Accepting Individual Responsibility

Explore the Bible Series

June 26, 2005


Background Passage: Ezekiel 18:1-24:27

Lesson Passage: Ezekiel 18:1-10, 13b



The little catechism that our church uses defines sin as “any transgression of the law of God.”  Judah had disregarded the Lord’s commandments at every point.  This passage contains, perhaps, the most thorough indictment against Judah recorded in the Prophecy of Ezekiel.  The people of Judah had recklessly violated every precept of the Ten Commandments, and God’s patience had run its course. 


  1. “You shall have no other gods before me.”  Judah had bowed to a pantheon of foreign, pagan gods.  Their religious life had deteriorated into a hodgepodge of idolatrous ritual and a watered down version of the Mosaic system. 
  2. “You shall not make for yourselves any carved image…”  Idol worship had become commonplace in Judah.  The people frequented the pagan high places and engaged in the debased idolatry of their ungodly neighbors.
  3. “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.”  Judah profaned the name of God and gave occasion to the Lord’s enemies to bring reproach upon the name of Jehovah.
  4. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”  Ezekiel gave special attention, in this section, to the desecration of the Sabbath.
  5. Honor your father and your mother…”  Judah blamed her sinful condition on her forefathers and sinfully disregarded the widows in the society.
  6. “You shall not murder.”  Pagan religious practices provoked Judah to offer her children to idols, and she fostered violence and oppression.
  7. “You shall not commit adultery.”  Ritualistic, pagan prostitution characterized the worship of these people.  Again and again, Ezekiel compared the unfaithfulness of Judah to the adultery of a promiscuous spouse.
  8. “You shall not steal.”  Economic oppression characterized these people as well.  The rich were guilty of usury, and they cared little for the widow, the orphan, or the stranger.
  9. “You shall not bear false witness.”  The false prophets of Judah had given the people a spurious message, and the wicked nation embraced the prophetic lies without discernment or protest.
  10. “You shall not covet…”  Again, the people of Judah disobeyed the Lord.  The rich enjoyed their luxuries and failed to care for the poor and helpless.


Ezekiel raised ten indictments against the nation, and God prepared to carry out the sentence against his disobedient people.





Outline of Background Passage:


I.                    God’s Challenge to a False Proverb (18:1-32)

A.     The false proverb stated (vv. 1-2)

B.     The challenge to the false proverb (vv. 3-4)

C.     The description of a just man (vv. 5-9)

1.      Had not worshipped idols (v. 6)

2.      Had not defiled his neighbor’s wife (v. 6)

3.      Had not approached a woman in her impurity (v. 6)

4.      Had not oppressed anyone (v. 7)

5.      Had not exacted usury (v. 8)

6.      Summary of the character of a just man (v. 9)

D.     The description of an ungodly man (vv. 10-13): Ezekiel recorded the counterpart of the list of the characteristics of the godly man.

