[18:1] The word of the Lord came to me:  "What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge'?  As I live, declares the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel.  Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die. Ezekiel 18:1-4 (ESV)
 "Yet you say, 'The way of the Lord is not just.' Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?  When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die.  Again, when a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life.  Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions that he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die.  Yet the house of Israel says, 'The way of the Lord is not just.' O house of Israel, are my ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?
 "Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin.  Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel?  For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live." Ezekiel 18:25-32 (ESV)
'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge'? I had to think about this phrase a few times. The Lord takes issue with it in this chapter. It is an assault on His righteousness. It is one of those human tendencies, to pass the blame. Blaming mom and dad, it seems has been around even before modern psychology. The counseling industry makes a fortune on the modified version of this phrase, and one wonders if that isn’t in itself a breaking of the fourth commandment, “honor your father and mother.” Is it really honorable to blame your parents for you problems? Is it really honorable to blame your parents for your insecurities? “The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” This is what this is about, blaming mom and dad for the predicament you are in. Ever eaten sour grapes? Not to long ago John and I took a trip out to Josie Bassets homestead in the north eastern corner of Utah, part of Dinosaur national monument, one of Butch Cassidy’s favorite hideouts. It is a wonderful place for a picnic, hard to believe someone lived that way even into the fifties. You can still see where she had her gardens, chicken coops and pig pens. There were some grapes growing along an old fence. So John and I tried a couple. They weren’t quite ripe yet. Sour, with one taste you could feel the fuzz growing on your teeth, and a sensation something like biting on a piece of tinfoil. Usually this sensation punishes the eater, not the person next to him. “The Fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” You have to understand when Ezekiel writes this they are in the second possibly on the verge of the third generation, of the Babylonian Captivity. The fathers had sinned, they ate sour grapes, The fed on the mountain tops worshiped in the high places, worship almost always has an element of eating and drinking involved. They sacrificed to false gods on the mountain tops, and ate these sacrifices as feasts in honor of the gods to whom they sacrificed. They defiled their neighbors’ wives, took them in their menstrual impurity. (All of this, by the way, describes elements of the pagan cultic worship that surrounded them. These were acts of worship, which even today find their expressions in wicca, and other popularizations of witchcraft.) In short they were breaking the first commandment by way of the sixth. The fathers loaned money at interest, and oppressed others, treated them as less than human. The fathers committed robbery, and hoarded their wealth, with no concern for the poor. The fathers loaned money and didn’t pay it back, declaring bankruptcy. The fathers let the courts get away with injustice. And for it they were carried into exile. God’s chosen people were struck down, the people God chose to bear the seed of His Son Jesus Christ, who would die on the cross for the sins of the world, and become a blessing to all generations. God’s chosen and beloved children, suffered defeat, and exile because they refused to turn from their ways, refused to trust in God, were carried away with temptation, and would rather spend a Saturday afternoon fornicating, and feasting on a mountain top than attend the synagogue, or sacrifice to the God who had given them the land. And so they ate the sour grapes, and were sent into exile. Now their children are suffering captivity, their teeth are set on edge.
The captivity was not pleasant. In essence they were slaves. The Babylonians were ruthless with them. The children felt that they were being unjustly punished for the sins of their fathers, even though they themselves were no better. Perhaps they thought that being punished for the crime already, they may as well commit it too. Yet they claimed God was unjust.
Perhaps there is a kernel of truth in this phrase. “The fathers ate sour grapes, and the Children’s teeth are set on edge.” There tends to be a kernel of truth in the best of lies. We sometimes express the same truth, saying “like father like son,” or the advice to a man looking for a wife, “take a look at the mother.” I was once naïve enough to think that this was only talking about the outward appearance. All girls are attractive when they are young. But they come to look like their mothers as they get older. But more than that they develop the same behaviors, the same obsessions, the same undesirable mood swings. We know that children will develop the same weaknesses for sin that there parents have. Abusive fathers breed abusive children, alcoholics tend to raise alcoholics. The son of a womanizer, will tend to be a womanizer. And we know that the single most important human aspect in the faith of children is their parents, most specifically their father. The father has a much bigger role to play in the church attendance of children in later life than the mother. But these things do not always hold true. At some point, the cycle is broken. You don’t have to follow in your parents footsteps. You can break the cycle. Your sin is your choice. You’re the one who chose to get drunk. You’re the one who chose to be an adulterer. You’re the one who chose to be a hen pecking shrew. We all have our own sins, we may share them with our parents, and we may not. They are our choices.
Don’t get me wrong here. We are sinners, we will have sin in our lives, at best we choose between sins, but we choose to sin. We are responsible for our own sins. And when we sin God disciplines us. When the sins are carried over to the next generation he disciplines them too. He wants to break the cycle. He calls us back to him. He calls us to repentance, and righteousness. We can’t do it without Him. Oh, we might be able to break the cycle of a particular sin without Jesus. Drunks do it everyday, they hit rock bottom and clean themselves out, never hearing the word of God call, and never hearing of the forgiveness Jesus won for us on the cross. But that isn’t the repentance God calls for. Sin still remains. Sin still stains our heart. We exchange one sin for another. God wants us to cast away all our transgressions. He wants us to have a new heart, and a new spirit. He calls out why will you die O house of Israel! God does not take pleasure in the death of anyone! The righteous or the unrighteous, God loves us all. He cries turn and live. Turn from sin, turn from unrighteousness, and live.
He wants all to live, He wants all to have a new heart, and a new spirit. The same new heart and new spirit He gave to Kaden this morning. So He sent His son to die on the cross for you, so that His innocent blood might pour over your heart, clean it and renew it with righteousness, and bestow on you a new spirit. No longer a spirit of rebelliousness, a spirit of sin, a spirit of death. But in His Son, He gives us His Holy Spirit, who calls us by the gospel, sanctifies us and keeps us in Jesus Christ His Son, our Lord. And in Him we have forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. And with His body and His blood, He creates in us a clean heart, and renews a right spirit within us, so He casts not His Holy Spirit from us, but restores to us the joy of His salvation, and upholds us with His free Spirit. Here at this table with His body and His blood, He forgives us our sins, and strengthens us in the true faith, a simple trust in His love, and His promise, to give us life eternal. For He takes no pleasure in the death of anyone.
Now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.