SOUR GRAPES

Most of us have tasted lemon slices at one time, WOW are they sour! Once we have tasted it, we understand what the old proverb of Israel meant when; “they said their teeth were set on edge.” The sharp and sour taste was not pleasant to the pallet.

Ezekiel 18:1-4, "The word of the LORD came unto me again, saying, What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge? As I live, saith the Lord GOD, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die."

I ran across a good definition of SIN some time ago from Susannah Wesley, John Wesley’s wife. She gave this advice to all her 19 children. The early education of all the children given by Mrs. Wesley was said to be one of a woman of “remarkable intelligence and deep piety, apt in teaching, and wise and firm in governing.”
Her words were:
Whatever weakens your reason,
Whatever impairs your conscience,
Whatever obscures your sense of good,
Whatever takes your desire away from God,
Becomes SIN!

John Wesley wrote: “God give me 100 men who love nothing but the Lord, hate nothing but sin, and we will change the world.” And he did!

Israel loved to make excuses for their idolatry. They lived according to their own desires and forgot the God of Heaven, Jehovah, for days without number. Every time they would fall away, God would have to bring judgment upon them to return them to His laws. Like us today, the Children of Israel looked for someone else to blame for their own sin. In their search for self-justification they came up with a really cute and logical proverb that went like this:
“The fathers may eat the sour grapes but the children’s teeth will be set on edge.”

This meant that whatever the fathers of each successive generation did may not affect them but it would surely affect their children and grandchildren. This was Israel’s way of blaming their forefathers, and even God, for the sin that they committed and the judgments they had to face. In using this proverb they excused themselves from the penalty of their own sin and placed it on the head of their ancestors.

Just listen to any psychologist or psychiatrist and they will attempt to persuade you that criminals commit crimes largely as a result of their past environment. The blame for sin is never placed squarely on the shoulders of those who commit acts of violence or other crimes. It is always the fault of someone or something else. Perhaps it was your father, mother, aunt, uncle or some other adult who wronged you as a child and destroyed your self esteem. Perhaps it’s the peer pressure from school friends or co-workers that caused you to fall. After all, the man who loses his job as a postal worker because he was lazy and had a bad attitude, is somewhat justified in walking in to work and killing his former co-workers because it wasn’t his fault that he was fired, “it’s their fault for being better employees than he was.”
I know that sounds warped but that’s the prevalent thinking of our day. The criminal has rights while the victim is looked upon as just a twist of fate in the act of the crime and shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

Illustration:
In the 1950s a psychologist, Stanton Samenow, and a psychiatrist, Samuel Yochelson, sharing the conventional wisdom that crime is caused by environment, set out to prove their point. They began a 17-year study involving thousands of hours of clinical testing of 250 inmates in the District of Columbia. To their astonishment, they discovered that the cause of crime cannot be traced to environment, poverty, or oppression. Instead, crime is the result of individuals making, as they put it, wrong moral choices. In their 1977 book “The Criminal Personality”, they concluded that the answer to crime is an “alteration of the wrong-doer should lead to a more responsible lifestyle." In 1987, Harvard professors James Q. Wilson and Richard J.Herrnstein came to similar conclusions in their book “Crime and Human Nature”. They determined that the cause of crime is a lack of proper moral training among young people during the morally formative years, particularly ages one to six.

Christianity Today, August 16, 1993, p. 30., states Christians don’t act much different than those who are worldly when it comes to facing up to their sin. We love to play the blame game too. I hear people say things like:

“My former Preacher didn’t teach me right”;
“The church that I used to attend didn’t have a good training program or Bible study class”;
I was never taught that doing or saying things like that were wrong”; and other sayings come from the lips of Christians as well, because we don’t want to admit that we have sinned! The truth and reality is: it is us who are at fault and are in need of repentance because we don’t like or want to hear the truth of Gods Word!

Americans Are Most Likely to Base Truth On Feelings.

Pontius Pilate asked the classic question, “What is truth?” Do you know what Americans think about truth? Here is a short report.

• By a 3-to-1 margin (64% vs. 22%) adults said truth is always relative to a person’s situation. The perspective was even more lopsided among teenagers.

• People are most likely to make their moral and ethical decisions on the basis of whatever feels right or comfortable in a situation. The Bible or religious teachings were primary for a small percentage of adults and teens.

