God's Message to me:
"What do you people mean by going around the country repeating the saying, The parents ate green apples, The children got stomachache?
"As sure as I'm the living God, you're not going to repeat this saying in Israel any longer.
Every soul - man, woman, child - belongs to me, parent and child alike. You die for your own sin, not another's.
"Imagine a person who lives well, treating others fairly, keeping good relationships -
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,
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,
doesn't exploit the poor, doesn't live by impulse and greed, doesn't treat one person better than another,
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.
"But if this person has a child who turns violent and murders and goes off and does any of these things,
even though the parent has done none of them - eats at the pagan shrines, seduces his neighbor's spouse,
bullies the weak, steals, piles up bad debts, admires idols, commits outrageous obscenities,
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.
"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 -
doesn't eat at the pagan shrines, doesn't worship the popular idols of Israel, doesn't seduce his neighbor's spouse,
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,
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.
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.
"Do you need to ask, 'So why does the child not share the guilt of the parent?'
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.
"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.
I won't keep a list of all the things he did wrong. He will live.
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?
"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.
"Do I hear you saying, 'That's not fair! God's not fair!'?
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.
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.
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.
"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.
"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.
Clean house. No more rebellions, please. Get a new heart! Get a new spirit! Why would you choose to die, Israel?
I take no pleasure in anyone's death. Decree of God, the Master. "Make a clean break! Live!"
Sing the blues over the princes of Israel.
Say: What a lioness was your mother among lions! She crouched in a pride of young lions. Her cubs grew large.
She reared one of her cubs to maturity, a robust young lion. He learned to hunt. He ate men.
Nations sounded the alarm. He was caught in a trap. They took him with hooks and dragged him to Egypt.
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.
He prowled with the lions, a robust young lion. He learned to hunt. He ate men.
He rampaged through their defenses, left their cities in ruins. The country and everyone in it was terrorized by the roars of the lion.
The nations got together to hunt him. Everyone joined the hunt. They set out their traps and caught him.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Now it's a stick stuck out in the desert, a bare stick in a desert of death,
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.)
Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves.
You lust for what you don't have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn't yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it.
And why not? Because you know you'd be asking for what you have no right to. You're spoiled children, each wanting your own way.
You're cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way.
And do you suppose God doesn't care? The proverb has it that "he's a fiercely jealous lover."
And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you'll find. It's common knowledge that "God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble."
So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper.
Say a quiet yes to God and he'll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field.
Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious.
Get down on your knees before the Master; it's the only way you'll get on your feet.
Don't bad-mouth each other, friends. It's God's Word, his Message, his Royal Rule, that takes a beating in that kind of talk. You're supposed to be honoring the Message, not writing graffiti all over it.
God is in charge of deciding human destiny. Who do you think you are to meddle in the destiny of others?
And now I have a word for you who brashly announce, "Today - at the latest, tomorrow - we're off to such and such a city for the year. We're going to start a business and make a lot of money."
You don't know the first thing about tomorrow. You're nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing.
Instead, make it a habit to say, "If the Master wills it and we're still alive, we'll do this or that."
As it is, you are full of your grandiose selves. All such vaunting self-importance is evil.
In fact, if you know the right thing to do and don't do it, that, for you, is evil.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)