- Anti-Governmental Propaganda (chapter 18)
- i. A False Proverb Refuted
- ii. God's Government Reasserted
- A Funeral Lament For Judah (chapter 19)
- i. A Lioness and Her Cubs (verses 1-9)
- ii. A Vine and Her Branches (verses 10-14)
Ezekiel 18, and I hope you've done your homework and read it before you came. We'll take time to read it together this evening. We're going to look at Ezekiel 18 and 19 - not so much chapter 19, that will come into it near the end of our study, but I want to specifically home in on chapter 18. Please do come with me with your concentration this evening.
Verse 1 of chapter 18: "The word of the LORD came unto me again, saying, What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge? As I live, saith the Lord GOD, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die. But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right, And hath not eaten upon the mountains, neither hath lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, neither hath defiled his neighbour's wife, neither hath come near to a menstruous woman, And hath not oppressed any, but hath restored to the debtor his pledge, hath spoiled none by violence, hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment; He that hath not given forth upon usury, neither hath taken any increase, that hath withdrawn his hand from iniquity, hath executed true judgment between man and man, Hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly; he is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord GOD. If he beget a son that is a robber, a shedder of blood, and that doeth the like to any one of these things, And that doeth not any of those duties, but even hath eaten upon the mountains, and defiled his neighbour's wife, Hath oppressed the poor and needy, hath spoiled by violence, hath not restored the pledge, and hath lifted up his eyes to the idols, hath committed abomination, Hath given forth upon usury, and hath taken increase: shall he then live? he shall not live: he hath done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him. Now, lo, if he beget a son, that seeth all his father's sins which he hath done, and considereth, and doeth not such like, That hath not eaten upon the mountains, neither hath lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, hath not defiled his neighbour's wife, Neither hath oppressed any, hath not withholden the pledge, neither hath spoiled by violence, but hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment, That hath taken off his hand from the poor, that hath not received usury nor increase, hath executed my judgments, hath walked in my statutes; he shall not die for the iniquity of his father, he shall surely live. As for his father, because he cruelly oppressed, spoiled his brother by violence, and did that which is not good among his people, lo, even he shall die in his iniquity. Yet say ye, Why? doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father? When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live. The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live. Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live? But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die. Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal". Now mark that verse: "Ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not my way equal? Are not your ways unequal? When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die. 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. Because he considereth, and turneth away from all his transgressions that he hath committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die. Yet saith the house of Israel, The way of the Lord is not equal. O house of Israel, are not my ways equal? Are not your ways unequal? Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye".
The title that we have this evening is: 'The Administration of the Government of God'. There are many great principles right throughout the holy scriptures, right throughout the New and the Old Testaments - but there are two outstanding principles that we find. There is the principle of grace, and there is the principle of government. God's grace and God's government. Grace is quite simply defined that in every age of time, whether it was the Old Testament or New Testament, any soul that has ever been saved has been saved by God's free and sovereign grace. We believe in our gospel, that we've been singing about already this evening, that grace is possible for repentant sinners upon the merits and the worth of the redemptive sacrifice of our Lord Jesus at Calvary. Need we go on? We could stop there, couldn't we? How every soul by sin oppressed, that has found mercy with the Lord, has found that mercy through the cross of our Lord Jesus - yes, even those in the Old Testament before the cross. Those in the New Testament have a backward aspect concerning the forgiveness of sins, they looked back to the day at Calvary that either they could remember in early New Testament days, or that we look back upon in scripture - but also those in the Old Testament, they were forgiven upon looking forward, anticipating that great sacrifice of redemption through the cross.
That's what we're told in the book of Romans, and I want you to turn with me to Romans chapter 3 for a moment. This is important, Romans chapter 3, the reason why I'm laying this down is that there is a common misconception that the Old Testament Jews got to heaven, if you like, by obeying the law and by the sacrificial system - that is not correct. Romans chapter 3 and verse 24 outlines that for us, Paul says: 'Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God'. Now that expression that you find in verse 25, 'for the remission of sins that are past', does not simply mean that God now forgives our past sins when we believe in the Lord, but what it literally means is this: He also forgives, or remits, the sins of those who lived in past ages - and He does that through the redemptive sacrifice of the Lord at the cross, and through that perfect work. Now, because of that - verse 26 - now, because of that great sacrifice, God can be just and the justifier of all who have faith in Him, because He was delivered for our offences and raised again for our justification.
