The Israelites made a pretty good case for their complaint: Their fathers had eaten green apples, and the children did get stomachaches (verse2). As a result of the sins of their fathers, the children suffered for that which they bore no responsibility.
Ezekiel didn’t argue with the people about that. What he argued with them about was the way they saw God in the historical process of sin’s consequences. They equated the process with God, concluding that that was the way he revealed himself in the world-by making sure people got what was coming to them. That’s karma, not gospel.
The gospel is good news, news of a God who is seeking to create a new people and becomes personally involved with the heart of each and every individual. He is a God which is more interested in creating life than causing death, more interested in resurrection than in decomposition, more interested in rolling away tombstones than sailing them.
The curious thing about this good news is that Ezekiel had a difficult time convincing anyone of this, and even when he did, only a few people responded. Wouldn’t you think that kind of preaching would be hailed as good news? But it wasn’t. Ezekiel was accused of presenting a God whose ways weren’t just. Everyone was more comfortable with a predictable, cause-and-effect morality that punished people than with a God who took each person seriously as a new creation to be loved and saved.
If people could blame their parents for the bad things that were happening to them, they didn’t have to take any responsibility themselves. Then, even though they got punished, they didn’t have to bear the blame. They didn’t have to deal personally and responsibly with God or their neighbor. Their fathers already messed up those relationships, and there was nothing they could do about it. They would rather be punished for what their father’s had done and not have any responsibility in the present to live in obedience to God. But Ezekiel was relentless. He wasn’t going to let them get away with dumping the whole load of responsibility on their fathers while avoiding God themselves.
God invades our history and extricates us from those seemingly inexorable cause-and-effect laws that we feel enmeshed in, giving us a new beginning in Christ, setting us free from all that historical inevitability so we can live spontaneously in the newness of life.
It takes a lot of courage to respond to that, because it means taking responsibility for what we do. The gospel confronts us instead with the living God who wants to save us. He calls us to be forgiven, breaking the circle of sin that spirals downward in both temporal and eternal punishment. He wants us to be a part of a new community that is capable of enjoying the serendipity of his love, the sudden invasion of his grace, the sumptuous fruits of the spirit. Such as love, joy, and peace, along with a cornucopia of other fruits.
-Eugene Peterson’s contemplation (Ezekiel 18)