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Sermon - Jeremiah 31:29 - Generational Anger


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Generational Anger

"In those days they shall say no more: ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge" (Jeremiah 31:29)

One of the hardest things about life is that we need other people but don’t mix well with them. Partnerships, international treaties, marriages—they tend to not work because people want an “edge” for themselves. Many will give some of the benefits of the relationship to that other person or group, but secretly or openly, down inside we want the lion’s share for ourselves. It’s called “selfishness” and that’s what sin is all about. And those who don’t get what they want are prone to anger.

Do you believe that the Bible is the Word of God? If so, then you likely hold, as I do, that Adam and Eve were real people, the first members of the human race. They lived in perfection, wanting nothing, not resenting anything, fully satisfied, but then something went wrong. Gradually, suddenly, more was wanted. Much more—simple faith in the Lord who created them was not enough. They wanted…as Genesis 3:5-6 indicates…they wanted to be LIKE God, to meet with Him on equal terms, which is not how we were created to be. Blessedly, He is God and we are not. Our thoughts, decisions and intentions are infinitely less than His (Isaiah 55:8-9)—we need our Leader and Lord, the One who loves us and knows what we should do and how to do it.

As you go to the Book of Genesis 3 and read the account of their fall, our fall actually, note the steps that led up to it, and consider what happened after. They sinned, they were judged, and then were sentenced to death for the sin of disobedience. But that was not the end of their lives here on earth—they commenced an embarrassed, ashamed, and angry human existence that was to continue for almost a thousand years. And get this—their MARRIAGE lasted nearly a thousand years of, “It’s your fault!”…”No, it’s yours…” and on and on for an incredibly long time.

Within Adam and Eve’s plunge from safety and sanctity into sadness and sin, the promise of a “Seed,” a Son, was given, with the assurance that He would “bruise” the enemy who had misled them (Genesis 3:15). They had no concept that the Messiah’s coming was to be untold millennia in the future, and so it’s interesting that they named their first born son, “Cain,” which meant “acquisition” or “I’ve got him.” Another son was born and they called him “Abel,” which is translated as, “that which ascends like a vapor,” or it can be, “who needs him?” You can imagine what it felt like to Adam and Eve, and what they said to one another, after the son they thought was their deliverer, turned out to be the hostile murderer of faithful Abel (Genesis 4:8, Hebrews 11:4).

What does it feel like when your rights have been unjustly taken away? How is it to be violated and abused by someone who should care for you? Do you have something valuable to speak about or do but nobody wants to hear you? Cain was jealous of Abel (Genesis 4:4-7) and killed him, a scenario that has been played out by many through the thousands of years that have followed since that time. Frank Sinatra sang, “I’ll do it my way,” which is the song of humanity.

And what was it like to be Eve? She was the leader at the time of our Fall, deciding to eat the forbidden fruit, and then she probably smirked and glared at her husband, shaking it at him until he ate of it as well (Genesis 3:6). She may well have shouted at that moment: “EAT this you idiot…” And he did.

Eve was no doubt embarrassed by what happened. They both were, but she was the one who led them at that moment, and she was the one who was deceived, not Adam (1 Timothy 2:14-15). As she was glaring and telling him to “Eat…” Adam very likely thought something like, “If I don’t do it, I’ll lose her forever,” as he reluctantly took the fruit from her. How many times have we seen the danger of something but did it anyway, yielding to something like peer pressure or fear of ridicule?

She was deceived, but she also was the leader. He was not deceived, and was led, meekly following her demands. How often does that happen in marriage? All over the world we can find households that are RUN by the wife, the mother, and with that, let’s go back to Genesis 3:16, where the Lord God judged the woman’s act by informing her, “…HE (the husband) shall rule over you.” She would be led by the follower. That’s why so many marriage ceremonies through the centuries have forced the wife to say, “I do,” or “I will,” promising to “love, honor and obey” the husband. We have a vestigial memory of the Fall, glimpsed in our ceremonies and relationships.

Every place in the world, even those areas that have sunk beneath water or ice, have known wars. And it’s true of all people—everywhere. Conquering armies have marched in all times, and our ancestors have known the grief and anger of loss, subjection and slavery. We don’t precisely know the story of our ancestors, but their feelings about it affected them and were passed on to their children and children’s children, carrying anger about what occurred down through the centuries to even those who don’t know WHY they’re angry—they just are.

That’s what it’s been like for incredible numbers of people. God has an interesting slow-moving system of justice, in which—watch out—the descendants of those who were slave owners are likely to become slaves themselves. Eve felt like a slave of Adam and she didn’t like it. Who would? And if you are a woman who feels deep anger inside and can’t quite put your finger on the source of it, or a man who wonders, “Why is she so angry at me? What did I do?” The beginning of the answer may well be back at the start of what we call “time.”

Women do expect that, if the man is supposed to lead, he will do a good job and she will feel safe because of him. But he typically doesn’t and it makes her angry. Down inside, he is vaguely aware that he is supposed to be some kind of leader, but doesn’t know how, and his response is all too often abuse and brutality, which is not leadership. And so the anger continues through the generations, not fully understood by anyone except God Himself.

Ancient Israel had some understanding of generational anger, expressed in the quote seen in Jeremiah 31:29— “In those days they shall say no more: ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” The quote is also seen in Ezekiel 18:2-3. What you do and say will shape who your children, your descendants will be. And so now is the time to do what God has offered us through the apostle in 1 John 1:9—“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Because of Christ, the Messiah, we can tell the Lord and He will do the rest. You will benefit and so will those who come after you.

Father, I have failed in the role You gave me. I’m sorry and I do not know how to make it right. Help me, Lord, to say and to do what is best for me and for those I love. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries
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