A Fair Go
God is just
Welcome and announcements
8 Doxology Hymn 317: 1-2 “O praise now the Lord”
8 Call to worship and Greeting
Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for He is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. (Psalm 95:6-8)
Grace to you from God our Father, and from Jesus Christ our Lord, and from the Holy Spirit.
The Lord’s Prayer
8 Hymn no 319: “Shout for the blessed Jesus Reigns”
8 Prayer of adoration and Confession of sins
8 Declaration of pardoning
O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins. (Psalm 130:7-8)
8 Hymn no 432: “I am yours O Lord”
8 Bible Reading
Old Testament: Ezekiel 18:21-32
8 Offering and Dedication
Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. (Proverbs 3:9-10)
While the Offering is taken up, all (remaining seated) sing)
8 Hymn no 471 “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God”
8 Prayer of Intercession
8 Bible Reading
New Testament: Matthew 20:1-16
8 Prayer: Opening of the Word
Blessèd Jesus at Your Word
we have gathered now to hear You.
Let our hearts and minds be stirred
now to seek and love and fear You;
by Your Gospel pure and holy
teach us, Lord, to love You solely.
All our knowledge, sense and sight,
lie in deepest darkness shrouded
till Your Spirit breaks our night
with Your beams of truth unclouded.
You alone to God can win us,
You must work all good within us.
Glorious Lord, Yourself impart,
Light of light, from God proceeding;
open lips and ears and hearts,
help us by Your Spirit's leading;
hear the cry Your church now raises;
Lord, accept our prayers and praises.
8 Sermon: A Fair Go! God is just!
Brother and sister in the Lord,
Where does one draw the line between 8 personal responsibility and corporate solidarity? Let’s put it this way: do I stand alone with the environment not having any effect on me? Or am I merely a product of my environment? Is there something like personal responsibility, or can we only talk about corporate responsibility? In short: can I be punished for the sins of my fathers, or is it possible that I could escape the wrongdoings of my fathers?
Not an easy answer to these questions.
8 What the Bible teaches us tonight is that we should not approach this question with an either/or approach, because both have their place in the sovereign grace and punishment of God.
But if both are possible, is God fair? Can we ever know where we stand with God? Let’s look at the Scriptures. 8 What the Scriptures teach here is that this problem, as we posed it, is only a theoretical contradiction. See it like two rails of the railway: both are necessary to keep the train on track in the right direction. Or like the two chains on the block and tackle: you can’t operate the thing with only one.
8 You get what you deserve
God’s people, the Israelites, when this chapter of Ezekiel was written, were in Babylon. Why were they there? Not because they chose to there. It was not merely the outcome of political issues or the fate of history. No, it was God who put them there.
8 Point is they were unfaithful to the Lord. They were covenant-breakers. So the Lord declared in Chapter 16:58-59:
8 You will bear the consequences of your lewdness and your detestable practices, declares the LORD. ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will deal with you as you deserve, because you have despised my oath by breaking the covenant.
Corporately, God’s people broke covenant with God. They were unfaithful and God sent them away in captivity to work as slaves in the country of the oppressor. They lost political self-determination; they lost the privilege to worship God in the temple He chose for his name to dwell. In part they lost their privileged position as God’s special people in the land promised by oath to them and the forefathers.
And there, far away from home, so much aware of their fate, a second generation rose up, 8 and they raised crucial questions: Look, if it is our father who sinned and plunged us in this dreadful situation, why do we have to carry the burden of their sins? They composed a poem about this. It went like this:
’The fathers eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?
Is this fair? Is God fair in this?
Well, yes, He is. He is the God of the covenant. He had an agreement with his people, as He has with us, the church. We are covenant people. The very fact that we are invited to sit at the Lord’s table this evening, proves the fact. The cup of salvation is the cup of the covenant, remember? The New Covenant in the blood of Jesus, like the Pass-over was under the old covenant. In this covenant God sets the conditions of how He must be worshipped. The Bible is the book of the Covenant. The two testaments are God’s covenant books which He set down the standards under which his people must live and conduct their lives.