That's the grace of God - hallelujah! The grace that we rejoice in this evening, the grace that has been bought for us at Calvary through the shed blood. I often think of it like a tree, and you have the Old Testament saints leaning forward on the tree, and you have the New Testament saints leaning backward on the tree. One is looking forward to the cross, and the other is looking backwards. Now that is the grace of God, isn't it wonderful? The grace of God that wipes away all my sin! We are guilty - Paul, in the court of law, as he stands in this great book he outlines everything, in chapter 1 especially, that is against us, being sinners. In this very chapter he says we all fall short of the glory and standard of God, but yet Christ - God commendeth His love toward us in that Christ died for us!
That is grace, but what we sometimes misunderstand is that this great grace does not set aside God's government. Let me explain that for a moment: all believers today are under the grace of God, praise Him! We've believed in His gospel, all our sins are forgiven - and this is an eternal thing, we will be in heaven because of God's grace. But all believers today are still under the government of God the Father. In 1 Peter 1 and verse 17 Peter outlines that when he says: 'Without respect of persons God judgeth according to every man's work'. It doesn't matter whether you're a believer or unbeliever, a Jew or a Gentile, you are under the government or judgement of God in the sense that He weighs up the works that you are doing - not to give you eternal life, you're given eternal life through grace, but that doesn't wipe aside God's government.
It is true today, as in past ages, that whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap - Galatians 6:7. If the grace of God is that we are saved by that grace through faith, not of ourselves, it's a gift of God lest any man should boast; God's government is that whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap. That's true of you whether you're a saint or whether you're a sinner. Let me outline it a bit more: there are temporal consequences to your sin and to mine. We may go through life, we may sin and that sin may be forgotten about in our past, but we may still live with the consequences of that sin. We may even get on our knees and confess that sin, we may have the joy and the sense of relief of God forgiving us that sin, but we may face the consequences of that sin right throughout our believing lives.
A prime example of that is the character of David in the Old Testament. You remember, if we were to turn to Psalm 51 you would have that great confession of David's adultery with Bathsheba, his murder of Bathsheba's husband Uriah - you have it there. I believe that actually Psalm 51 is a prayer that was prayed before the prophet Nathan came to see David. The reason I believe that is that when Nathan came to David with his divine authority, Nathan said to him right away: 'The Lord also hath put away thy sin'. The Lord put it away as soon as he confessed it, but you will remember that Nathan also added: 'The sword shall never depart from thine house'. From that great divine declaration as you read - and I'm reading through these books in my own daily readings - it's immense to see how David's sons, David's friends turned against him, and there was rebellion right throughout the house, and sin, and incest and all sorts of calamities that came upon David because - although he had been forgiven by God's grace - he still had to live with God's government.
I'll give you a modern-day example of it. You're a notorious drunkard, you drink from your teenage days right through till you're 50 years of age, and you wreck your liver and you burn your stomach out, and the blood runs out of you because of your sin. You come to a crusade and you hear of Jesus, the Son of God who shed His blood to die for you, and you take of His free gift of salvation. The Lord forgives you, praise His name, He wipes the slate clean, He puts your sin as far as the east is from the west, He puts it behind his back and He says: 'I'll remember it no more' - but one thing He doesn't do is He doesn't give you a new liver and a new stomach, He doesn't do that! The murderer who gets saved in the Maze [prison] - if there's any murders left in the Maze - they don't get out as soon as they put their faith in Christ, no they don't: because they have to face the consequences of their sin!
I hope you're beginning to see the difference between God's grace and God's government. Now let me say this: it's important to differentiate between the two of these, because God's government has no relation to your salvation. This passage that we're looking at tonight has chiefly to do with God's government, nothing to do with salvation. So everything I'm about to say this evening has no relation to your eternal destiny, but what it has a relation to is the way you live upon the earth.
