Why do you quote this proverb concerning the land of Israel: “The parents have eaten sour grapes, but their children’s mouths pucker at the taste”? Ezekiel 18:2 (NLT)

What determines your destiny? Is it your heritage? Past decisions and their consequences? Fate? The Israelites, like many of us, had a distorted view of their own destiny. They fell into two extremes. One group thought their destiny was determined by fate! They blamed their present situation on the mistakes of their parents! That’s where they came up with the proverb, 

The parents have eaten sour grapes, but their children’s mouths pucker at the taste. 

While our parent’s mistakes can affect our present situation, they don’t determine our destiny. God was speaking through Ezekiel to correct their thinking. He was saying that faith, not fatalism, determines your destiny! That was good news because, as bad as their present crisis was in captivity, God was able to forgive the mistakes of the past and restore His people with blessing. Even today, we can consider our destiny as a product of our past, as if we are fixed in our failures somehow. The truth is that you are not a product of your past – no matter how bad that past was! You are not fixed in your failure! As long as you occupy space and take in oxygen, there is hope for a new beginning! That’s what grace is all about! God extends His grace and mercy to us in Christ offering His forgiveness and a clean slate!

Some of the people of Israel used the excuse of their past failures and the sins of previous generations as a license to continue living in sin. The thought was, since our parents messed up, we might as well continue living messed up lives. They were blaming their problems on their past and using that as an excuse to keep making the same mistakes. God was using Ezekiel to tell them to take personal responsibility for their own destiny! Quit playing the blame game! There is hope for a new beginning!

Another extreme among the Israelites is often found today as well. It’s the extreme of thinking that, because we have a spiritual heritage, we are safe! These extremists believed that, since God had established a covenant with their ancestor, Abraham, and had given His law to Moses and a Temple in Jerusalem, He wouldn’t allow any national disaster to come that would threaten or destroy them. They assumed that they could behave anyway they desired and suffer no consequences because they were the “elect” of God. They thought that they were above the law and, somehow, exempt from painful consequences.

Thank God that we have a holy heritage! We should be grateful for Godly parents who loved us, prayed for us, and laid spiritual foundations in our lives. But, the reality is we can’t ride on the righteousness of our heritage any more than we can blame our failures on our parents. God was saying, through Ezekiel, in verse 4:

For all people are mine to judge – both parents and children alike. And this is My rule: The person who sins is the one who will die.

Talk about personal responsibility! This is a bad news/ good news story. The bad news is that we’ve all sinned and deserve death, but the good news is that God offers us a gift we don’t deserve – eternal life in Christ! The Bible puts it like this in Romans 6:23…

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. 

Although Ezekiel wrote long before Christ would come, we hear the love of God appealing to a sinful people when He says through His prophet, 

Do you think that I like to see wicked people die? Says the Sovereign LORD. Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live. … Repent and turn from your sins.  Don’t let them destroy you! Put all your rebellion behind you, and find yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O people of Israel? I don’t want you to die, says the Sovereign LORD. Turn back and live!

God took extreme measures to offer us a new destiny! He gave His one and only Son to die on the cross for our sins so that, through faith in Him, we could be forgiven and have a new heart and a new spirit! If you want to begin again, you can! Turn from your old life to Christ and receive His life!