• Whites, blacks and Hispanics differed substantially on these matters.

• While born again Christians were statistically different from non-born again individuals, the differences were minimal; a minority of born again Christians believe in absolute truth; and a minority base their moral choices on Scripture. (The Barna Update: 2/12/02)

It’s not my fault the church isn’t growing; it’s the preacher’s fault. It’s not my fault that the family no longer comes to Church because of my negative comment. It’s not my fault that we lost a family, if they had been closer to Jesus they wouldn’t have left because of what I said or what I did. It isn’t my fault that they had so many skeletons in their closet that they were ashamed of. And the list of excuses we give goes on and on.



Illustration:

John Killinger tells about the manager of a minor league baseball team who was so disgusted with his center fielder’s performance that he ordered him to the dugout and assumed the position himself. The first ball that came into center field took a bad hop and hit the manager in the mouth. The next one was a high fly ball, which he lost in the glare of the sun--until it bounced off his forehead. The third was a hard line drive that he charged with outstretched arms; unfortunately, it flew between his hands and smacked his eye. Furious, the manager ran back to the dugout, grabbed the center fielder by the uniform, and shouted. ’You idiot! You’ve got center field so messed up that even I can’t do a thing with it!


Folks, we can lay the blame wherever we want, but God spoke plainly to Ezekiel that “the soul that sins will be one who dies and not those who lived in the past. They will answer for their own sin and so will you and I. We cannot lay the blame for what we do at the feet of another person. James 1:14-15 says, "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." It isn’t the fault of anyone else when we sin. It’s our own fault.

Until we realize that fact, there can be no forgiveness of sin until we admit to Almighty God, through the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross, that it’s our fault! If we do not accept our failures and ask forgiveness, when we face the Great White Throne Judgment of God, we will have no excuse for our actions.

We can’t blame the church, the preacher or the Sunday School teacher for not being good enough because we are commanded by God to study and make ourselves knowledgeable in the Word of God. We can’t blame the leaders, mom and dad, or anyone else for not teaching us right, because the Word of God says that we are to work out our own salvation with fear of our Holy God and remember that our eternal soul’s destiny hangs in the balance.

Especially now, in these New Testament times, we have no excuse for our sin and we cannot lay the blame of “sour grapes” on anyone else. We have the presence of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and the Blood of Jesus Christ to wash us, cleanse us and teach us to walk uprightly before God.

Listen to the words of God to the Prophet Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 31:29-34, "In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children’s teeth are set on edge. But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge. Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."

God has taken away our excuses for sin. He has taken away our excuses for not living a Holy, Sanctified life! God has removed the skin of our reason for not obeying his voice and revealed the lie that is stuffed inside. We stand on our own now and we cannot blame another for the sin we commit.

God has given us His written word so we can be saved! He has provided a way out of our death penalty, if we will only confess that we are wrong and face up to our own guilt.

We will all live or die based upon what we do with the Gospel; death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ and obedience to Him!

Illustration:

Both the hummingbird and the vulture fly over our nation’s deserts. All vultures see is rotting meat, because that is what they look for. They thrive on that diet. They are nature’s trash collectors. However, the hummingbirds ignore the smelly flesh of dead animals. Instead, they look for the colorful blossoms of desert plants. The vultures live on what was. They live on the past. They fill themselves with what is dead and gone. But hummingbirds live on what is. They seek new life. They fill themselves with freshness and life.  Each bird finds what it is looking for. We all do the same.

Steve Goodier, Quote Magazine, in Reader’s Digest, May, 1990.

What about each of you? Has life dealt you a handful of sour grapes? Do you feel that life has been unfair? Don’t think that you are alone. All of us have felt that way from time to time.

It would be great if we could only release ourselves from the guilt of sin by placing the blame on someone or something else, but we can’t. Each of us must face up to the fact that it’s “My Fault”. I am the one who chose to sin. No one made me do it. The Devil didn’t make me do it either. He may have brought the temptation to me, but it was of my own desire and my own decision to yield to that temptation.

Only when we face up to our own “sour grapes” and confess that we are the ones at fault, and no one else, can we find true repentance and forgiveness for sin. God is faithful to forgive us if we confess our sins to Him, repent and be baptized, and obey His Word! Then and only then will we find true meaning in life!