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Sermon #2102 Miscellaneous Sermons
Title: “Is not my way equal?”
Text: Ezekiel 18:1-32
Subject: God’s Sovereignty, Justice, and Mercy
Date: Tuesday Evening — August 20, 2013
Readings: Rex Bartley and Mark Warta
While you are turning to the 18th chapter of the book of Ezekiel, please listen carefully, as I remind you of some things with which you are familiar. You will recall that when Moses said to the Lord God, “I beseech Thee, show me Thy glory,” The Lord God said to Moses, — “I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy” (Exodus 33:18-19. Then, in Exodus 34, The Lord descended in a cloud and proclaimed the name of the Lord to Moses. That is to say, the Lord God showed his prophet his character as God.
Exodus 34:6-7 6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, 7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.
Here is the essence of God’s character.
· God is sovereign. — He is gracious to whom he will be gracious and has mercy on whom he will have mercy.
· God delights in mercy. — He is merciful and gracious, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin.
· God is just. — He will by no means clear the guilty. He declares himself “a just God and a Savior.”
In everything He does, the Lord our God shows himself sovereign, merciful, and just. When Moses saw this, when he saw the glory of God in the salvation of sinners, by a work of sovereign justice and mercy in a crucified Substitute, “Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped” (Exodus 34:8). That is when you will worship God, too — When you find out who God is, when you see that God saves sinners by a work of sovereign mercy and justice through his darling Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, our crucified Substitute. God delights in mercy; and he does forgive sin; but the only way he can or will forgive sin is by an act of justice, by taking sin away from the sinner he forgives, by making the guilty not guilty. That is God’s glory. That is the essence of his character as God. God forgives sin. Hallelujah! But God only forgives sin by completely purging it away in the blood of his dear Son, by making the guilty not guilty. I say, again, — Hallelujah!
2 Corinthians 5:21 21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
That is free, complete, perfect justification in Christ. That is the message of Ezekiel 18. The title of my message is — “Is not my way equal?”.
When we declare God’s sovereignty, men say, “That’s not right. God’s ways are not equal.” When we assert that God’s salvation is to be had only by his mercy, only by his grace through the blood and righteousness of Christ, men say, “That’s not right. God’s ways are not equal.” When we declare God’s just judgment, men say, “That’s not right. God’s ways are not equal.” In these 32 verses of Ezekiel 18, the Lord God shows us that his way is equal.
May God the Holy Spirit, Whose Word you have open on your lap, be our Teacher, as we read this chapter together.
Proposition: This is the one thing taught in this chapter: — God always does that which is right and just, both in the exercise of his mercy in salvation and in the execution of his wrath in judgment. — His way is equal.
Divisions: Hold your Bibles open at Ezekiel 18. I want to show you six things in these 32 verses of Inspiration that will, if blessed of God the Holy Spirit to your understanding, bless your soul and cheer your heart. Here is…
1. A Declaration of Divine Sovereignty (vv. 1-4).
2. A Description of a Just Man (vv. 5-9).
3. A Display of both God’s Sovereignty and His Justice (vv. 10-18).
4. A Display of both God’s Mercy and His Justice (vv. 19-21).
5. An Assurance of Divine Justice in the Execution of Judgment (vv. 22-30).
6. An Assurance of Divine Justice in the Exercise of God’s Saving Mercy (vv. 31-32).
1st — The Lord God makes a declaration of His absolute sovereignty as God (vv. 1-4).
Ezekiel 18:1-4 1 The word of the LORD came unto me again, saying, 2 What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge? 3 As I live, saith the Lord GOD, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel.
The Lord God here tells us that the children of Israel charged Him with injustice, saying, “Our fathers ate the sour grapes of their rebellion and sin, and we suffer for it. Our teeth are set on edge by what our fathers did long ago in Egypt and in the wilderness.”
Then, in verse 3, He tells us that He will soon cause all men to see that He is just in all things, in mercy and in judgment. He will take the rebel’s proverb out of his mouth and cause all to confess that His way is equal, right, and just.
Verse 4 — Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.
Here the Lord God asserts His right as God to exercise total sovereignty over all men.
A Just Man
2nd — The Lord Jehovah himself gives us his own description of a just man (vv. 5-9).
I have often told you that the word “justified” does not mean (as we commonly hear) “just as if I’d never sinned.” Justified means something far greater than that. Justification is not a pretend thing with God. It is not God treating a sinner as if he had never sinned. —— Justification is God making the sinner to have never sinned. It is God reversing things, making the guilty guiltless, the unholy holy, the unrighteous righteous, and the sinful sinless! Let’s see if that is not exactly how God describes a just man. — Ezekiel 18:5-9.
Ezekiel 18:5-9 5 But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right, 6 And hath not eaten upon the mountains, neither hath lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, neither hath defiled his neighbour's wife, neither hath come near to a menstruous woman, 7 And hath not oppressed any, but hath restored to the debtor his pledge, hath spoiled none by violence, hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment; 8 He that hath not given forth upon usury, neither hath taken any increase, that hath withdrawn his hand from iniquity, hath executed true judgment between man and man, 9 Hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly; he is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord GOD.
