Archive for the ‘Ezekiel 18’ Tag

Devotion for the Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  A Vineyard

Image in the Public Domain

Individual and Collective Responsibility

OCTOBER 8, 2023


According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)


Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32

Psalm 25:1-9 (LBW) or Psalm 27:1-10 (LW)

Philippians 2:1-5 (6-11)

Matthew 21:28-32


God of love, you know our frailties and failings. 

Give us your grace to overcome them;

keep us from those things that harm us;

and guide us in the way of salvation;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 28


O God, the Strength of all who put their trust in you;

mercifully accept our prayer,

and because through the weakness of our mortal nature

we can do no good thing without your aid,

grant us the help of your grace that,

keeping your commandments,

we may please you in both will and deed;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 83


Ezekiel 18 is one of the texts (along with Ezekiel 3:16-21; 14:12-23; 33:30, beyond others outside Ezekiel) that teach individual responsibility before God, therefore divine reward and punishment for how one has acted.  These texts contradict Exodus 20:5 and Deuteronomy 5:9, which teach intergenerational reward and punishment.

The theme of collective responsibility occurs in the readings from Philippians and Matthew.  This theme and individual responsibility before God are mutually consistent.

A man had two sons.

–Matthew 21:28, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

A careful reader of the Hebrew Bible should read or hear those words and think,


Such a person will start with Cain and Abel then take the grand tour of stories of feuding brothers in the Hebrew Bible.

Deeds matter more than intentions.  Deeds reveal creeds.  Rather than condemn some long-dead Pharisees and feel spiritually smug, I acknowledge an uncomfortable truth.  I admit that I, as one of the churchiest people alive, have more in common with the Pharisees than not.  I confess to uncertainty whether, had I been a Palestinian Jew during the time of Christ, I would have followed him.  The parable, transferred to contemporary times, confronts me.

Clarence Jordan (1912-1969), in his Cotton Patch Version of Matthew, set the parable in a peach orchard.  Jesus decreed tat

the hippies and the whores

would take precedence in that version.

If you, O reader, were to update Matthew 21:31, which group would you substitute for tax collectors? Make it a shocking, scandalous reference.

The Parable of the Two Sons warns against spiritual complacency.  The textual context of the parable is early in the week of Passover, shortly prior to the crucifixion of Jesus.  This setting helps to explain why the tone is so intense.  Anyway, warnings against spiritual complacency–whether individual or collective–may need to be intense to attract our attention sometimes.

In the 1990s, I read an editorial in U.S. Catholic magazine.  The title was,

Get Off Your Values and Get to Work.

The point was that people should minimize statements of principles and maximize living those principles.  This cogent lesson remains relevant sadly.  Politicians who have the power to act constructively after a preventable mass shooting or other unfortunate event yet content themselves to offer “thoughts and prayers” engage in copping out.  I recall a lesson my father taught me:  we need to put feet to our prayers.

That is hard work.  So be it.









Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA


Devotion for Proper 22, Year B (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Effects of Acid Rain on a Forest in the Czech Republic, 2006

Photographer = Lovecz

The Sins of the Fathers

OCTOBER 6, 2024


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


Exodus 34:1-10 or 1 Kings 22:29-43

Psalm 62:1-8, 11-12

Hebrews 5:12-6:12

Mark 9:30-37


The key mark of discipleship is servanthood.

St. Gregory of Nyssa (335-394)


Some themes recur in the readings for this week:

  1. God is faithful.
  2. Trust in God.
  3. Do not commit apostasy.
  4. People reap what they sow.
  5. Christ is the exemplar of the type of service that defines greatness.

Exodus 34:7 requires unpacking.  The principle that God punishes or forgives members of subsequent generations based on the sins of an ancestor exists also in 1 Kings 21:29, Nehemiah 9:17, Deuteronomy 5:9, Numbers 14:18, Psalm 103:8, Joel 2:13, and Jonah 4:2.  Yet we read the opposite view–individual moral responsibility–in Ezekiel 18 and Jeremiah 31:29-30.  The Bible contradicts itself sometimes.

The best explanation for the opinion we read in Exodus 34:7 comes from Professor Richard Elliot Friedman:  effects of one’s actions are apparent generations later.  I recognize ways in which actions of two of my paternal great-grandfathers influence me indirectly.  This is one example of something, that, from a certain point of view, looks like intergenerational punishment and reward by God.

The decisions of others influence us.  Some of them even restrict our options.  We may suffer because of the decisions of those who have preceded us; we may suffer because of their sins.  This is the way of the world.  Yet we are morally responsible for ourselves and each other, not those who have died.  No, they are responsible for their sins, just as we are responsible for ours.

May we–individually and collectively–refrain from visiting the consequences of our sins on those who will succeed us.  We owe them that much, do we not?






Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 21, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Robinson's Arch

Above:  Robinson’s Arch, Jerusalem, Palestine, Ottoman Empire, Between 1898 and 1914

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-07504

Money, Status, and Ego

SEPTEMBER 28-30, 2023


The Collect:

God of love, giver of life, you know our frailties and failings.

Give us your grace to overcome them,

keep us from those things that harm us,

and guide us in the way of salvation,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48


The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 12:17-28 (Thursday)

Ezekiel 18:5-18 (Friday)

Ezekiel 18:19-24 (Saturday)

Psalm 25:1-9 (All Days)

James 4:11-16 (Thursday)

Acts 13:32-41 (Friday)

Mark 11:27-22 (Saturday)


Gracious and upright is the LORD;

therefore he teaches sinners in his way.

He guides the humble in doing right

and teaches he way to the lowly.

All the paths of the LORD are love and faithfulness

to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

–Psalm 25:7-9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


The readings for these days combine to form a tapestry about sin, righteousness, judgment (both human and divine), and forgiveness.  The lessons also overlap like circles in a Venn Diagram.  This richness of content from various sources explains why I have chosen to write from the Complementary Series of the daily lectionary attached to the (mostly Sunday) Revised Common Lectionary.  There is also a continuous reading track, but this one works better for me.

We humans make decisions every day.  As a poster I heard of years ago declares, “YOU CANNOT NOT DECIDE.”  We decide to take one course of action or another one.  Sometimes we decide to do nothing.  Thus, when we sin, we might do so via commission or omission.  There will be consequences of sins and sometimes even for proper deeds; one cannot evade their arrival forever.  No matter how much God approves or disapproves of certain deeds, some human beings will have a different opinion.  Thus divine judgment might seem to arrive late or not at all in some cases and those innocent of a great offense suffer for the sake of righteousness.

Ezekiel 18 makes clear the point that God evaluates us based on what we do and do not do, not on what any ancestor did (or has done) and did not do (or has not done.)  Yes, as I have mentioned in a recent post at this weblog, parts of the Torah either disagree with that point or seem to do so.  Why should the Bible not contradict itself in places, given the lengthy span on its composition?  To expect consistency on every point is to harbor unrealistic expectations.  This why we also need tradition and reason, not just scripture, when arriving at theological decisions.  Anyhow, Ezekiel 18 tells us God does not evaluate us based on what our grandparents did.  This is good news.  What they did might still affect us negatively and/or positively, however.  I can identity such influences reaching back to some of my great-grandparents, in fact.  But I am responsible for my sins, not theirs.  As James 4:17 (The Revised English Bible, 1989) tells us:

What it comes to is that anyone who knows the right thing to do and does not do it a sinner.

Sometimes we know right from wrong and choose the latter because it is easier than the former.  I think that this summary applies to our Lord’s questioners in Mark 11:27-33.  Jesus, already having entered Jerusalem triumphantly while looking like a victorious king en route to the peace negotiations after battle, had also scared the living daylights out of money changers exploiting the pious poor at the Temple.  Our Lord and Savior was challenging a religious system in league with the Roman Empire.  And he was doing so during the days leading up to the annual celebration of Passover, which was about God’s act of liberating the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt.  The man was not keeping a low profile.  He was doing the right things and his questioners were attempting to entrap him verbally.  I suspect that they knew that he was the genuine article and that they preferred to lie to themselves and to oppose him rather than to follow him.  They had matters of money, status, and ego to consider, after all.

Are they really quite different from many of us?






Money, Status, and Ego


Week of Proper 14: Saturday, Year 2   3 comments

Above:   The Favorite, by Georgios Jakobides 

The Sins of the Fathers

AUGUST 13, 2022


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Ezekiel 18:1-13, 30-32 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The word of the LORD came to me:

What do you mean by quoting this proverb upon the soil of Israel:  “Parents eat sour grapes and their children’s teeth is blunded”?  As I live

–declares the Lord GOD–

this proverb shall no longer be current among you in Israel.  Consider, all lives are Mine; the life of the parent and the life of the child are both Mine.  The person who sins, only he shall die.

Thus, if a man is righteous and does what is just and right:  If he has not eaten on the mountains or raised his eyes to the fetishes of the House of Israel; if he nost defiled another man’s wife or approached a menstrous woman; if he has not wronged anyone; if he has returned the debtor’s pledge to him and has taken nothing by robbery; if he has given bread to the hungry and clothed the naked; if has not lent at advance interest or exacted accrued interest; if he has abstained from wrongdoing and executed true justice between man and man; if he has followed My ways and kept My rules and acted honestly–he is righteous.  Such a man shall live

–declares the Lord GOD.

