The Soul That Sins Shall Die
18 1 God's Message to me: 2 "What do you people mean by going around the country repeating the saying, The parents ate green apples, The children got stomachache? 3 "As sure as I'm the living God, you're not going to repeat this saying in Israel any longer. 4 Every soul - man, woman, child - belongs to me, parent and child alike. You die for your own sin, not another's. 5 "Imagine a person who lives well, treating others fairly, keeping good relationships - 6 doesn't eat at the pagan shrines, doesn't worship the idols so popular in Israel, doesn't seduce a neighbor's spouse, doesn't indulge in casual sex, 7 doesn't bully anyone, doesn't pile up bad debts, doesn't steal, doesn't refuse food to the hungry, doesn't refuse clothing to the ill-clad, 8 doesn't exploit the poor, doesn't live by impulse and greed, doesn't treat one person better than another, 9 But lives by my statutes and faithfully honors and obeys my laws. This person who lives upright and well shall live a full and true life. Decree of God, the Master.
10 "But if this person has a child who turns violent and murders and goes off and does any of these things, 11 even though the parent has done none of them - eats at the pagan shrines, seduces his neighbor's spouse, 12 bullies the weak, steals, piles up bad debts, admires idols, commits outrageous obscenities, 13 exploits the poor " - do you think this person, the child, will live? Not a chance! Because he's done all these vile things, he'll die. And his death will be his own fault. 14 "Now look: Suppose that this child has a child who sees all the sins done by his parent. The child sees them, but doesn't follow in the parent's footsteps - 15 doesn't eat at the pagan shrines, doesn't worship the popular idols of Israel, doesn't seduce his neighbor's spouse, 16 doesn't bully anyone, doesn't refuse to loan money, doesn't steal, doesn't refuse food to the hungry, doesn't refuse to give clothes to the ill-clad, 17 doesn't live by impulse and greed, doesn't exploit the poor. He does what I say; he performs my laws and lives by my statutes. 18 But the parent will die for what the parent did, for the sins of - oppressing the weak, robbing brothers and sisters, doing what is dead wrong in the community. 19 "Do you need to ask, 'So why does the child not share the guilt of the parent?' 20 The soul that sins is the soul that dies. The child does not share the guilt of the parent, nor the parent the guilt of the child. If you live upright and well, you get the credit; if you live a wicked life, you're guilty as charged.
God's Way Is Just
21 "But a wicked person who turns his back on that life of sin and keeps all my statutes, living a just and righteous life, he'll live, really live. He won't die. 22 I won't keep a list of all the things he did wrong. He will live. 23 Do you think I take any pleasure in the death of wicked men and women? Isn't it my pleasure that they turn around, no longer living wrong but living right - really living? 24 "The same thing goes for a good person who turns his back on an upright life and starts sinning, plunging into the same vile obscenities that the wicked person practices. Will this person live? I don't keep a list of all the things this person did right, like money in the bank he can draw on. Because of his defection, because he accumulates sin, he'll die. 25 "Do I hear you saying, 'That's not fair! God's not fair!'? 26 If a good person turns away from his good life and takes up sinning, he'll die for it. He'll die for his own sin. 27 Likewise, if a bad person turns away from his bad life and starts living a good life, a fair life, he will save his life. 28 Because he faces up to all the wrongs he's committed and puts them behind him, he will live, really live. He won't die. 29 "And yet Israel keeps on whining, 'That's not fair! God's not fair.' "I'm not fair, Israel? You're the ones who aren't fair.
30 "The upshot is this, Israel: I'll judge each of you according to the way you live. So turn around! Turn your backs on your rebellious living so that sin won't drag you down. 31 Clean house. No more rebellions, please. Get a new heart! Get a new spirit! Why would you choose to die, Israel? 32 I take no pleasure in anyone's death. Decree of God, the Master. "Make a clean break! Live!"
