Archive for the ‘Ezekiel 18’ Tag

Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After the Third Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  King Zedekiah of Judah

Image in the Public Domain

Spiritual Responsibility

MARCH 21 and 22, 2022


The Collect:

Eternal God, your kingdom has broken into our troubled world

through the life, death, and resurrection of your Son.

Help us to hear your word and obey it,

and bring your saving love to fruition in our lives,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 28


The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 11:1-17 (Monday)

Ezekiel 17:1-10 (Tuesday)

Psalm 39 (Both Days)

Romans 2:1-11 (Monday)

Romans 2:12-16 (Tuesday)


You chastise mortals in punishment for sin,

consuming like a moth what is dear to them;

surely everyone is a mere breath.

–Psalm 39:11, The Book of Worship of North India (1995)


The judgment of God is righteous, the readings for these days tell us.

Ezekiel 17:1-10 requires explanation, for it uses metaphorical language.  The references involving the cedar, the vine, and the eagles refer to international relations from 598 to 588 B.C.E.  In verses 3-6 the meaning is that King Nebuchadnezzar II of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire had taken many prominent people of Judah, including King Jehoiachin (reigned in 597 B.C.E.), into exile, after which King Zedekiah (reigned 597-586 B.C.E.), who was initially loyal to Nebuchadnezzar II, came to the throne of Judah.  The eagle in verses 7-8 is the Pharaoh of Egypt, to whom Zedekiah transferred his loyalty.  The pericope concludes that the survival of Zedekiah and Judah is impossible.

Part of the background of the assigned passage from Ezekiel is the position that pursuing those alliances with dangerous foreign leaders was not only foolish but faithless.  Obey and trust in God instead, prophets said.  Theological interpretation in the context of the Babylonian Exile reinforced that position.  The people and bad kings of Judah reaped what they sowed, the final versions of certain books of the Hebrew Bible argued.  (There were, of course, good kings of Judah.)

God is angry with Judah in Jeremiah 11:1-17.  The people, having generally (with some notable exceptions) refused to obey the covenant with God, will suffer the punishments for noncompliance which the covenant contains.  Among the accusations is rampant idolatry.

The first word of Romans 2 is “therefore,” which leads me back into chapter 1.  The essence of Romans 1 is that Gentiles have no excuse for persistent unrighteousness, including idolatry.  Divine punishment for them for these offenses is therefore justified.  Then, in Romans 2, St. Paul the Apostle tells his Jewish audience not to be spiritually complacent.

The very fact that the Jew agrees so entirely with Paul’s charge against the Gentile shows that he himself is without excuse and subject to the wrath of God.

–Anders Nygren, Commentary on Romans (1944); Translated by Carl C. Rasmussen (Philadelphia, PA:  Muhlenberg Press, 1949), page 113

Furthermore, some Gentiles have the law of God inscribed on their hearts, when even some Jews do not.  Doing is better than merely hearing, according to the Apostle.

Three thoughts come to my mind at this point.  The first is that St. Paul was correct.  He echoed Jeremiah 31:31f (the inner law), but expanded the text to include Gentiles.  St. Paul also sounded much like Jesus in Matthew 7:1-5.

Do not judge, and you will not be judged.  For as you judge others, so will yourselves be judged, and whatever measure you deal out will be dealt to you.

–Matthew 7:1-2, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The Gospel of Matthew did not exist during St. Paul’s lifetime, but the Apostle did have some familiarity with oral traditions and perhaps some written sayings of Jesus, from which the author of the Gospel of Matthew drew.

My second thought is that St. Paul’s challenge to question one’s assumptions and prejudices is timeless.  Who are those we define as spiritual outsiders?  Some of them might be closer to God than we are, and we might not be as close to God as we think we are.

My final thought in this collection is that St. Paul sounds very much like the perhaps later Letter of James.

Exhibit A:

For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

–Romans 2:13, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The emphasis here is on active faith.  The Pauline definition of faith was confidence, in the absence of evidence for or against, which leads to actions.  Thus, later in the epistle, St. Paul argued:

Therefore since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ….

