“The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?” was a general saying among the people both in Palestine and the exiled Israelites. It was used as an expression to place blame on anyone other than themselves as an excuse for their miserable condition, instead of the discriminating judgment of an All-holy God.
I’ve tasted those sour grapes. I used to be ashamed to say the neighborhood my parents moved back to when I was a teenager. It still had the stigmatism attached to it for being a rough neighborhood back in the 1930-40’s, even though those folks had died, moved away, or were very elderly. Often I was looked down upon because I now lived in on Mill Hill. When I was a teenager, the father of a young man whom I was dating, frowned upon me because of an uprising that took place, before I was even born, in my father’s childhood neighborhood when the local cotton mill was trying to get unionized labor passed. I gently, but firmly, reminded the young man’s father that he was of that generation, not me; and that I had nothing to do with those skirmishes that took place; and that he should accept me for who I am, not how families may or may not have behaved long before I was born. Hands on my hips, I raised an eyebrow (an unconscious trait I still carry today when making a point) at him and said in my sweet little southern 18 year old voice, “I may be from Mill Hill, but I seem to recall you’re from Snake Bottom.” (It was the rival neighborhood in the ‘30s.) Perhaps I should not have been so firm. I may have raised my voice just a bit too. He later admitted that he gained a new respect for me that day.
Wouldn’t you know it, he later became my father-in-law! As the years passed he told me he enjoyed our little tit-for-tats because he could pick on me and I would give it back to him, unlike his timid daughter. I often told him, “give me a good reason and I’ll argue with a sign post.” (Ha! I find myself arguing with the GPS now days.) He died several years ago. I miss those heated discussions.
Well now, that was a nice rabbit hole to go down. Let’s get back to today’s soapbox.
Society tends to follow the “sour grapes” mentality even today. Heinous acts of violence occur and then the defense attorneys try to place the blame on the criminal’s parents…anyone or anything but the perpetrator. Social circles forbid a person’s acceptance because of their ancestry or economical history of a person’s family or neighborhood. Sadly, I’ve even seen it happen in the church. Some people are judged by the color of their skin or nationality or deep pockets, not by their relationship with God or need for Christ, and are leaving the church because of it. That saddens me too.
Throughout the Bible, God admonishes His people to look at their own actions, not at others. We shall be judged fairly by God for our own sins or righteousness.
Ezekiel 18:1-32 is just one chapter where he does so. In it one will see God has no respect of persons. (vs 1-20) The Divine providence is vindicated. (vs 21-29) A gracious invitation to repentance. (vs 30-32)
I like the way The Living Bible translates Ezekiel 18:2-4 “Why do people use this proverb about the land of Israel: The children are punished for their fathers’ sins? As I live,” says the Lord God, “you will not use this proverb anymore in Israel, for all souls are mine to judge—fathers and sons alike—and my rule is this: It is for a man’s own sins that he will die.”
BibleStudyTools.com gives this overview:
“Vindication of God’s moral government as to His retributive righteousness from the Jewish imputation of injustice, as if they were suffering, not for their own sin, but for that of their fathers. As in the seventeenth chapter he foretold Messiah’s happy reign in Jerusalem, so now he warns them that its blessings can be theirs only upon their individually turning to righteousness.”
It’s a great commentary. I encourage you to go there to read the entire commentary of Ezekiel 18.
It’s so easy to play the blame game. Isn’t it? In Jeremiah 31:29, it quotes “In those days people will no longer say, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” In Lamentations 5:7, “Our fathers have sinned, and are not; and we have borne their iniquities.” In Genesis 3:12, Adam transfers the blame of his sin to Eve, and even to God, “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.”
You know we don’t have to play the game or eat sour grapes. I like the way The Message translation states God’s promise of forgiveness for our own actions, Romans 6:22-23, “ But now that you’ve found you don’t have to listen to sin tell you what to do, and have discovered the delight of listening to God telling you, what a surprise! A whole, healed, put-together life right now, with more and more of life on the way! Work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death. But God’s gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master.”
Are you playing “blame games” or eating “sour grapes?” I hope not. I’d be interested in hearing how you overcame them.
Prayer: Heaven Father, forgive me if I have mistakenly placed blame on someone without getting to know that person. Help me forgive the person who does that to me. Father help the person reading this who has been eating sour grapes of the blame game. Fill them with your grace. Thank you father for accepting us for ourselves. In Christ’s name. Amen.