A Lamentation for the Princes of Israel
19 1 Sing the blues over the princes of Israel. 2 Say: What a lioness was your mother among lions! She crouched in a pride of young lions. Her cubs grew large. 3 She reared one of her cubs to maturity, a robust young lion. He learned to hunt. He ate men. 4 Nations sounded the alarm. He was caught in a trap. They took him with hooks and dragged him to Egypt. 5 When the lioness saw she was luckless, that her hope for that cub was gone, She took her other cub and made him a strong young lion. 6 He prowled with the lions, a robust young lion. He learned to hunt. He ate men. 7 He rampaged through their defenses, left their cities in ruins. The country and everyone in it was terrorized by the roars of the lion. 8 The nations got together to hunt him. Everyone joined the hunt. They set out their traps and caught him. 9 They put a wooden collar on him and took him to the king of Babylon. No more would that voice be heard disturbing the peace in the mountains of Israel!
10 Here's another way to put it: Your mother was like a vine in a vineyard, transplanted alongside streams of water, Luxurious in branches and grapes because of the ample water. 11 It grew sturdy branches fit to be carved into a royal scepter. It grew high, reaching into the clouds. Its branches filled the horizon, and everyone could see it. 12 Then it was ripped up in a rage and thrown to the ground. The hot east wind shriveled it up and stripped its fruit. The sturdy branches dried out, fit for nothing but kindling. 13 Now it's a stick stuck out in the desert, a bare stick in a desert of death, 14 Good for nothing but making fires, campfires in the desert. Not a hint now of those sturdy branches fit for use as a royal scepter! (This is a sad song, a text for singing the blues.)
God's Dealing with Israel
20 1 In the seventh year, the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month, some of the leaders of Israel came to ask for guidance from God. They sat down before me. 2 Then God's Message came to me: 3 "Son of man, talk with the leaders of Israel. Tell them, 'God, the Master, says, "Have you come to ask me questions? As sure as I am the living God, I'll not put up with questions from you. Decree of God, the Master."' 4 "Son of man, why don't you do it? Yes, go ahead. Hold them accountable. Confront them with the outrageous obscenities of their parents.
5 Tell them that God, the Master, says: 6 On the same day that I raised my hand in the solemn oath, I promised them that I would take them out of the country of Egypt and bring them into a country that I had searched out just for them, a country flowing with milk and honey, a jewel of a country. 7 "'At that time I told them, "Get rid of all the vile things that you've become addicted to. Don't make yourselves filthy with the Egyptian no-god idols. I alone am God, your God." 8 "'But they rebelled against me, wouldn't listen to a word I said. None got rid of the vile things they were addicted to. They held on to the no-gods of Egypt as if for dear life. I seriously considered inflicting my anger on them in force right there in Egypt. 9 Then I thought better of it. I acted out of who I was, not by how I felt. And I acted in a way that would evoke honor, not blasphemy, from the nations around them, nations who had seen me reveal myself by promising to lead my people out of Egypt.
10 And then I did it: I led them out of Egypt into the desert. 11 "'I gave them laws for living, showed them how to live well and obediently before me. 12 I also gave them my weekly holy rest days, my "Sabbaths," a kind of signpost erected between me and them to show them that I, God, am in the business of making them holy. 13 "'But Israel rebelled against me in the desert. They didn't follow my statutes. They despised my laws for living well and obediently in the ways I had set out. And they totally desecrated my holy Sabbaths. I seriously considered unleashing my anger on them right there in the desert. 14 But I thought better of it and acted out of who I was, not by what I felt, so that I might be honored and not blasphemed by the nations who had seen me bring them out. 15 But I did lift my hand in a solemn oath there in the desert and promise them that I would not bring them into the country flowing with milk and honey that I had chosen for them, that jewel among all lands. 16 I canceled my promise because they despised my laws for living obediently, wouldn't follow my statutes, and went ahead and desecrated my holy Sabbaths. They preferred living by their no-god idols. 17 But I didn't go all the way: I didn't wipe them out, didn't finish them off in the desert. 18 "'Then I addressed myself to their children in the desert: "Don't do what your parents did. Don't take up their practices. Don't make yourselves filthy with their no-god idols. 19 I myself am God, your God: Keep my statutes and live by my laws. 20 Keep my Sabbaths as holy rest days, signposts between me and you, signaling that I am God, your God." 21 "'But the children also rebelled against me. They neither followed my statutes nor kept my laws for living upright and well. And they desecrated my Sabbaths. I seriously considered dumping my anger on them, right there in the desert. 22 But I thought better of it and acted out of who I was, not by what I felt, so that I might be honored and not blasphemed by the nations who had seen me bring them out. 23 "'But I did lift my hand in solemn oath there in the desert, and swore that I would scatter them all over the world, disperse them every which way 24 because they didn't keep my laws nor live by my statutes. They desecrated my Sabbaths and remained addicted to the no-god idols of their parents. 25 Since they were determined to live bad lives, I myself gave them statutes that could not produce goodness and laws that did not produce life. 26 I abandoned them. Filthy in the gutter, they perversely sacrificed their firstborn children in the fire. The very horror should have shocked them into recognizing that I am God.'