So let's look at it first of all, what you have in the first four verses or so of Ezekiel chapter 18 is what I have entitled: 'Anti-Governmental Propaganda'. It is anti-governmental in the sense that it is against the government of God. There is a saying, a proverb that you find in verses 1 to 4, that is against what we've just been talking about. Look at the verses: 'The word of the LORD came unto me again, saying, What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying', and here's the proverb, 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge?'. What does that mean? 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge'. Well, if you imagine this: maybe you go home and you open the larder and you lift a bit of stale bread, you butter it and put a bit of cheese on it, then you put it in your mouth and it goes down to your belly - and you wake up in the middle of the night three hours later with a sore tummy. That's what happens, but what this proverb is saying is that you eat the stale bread and your son wakes up in the morning with a sore tummy.
Do you see what they're saying? Look: 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge' - these sour grapes have not affected the father, the sour grapes have affected the children. So this is a saying that is going around Palestine, and what it is really saying is: something that our fathers have done in our past, in our history, we are suffering for it today! 'Lord, it was our fathers that sinned against You, so why are we in captivity? Why are we suffering for their sins that they committed hundreds of years ago?'. God refutes that proverb, and we'll see it in a few moments later, but the primary bottom line of what God says to clear away that proverb is this: 'Individuals are held responsible before God for their own sin'. Individuals are responsible for their own sin. Look at verse 3 for an interesting note, God says: 'As I live, saith the Lord GOD, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel'. Incidentally, in light of what I said yesterday morning, God there is swearing again: 'As I live, saith the Lord'. God is determining that He will rid this proverb out of the whole of His land.
Now, what were the people saying? Let's bring it nearer to home, they were saying: 'Our fathers sinned against God, but we are their children, we are the generation in exile, we are the ones paying the price, and that is the way the world is and there's nothing that can be done about it'. Do you see what they're saying? By going over and over again this proverb they're saying: 'Things aren't fair! God's unequal! This world is imbalanced!'. A similar thought is expressed in Lamentations 5 and 7, which proves to us that this was a very common saying, for you read there they said: 'Our fathers have sinned, and are no more; and we bear their punishment'. 'Our fathers did the wrong, they're dead and gone, we're bearing the punishment!'. You go on to Jeremiah 31, you find there that Jeremiah also confronted the same proverb which suggested what they were saying, that they weren't guilty of this punishment, their fathers were, but they're having to endure it.
Now what is the Lord's response? Well, first of all you see in verse 4 He says this: 'All souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die'. Now what's His first response? The first thing is for Him to say: 'Look, whether you're a father, whether you're a son, whether you're in present-day generation or whether you're talking to me about your ancestors - all of them belong to me!. Everyone belongs to me!'. The Lord is not only sovereign over flesh, but He is saying: 'I am the Judge of all the earth, shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?'. He's saying that there is no unfair punishment to the next generation for the sins of the father, instead what He says at the end of verse 4 are these words: 'The soul who sins is the one who will die'. Everyone is guilty and responsible for their individual sin. God deals with everyone individually according to the record of his behaviour, that is what the law declared. This passage is just echoing what you find in Leviticus 18 and verse 5, where God said: 'He that doeth these things shall live in them' - outlining all the sins that you could do, and God says: 'If you do those things you're going to have to live in them and live with the consequences of them'.
What is the gist of what Ezekiel is saying? I'm led to believe that President Harry Truman of the USA's past had on his desk a sign: 'The buck stops here'. That's what Ezekiel is saying: 'Don't you blame your ancestors for the punishment that you're under now. If you're under punishment now, God is a righteous and just judge and you're under punishment because the soul who sins is the one that will die. You're responsible!'. Let me say again, I want to reiterate this in case there's any misunderstanding: this was not a promise of eternal life in heaven, but this is a promise to the Jew of long life on earth - those who will be obedient to the divine law will spend their life prosperously on earth, and the violation of the law when it was exposed resulted in death. I'll give you an example of adultery: if you committed adultery you didn't get off the hook, you didn't get a divorce as we saw a couple of weeks ago, you were stoned! 'The soul that sinneth, it shall die', not eternal security, not salvation, but responsibility.
