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A Discussion of Messianic Judaism, the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm, and Related Leadership Issues from the Preoccupied Mind of Rabbi Stuart Dauermann, PhD.

All Contents ©2004-2007 Stuart Dauermann - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Friday, February 17, 2006

Ezekiel, Personal Responsibility, and Passing the Buck

The first half of chapter 33 of Ezekiel, picking themes found in 3:16-21, and others from Ezekiel 1-9, acts as a transition to the last section of the book, prophecies concerning the restoration of Israel. Two themes predominate in this section. These themes could not be more relevant to our lives had they been written today.

First, the text compares the role of the prophet to that of a watchman. It is the watchman’s responsibility to warn people of coming destruction; if he does and they do not heed him, they bear responsibility for the calamity that comes upon them, just as when the prophet warns people of God’s judgment for their wickedness, if the people do not repent, they bear the responsibility for their own doom. However, if the watchman or the prophet fails to issue a warning, he or she bears bloodguilt for those he/she failed to warn. The second theme is that the righteousness of the righteous will not save them when they turn to wickedness, nor will the wickedness of the wicked condemn them when they turn to righteousness. The argument is summarized in this fashion:

17 "Yet your fellow citizens say, `The way of the Lord is not right,' when it is their own way that is not right. 18 "When the righteous turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, then he shall die in it. 19 "But when the wicked turns from his wickedness and practices justice and righteousness, he will live by them. 20 "Yet you say, `The way of the Lord is not right.' O house of Israel, I will judge each of you according to his ways."

God is not unfair; it is we who are unfair.

This passage and the two points summarized above are amazing and frightening for their moral clarity. The passsage places the responsibility for our divine reward and for our spiritual well-being entirely on our shoulders. Just as it is the job of the prophet or watchman to do his/her job conscientiously, just as people who heed or fail to heed the watchman bear the responsibility for their response, just as righteous or unrighteous persons bear full responsibilty for their spirtitual fate, so will it be with us. We ourselves bear full responsibility for how we respond to God and to the righteous demands of life. We cannot excuse ourselves, arguing that we are controlled by others, or feel we have gotten a raw deal, or by any sort of passing the buck.

This passage reminds us that we are responsible for only one thing: and that is, for the choices we ourselves make in our own life situations. And nothing mitigates that responsibility, not even the irresponsibility of others.