–Romans 5:1, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Romans 2:13 and 5:1 stand as portions of a unified, steadily building case in a theological treatise.

Exhibit B:

What good is it, my friends, for someone to say he has faith when his actions do nothing to show it?  Can faith save him?…So with faith; if it does not lead to action, it is by itself a lifeless thing.

–James 2:14, 17, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Exhibit C:

Do you have to be told, you fool, that faith divorced from action is futile?…You see then it is by action and not by faith alone that a man is justified.

–James 2:20, 24, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Faith, in the Letter of James, is intellectual, hence the necessity of pairing it with deeds.  On the surface the theologies of justification in the Letter of James and the Letter to the Romans might seem mutually contradictory, but they are not.  No, they arrive at the same point from different destinations.

The judgment of God exists alongside divine mercy.  The balance of the two factor resides solely in the purview of God.  Our actions influence divine judgment and mercy in our cases, however.  One can find that teaching in several places in the Bible, including Ezekiel 18, Matthew 7:1-5, Romans 2:6f, and James 2:8f.  Yes, the legacies of ancestors influence us, but our spiritual responsibility for ourselves remains intact.  May we exercise it properly.

Related to one’s spiritual responsibility for oneself is one’s spiritual responsibility for others, as in Romans 2:17-24.  That, however, is a topic for another post.








Devotion for the Forty-Ninth Day of Easter, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Moses with the Tablets of the Law, Rembrandt van Rijn

Above:  Moses With the Tablets of the Law, by Rembrandt Van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Wrestling With Biblical Texts

MAY 27, 2023


The Collect:

O God, on this day you open the hearts of your faithful people

by sending us your Holy Spirit.

Direct us by the light of that Spirit,

that we may have a right judgment in all things

and rejoice at all times in your peace,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 36


The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 20:1-21

Psalm 33:12-22

Matthew 5:1-12


Shall we unpack the Ten Commandments, at least a little?

  1. Many more commandments follow immediately, starting in Exodus 20.
  2. Many of the Ten Commandments are self-explanatory, so not committing adultery against a neighbor are straight-forward, for example.
  3. Swearing falsely by the name of God refers to insincere oaths and to attempts to control God, not to certain curse words and related expressions.
  4. On the troubling side, the text classes wives with property and livestock (20:14) and allows for slavery (20:10).
  5. The commandment to have no other gods might deny the existence of other deities or mean simply not to worship them while acknowledging their existence.  Hebrew Bible scholars debate that point.  Yet I know that many Hebrews during Biblical times not only acknowledged the existence of other deities but worshiped some of them.
  6. Sometimes displaying the Ten Commandments constitutes idolatry, which intention defines.

Exodus 20:5-6 requires some explanation.  Does God really punish descendants for someone’s sins?  Or is this a description of behaviors repeated across generations?  The ultimate context in which to consider any passage of Scripture is the entire canon thereof.  Thus I point out that a note on page 149 of The Jewish Study Bible (2004) lists Deuteronomy 24:6; Jeremiah 31:29-30; and Ezekiel 18:1-20 as passages which state that God punishes a person for his or her sins alone.  This nuance helps to fill out the picture.  Sometimes Biblical authors wrote of effects as if they were divine purposes, even when they were not.  Human understandings have changed, even if God has not.

If we read Exodus 20:5-6 as descriptive and interpret it within the context of the previously listed passages from Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, a certain understanding takes shape.  One’s good and bad behaviors might echo for three or four or more generations.  I can, for example, identify positive and negative legacies from two of my paternal great-grandfathers which have affected me.  I, being aware of my responsibility for my own actions, have endeavored to keep the good and to break with the bad.  God know how successful that has proven so far.

The Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes are about, among other things, how faithful people of God ought to live with God and in community.  Depending on one’s community, living with God properly might contradict the former and lead to persecutions–even death.  The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12 and Luke 6:20-23) say that God’s order is not the dominant human one in which a person lives.  The Beatitudes are counter-cultural.  And Luke 6:24-26 (the Woes) goes beyond anything Matthew 5:3-12 indicates.  If one really reads them, one should recognize that the Beatitudes and Woes remain political hot potatoes.

One part of the honest–not autopilot–interaction with the Bible I like is that we must wrestle with texts and reconsider aspects of our opinions, culture, politics, and economics–even ones which we like and which benefit us.  This is healthy to do.  We will do it if we take the Bible seriously and seek to cut through confirmation bias and defense mechanisms.









Devotion for the Twenty-Sixth and Twenty-Seventh Days of Lent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Books November 22, 2013

Above:  Part of My Biblical Library, November 22, 2013

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

“Lamentations, Dirges, and Cries of Grief”

MARCH 23 AND 24, 2023


The Collect:

Almighty God, your Son came into the world to free us

from all sin and death.  Breathe upon us the power

of your Spirit, that we may be raised to new life in Christ

and serve you in righteousness all our days,  through Jesus Christ,

our Savior and Lord, who lives  and reigns with you and the

Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 28


The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 1:1-3; 2:8-3:3 (26th Day)

Ezekiel 33:10-16 (27th Day)

Psalm 130 (Both Days)

Revelation 10:1-11 (26th Day)

Revelation 11:15-19 (27th Day)


If you, Lord, were to mark what is done amiss,

O Lord, who could stand?

But there is forgiveness with you,

so that you shall be feared.

–Psalm 130:2-3, Common Worship (2000)


When I looked, there was a hand stretched out to me, holding a scroll.  He unrolled it in front of me; it was written on, front and back; and on it was written, “Lamentations, dirges, and cries of grief.”

–Ezekiel 2:10, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)


Revelation 10 borrows a motif—eating a scroll of judgment—from Ezekiel 3.  The scroll, in Ezekiel 3:3, tastes as sweet as honey.  It is also as sweet as honey in the mouth in Revelation 10, where one reads another detail:  the scroll is bitter in the stomach.

I am blessed to have a well-stocked biblical library—acquired mostly at thrift stores, by the way.  Germane volumes from said library inform this post greatly.  William Barclay writes:

A message of God may be to a servant at once a sweet and bitter thing.  It is sweet because it is a great thing to be chosen as the messenger of God; but the message itself may be a foretelling of doom and, therefore a bitter thing.

The Revelation of John, Volume 2 (Philadelphia, PA:  Westminster Press, 1976), page 57

Ernest Lee Stoffel offers this analysis:

The word of Christ is certainly a word of forgiveness of sins.  This is “sweet.”  But what about the “bitter,” the judgment?  I have always felt that the gospel of Christ stands also in judgment, that it stands against whatever violates the love of God in the affairs of nations, in their treatment of people.

The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (Atlanta, GA:  John Knox Press, 1981), page 62

And Carl G. Howie writes:

Ezekiel obediently consumed the message of God so that it became part of him.

The Layman’s Bible Commentary, Volume 13 (Richmond, VA:  John Knox Press, 1961), page 23

Yes, judgment and mercy coexist in God.  I have affirmed this in writing in blog post many times.  But repenting—changing one’s mind, turning around—can stave off divine judgment.  Hence the pronouncement by God can lead to a positive result for the target.  This is not merely an individualistic matter.  No, it is also a social message, one which Hebrew prophets proclaimed.  If one a messenger of God, the result of repentance is “sweet” indeed, but the “bitter” will also occur.

“The world,” in the biblical sense, is not the foe’s playground, something for faithful people to shun and from which to hide.  No, it is our community, for which all of us are responsible.  May we therefore engage it constructively, shining brightly with the light of Christ and challenging it to transform for the better.  We stand on the shoulders of moral giants who did this in their times and places, confronting sins ranging from unjust wars to chattel slavery to racial segregation.  Will we content ourselves to speak of these men and women in respectful tones or will we dare to play our parts?