Now, because of this false proverb, God had to come - and this is the second point of your first outline - God had to come and reassert His government, and to do that the Lord gives several examples of His principles of judgement and government. The first is found in verses 5 to 9, we'll not take time to read it but I want to iterate it for you, He says this: 'A man who shuns sin and lives righteously, shall surely live'. If you live righteously, you will live, verse 5 begins: 'If a man be just...', and then it tells us at the end, '...he will live'. If one behaves himself righteously, if a man walks uprightly, if his life is one of integrity and moral rectitude God will take note of this and God will deal with that man accordingly. If he is a man who shuns idolatry, who keeps himself from immorality of every kind, who deals honourably with all men so that his business affairs are above reproach, he's charitable towards the considerate and the poor and the needy, he's endeavoured in life to deal truly with all men, honouring the law of God in obedience to its precepts - if that man lives a life like that, he shall surely live saith the Lord Jehovah.
Again, don't confuse it with the Gospel, this has to do with blessing on earth, not with eternal things. But you see it: a man who shuns sin, lives righteously, shall surely live. That's the first principle He lays down. The second is found in verses 10 to 13, and it goes like this: 'A righteous man's wicked son shall surely die'. The Lord's beginning to address this proverb. They were saying: 'Because of the sins of our ancestors we're dying!'. God writes that off straightaway, He says: 'No, that's not true. A righteous man's wicked son shall surely die' - in other words, he will die because of his own sin. The Jews in captivity here in Babylon are very similar to the Jews that the Lord Jesus faced when He was upon the earth, for both of them have this in common: they prided themselves on having Abraham as their father. Go to Luke 3 and verse 8 and you find there the Lord castigating them and saying to the Pharisees: 'Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham for our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham'.
Now, what is the Lord saying? He's saying exactly what Ezekiel is saying: 'It's no good you having a good father, it's no good you having Abraham as your ancestor, a righteous ancestor - that's no good to you at all if your own life is wicked, if your life is full of sin and your life is full of the transgression of the law'. You have that right throughout the Scriptures in illustrations. If you take good King Hezekiah, a faithful king, a king as far as we can understand who upheld the laws of God in his life - but who was Hezekiah's son? Manasseh, and Manasseh was one of the most ungodly kings, and certainly was an ungodly son. So you see that if you have an upright father, it doesn't always work out that you will be upright! Where such is the case the son must answer to God individually for his own wickedness. What does He say? 'He shall surely die, His blood shall be upon him' - he cannot blame anyone else, he can't blame his father for his suffering, he must bear his sin!
The third principle is found in verses 14 to 17. The first one tells us that a man who shuns sin and lives righteously shall surely live, the second says that a righteous man's wicked son shall surely die, this one says: 'An unrighteous man's righteous son shall surely live'. If you're an unrighteous father and your son grows up and becomes a righteous man, he will live - but the unrighteous father shall die for his iniquities, verse 18. OK? So what are these people in Israel saying? 'We're suffering for our fathers sins, they're dead and we're suffering for it'. God says: 'No! For if your father was unrighteous and you are righteous as you're protesting: he will die for his sins, but you will live'. The wicked father will be judged, but the upright son will be honoured of God - therefore the proverb they used was only an excuse for themselves to blame God, to blame their ancestors for their own individual sinful responsibility. Do you see how God is wiping this all away?
Then fourthly He lays down another principle in verses 21 to 23. Here He turns it on its head and He now looks at the positive, the way back to God. He says this: 'A wicked man who repents and turns from his sins will live'. So if you like - I don't know whether we could caricature God saying this - but if you like, God is saying: 'Even if your proverb were true, and you are suffering for the sins of your fathers, if you repent your sins will be forgiven! But that's not even the case, if you realise yourself that you're sinful, and confess your sin, you could be forgiven and live!'. That is the very thing that they were not doing - you remember how many times Ezekiel was told by God: 'Go and speak to this rebellious house, go and speak to this stiffnecked, hardhearted, hard headed people!' - and Ezekiel had to be given a harder head to speak to them!