Suppose, now that he has begotten a son who is a ruffian, a shedder of blood, who does any of these things, whereas he himself did none of these things.  That is, [the son] has eaten on the mountains, has defiled another man’s wife, has wronged the poor and the needy, has taken by robbery, has not returned a pledge, has raised his eyes to the fetishes, has committed abomination, has lent at advance interest, or exacted accrued interest–shall he live?  He shall not live!  If he has committed any of these abominations, he shall die; he has forfeited his life.

Be assured, O House of Israel, I will judge each one of you according to his ways

–declares the Lord GOD.

Repent and turn back from your transgressions; let them not be a stumbling block of guilt for you.  Cast away all the transgressions by which you have offended, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit, that you may not die, O House of Israel.  For it is not My desire that anyone should die

–declares the Lord GOD.

Repent, therefore, and live!

Psalm 51:11-18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

11 Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

12 Cast me not away from your presence

and take not your holy Spirit from me.

13 Give me the joy of your saving help again

and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

14 I shall teach your ways to the wicked,

and sinners shall return to you.

15 Deliver me from death, O God,

and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness,

O God of my salvation.

16 Open my lips, O Lord,

and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

17  Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice,

but you take no pleasure in burnt-offerings.

18  The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Matthew 19:13-15 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then some little children were brought to him, so that he could put his hands on them and pray for them.  The disciples strongly disapproved of this but Jesus said,

You must let little children come to me, and you must never stop them.  The kingdom of Heaven belongs to little children like these!

Then he laid his hands on them and walked away.


The Collect:

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:



You shall not bow down to them [idols] or serve them.  For I the LORD your God am an impassioned God, visiting the guilt of the parents upon the children, upon the third and fourth generation of those who reject Me, but showing kindness to the thousandth generation of those who love Me and keep My commandments.

–Exodus 20:5-6 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures)


Now suppose that he, in turn, has begotten a sun who has seen all the sins that his father committed, but has taken heed and has not imitated them….he shall not die for the iniquity of his father, but shall live.

–Ezekiel 18:14, 17c (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures)

Do these passages contradict each other?  That is the matter I will explore in this post.  I know that the Bible contradicts itself in places, so I am prepared to accept the possibility of another contradiction.  Yet I seek to avoid mistaking a seeming contradiction for an actual one.

We begin with Exodus 20:5, a passage which a note in The Jewish Study Bible brings to my attention.  The relevant note for the Exodus passage states that this “punishment” of descendants is intended as a deterrent to , and punishment of “the sinful ancestors,” “not a transfer of guilt  to the descendants in their own right.”  (page 149)  This is still hard to swallow; would a just God punish a mere mortal for something for which he or she is not guilty?  “Ezekiel” agrees with my point.  The people of his generation suffered, he said, the consequences of their actions, not those of the deeds of their parents, grandparents, etc.  So repentance had real meaning for the living, hence the invitation to repent in Ezekiel 18:32.

What, then, are we to make of Exodus 20:5-6?  Do we misunderstand it on its face?  We might.  It is a proven fact that there are patterns–including destructive ones–in families.  Many children of alcoholics become alcoholics themselves, many children of abusive parents grow up and abuse their children, and many other negative behaviors cross generational lines.  We learn what we live, do we not?  Perhaps this is what the author of Exodus 20:5-6 (Let us call him “Moses” for the sake of convenience.) tried to convey.  Maybe he lacked our psychological understanding, and therefore perceived God as playing a part in that reality.

As an Anglican/Episcopalian, I understand that I need to consider scripture in the context of tradition and reason, tradition through the lenses of scripture and reason, and reason in the light of scripture and tradition.  And, as I once heard a Lutheran minister say, I need to read the rest of the Bible through the lenses of the four Gospels–through my Gospel glasses.  So I have no theological difficulty considering human psychology to be a factor useful in interpreting scripture or the words attributed to Jesus when pondering a passage from elsewhere in the Bible.  And Jesus did not hesitate to treat each person according to his or her potential–without regard to what his mother or father had done–or even to what that person had done years ago.  An impetuous fisherman became the “rock” and chief Apostle.  Some of those who exploited their fellow countrymen in service to the occupying Roman Empire changed their ways and followed our Lord.  And, perhaps most scandalously, Jesus said that certain prostitutes would enter Heaven before some respected religious leaders.

Yes, the attitudes and ensuing actions of others shape us, but so do other factors.  And we are ultimately responsible for our won actions and decisions.  Granddad might have set something positive or negative in action, and we might still feel its influence, but this fact does not deprive us of our moral agency.


Proper 21, Year A   23 comments

Above:  Saint Francis of Assisi Kneeling (1635-1639), Painted by Francisco de Zubaran

Image in the Public Domain

Against All Pretenses

The Sunday Closest to September 28

The Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost

OCTOBER 1, 2023



Exodus 17:1-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said,

Give us water to drink.

Moses said to them,

Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?

But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said,

Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?

