How do the sins and problems of our parents affect us?
Think about what we talked about last week: the problems in Bosnia.
The children did not begin or fight in their civil war. Their parents and/or leaders did.
But arenít the children suffering because of it?
It is a known fact that children born to parents who have taken drugs run a higher risk of having some kind of birth defect.
Likewise, women who smoke or consume alcoholic beverages during pregnancy, run a higher risk of having children with learning and vision problems.
Arenít these children suffering for the problems of their parents?
It is also a known fact that abused children also tend to abuse their own children.
Arenít these children suffering for the sins of their parents and, likewise, entering into their parentsí sins?
But this trend, unlike the physical defects, can be stopped.
All the child of abuse has to do is put their faith in God, and say, "No! I will not abuse my children. I will love them and care for them."
The prophet Jeremiah loved God and loved his nation, Israel; and he cried over all the destruction that was brought upon it by the sins of the people over many previous generations and during his own generation.
The last chapter of the Book of Lamentations ends with this expression of Godís judgment upon the people because of the sins of their parents.
Jeremiah cried out; but for the most part, the people didnít listen.
Letís look at the first seven verses of this chapter: (Lamentations 5:1-7)
1. Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us;
Look, and see our reproach!
2. Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers,
Our houses to aliens.
The Assyrians had taken away the ten Northern Tribes of Israel, and now the Babylonians had captured the rest of the Promised Land.
3. We have become orphans without a father,
Our mothers are like widows.
4. We have to pay for our drinking water,
Our wood comes to us at a price.
And if you think about it, we don't get a whole lot free anymore, either.
5. Our pursuers are at our necks;
We are worn out, there is no rest for us.
6. We have submitted to Egypt and
Assyria to get enough bread.
Instead of turning to God, they turned to ungodly nations for help.
7. Our fathers sinned, and are no more;
It is we who have borne their iniquities.
The children are suffering for the sins of the parents, and for the most part, they have entered into the same sins.
But Jeremiah also writes something else about children suffering for the sins of their parents; but this time, from a more spiritual perspective.
Note what we are told in Jeremiah 31:27-30:
27. "Behold, days are coming," declares the Lord, "when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and with the seed of beast.
28. "And it will come about that as I have watched over them to pluck up, to break down, to overthrow, to destroy, and to bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant," declares the Lord.
The Lord is telling the people that one day He will forgive them and heal their land, and that all the people are not going to suffer for the sins of others.
29. "In those days they will not say again,
ĎThe fathers have eaten sour grapes,
And the children's teeth are set on edge.í
30. "But everyone will die for his own iniquity; each man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth will be set on edge.
Did you ever bite into a lemon, and the sourness of it caused your mouth to constrict, causing you to shudder?
This effect is what is referred to in this idiomatic expression as "setting the teeth on edge."
To sin is to bring bitterness upon us.
But God is saying that only the sinner will taste of the bitterness.
In this case, I donít believe that the Lord is talking about believers not having to suffer upon this present earth, for they have been suffering throughout the ages for the sins of others.
I believe that more likely, what the Lord is referring to, is what is to take place after His second coming, and the eternal peace that believers will have in that earthly kingdom and in heaven.
It is the sinner who will suffer the bitterness of their lifestyle as part of their eternal damnation, whether or not they suffer in this lifetime.
And this is exactly the message that Ezekiel also received. Listen again to what we are told in Ezekiel 18:1-9:
1. Then the word of the Lord came to me saying,
2. "What do you mean by using this proverb concerning the land of Israel saying,
ĎThe fathers eat the sour grapes,
But the children's teeth are set on edgeí?
3. "As I live," declares the Lord God, "you are surely not going to use this proverb in Israel anymore.
No longer are the children going to be condemned for the sins of their parents.
4. "Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine. The soul who sins will die.
Here is where the promise to the righteous comes in:
5. "But if a man is righteous, and practices justice and righteousness,
6. and does not eat at the mountain shrines or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, or defile his neighborís wife, or approach a woman during her menstrual period--
7. if a man does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, does not commit robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry, and covers the naked with clothing,
8. if he does not lend money on interest or take increase, if he keeps his hand from iniquity, and executes true justice between man and man,
9. if he walks in My statutes and My ordinances so as to deal faithfully-- he is righteous and will surely live," declares the Lord God.
In other words, if we truly believe, and are filled with unconditional and unlimited love and compassion, we have been redeemed.
We are no longer tainted with the sins of our parents, with the sins of others, or our own former sins.
We are indeed new creatures in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And just because Jesus hasnít come back yet, and just because God has not put an end to all the suffering upon this earth, even to this very moment, there is no reason to lose hope.
And even though the bitterness of others is all around us, and others eat it, we do not have to eat it, too.
We can still live in the sweetness of the Lord.
In a parallel note, the Lord God gave all the animals into our care, much in the same way as our children.
Do they not suffer for our sins, too?
When our love is God centered, we seek to eliminate the suffering of the whole of creation.
We are no longer selfishly look after our own interests; we are concerned about true and lasting peace for all.
With this in mind, let's continue with our discussion.
At this very time the Bosnian Moslems and Croats are being retrained militarily and being rearmed, that they may be better able to defend themselves against the Serbians; or so we are being told is the basic intention.
But the other day, one of the Moslem leaders said that when they are stronger, they might go on the attack to regain the land they have lost.
And I hear many people in this country waving the flag in such a way that they say we are a righteous nation and can do no wrong.
Yet it is we who are training and rearming the Bosnians; and we also know their thinking process.
Are we not, as a nation, eating and feeding others our sour grapes?
According to Godís word, we will have to answer for this.
What we are doing is not the way of one nation under God, but the way of one nation trying to be above God.
This is not living in love.
This is not turning our eyes and souls and spirits upon Jesus.
We need to refocus ourselves.
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