Then fifthly and finally in verse 24 Ezekiel outlines the fifth principle, and it's this: 'A righteous man who turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity shall die'. So on the one hand he's saying: 'If you're unrighteous, if you're a sinner and you turn and repent from your iniquity you'll live! But at the same token, if you're a righteous man and you turn away from your righteousness to iniquity you'll die!'. Now this isn't 'saved and lost', remember this has got nothing to do with your eternal life and your soul's salvation, this has to do with conduct and the responsibility and consequences of your sin down here on earth. As you're reading this passage, maybe like me you're wondering and you're thinking: 'Well, is there not something in the Old Testament about children suffering for their father's sin?'. Well, you're thinking of Exodus 20, and if you turn to that for a moment to the law - Exodus 20 - let me clear that up for you. Exodus 20, and it would seem apparently contradictory, in the second commandment here you have it, God says: 'Thou shalt not bow down thyself to these graven images, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me'.
Now that's true, what Moses has said there in Exodus, of course it's true. What he is saying is that children and generations following are generally involved in the consequences of their ancestors' sins. Generally speaking we suffer for the sins of our fathers, but what Ezekiel is saying here is something more specific. Ezekiel is homing in on individual responsibility, and what he says is also true - he is saying that everyone is personally responsible for his or her actions. You can't blame it on another person! OK, so you were dealt a bad hand in life - that's Exodus 20, you're suffering for something that someone else has done in your past, maybe being born into a home where there was a drunkard, or your mother was abused or something like that, or you were brought up to take the Lord's name in vain or go to places that you shouldn't, and you were given an example of a lifestyle of sin to follow from a parent. OK, that's Exodus 20 - but you are responsible for the road that you have taken, that's Ezekiel. But you see, these wicked Israelites blamed God for their afflictions, they blamed their fathers for their afflictions, and they would do anything and everything but blame themselves!
Now let me make an application, because I think this is terribly important and I want to spend a bit of time on it. There are many believers here in our gathering tonight who have unbelieving children. There are many of you here that are born-again and godly people, and have been praying for years for your children. Maybe they once started out well and professed faith, and maybe they're nowhere at all with Christ this evening. You did all that you could, you brought them up in the fear and admonition of the Lord, you can remember when you had a bit of control over them - you combed their hair, you put the short pants on them and brought them to Sunday School, brought them to the children's meeting, and to the Gospel meeting. Maybe you can remember them singing in a choir, or taking part, or even giving a word of testimony - but there came a time, and it's etched on your heart like a scar, when they went to school or maybe they went to college or university or went to work, and they began to realise that there is a big wide wicked world out there.
I don't know what their psychological process was, but I suspect perhaps they thought: 'I wonder are these folks at home religious fanatics, and I've just been brought up this way but this isn't the way things are meant to be?'. They were brought up in the safety and the haven of the ark of God in your home, but a day came when they looked out and saw that ocean out there - and they got a little rowing boat and they rowed out of the ark just to see what was there. We're all affected by it, if it's not our children it's our parents, it's relatives, it's loved ones, it's friends. Can I address a few things before we look at that specific subject? First of all: people in the Iron Hall, leaders in the Iron Hall, we need to cater for and protect our young people today, now! We need to create bulwarks within the family of God, we need to devise a protecting frame in the church to build bridges for our young people, so that when they go out and discover that there's a big wicked wide world out there they can come back to us and feel comfortable coming to us, and the communication lines are open to ask us the questions that matter. We need to think about this very seriously, we must now begin to do all that we can to save our young people!
Oh, if you think a Bible study, quoting them a verse of Scripture, and encouraging them to come to the prayer meeting is going to do it, you need to waken up! It's going to take more than that! We need to see that our young people have needs, and their needs may be a friendship, their needs might be a cup of coffee and a question asking how they're doing! Our young people need to see that we care for them, and if we don't find the need that they have and meet that need, let me assure you that the old devil will do it! He'll do it. That's the first thing, but here's the big question for many of you - for many of you that's too late, isn't it? You've done all that you can and they're still in the world, and you're trying to pray them back, you're trying to encourage them back, you don't know what to say - you want to witness to them, but you don't want to put them off in any way. What do you do? Maybe there's times that you think: 'Was it my fault? I mean, I know those verses: if you train a child in the way that he should go, when he is old he'll not depart from it. I mean, does that mean that I didn't train him in the way that he should go? Because he's not walking, or she's not walking, straight any longer - have I done something wrong?'. Can I give you a word from God tonight from Ezekiel? You've done nothing wrong! Please hear that, broken heart!
