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Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32

 

The word of the LORD came to me: "What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge'? As I live, declares the Lord GOD, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die. 

 

"Yet you say, 'The way of the Lord is not just.' Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die. Again, when a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life. Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions that he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die. Yet the house of Israel says, 'The way of the Lord is not just.' O house of Israel, are my ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? "Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make 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, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live. 
(ESV)

Not Just Close

Wednesday of the Last Sunday of the Church Year

27 November 2013

The New Testament brings a new era. In the reign of the gospel the old things have gone and the new have come. In the Old Testament there was a confusion of heaven and earth, so that those who were with Israel were brought through the Red Sea on dry ground, whether they believed the promise of salvation that God was fulfilling in the Exodus, or not. They were liberated from bondage to Pharaoh when the Lord forced him to let His people go, even if they did not know the Lord in faith nor revere His name. It was good enough to be close to Israel, rather than of it. It is no wonder, then, that there was so much carping and complaining from those whom Moses led out of Egypt on dry ground, for many had never really trusted the God who said "Go between the walls of water."

 

The people of Israel had the temple and the presence of God in the holy of holies. It was a matter of real estate. The Lord was enthroned on the holy hill. He protected the people of Israel even when they dishonored and desecrated His temple and ignored the glory of His presence. He protected the people whether they were believers or not. There was a confusion of heaven and earth where heaven touched the earth at the hill called Zion. For the sake of the faithful patriarchs God kept revealing Himself as a gracious God and saved the people because He dwelt among them in His glory. Israel repeated the proverb: 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge.' (Ez 18:2). But this was a two way street: when the fathers were faithful the children were also blessed. Everyone close to God had all the physical blessings that could accrue to them.

 

All that changed when in the New Testament heaven touched earth in the incarnation of the Son of God of Mary. Then all the fullness of God dwelt bodily in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Those who trust in Him have all that He gives to His people. Real estate has nothing to do with it. He protects those who stand in the shadow of His cross, for the holy hill has been staked down to the preaching of the Crucified. Wherever the ensign of life is lifted there the life of Christ is given to those who believe. Everyone must believe for himself or herself. Proximity is not sufficient. There is no closeness to the sanctuary, upon which we could depend. There is no "close communion" any longer. There is only being in Christ or not. 

 

Martin Luther

 

"Formerly, there was a mixture, that is, the physical blessings of God, such as liberation, etc., were given to both the good and the evil, but now only the beloved are set free and only the good share in spiritual blessings. Likewise only the evil are punished, while formerly the good were punished with the evil at the same time, because the figurative things were good and evil. Consequently they said in a proverb, 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the teeth of the children are on edge' (Ez 18:2). This the Lord promised to remove, and this is what He is doing now. For He divides in such a way that only the evil among the good are punished and only the good receive gifts, though physical blessings are common to both. The Jews, however, do not want this division. To the present day they want spiritual and physical blessings given to them without judgment. Therefore Isaiah says: 'The unclean shall not pass over it' (Is 35:8); and 'There shall no more come into you the uncircumcised and the unclean' (Is 52:1).

 

"But who would have understood it in this way before it was fulfilled? Therefore 'Jesus began to do and teach' (Acts 1:1). God acts before He teaches. Thus the incarnation and suffering of Christ were not understood until they were accomplished. This, then, is the judgment of discernment which had to be given to Christ, so that now no one would be condemned because of another nor receive gifts because of another (which happens and happened in the case of earthly goods and evils). But each one dies in his own sin and lives by his own righteousness, as the Lord argues in detail concerning this statement in Ezekiel 18."   

 

Martin Luther,
 Lecture on Psalm 60, 60.6 
 
Prayer
Merciful and everlasting God, You did not spare Your only Son but delivered Him up for us all that He might bear our sins on the cross. Grant that our eyes may ever behold our Savior and His cross, that we may not fear the power of any adversaries but rather rejoice in His victory for us; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

 

For the family of Mary Hunt, that they would mourn as those who have hope in the resurrection of the flesh and the life of the world to come

 

For all those who are traveling this week, that they would be kept safe and have joyful homecomings

 

For all those who are still suffering from the dislocations caused by inclement weather, that they might have peace that surpasses understanding
Art: Eyck, Jan van  The Adoration of the Lamb (1425-1429) 

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