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Ezekiel 20:18  (King James Version)
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<< Ezekiel 20:17   Ezekiel 20:19 >>


Ezekiel 20:18

In verse 18, God speaks about not walking in "the statutes of your fathers, [and] . . . their judgments," which means, in this context, "Do not follow the choices of your parents." He makes this statement in relation to the Sabbath commandment to the second generation of those who came out of Egypt. The whole first generation, except for Joshua and Caleb, died in the wilderness, so as Ezekiel 20 opens, He is speaking to that generation. By verse 18, the context has shifted to the generation which went into the land, and He warns them against making the same bad choices as the previous generation.

No other people are more influential to children than parents, so He tells them to avoid making the same unsound judgments, particularly regarding Sabbath-breaking that so-called influential people have made in the past. He also tells them not to follow their idols. Why?

Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sins, it shall die. (Ezekiel 18:4, 20)

God holds us individually responsible. Just because influential people, like parents or ministers, made judgments in the past on how to keep the Sabbath, does not mean they were correct. Each person is personally responsible to God to follow His laws as God gave them, not as someone has interpreted them. Just because we saw a minister say or do something regarding Sabbath-keeping does not necessarily mean he was. Maybe it was. Maybe it was not. We must judge the situation and come to our own conclusions. He will not accept the justification that we were just following what our parents or minister did. If they did what was right, fine; but if they did wrong, then we must have the character to keep it correctly, despite what they taught.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 1)



Ezekiel 20:18-20

If we treat God's Sabbath day as holy, then it can be a sign (see Exodus 31:12-17). We can set the day aside on the calendar and give it lip-service, but if we do not treat the day as holy from within'by what we do or what we fail to do, even if we do no work—then there is no sign between God and us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 1)



Ezekiel 20:18-20

Keeping the Sabbath identifies the true God to us. It is not merely the fact that one observes the day, but rather it is observing it combined with how one observes it. People can surely keep it, as the Jews did, and not keep it right. Did they know God? No, they did not (Ezekiel 20:10-12)—obviously, because, when God came in the flesh, they rejected Him. All the while, however, they were keeping the Sabbath. So the instruction is that it is not merely a matter of just observing the day but how the day is observed that enables a person to know God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 2)



Ezekiel 20:18-21

Verse 24 gives a concluding statement as to why Israel was taken into captivity. There are two possibilities regarding Israel's Sabbath breaking. 1) Israel completely rejected God's Sabbath for another day. This possibility exists due to the instances of the "My/their" or "Mine/yours" contrast, that is, My Sabbath as opposed to your Sabbath. 2) They polluted the Sabbath by careless, self-centered observance.

The probability is that they did both—some people completely rejected the Sabbath, while others carelessly observed it. However, it was because of Sabbath-breaking, a type of idolatry, that they went into captivity.

When we look at secular history, even biblical history, and society around us, how to keep this day is a mixed bag. On the surface, what we see in the New Testament is rigorous legalism from the Pharisees or asceticism from the Gentiles. Today, we might call that an extreme "rightism" or perhaps a reactionary conservatism.

In today's world, though, we are confronted with the other side of the coin. We do not even begin to know how to keep the Sabbath because, from our earliest days, our culture's emphasis has been on Sunday, a day that cannot be kept holy because it was never made holy!

The cycle of six workdays and one day of rest and worship is a legacy of the Bible. But in fairly recent history, society has undergone a radical transformation because of scientific, industrial, and technological achievements. A shorter workweek provides us more leisure time. Businesses, however, make every effort to make the best use of time, to maximize production by scheduling work shifts so that the weekly cycle becomes a blur.

We have come to the place where we think that time totally belongs to us, and we can use it as we good and well please. This, in turn, makes a person very conscious of his free time. What does almost every individual do? He does the same thing that a business does. Every bit of time in a person's life is booked up because he wants to get the most out of life.

Even among those who are reasonably religious, the result has been that Sunday has become the hour of worship. The older among us can probably remember that, in the community, Sunday was once set aside very seriously. People did not work. They usually spent the day at home. Maybe the most secular thing they allowed themselves to do was to read the Sunday newspaper. Some, perhaps, did not even listen to the radio on Sunday because, to them, the day was holy.

But over the years, Sunday worship—which used to be kept somewhat as God expects us to keep the Sabbath—has now become, even among religious folks, an hour rather than a day of worship. People go to church for that one hour then perhaps return home. Or, maybe they go to a Sunday brunch at a restaurant. They spend the rest of the time on that day either making money or seeking their own pleasure.

All the while, the real Sabbath is ridiculed or ignored. This is what confronts us when we begin trying to keep it. A similar environment even affects those who continue to keep it. When we look in the Bible, we find that God does not give us many specifics as to how to keep it. God does, however, give us a number of broad principles, and He expects us to extrapolate from those principles in applying them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 2)




Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Ezekiel 20:18:

Genesis 2:1-3
Exodus 20:8
Isaiah 1:10-17
Galatians :

 

<< Ezekiel 20:17   Ezekiel 20:19 >>



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