27 "Therefore, speak to Israel, son of man. Tell them that God says, 'As if that wasn't enough, your parents further insulted me by betraying me. 28 When I brought them into that land that I had solemnly promised with my upraised hand to give them, every time they saw a hill with a sex-and-religion shrine on it or a grove of trees where the sacred whores practiced, they were there, buying into the whole pagan system. 29 I said to them, "What hill do you go to?"' (It's still called "Whore Hills.") 30 "Therefore, say to Israel, 'The Message of God, the Master: You're making your lives filthy by copying the ways of your parents. In repeating their vile practices, you've become whores yourselves. 31 In burning your children as sacrifices, you've become as filthy as your no-god idols - as recently as today! "'Am I going to put up with questions from people like you, Israel? As sure as I am the living God, I, God, the Master, refuse to be called into question by you! 32 "'What you're secretly thinking is never going to happen. You're thinking, "We're going to be like everybody else, just like the other nations. We're going to worship gods we can make and control."
33 '"As sure as I am the living God, says God, the Master, think again! With a mighty show of strength and a terrifying rush of anger, I will be King over you! 34 I'll bring you back from the nations, collect you out of the countries to which you've been scattered, with a mighty show of strength and a terrifying rush of anger. 35 I'll bring you to the desert of nations and haul you into court, where you'll be face to face with judgment. 36 "'As I faced your parents with judgment in the desert of Egypt, so I'll face you with judgment. 37 I'll scrutinize and search every person as you arrive, and I'll bring you under the bond of the covenant. 38 I'll cull out the rebels and traitors. I'll lead them out of their exile, but I won't bring them back to Israel. "'Then you'll realize that I am God. 39 "'But you, people of Israel, this is the Message of God, the Master, to you: Go ahead, serve your no-god idols! But later, you'll think better of it and quit throwing filth and mud on me with your pagan offerings and no-god idols. 40 For on my holy mountain, the high mountain of Israel, I, God, the Master, tell you that the entire people of Israel will worship me. I'll receive them there with open arms. I'll demand your best gifts and offerings, all your holy sacrifices. 41 What's more, I'll receive you as the best kind of offerings when I bring you back from all the lands and countries in which you've been scattered. I'll demonstrate in the eyes of the world that I am The Holy. 42 When I return you to the land of Israel, the land that I solemnly promised with upraised arm to give to your parents, you'll realize that I am God. 43 Then and there you'll remember all that you've done, the way you've lived that has made you so filthy - and you'll loathe yourselves. 44 "'But, dear Israel, you'll also realize that I am God when I respond to you out of who I am, not by what I feel about the evil lives you've lived, the corrupt history you've compiled. Decree of God, the Master.'" Nobody Will Put Out the Fire
The Prophecy against the South
45 God's Message came to me: 46 "Son of man, face south. Let the Message roll out against the south. Prophesy against the wilderness forest of the south. 47 "Tell the forest of the south, 'Listen to the Message of God! God, the Master, says, I'll set a fire in you that will burn up every tree, dead trees and live trees alike. Nobody will put out the fire. The whole country from south to north will be blackened by it. 48 Everyone is going to see that I, God, started the fire and that it's not going to be put out.'" 49 And I said, "O God, everyone is saying of me, 'He just makes up stories.'" A Sword! A Sword!