Now, I'm not saying that some parents don't do things wrong - I'm quite sure they do, and they don't do all that is required in bringing up their children, but there are many godly parents that are torturing themselves with the thought that it is their fault! Ezekiel says this: 'No! Your righteousness has no bearing on the unrighteousness of your sons, neither would your unrighteousness have any bearing on his unrighteousness. Each person is individually responsible, and the soul that sins is the one who will die'. The reason why I'm saying this is first of all because it's from this passage, but you know there are some dangerous and demoralising teaching trends going about in Christendom today - some of which are very popular and coming from leading teachers who espouse the idea that if your grown-up children aren't saved or walking right with the Lord, you're not fit to serve God. That's in literature, that's in hardback and paperback, that's in commentaries that I have read today in my study - the idea that if you were truly called to the ministry, or to the pastorate, or to the mission field, or to a leadership position in the church, if you were really called your children would be saved - so if your children aren't saved you have to ask the question: 'Has God really called you?'.
Now I know that you're thinking of 1 Timothy chapter 3 and verse 5: 'For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?'. I know that verse, and what's more I know Titus also - that an elder is to have faithful children. It's surprising to me that men who have godly children and saved children, all of a sudden become Greek scholars and are able to tell you and I, perhaps that don't have saved children, what that word 'faithful' means. I don't believe it means 'believing children' as some would teach - oh yes, don't get me wrong, the point of what Paul is saying is: how are you meant to rule the church if you can't rule your own home? But you're not going to try and tell me that when a father is 70 years of age, and his son of 50 is running around with every woman in the district, that you have a right to go round to his door and knock on it and say: 'Do you know what your son's up to? Can you not control your own home?'. Come on! There is no doubt that there are times when the problem has been the way parents have brought up their children, but we need to be sensible. You know, the children of this world, sometimes, are wiser than us lot. We get some silly ideas into our heads! My friend, listen to Ezekiel: 'Every single sinner is responsible for his own life'.
A preacher friend of mine once knew a very godly man, and he loved him because he always spoke of Christ. This man, my friend, would want to speak of anything - maybe the football or the weather - but this man just gossiped Christ. Asking him one day, he says: 'I was praying that I would talk about Christ all the time, and the Lord showed me that you were a man like that', he says, 'How do you do it?'. Well, he says: 'When I'm thinking about gossiping about anything else I gossip about Christ'. That godly man who gossiped Christ had another friend, and his friend came up to him one day and said: 'You know, if anybody is bound to have believing children I think your children, of all children, will be saved because of the way you speak and the way you live'. Do you know what that man said? 'Yes', he said, 'They will be saved, if they believe' - if they believe. You see, that's what Ezekiel is telling us: it's individual responsibility.
Now, for you who are hurting - and that doesn't solve it, you want to see your children saved. Turn with me to Isaiah chapter 54, and we will take time over this because I think it's very important, Isaiah chapter 54. What do you do then if your children are not saved? What do you do? Isaiah 54 and verse 13: 'All thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children'. 'All thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children' - now I know that this passage has to do with Israel, I know that this passage has to do with the millennial reign of Christ, I know all that, and it will be specifically fulfilled on that day. But if you look to verse 17, this is a verse that we take: 'No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD' - this is the heritage of the servants of the Lord. I think we can take it, but just in case you're doubting that keep your finger there and turn with me to John's gospel chapter 6. Keep your finger in Isaiah, and turn with me to John 6 and verse 44, the Lord speaking in His discourse about how men and women come to Christ says: 'No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of', or better, 'from the Father, cometh unto me'. Where's He quoting from? He's quoting from Isaiah chapter 54 and verse 13, and the Lord takes that verse from Isaiah, and what does He do? He applies it to those who come to Him, who have learned from the Father. Look at Isaiah 54 again, verse 13: 'All thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children'.
