Ezekiel was a prophet who lived among the Jewish exiles in Babylon, before and after the Babylonians captured Jerusalem and destroyed the temple (587 BC). The passage in our first reading was a message to those who had been exiled about 10 years earlier, when the Babylonians first attacked (see 2 Kings 24:10-17). At that time the Babylonians had installed Zedekiah as king, but he then rebelled and the Babylonians besieged Jerusalem again. Ezekiel’s message up to the capture of Jerusalem was mostly warnings to the exiles not to believe that Jerusalem would be saved; afterwards it became a message of hope, prophesying that God would do a new thing for his people and restore them to their land.
In this passage the exiles are looking at the problems they and those left behind in Israel were facing, and blaming their predecessors. ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ They cannot see how they themselves could possibly be to blame; after all, they still worshipped the true God.
Ezekiel brings them a message from God challenging them to change or face the consequences of their unbelief. Faith in God which did not result in obedience was not faith but unbelief, whatever they might say, and the consequences would be death – not physical death, but spiritual death, separation from God. ‘Don’t just blame your predecessors; look at yourselves and your own actions. Believe that God is good, and that he rewards good behaviour and deals with wickedness. God does not punish people for their parents’ sins, but only for their own. And if someone repents and turns to God, they will be forgiven their previous sins.’
God is love. He hates it when people turn their backs on him and cut themselves off from the life and blessing he longs to give them. Yet he does not force himself on anyone; love does not do that. God simply appeals to us to change, and to ‘get a new heart and a new spirit’. He sent his Son into the world to be the way, the truth and the life. The perfect kingdom of God is now within everybody’s reach?
1) When things go wrong, most people try to blame someone else. Why do they do that? What better way is there?
2) How did faith or unbelief affect the behaviour of the people in our readings? How about people today?