There are few songs sadder than those of unrequited love. Most all of us have been there — had a crush on someone who either didn’t know that we existed or loved someone else. A couple of times in the Scripture God shares with us His great pain at mankind’s unfaithfulness in parables of unrequited love. Today’s reading is one of them.
A disgrace so deep it makes sinful folks look righteous!
Let me clarify something that may cause some confusion. In Ezekiel’s allegory of shameful Jerusalem he says that she is the daughter of Amorites and Hittites (16:3). Ezekiel is not confused, nor were the Jewish people Ezekiel living in denial about their pedigree, what Ezekiel is trying to do is point to a spiritual heritage, not a physical heritage. The Jews and Jerusalem as the capital of Israel were children of Abraham and Sarah, but the Jews of that day were acting like they were born of Canaanites!
What a powerful story! The family of Abraham were nobodies. Had it not been for God, the world would have kicked them to the curb like the parable suggests — born but completely uncared for. But God takes them, nourishes them, and protects them; and when the time was right, He enters into a marriage covenant with them and lavishes them with beauty and riches; He treats them well indeed. But instead of acting faithfully and gratefully, Israel began playing the harlot — and worse than a harlot, instead of getting paid, she was paying her lovers! Can you feel God’s pain? And this is the point of the parable: to get Israel to feel how betrayed, how wounded, how outraged, how jealous, and how angry God is at Israel’s conduct.
Is there a point for us? How good has God been to you? How have you repaid His goodness?
Ezekiel 17 is another parable that Ezekiel explains, just in case there were some who were not getting it. The upshot of the parable is that Zedekiah had been very foolish to make a covenant with Babylon and then renege on it by seeking help from Egypt to rebel. God had brought the punishment of the Babylonians on Jerusalem and trying get out from under the punishment was a little like children trying to run away from a parent bent on discipline. My mother tells a story of being about 7 or 8 years old and disobeying her father. Grandpa got out the razor strop as was customary in that day and mom decided that she could outrun him. And she did for a while. Grandpa just wisely said, “You’ll get hungry soon enough.” And she did, and she got her well deserved discipline.
Sometimes we still try to dodge God’s discipline. Zedekiah discovered just how foolish it was; his punishment was to see his own young children put to death before his eyes and then be blinded before he was taken to Babylon and made a prisoner for life.
Fathers who eat sour grapes will have their own teeth set on edge
The last chapter in our reading today, Ezekiel 18, should lay to rest any lingering belief in what is usually referred to as “original sin”. “Original sin” as a doctrine says that the guilt of Adam’s and Eve’s original sin has been passed down to every human being and that therefore everyone — EVERYONE — is guilty of sin. The origin of this doctrine comes from a false notion that there is something dirty or sinful in the sexual act and that it was the sexual act which was really the original sin — I wish I had a nickel for every former Catholic parochial school student who told me that that’s what the nuns were telling them. And since procreation (the making of children) can’t be done without the act of sex (apart, of course, from Jesus’ virgin birth) the guilt of sin gets passed down to each succeeding generation. The problem with this theology is that God Himself commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply — that is to say that sex (within marital parameters) was God’s idea from the start. The original sin was what the Bible says it was, taking and eating of the forbidden fruit.
All that to say that the doctrine of “original sin” is flawed from the “get-g0” and Ezekiel puts a whole box of nails in its coffin with this chapter. Sons cannot inherit the sins of their father; nor can fathers be held accountable for the sins of their sons. Each sinner will be held accountable for their own sins — pure and simple.
Now, this is not to say that children don’t inherit the consequences of their parents’ sins. We, for example, live in a fallen world full of death, sickness and sorrow, because of what Adam and Eve did — but we don’t inherit the guilt. The children of mothers who do drugs, drink, smoke, who “take up” with really poor father-figures, etc. often inherit the consequences of their mother’s poor choices with birth defects, abuse, and neglect — but they don’t inherit their mother’s guilt.
As a result, the baptism of children is completely unnecessary. They have no sin to forgive, no guilt to expunge.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.