Ninth Day of Lent   12 comments

Reconciliation Statue at Old Coventry Cathedral, Coventry, England

Image Source = Rebecca Kennison

March 3, 2023

Collect and lections from the Episcopal Lesser Feasts and Fasts Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints


Follow the assigned readings with me this Lent….

Kenneth Randolph Taylor


Ezekiel 18:21-28 (New Jerusalem Bible):

[The world of Yahweh as addressed to me as follows,]

If the wicked, however, renounces all the sins he has committed, respects my laws and is law-abiding and upright, he will most certainly live; he will not die.  None of the crimes he has committed will be remembered against him from then on; he will most certainly live because of his upright actions.  Would I take pleasure in the death of the wicked–declares the Lord Yahweh–and not prefer to see him renounce his wickedness and live?

But if the upright abandons uprightness and does wrong by copying all the loathsome practices of the wicked, is he to live?  All his upright actions will be forgotten from then on; for the infidelity of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, he will most certainly die.

Now, you say, ‘What the Lord does is unjust.’ Now listen, House of Israel: is what I do unjust?  Is it not what you do that is unjust?  When the upright abandons uprightness and does wrong and dies, he dies because of the wrong which he himself has done.  Similarly, when the wicked abandons wickedness to become law-abiding and upright, he saves his own life.  Having chosen to renounce all his previous crimes, he will most certainly live; he will not die.

Psalm 130 (New Jerusalem Bible):

From the depths I cry to you, Yahweh:

Lord, hear my cry.

Listen attentively to the sound of my pleading!

If you kept a record of our sins, Lord, who could stand their ground?

But with you is forgiveness, that you may be revered.

I rely, my whole being relies, Yahweh, on your promise.

My whole being hopes in the Lord, more than watchmen for daybreak;

more than watchmen for daybreak let Israel hope in Yahweh.

For with Yahweh is faithful love, with him generous ransom;

and he will ransom Israel from all its sins.

Matthew 5:20-26 (New Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus said,]

For I tell you, if your uprightness does not surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.

You have heard how it was said to our ancestors, You shall not kill, and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court.  But I say this to you, anyone who is angry with a brother will answer for it before the court; anyone who calls a brother ‘Fool’ will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and anyone who calls him ‘Traitor’ will answer for it in hell fire.  So, then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering.  Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison.  In truth I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

The Collect:

Lord Christ, our eternal Redeemer, grant us such fellowship in your sufferings, that, filled with your Holy Spirit, we may subdue the flesh to the spirit, and the spirit to you, and at the last attain to the glory of your resurrection; who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


How much better would our households, extended families, neighborhoods, communities, towns, cities, counties, nations, and world be if more of us tried more often to treat each other with simple respect?  If we were to refrain from so many insults, much less acts of violence, not only would watching all-day cable news channels and reading comments beneath YouTube videos be more pleasant, but society would be in better shape than it is.

The main idea is that how we think dictates how we act.  I  refer to patterns of thinking, not rare and occasional stray thoughts.  So, with this in mind, consider the following hymn lyrics by John Keble.  They make the point better than I can.

1 New ev’ry morning is the love
our waking and uprising prove;
through sleep and darkness safely brought,
restored to life, and pow’r, and thought.

2 New mercies each returning day
hover around us while we pray;
new perils past, new sins forgiv’n,
new thoughts of God, new hopes of heav’n.

3 If on our daily course our mind
be set to hallow all we find,
new treasures still of countless price
God will provide for sacrifice.

4 The trivial round, the common task
will furnish all we need or ask:
room to deny ourselves, a road
to bring us daily nearer God.

5 Seek we no more; content with these,
let present rapture, comfort, ease
as God shall bid them, come and go–
the secret, this, of rest below.

6 Only, O Lord, in thy dear love
fit us for perfect rest above,
and help us this and every day
to live more nearly as we pray.


Written on February 21, 2010

Edited on October 27, 2010 and on June 13, 2012

Posted October 27, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2023, Episcopal Church Lectionary, March 3

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