한국어

마르지 않는 샘

생명의 양식
pic_green.jpg

Sep 25, 2011

2011.09.25 20:41

소풍 조회 수:3018

Sep 25, 2011(Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost) Ezekiel 18:1~4(Rev. Hyunchoul Shin)

1.

Last time I went to Korea, I had to visit where everyone visits when they go there… I had to go see the dentist. I heard there is no dental insurance in Canada and the fees are really expensive, whether you have insurance or not. So when I went to Korea, I went to see the dentist, and it really made my jaw drop. My jaw dropped, not because the dentist had to look inside my mouth… but because there were too many areas that would have to be treated and thus, I would be left with an enormous fee to pay at the end. The result was the same when I went to see other dentists. In the end, I went to see one of my friends who had recently opened a dental clinic, because I thought I might as well go see someone I know if I had to pay that much medical fee. So that day, I spent my whole day at the dental clinic. The reason I am telling you this story is because of today’s verse is talks about teeth… The second verse talks about an Israeli proverb: “fathers eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.”

2.

Actually, this proverb has been used in another verse in the Bible: ‘In those days people will no longer say, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’’ (Jeremiah 31:29) This is a strange saying. It is the father who eats the sour grapes. Why is it that his children’s teeth are set on edge, not the father’s? However, the fact that this saying has been used often by the people shows us that many Israeli people agree with this idea. If you look at Exodus 20:5, it says: ‘You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.’ Deuteronomy 5:9-10 says, ‘for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.’

In other words, the Israelites were familiar with these words and thus, they were able to maintain a strong community. They believed that a chief represented his entire tribe, and that a father’s wrongdoing would affect even his third and fourth generations. They thought that even one person’s action could affect the whole nation.

3.

The best example of this is in the second book of Kings, verses 1 to 3 - “During Jehoiakim's reign, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon invaded the land, and Jehoiakim became his vassal for three years. But then he changed his mind and rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar. The Lord sent Babylonian, Aramean, Moabite and Ammonite raiders against him. 11. He sent them to destroy Judah, in accordance with the word of the Lord proclaimed by his servants the prophets. Surely these things happened to Judah according to the Lord's command, in order to remove them from his presence because of the sins of Manasseh and all he had done.” The scripture above illustrates Jehoiakim just before he is to be punished by Nebuchadnezzar due to what Manasseh had done a few generations before.

What had Manasseh done? Manasseh was the son of Hezekiah, the ‘kind king.’ However, Manasseh is infamous for what he had done during his years in power. During his reign, Manasseh had built temples and praised other Gods. He also sacrificed sons and killed the prophets. It is said the Prophet Isaiah was killed at the time by being sawed to death. During the 55 years that Manasseh ruled, the longest time that any king had ruled Judea, he tormented his people. A hundred year after Manasseh’s reign, about 3 to 4 generations after, Judea was taken over by Babylon. The people of Judea blamed Manasseh and his sins and thus, the proverb about how when “The fathers eat sour grapes…the children’s teeth are set on edge” was created.

4.

Ezekiel, however, is saying just the opposite of this, “You will no longer quote this proverb in Israel” (18:3). He is declaring that the proverb is no longer valid. Why would this be? In order to understand this, we must look at the context in which the scripture was written. First of all, Ezekiel is described to be “the son of Buzi” (1:3) and a part of the Zadok the Priest’s lineage. In 597 BC, when Jehoichin was the king of Judea, Nebuchadnezzar had besieged Jerusalem, Jehoichin, along with ten thousand other captives were brought to Babylon. In that group were Ezekiel and his father, Buzi. Five years after, he had become a captive, Ezekiel received a vision from God and became a prophet.

After Jehoichin, Zedekiah becomes the king. Zedekiah was put into power by Babylon and thus people of Judea did not accept him to be their king and hoped for the return of Jehoichin. However, Ezekiel crushed this hope by saying that the taking over the Judea by Babylon was an act of judgement from God, and thus, they should not anticipate the return of Jehoichin. Ezekiel had told the people that the end for Judea is near and thus the entire chapter of Ezekiel is full of prophecies relating to Judea’s end.