Now listen, listen to what I'm not saying: I'm not saying that your children will be saved, I'm not saying that. I am not saying that this is a promise you can claim to get household salvation. It is entirely up to them - that is what Ezekiel is saying. But what can you do? What I think this verse means is this: the Lord chose to teach your children, how did He do that? Well, He chose to teach them when they were at your knee. He chose to teach them through a mother or a father's Bible story before they put their head to the pillow. He chose to teach them through an RE lesson at school, through the Sunday School and the children's meeting and the young people's fellowship. That is how the Lord has taught your children, isn't it? But then there was a time that they wouldn't listen to your teaching or anyone else's teaching, they would no longer bow their will to God. They left your school, they left whatever school they had been in being taught by God, and they've gone out into the world. Now, let me say what this verse means: when they go out of your school, God, I believe, enrols them in His own private school. I believe that He will teach them - He will teach them! I'm not saying they'll be saved, but what I am saying is: I believe that God won't leave them alone, God won't leave them alone. He's in His school, and I ask you: would you want him to be anywhere else? They're in His school, they've left your school, and He will do everything to win them. Of course, Ezekiel says, it's up to them - they must believe, but He will teach them Himself. And, oh, what a school to be in - if He wants to take a leg off them, if He wants to take a child off them, if He wants to let a partner stray from them - He'll do whatever it takes to bring them, but they must come!
If this is the case, do you know what you've got to do? You've got to pray, and trust God to do His job. I read a book, och, a few years ago by a woman - I can't even remember her surname, her first name is Barbara, and her books are very humorous and have very humorous titles. I think one of them is: 'Stick a Geranium in Your Hat and Praise the Lord' - that's a strange one! What's that? Johnston! Barbara Johnston! There you are, somebody is as low in their reading habits as I am! The title of her book is like that, do you know why? You can say: 'Isn't that a terrible thing?', I know some of you are saying, 'What a title for a spiritual book!'. Wait till I tell you something: if you had a son that became a homosexual, and came through the door and told you, maybe you would need a laugh once in a while. That was her story, and she went through turmoil - but do you know the point that she had to come to? She draws a diagram in her book and it shows her coming up to the throne of God, up one step, two steps, and three steps, right up to the top with a box. In that box is a little baby - do you know who the baby is? Her wee boy. There comes a time, my friend, when you have to abandon them to God - let Him take them into the school.
I finish with this: the prodigal son - have you ever wondered, I mean if your son came to you and said: 'Give me all your money Dad, you're going soon - I know you're done. I can hear your ticker, it's not just as rhythmic as it used to be. You're going, give me all the money, I'm going into the world to live it up'. What would you do? You'd give him a crack round the ear, and say: 'Get out! Some view you have of me!'. Do you ever wonder why the father gave him everything and let him go? I'll tell you why: because the father knew about God's school. He abandoned him, and you know the story don't you? You know the story.
The funeral lament that you have there [Ezekiel 19] is simply two parables: one about a lioness and her cubs, one about a vine and the branches - do you know all that it says? It's saying this to Israel and to Israel's King, you can read about them when you go home, all it's saying is this: 'The soul that sinneth, it shall die. Your kings are suffering and the nation is suffering because of your sin'. Now listen, that means we have a responsibility - the Lord says He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, He cries to His people: 'Why will you die, O house of Israel? Wherefore turn yourselves, and live'. The miracle of God's government is this: if you repent - if you repent.
I read this, and I will finish with this, from one of Spurgeon's sermons. This is what he says, and please take this to your heart tonight: 'God is not willing that any should perish'. Lost person, I don't know whether there's anybody here, God will get nothing out of you dying and going to hell! Spurgeon says: 'Oh, my brothers and sisters in Christ, if sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. If they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees imploring them to stay, not madly to destroy themselves. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let no-one go there unwarned or unprayed for'.
As you lift your heart to the Lord, why not lift a name up to the Lord, or names? Let the Lord deliver you of any guilt, maybe you have done things in the past that maybe have hindered your children - well, confess them now, but realise that they will answer for their own sins, not yours. Pray to God that He'll teach them, and He'll teach them in such a way that the Father will draw them to Christ. Father, we thank Thee for these comforting words from Thy word. Lord, there's an awesome responsibility on us as Thy children to realise that we can confess our sins too, but it doesn't always wipe away the consequences. Help us to realise the seriousness of sin, but help us also to remember there is an open access of repentance that all may enter in and live. Bless us now, Lord, as we go home, and take us now in safety we pray. Amen.
Preach The Word
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the twelfth tape in his Ezekiel series, titled "The Administration Of God's Government" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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