“What do you mean by using this proverb concerning the land of Israel saying, ‘The fathers eat the sour grapes, but the children’s teeth are set on edge’? “As I live,” declares the Lord GOD, “you are surely not going to use this proverb in Israel anymore.” – Ezekiel 18:2-3
God loves proverbs. He has an entire book in the Old Testament devoted to proverbs. What exactly is a proverb? It is a nugget of truth, giving wisdom and insight into the way life works.
But there was a proverb going around in Israel during the time of Ezekiel (593 BC) that wasn’t from God. It was a proverb from the devil. It was a proverb laced with subtle lies — “The fathers eat the sour grapes, but the children’s teeth are set on edge.” Or to put it in the vernacular of today, “The fathers eat all the candy, and the children have all the rotten teeth.”
Sadly, the message in this devastating proverb is still alive today. Although people do not quote it, many of them believe it. Multitudes of people have bought into the underlying falsehoods in the devil’s favorite proverb.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH IT?
This proverb teaches three devastating lies.
LIE #1 – It is not my fault. In Ezekiel’s day, Israel was facing judgment from God for sins of the nation. In 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon would be coming to Jerusalem to wipe them out. The people blamed their fathers for the pending disaster. Although they were caught up in the very same sins, it was easier for them to play the blame game and refuse to take personal responsibility. Lots of people today do the very same thing. They blame others for their lot in life and fail to take responsibility for their actions and their sins. Mark it down: the one thing God will never accept from you or me is an excuse for our sin. Pilate tried to excuse his actions, saying he was innocent of the blood of Jesus … but we all know better.
LIE #2 – God is not fair. The devil’s favorite proverb teaches us that we are punished for another’s actions. It teaches that God is unfairly holding the people responsible for their father’s sins. Therefore, God is unfair and cannot be trusted. Hmm.
Is God fair? Many people think He is not. They look at the obvious inequities in our world and surmise that God must not be fair. However, if God is not fair, if He doesn’t judge with fairness and justice, then God is not holy. Abraham asked the question, “Shall not the judge of all the earth deal justly?” (Genesis 18:25). The answer is a resounding yes!
Life is not fair, but God is fair. The moment that you and I begin to believe the lie that God is not fair, that is the moment that we will look upon the Lord with suspicion and a growing distrust. The people in Ezekiel’s day were not going to be punished for their father’s sin. They were going to experience judgment for their own sins. God’s ways are always right and just; it is our ways that are sinful and wrong (see Ezekiel 18:25, 29). He doesn’t owe us anything. Everything we have from Him is an undeserved gift. Quit comparing your life with someone else’s life. Comparison fuels the lie that God is not fair. Run your race, and keep your eyes on Jesus.
LIE #3 — It does not matter how I respond. You see, if I am going to get punished for my father’s sins, it doesn’t matter what I do. It doesn’t matter how I respond. I might as well “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow I die.” What’s the use in even trying?
To be sure, God’s word clearly teaches that personal response is profoundly critical. God told the people if they would repent, they would live (Ezekiel 18:32). The shame-filled prostitute repented, and the Lord forgave her. The crooked, greedy Zaccheus repented, and the Lord forgave him. The evil citizens of Nineveh repented, and the Lord did not destroy them.
It matters how you and I respond. The Christian life starts and continues with these two actions: repentance and faith. To become a Christian, you must repent of your sins and put your faith in Jesus alone for salvation. To walk in the light with Jesus, you must continually repent of any known sin and trust Him every day and every step of the way.
HOW ABOUT YOU?
Have you unknowingly bought into the lies of the devil’s favorite proverb? Have you been playing the blame game, refusing to take responsibility for your actions and sins? Have you been secretly upset with God because of His perceived unfairness to you? Have you thrown in the towel, thinking, what’s the use?
The time is now to do business with God and heed the words of Ezekiel 18:30-32,
“Repent and turn away from all your transgressions, so that iniquity may not become a stumbling block to you. Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord GOD. “Therefore, repent and live.”
Pastor Jeff Schreve,
From His Heart Ministries