From this light we can say that Ezekiel, like Jeremiah, was a ‘tragic’ prophet as he had to predict the end of his own people. Zedekiah, initially, had adhered to Babylon’s wishes; however, later, he attempted to become independent. Thus, Nebuchadnezzar re-attacked Jerusalem and in 587 BC, Jerusalem fell and the temples were destroyed. Zedekiah then, had his eyes pulled out and was taken back to Babylon. However, after the fall of Israel, Ezekiel’s prophecy changed. Before the downfall, he had prophesized destruction but after it had occurred, he began to prophesize about hope. Through his prophecies, Ezekiel tried to help the Israelis regain their hopes, faith and dreams. It was rumored that Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon because God’s ability was weaker than that of Marduk, Babylon god. So some people became to admire the stronger god of Babylon falling into religious skepticism.   

Furthermore Babylon’s immigration policy was very different from the Assyrians. The prisoners of war at this time were mostly social elites such as the royal family, aristocrats, and family of chief priest. So, Babylon used cultural assimilations to bring the POWs to their side which gave people freedom except for religion. 20. The prisoners were told to inhabit the riverside at Tel-Aviv area and they were given farmland for vineyards. This gave the prisoners economic freedom. All together the POWs did not live like prisoners in Babylon. They were even allowed to marry the locals and settle down properly. Looking at it from today’s perspective, we can describe what the Babylon’s did as a form of immigration policy.

Thus, there was decreasing amount of resistance towards Babylon. Furthermore, they began to accept Babylon’s culture and governance and naturally began to absorb their religion as well. This really meant that the passion to recover their faith in God and return to Israel was disappearing. One by one people began to compromise with reality and wanted to coast through life in comfort. In these circumstances, Ezekiel is telling the Jewish prisoners that God will make them return to Canaan and to meanwhile protect their faith in God. Before the Jews were captured, Israel emphasized the importance of community. One person’s problem did not end there, but permeated its effects to the rest of the group. Except, the nation collapsed. The boundary of community disappeared and personal experiences thus increased. As the collective experience of faith waned, each one person’s individual spiritual experience became more important. This is why Ezekiel is saying the proverb is no longer applicable. As it is says in verse 4, “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,” the era when each person is judged by his or her individual life had begun.

Being the people of Israel could no longer serve as a protection. Because each soul belongs to God, people have to take responsibility in their own lives as some will be saved and others judged according to their individual faith. Looking at others and just following along cannot suffice anymore. In other words, he is telling those who wish to cruise along doing just enough according to formality to stop and re-evaluate their faith.

As I was reading the passage, I thought that it suited us who live as immigrants abroad. In Korea, people who have similar religious backgrounds gather where people share many common spiritual experiences. So, perhaps it’s natural to think that when a father eats sour grapes that the children’s teeth are set on edge. 26. But, in immigrant society people do not have common experiences that much. Everyone has different backgrounds and experiences. For example, in our church there are people who were raised in the Presbyterian church as well as the Methodist church, the Baptist church and even those who were raised with no religious influence. Because of such diversity, sometimes I find it difficult to know who to concur with.

But, this is where the problem can start. People find it easier to hide their own spiritual identity, bury themselves behind other people and live though life doing just enough. To this Ezekiel is telling us to define and correct our individual faith. This is what is really important – to have my own faith, my own belief, my own confession that is not because of other people and that is apart from others even when I’m among them.

5.

I will conclude my sermon. The proverb “fathers eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” can no longer be used in the prisoners-era. This is not to encourage individualism where what happens to others is irrelevant or where only my faith in God is important. 29. Rather, this is to help answer the question of what will happen after such fences of a community have disappeared. In other words, even though I am walking in other people’s non-religious paths, I have to take responsibility of my own faith. This may be what pertains to our generation: a generation where faith in the name of a community can no longer be imposed, one where the child may not accept his parent’s faith. This may be what children say: Fathers eat sour grapes, and the children simply take a gulp. Only by eating a sour grape themselves with the children know the feeling of having their teeth set on edge.

I was heartily painful when I see a child lying down on a dentist’s chair, but honestly it didn’t set my own teeth on edge. Like this, faith is something that one has to individually experience, and only when it has been experienced can it become one’s own faith. When Israel’s destiny relied on being a community, one person’s experience became everyone else’s. But after they became scattered, they had to train alone before God. 33. The same goes for all of us today. Here we must go through self-training to meet God. This training is not for others, but for ourselves to stand before God. I hope that we can discover our own individual religious identity here, and that we can continue to safely establish it. (translated by Soyeon Song, Chayeon Song, Mika Choi, Jiye Chun)