guardrail and the parachute. In fact he lifted you up as on wings of eagles and gently set you down on his promises and said, “Now it’s Your Turn. Be turned to my forgiveness and truly live free in the forgiveness of Jesus Christ!”
How is that possible? Because God laid the belt of his anger on his Son. He laid the punishment we deserved on Jesus when he died on the cross and suffered the eternity of hell for you. We should have gotten an eternal beating, but instead God turns his face toward us for Jesus’ sake with a smile and hug and says, “you are forgiven!” Indeed, he reminds us that our sins were washed away in our baptism and he smiles down on us at the Lord’s Supper when he declares, “Take and eat for the forgiveness of your sins.”
So, just what did it look like for the Israelites when they were turned from sin and turned toward God’s forgiveness? No more sour grapes! They were returned to Jerusalem to rebuild God’s house and build up a nation from whom the Savior would be born. They were moms and dads and kids lifting up their hearts and voices to worship and praise God. And what does it look like for you and me? It’s time to stop eating sours grapes and own who we are! We are sinners, but we are forgiven sinners and God’s treasured people right here in this community, in your home, at work and at school using your hearts and hands to serve God and love your neighbor. Why? Because of Jesus. You’ve been turned from sin and been turned to God’s forgiveness. Stop eating sour grapes and live for Jesus. Go ahead! Now, It’s Your Turn! Amen!