What does that mean? Does the Lord God here declare that only one who has never sinned, only one who is altogether perfect and sinless is just, — that only the person who has never done anything wrong shall live before him in everlasting salvation? — That is exactly what He means!
But the just man in this world still dwells in this body of sinful flesh; and brings forth children who are like himself by nature, vile sinners. — Grace does not pass from father to son. Read on…
Sovereignty and Justice
3rd — Here is a display of both God’s sovereignty and His justice (vv. 10-18).
Here is the son of that just man described in verses 5-9. He is lost forever because of his sin. His father’s righteousness benefits him nothing.
Ezekiel 18:10-18 10 If he beget a son that is a robber, a shedder of blood, and that doeth the like to any one of these things, 11 And that doeth not any of those duties, but even hath eaten upon the mountains, and defiled his neighbour's wife, 12 Hath oppressed the poor and needy, hath spoiled by violence, hath not restored the pledge, and hath lifted up his eyes to the idols, hath committed abomination, 13 Hath given forth upon usury, and hath taken increase: shall he then live? he shall not live: he hath done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him.
Here is that same just man’s grandson. God is merciful to him. He is saved by grace. His father’s wickedness could not destroy him; and his own wickedness is completely purged away by the blood of Christ.
14 Now, lo, if he beget a son, that seeth all his father's sins which he hath done, and considereth, and doeth not such like, 15 That hath not eaten upon the mountains, neither hath lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, hath not defiled his neighbour's wife, 16 Neither hath oppressed any, hath not withholden the pledge, neither hath spoiled by violence, but hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment, 17 That hath taken off his hand from the poor, that hath not received usury nor increase, hath executed my judgments, hath walked in my statutes; he shall not die for the iniquity of his father, he shall surely live. 18 As for his father, because he cruelly oppressed, spoiled his brother by violence, and did that which is not good among his people, lo, even he shall die in his iniquity.
Mercy and Justice
4th — Here is a display of both God’s mercy and His justice (vv. 19-21).
Ezekiel 18:19-21 19 Yet say ye, Why? doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father? When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live. 20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.
Now, watch this. There is hope for sinners. Believe on the Son of God, and “thy sins are forgiven thee!”
Ezekiel 18:21 But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die.
The only way a sinner can do that which is lawful and right is by faith in Christ (Romans 3:31). Christ is that “righteousness of the righteousness that shall be upon him” and cannot be taken away from him (2 Corinthians 5:21; Jeremiah 23:6; 33:16; 1 John 2:1). He says, — “Every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD” (Isaiah 54:17).
Now, read verses 21 and 22 and shout with joy. Here is a soul recovered by grace out of the snare of the devil.
Ezekiel 18:21-22 21 But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. 22 All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live.
Justice in Judgment
5th — We are assured by our God of his strict justice in the execution of His wrath in judgment (vv. 22-30).
Ezekiel 18:22-30 22 All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live. 23 Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?
God has pleasure in mercy. — “He delighteth in mercy!” His justice can never be satisfied by punishing sinners. His justice was satisfied by punishing his Son in the place of sinners. Now, the Lord God sees the travail of His soul and is satisfied!
Now, watch this. Here is a self-righteous soul forever lost, because of his sin (vv. 24-26).
Ezekiel 18:24-26 But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die. 25 Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal? 26 When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die.
Here is a sinner who saves his soul alive by perfect righteousness (vv. 27-28).
Ezekiel 18:27-28 Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive. 28 Because he considereth, and turneth away from all his transgressions that he hath committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.
Do you understand what you have read? God’s way is equal. He always does right.
Ezekiel 18:29-30 Yet saith the house of Israel, The way of the Lord is not equal. O house of Israel, are not my ways equal? are not your ways unequal? 30 Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.
Justice in Salvation
6th — This magnificent chapter closes with the Lord God assuring us of His absolute and strict justice in the exercise of his saving mercy (vv. 31-32). — Here is a striking and just call from God himself to poor sinners like you and me, a call to which the Lord God urges our obedience by assuring a merciful and just salvation to all who trust Christ.
Ezekiel 18:31-32 31 Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.
How on this earth can I cast away my transgressions? How can I make my heart and my spirit new? If I am dead, I cannot do these things for myself. Ay fool ought to know that. Yet, the Lord God here commands it. Now, understand this: — What God commands only God can perform! If He has cast away my sins, they are cast away! If He has created a new heart and a new spirit in me, I am a new creature in Christ. If He turns me I shall be turned.
Yet, He commands me to do it. He commands you to do it. How is that possible? — “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved!” What does that mean, if it does not mean this…
It is written of all who believe on the Son of God…
Acts 15:8-9 8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; 9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
Now, when I hear the Lord God asking, “Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not My way equal?” my soul delights to confess, Yes, O my God, Your way is equal. You are, truly, “a just God and a Savior.”