Ezek. 18:2 What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”?
Ezek. 18:3 As I live, says the Lord GOD, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel.
Ezek. 18:4 Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die.
The Israelites were making excuses for their current state of affairs. They repeated the proverb, "the parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge." This meant that the children were suffering the consequences of the sins of their parents. The problem with this was that it meant that the current generation took no responsibility for their own action. The result was inaction. Why bother with trying to follow God if they had a fatalistic view that they were going to be punished because of what their ancestors had already done. At the same time, why not just continue in sin because -- what difference is it going to make! The people were apathetic and were using this proverb as an excuse to simply take no responsibility for the state of affairs in their own spiritual lives and for the land of Israel.
God said that the time had come to put aside that proverb. And there is something humorous in this as well -- because the reality is that the children's teeth could not have been put on edge because of the parents eating sour grapes! Teeth being put on edge comes from the idea of an axe becoming dull. From eating sour grapes the teeth could be damaged and become dull. However, the effect of eating sour grapes will only hurt the individual who eats the sour grapes. Just because a parent ate sour grapes does not mean that children are born with a tooth problem!
God is now saying that every person is accountable before him. Parents would have to be accountable for their behavior. Children, as well, would be responsible for themselves and not for the actions of their parents. The day of making excuses was over!
It seems that things don't really change all that much, do they? How many people are there today who are trying to make excuses for where they have ended up in life?
This scripture is not saying that there won't be consequences for children whose parents lived in sin -- but those consequences are not an excuse for their own sinfulness. That's where I think we find ourselves today. There are so many reasons that we can blame others for our current state of affairs:
My parents were abusive with me so I don't know how to be a good parent.
My father was an alcoholic so I'm destined to be one too.
I come from a heritage of people who have bad tempers -- I just can't help myself. It's not my fault.
And the list can go on and on and on….
But God said, enough is enough. No more blaming others for the punishment you are receiving. Each generation, each person, is responsible for their own behavior and choices. We will all be judged for our own sins and that means we have to take responsibility.
If I'm frustrated with the current state of affairs in my church -- maybe I ought to do something to make a difference. It's time to stop blaming it on the previous generation! I must answer to God for what I have done during my lifetime!
So, what will I do? Life is short. There is no time for excuses -- but there is time for action. We must do all that we can with what God has given us and be responsible individuals in these days. We have numerous opportunities to faithfully serve God with what he has given us. The children of Israel -- each generation -- they still had the same promises of God. He was ready and willing to help them and to be their King. But generation after generation rejected him. Their defeat was not inevitable. They could have made a difference, if only they had turned toward God.
We are invited to turn to God today -- and to take responsibility. The proverb has been worn out -- and making excuses must come to an end!
Lord, please help me to be faithful to you today -- and be responsible for what you have placed in my life. Amen.