No Alibis with God

MEMORY VERSE: “Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive.” —Ezekiel 18:27

EZEKIEL 18:1-4, 25-32

ONE of the main points emphasized in this lesson is the one contained in our memory verse; which is that those who turn away from their wickedness and obey God’s laws of righteousness will live and not die. The thought is attached, in verse 2, by the use of the proverb, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” The context indicates that possibly the Israelites at that time were using this proverb as an excuse for their transgressions, resting on the thought that it was their fathers’ sins which had resulted in their captivity, not their own. It is from this thought that the title of our lesson is derived.

In Jeremiah 31:29 the Prophet Jeremiah quotes this proverb, and gives it a time setting in the plan of God: “In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” Verse 21 indicates that the “days” referred to by Jeremiah are the time when the Lord makes a New Covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah.

The Prophet Jeremiah wrote, “Our fathers have sinned … and we have borne their iniquities.” (Lam. 5:7) So it was true that the Israelites were exiled in Babylon because of the accumulative sins of their fathers, but this did not excuse them for continuing in sin while blaming the unrighteousness of their fathers for their own wicked way of life. What the Lord is impressing on his people is that, after all, and regardless of the unrighteousness of those who went before them, they were individually responsible to him for their own course in life.

Applying the proverb in question to the experiences of the entire human race, it is true that Father Adam ate the sour grape of sin, and his entire progeny—the whole human race—are suffering and dying as a result. This will continue until the Lord makes a New Covenant with the people, in which he will write his law in their inward parts, and in their hearts. Then if they willfully disobey the Lord they will die.

Meanwhile the whole world of mankind is dying. It is not possible by turning from sin now to save oneself from dying. Actually this was not possible for the Israelites in Ezekiel’s day, for being members of the sin-cursed and dying race they could not turn from sin to the full degree necessary for God to consider them worthy of continuing to live.

Actually, of course, there were certain transgressions of God’s law which called for a mandatory death sentence. Any who committed one or more of these sins, and then displayed genuine heart repentance could and did have divine mercy shown to them, and were permitted to live. Jeremiah points out that this divine principle operated toward all Israel in connection with their exile in Babylon. He wrote, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed” (Lam. 3:22) Israel had been sinful enough to warrant the death penalty, but in his mercy God tempered the punishment to seventy years’ captivity in Babylon.

The use of the word “soul” in verse 4 of the lesson is revealing: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” According to most of the creeds of Christendom, the soul is supposed to be immortal, and therefore immune to death, but here we are told distinctly that sinful souls die.

The explanation is simple. The soul, as referred to in the Bible, is not a separate entity within a being, but it is the whole being.

Man “became a living soul.” He was not given a soul. He was created from the elements of the earth, but had no life, and then the Creator breathed into his nostrils the “breath of life,” not a soul. This started the lungs to function, and the heart, and the blood from the heart, carried the oxygen of the air to all parts of the body, which up to this point had been but a lifeless body. But now it was animated by the breath of life. Man became a living soul, or living being. When sin entered this living being it began to die.—Gen. 2:7


Explain the proverb, “The fathers have eaten the sour grape, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.”

What is a soul?

Dawn Bible Students Association
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