So Moses cried out to the Lord,

What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.

The Lord said to Moses,

Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.

Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying,

Is the Lord among us or not?

Psalm 78:1-14, 12-16 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Hear my teaching, O my people;

incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

2  I will open my mouth in a parable;

I will declare the mysteries of ancient times.

3  That which we have heard and known,

and what our forefathers have told us,

we will not hide from their children.

4  We will recount to generations to come

the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the LORD,

and the wonderful works he has done.

12 He worked marvels in the sight of their forefathers,

in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.

13  He split open the sea and let them pass through;

he made the waters stand up like walls.

14  He led them with a cloud by day,

and all the night through with a glow of fire.

15  He split the hard rocks in the wilderness

and gave them drink as from the great deep.

16  He brought streams out of the cliff,

and the waters gushed out like rivers.


Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32 (New Revised Standard Version):

The word of the LORD came to me:

What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”? As I live, says the Lord GOD, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die.

Yet you say, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die. Yet the house of Israel says, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” O house of Israel, are my ways unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?

Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord GOD. Turn, then, and live.

Psalm 25:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;

my God, I put my trust in you;

let me not be humiliated,

nor let my enemies triumph over me.

2  Let none who look to you be put to shame;

let the treacherous be disappointed in their schemes.

3  Show me your ways, O LORD,

and teach me your paths.

4  Lead me in your truth and teach me,

for you are the God of my salvation;

in you have I trusted all the day long.

5  Remember, O LORD, your compassion and love,

for they are from everlasting.

6  Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions;

remember me according to your love

and for the sake of your goodness, O LORD.

7  Gracious and upright is the LORD;

therefore he teaches sinners in his way.

8  He guides the humble in doing right

and teaches his way to the lowly.


Philippians 2:1-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete:  be of the same mind.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.  Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,

did not regard equality with God

as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself,

taking the form of a slave,

being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,

he humbled himself

and became obedient to the point of death–

even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him

and gave him the name

that is above every name,

so that at the name of Jesus

every knee should bend,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue should confess

that Jesus Christ is Lord,

the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.


Matthew 21:23-32 (New Revised Standard Version):

When Jesus entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said,

By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?

Jesus said to them,

I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?

And they argued with one another,

If we say, “From heaven,” he will say to us, “Why then did you not believe him?” But if we say, “Of human origin,” we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.

So they answered Jesus,

We do not know.

And he said to them,

Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not”; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, “I go, sir”; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?

They said,

The first.

Jesus said to them,

Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

The Collect:

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


I have become convinced that following a lectionary is one of the best, if not the best, way to study the Bible.  There is a place for studying just one text, but placing two or more of them side-by-side and identifying common threads is wonderful, too.  And that is one purpose of the orderly reading of scripture per a lectionary.

The common thread here is the necessity of obedience to God.  What stands in the way of that?  Various issues do.  Sometimes we misunderstand God, as did many of my Antebellum forebears who used the Bible to justify slavery, based on a literal reading of some passages (or parts of passages) but not others, as well as their own economic interests, racist views, and other cultural baggage.  They were sincerely wrong, which means that they were still wrong.  We have cultural blinders today, so we need not to content ourselves with condemning our benighted forebears, for each of us is severely mistaken in some ways, too.

Others do not try, at least as much as they ought to do.  Consider the case of the Israelites in the wilderness.  They focused on what they lacked, not what they had.  I have done a similar thing many times, and probably will do so again.  Or maybe the fault is that one operates out of selfish motivations.  I have seen this dynamic hobble more than one congregation.  When a person of influence, if not title, in a congregation, especially a small one, does not check his or ego at the church doors, the results are unfortunate.  Paul understood the assembly of the faithful to function much like the human body; everybody is necessary and the tasks differ according to each member.  What matters most is to identify one’s proper role, fulfill it, and to be content to do that–all for the improvement of the body and the glory of God.

We cannot and will not do this if we are taking ego trips and using our pretenses as crutches.  This is why Jesus said that some prostitutes would enter Heaven before certain Pharisees would.  The former had no pretenses, unlike the latter.  In another story, the wealthy young man relied on his money and possessions.  They insulated him from full knowledge of his reliance on God.  That was why Jesus told him to give them up.

We get one crutch–God.  This is the God who has become incarnate as Jesus, who, Paul tells us, did not let anything stand in the way of his faithful obedience.  Our Lord did not stand on ceremony, flaunt pretenses, or take his identity from others.  No, his identity was internal, as is yours, and as is mine.  Jesus was the Son of God.  I am, through Jesus, a member of the household of God.  You, O reader, are also one, I hope.  Knowing who we are–children of God–and whose we are–God’s–may we, using the one proper crutch, abandon our false egos and pretense.  May we journey toward God, supporting each other as our paths converge, for our individual and common good, and for the glory of God.