8 God is not unfair if He punishes his people when they do not stick to the agreement. It’s all in the Book. Do this and you will live; do otherwise and expect the punishment of the Lord of the covenant.
God sent his prophets to warn his people and remind them of the covenant, but refused to listen. God’s grace ran out. Time for grace has a limit. 8 We read in 2 Chronicles 36:15-17 (NIV):
The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the LORD was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, who killed their young men with the sword in the sanctuary, and spared neither young man nor young woman, old man or aged. God handed all of them over to Nebuchadnezzar.
The whole nation, corporately, suffered the consequence of their unfaithfulness. You get what you deserve. That’s what God’s covenant stipulates. And if you disagree, better stay out of it.
8 We should not use the sacraments purely because it is a fashionable thing to do in the church on Communion Sunday. But the moment I pick up the cup to drink and the moment I take the plate with the bread to drink and to eat, I’ve got my fingerprints sitting on it. The Bible tells that we proclaim the death of our Lord until He comes. Partaking of the wine and the bread sends a message out to others: I am on the Lord’s side; I’ve made a choice to obey Him as my Lord and Saviour till He comes. 8 On his invitation I’ve entered into a covenant with Him. I declare that He now dictates my life and according to his Word I live. His Word is the agreement. If I honour his Word, I can expect his blessings; if I disobey his Word, I can expect the curses spoken of in the Book of the Covenant.
You get what you deserve. Is it fair?
8 Get a life!
The second generation captives in Babylon asked the question? If the fathers have sinned, and we are carrying the corporate punishment, is God fair? 8 Does God have an ear for the sinner crying for help and deliverance?
I want to get out. I want to get a life! How?
8 For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son—both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die. Ezekiel 18:4
You feel deprived of the Father’s love because you find yourself in a situation where you feel you didn’t really contributed a lot to. The Lord has not forgotten you. You belong to Him.
The rule is this: the soul who sins, is the one who will die.
Do you trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as the sole redemption for your soul? Do you know Him as the One you bought your sins, the One who said He will forgive and forget? Do you trust Him and follow Him by faith? Do you live according to his covenant stipulations? The Lord declares you then to be righteous.
8 The Lord says: that man is righteous, he will surely live.
8 Are you the child of such a righteous parent? Will you be saved? No, not if you do not trust the Lord Jesus Christ to be your Saviour and Redeemer. Not if you do not live according to the rules of the Book. (May I ask, how much do you know about this Book? It’s a serious thing do say you live according to the Book, if you can hardly tell what the Book is about!)
Your parents where faithful people of God, you have fallen from grace. The question now is: will you be saved? Verse 13 provides the answer:
8 Will such a man live? He will not! Because he has done all these detestable things, he will surely be put to death and his blood will be on his own head.
8 What if your parents were heathens and covenant-breakers? Do you stand a chance to be saved? Will you not be punished for their sins? Let’s see what the Bible says:
“But suppose this son has a son who sees all the sins his father commits, and though he sees them, he does not do such things: He withholds his hand from sin. He keeps my laws and follows my decrees. He will not die for his father’s sin; he will surely live. Ezekiel 18:17
Get a life! How do I get of this mess? 8 Let’s read the Word again:
The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him. Ezekiel 18:20
8 Personal responsibility. That is the key. No, not really. What is the key? 8 God - the sovereign God. The God who can hire labourers in his vineyard of different hours and then give to them the same reward. Because He is God, and because He loves them. And this God has a covenant; and this covenant has stipulations. The ground rule here is: you get what you deserve.
But, as I call you to sit at the Lord’s table this evening, so we listen to the Gospel call again:
Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? Ezekiel 18:23
There was a day when God had his son Jesus Christ nailed to the cross of Calvary as a ransom for the sins of those who have become covenant-breakers. In his blood we have the New Covenant.
8 He who repents and calls upon the Name of Jesus as his sole Saviour and Redeemer, receives the grace from God to hear: He will not die, surely he will live. He will get what he do not deserve: grace.
8 But those whose hearts are hardened will hear the declaration of punishment: Surely, they are unrighteous and will surely die. The soul who sins is the soul who will die. They will get what they deserve: eternal punishment.