Questions for the Week of September 27, 2020
Ezekiel 18:1-4,25-32; Matthew 21:28-32
- What is the situation in which Israel finds itself when it hears this word from the Lord through the prophet Ezekiel? What about the content of this proverb might lend itself to being quoted in this setting? What might it be like spiritually (emotionally, physically, etc.) to be in exile for the Hebrew people? How might this proverb give expression to those experiences and feelings?
- The proverb in verse 1 is used by God as a vehicle to speak to his people. Father Jonathan gives two responses to the proverb. The first is “the fatalistic” response. What about this response makes it a ‘go to’ response for people? What in their thinking or perception of life might lead them down this path? What are some of the corrective words given in the Scriptures to that thinking/perception?
- What might God be saying to this kind of thinking in his people in his words in verse 4: “Know that all lives are mine. The life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine.” How might this be a word of hope to his people in exile?
- The second response given by Fr. Jonathan is “the blame” response. When encountering things which we feel are “unfair” this is often a ‘go to’ response. What is important to us in finding someone to blame? Does finding a target of blame do what we think it will? What are unintended consequences playing the blame game?
Note: There is also an important task of identifying sin, its source, and its consequences (including its effect on us) as a part of seeking forgiveness and/or healing. That honesty can lead someone to life-producing things like forgiveness, reconciliation, healing, new healthy patterns, etc. This leads to life. Blame often leads to death: bitterness, anger, depression, etc.
- What is God’s response to this accusation ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’? God points to the transgressions of his people in verses 25-29. He finishes with this: “Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!” Honesty allows to identify sin/transgression and cast them away and turn (repent) from them. What keeps us from that kind of honesty? How have you found honesty regarding sin to be freeing and a step toward a new heart and spirit?
- How do we “make yourself” a new heart and spirit? Read Ezekiel 36:22-27, which speaks of God vindicating his name. God will not let sin go unpunished and yet as in verse 32 of our passage this morning he says, “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone.” So, God says “I will act” (Ez. 36:22). I will deal with the justice due sin and will extend mercy and grace to sinful humanity. And so, he sends his Son Jesus, thus vindicating his name: showing himself just/righteous, and merciful/gracious. Then by his Spirit he gives to those who accept his redemption and lordship, a new heart and a new spirit. Where do you need a renewal of your heart and spirit?