E.      The godly son of an ungodly man (vv. 14-18)

F.      A godly son will not bear the sin of his father (vv. 19-20)

G.     A “righteous man” who falls into sin will bear his guilt (vv. 21-29)

H.     A call for Judah to repent (vv. 30-32)


II.                 A Lament for the Princes of Israel (19:1-14)

A.     The first stanza of the lament (vv. 1-9)

1.      Israel like a lioness with cubs (vv. 1-3)

2.      Two cubs caught in snares (vv. 4-9)

B.     The second stanza of the lament (vv. 10-14)

1.      Israel like a vine planted by the waters (vv. 10-11)

2.      The vine plucked up and destroyed (vv. 12-14)


III.               God Refused to Respond to Inquirers from Israel (20:1-49)

A.     The privileged history of Israel (vv. 1-6)

B.     The responsibilities of God’s covenant with Israel (vv. 7-9)

C.     Israel’s grave sins against the Lord (vv. 10-32)

1.      Violation of the Sabbath (vv. 10-26)

2.      Blasphemed by being unfaithful to God (vv. 27-32)

D.     God’s promise to Restore Israel (vv. 33-49)

1.      God will renew his covenant (vv. 33-38)

2.      Israel will again know that Jehovah is the Lord (vv. 39-49)

IV.              The “Living Parable” of the Sword (21:1-32)

A.     Ezekiel commanded to preach against Judah and Israel (vv. 1-13)

1.      God will draw his sword against his people (vv. 1-5)

2.      Ezekiel commanded to grieve for Judah and Israel (vv. 6-7)

3.      A polished and sharpened sword (vv. 8-13)

B.     The sword pointed two ways (vv. 14-32)

1.      The sword and the Babylonians (vv. 14-27)

2.      The sword and the Ammonites (vv. 28-32)



V.                 Ezekiel Called to Judge Jerusalem (22:1-31)

A.     The sins of Jerusalem (vv. 1-13)

1.      Bloodshed and idolatry (vv. 1-6)

2.      Dishonor of parents (v. 7a)

3.      Oppression of the stranger, the orphan, and the widow (v. 7b)

4.      Profaned the Sabbath (v. 8)

5.      Sexual immorality (vv. 9-11)

6.      Bribery, usury, and extortion (v. 12)

B.     God’s disgust with Jerusalem’s sin (vv. 13-16)

C.     The House of Israel like dross (vv. 17-22)

D.     The sins of Israel’s leaders (vv. 23-31)

1.      Religious leaders have torn the people like prey (vv. 23-25)

2.      The priests have violated God’s laws (v. 26)

3.      The civil rulers have shed blood and destroyed the people for dishonest gain (v. 27)

4.      The false prophets have lied to the people (v. 28)

5.      No one found to stand in the gap for the sinful people (vv. 29-31)


VI.              The Parable of the Two Sinful Sisters (23:1-49)

A.     The sisters identified (vv. 1-4)

1.      Oholah (name means or “tabernacle”): symbolizes Samaria

2.      Oholibah (name means “tent worshiper”): symbolizes Jerusalem

B.     The sins of Samaria (vv. 5-10): committed adultery with the Assyrians and worshipped idols

C.     The sins of Jerusalem (vv. 11-21): committed adultery with the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Egyptians

D.     The two sisters will be judged by God (vv. 22-49)

1.      Their lovers will turn on them (vv. 22-31)

2.      They will drink the cup of wrath (vv. 32-35)

3.      The sisters have committed adultery, profaned the Sabbath, offered their children to idols, and lived luxuriously (vv. 36-42).

4.      They have grown old in their adulteries (vv. 43-45)

5.      God will repay the lewdness of the sisters (vv. 46-49)


VII.            The Parable of the Boiling Pot and the Death of Ezekiel’s Wife (24:1-27)

A.     The date of this prophecy (vv. 1-2): the day the Babylonians began the final siege of Jerusalem

B.     A pot of boiling meat as a symbol of Judah (vv. 3-14)

1.      Good cuts of meat allowed to cook without the scum being drawn off (vv. 3-8)

2.      A dry pot allowed to burn the meat and the scum as a symbol of God’s wrath (vv. 14)

C.     The death of Ezekiel’s wife (vv. 15-27)

1.      God forbade Ezekiel from mourning his wife (vv. 15-18)

2.      Ezekiel a symbol for the people who will soon be judged (vv. 19-27)



Observation Concerning the Lesson Passage:


  1. This passage emphasizes personal responsibility before God.  Occasionally, one hears of a person who misunderstands the doctrines of grace at the point of responsibility.  The Scriptures clearly teach the sovereignty of God in salvation, and this text drives this truth home effectively.  Nevertheless, the Bible also teaches that men are responsible for their moral choices.  We may not always understand how these truths fit together, but both are taught in the Scriptures.
  2. The people of Judah essentially charged God with treating them unjustly.  Yes, their fathers had sinned, and the transgressions of the fathers had influenced the attitudes and actions of their offspring; however, the children bore responsibility for their moral indiscretions.   The charge that Judah made against God sounds familiar to the “victim” emphasis of our generation.  Sin is often regarded as a “disease” or “disorder.”  People often seek to absolve themselves of responsibility for their actions by blaming another person or an unfortunate circumstance.  God, however, holds each man responsible for his own decisions and actions.
  3. The obedient heart will live, and disobedience produces death.  Please understand that Ezekiel did not teach salvation by works.  The New Testament teaches that obedience to God arises from a regenerate heart, and God deserves the glory for our righteous deeds. Thus, obedience serves as a sure mark of the regenerate heart.  If a person walks in God’s statutes, he shall surely live (See v. 9).  Conversely, the soul that persists in unbelief and disobedience shall surely die, and that person shall have his blood on his own hands (v. 13b).
  4. Life may bring great hardships to believers.  Many earnest Christians could give testimony to experiencing grave difficulties: poor family life, errant teaching or abuse in childhood, or sinful societal influences.  Humans do not always have control over the circumstances of life, but they do have control over the manner in which they respond to their environment.