Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32
We mostly associate tantrums with spoiled and indulged children, wanting to have their way, and when that doesn’t happen, they have a tantrum. News flash, some persons you would determine to be full grown mature adults, they to throw tantrums when they can’t have or get things their way, a look at our current national politics sadly is a vivid example on full display, of someone threating to throw a tantrum if things don’t go their way.
Having tantrums when life’s situations and matters don’t go the way we would prefer or want. Life can be summed up or understood as presenting us with a series of challenges whereby the nature of our character, convictions and values will be shown in how we respond to our life’s challenges.
And when the challenges we face reveal or show themselves, that things are not going to go the way we may want, again sadly some will have or throw full-grown adult tantrums. Some persons of faith actually throw tantrums at God when the failings, or insufficiency of their character, nature and faith places them in a unfavorable position.
Today’s message (surprise, surprise)is seemingly a continuation of dealing with “Anger-Management, or “Mis-Management” of Anger directed towards God! Last week we read of the Israelites while starting their Exodus sojourn out of slavery from Egypt, were angry and grumbling at Moses and Aaron declaring they had it better in slavery because they sat around pots of meat and ate their fill of bread. But, now having their prayers, cries and pleads to God to save them, as they journey towards freedom and their promise land, they’re angry with God, Moses and Aaron because their lack of faith that God will provide is insufficient.
In the Matthew text, Jesus employs a parable telling of persons who have labored long for God’s kingdom yet persons just coming to labor in God’s kingdom receive the same reward as they do. So, much like in the church today, we look upon new converts or those accepting Christ somehow being or supposedly should be lesser in the presence of God, or how we do church. The point being made is God is righteous, fair and just to the earnest and sincere, whether they were baptized as infants, or came to the LORD when they were crusty and gray.
And lastly last week we had scripture out of Jonah where he was angry, in a rage of disgust towards the LORD, for sending him to preach a message of repentance to his blood enemies the Ninevites, and repent they did, so God spared them.
This week in the Exodus text, again we have the Israelites continuing their wilderness journey towards a new reality, the land God promised their ancestors. And they are running out of the Kirkland brand of bottled water, no square bottled Fiji water, or maybe it was the “crystal geyser(natural alpine spring water,” or the venerable bottled Voss water, the people had ran out of, and now again they’re grumbling at Moses and Aaron, that they’ve brought them out of Egypt so that that they may now die of thirst!
But there is something very interesting with one of the Scripture reading’s of today, it seems not to be so neatly thematic, as the others. So, one might and should ask why was it a part of this week’s readings? It comes from Ezekiel, it records words of God, being somewhat angered, at a minimum annoyed with the behavior and actions of God’s people! So, again why was this text joined with these other readings, was it to have us beware that a loving God, can at some point say, enough is enough, repent and change from your wicked ways?
Returning momentarily to the Exodus reading, and the Israelites complaining about the lack of their having their choice of water; God acknowledges their anger, around verse 4, Moses cries to the LORD, they are ready to stone me, and God instructs to in front of the people taking some elders with him, and the staff God gave him which parted the Red sea, and strike a rock that God will appear standing on, and water flowed…
I especially enjoyed the Discipleship Ministries commentary on this text this week, they wrote; “…the theme for this week, “Strike the Rock,” becomes a call for deeper living? “Strike the Rock” means lean on God, trust in Jesus. Strike the Rock means find the joy even in difficult moments, even in the wilderness. Striking the rock is trusting that there is a way forward even when it seems like there is no way. Striking the rock is a declaration of faith, even when it seems like giving up makes more sense.”
They conclude their commentary on portion of text in an insightful manner writing;
“…maybe water isn’t what this text is all about. Maybe it is about the life of faith, or about faith in a God who is present and who provides. In our text of today, we begin with a whine, and we shift to a threat, which then becomes a complaint. And while the people get what they need, there is no sense that they enjoy the gift. They are remembered not for the miracle of water from a rock, but for their complaining. The name place is called Massah, and Meribah, meaning testing and quarreling, what a great legacy?”
Maybe the Exodus text is not about water, maybe it’s about the life of faith, about faith in a God who is both present and provides, even in the midst of grumblings, quarreling and complaints.
I think it is precisely this option that connects the Ezekiel text to our Exodus texts of persons whom God has hear, God has responded, sending them a leader that’s got them out of slavery in Egypt, and now is leading them into the promise land, but somehow, every time they encounter an obstacle, a challenge they don’t turn to their faith and God, instead they turn on their leaders and each other.
Let us quickly review what exactly the Ezekiel text states, then let us better understand what is going on with this text, and more importantly what or how does it speak, guide, shape or inform us in how we as people of God are to live and act!
“The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”? 3 As I live, says the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. 4 Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die
25 Yet you say, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” Hear now, O house of
Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? 26 When the
righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die
for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. 27 Again, when the
wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is
lawful and right, they shall save their life. 28 Because they considered and turned
away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live;
they shall not die. 29 Yet the house of Israel says, “The way of the Lord is unfair.”
O house of Israel, are my ways unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?
Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways,
says the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise
iniquity will be your ruin. [
a] 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions that you
have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!
Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of
anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live
The opening words; “The parents have eaten sour grapes, the children’s teeth are set on edge.” Was an ancient common saying, when persons had given up, were not making any effort to address a wrong; It could be understood in today’s modern context, when our national leadership is questioned about the over 200,000 covid19, deaths and responds: “It is, what it is!” as though there is nothing that can or ought to be done about it!
The context is that the Israelites during Ezekiel’s time finds themselves in exile living in a sub-servient role in the Babylonian empire, that has conquered their nation. The false and accommodating priest of their day, preached that it was purely the sins of their parents, and grandparents that has led them into their dire condition and situation, in other words it is not their fault, the wrongs all occurred on others watch, not theirs!
God declares to them, don’t use that excuse, don’t speak that proverb no more, you yourselves brought this upon you. “All lives are mine declares the LORD, the parents as well as the child.” Then the LORD speaks about living a life of faith, a life of righteousness, in contrast to living a life of sin, wickedness and iniquity.
Quarreling with God, saying the ways of God are unfair, God says “It is your ways that are unfair…your righteous have turned away from such,…they commit iniquity…they do acts of wickedness” The LORD concludes the charges leveled at the people stating:
“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways,
says the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise
iniquity will be your ruin.”
We cannot have our way with the LORD if our ways are not the ways, nature and love of God! Having tantrums, blaming the Lord, saying the Lord’s ways are unfair, are difficult will not be pleasing and acceptable in the sight of God.
God calls, created us to be better than we often act and reflect back unto God’s creation…
All life as God stated belongs to God, your sins, my sins, our sins and transgressions belong to us, but the grace of God abounds, the love of God, the patience of God is there, it’s here in God’s creation, if we will study ourselves, prepare ourselves, and strive to God’s will and not ours, and not have tantrums when we can’t make or have God do exactly what we want God to do!
For as we read in Isaiah 55:8-9; God declares;
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”