Who’s sins are they anyway?
“Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;” Exodus 20:5.
This passage is repeated three other times in the Pentateuch: Exodus 34:7, Numbers 14:18, and Deuteronomy 5:9. It is always associated with Israel and their Law. It was national rather than personal.
The warning was against the idolatry in the land of Canaan and the sins associated with it. For that list, read Leviticus 18:1-30. We need not think that God’s judgment would cease after the fourth generation if future generations continued their evil idolatrous practices. In other words, God’s wrath would continue as long as their sinful behavior continued. If one repented, he would find God to be a merciful God.
Another possible interpretation is seen in the case of Achan, who had stolen items forbidden for Israel to take. Yet, his entire family and all he had were executed. See Joshua 7:24. It was not uncommon for families of three or four generations to live in one tent or house. Sin brought judgment on the entire family. The execution of the whole family was not always carried out, and it will be eliminated under Israel’s new covenant. See Jer. 31:29, 30; Eze. 18:2.
Occasionally, we meet believers who think they are being punished because of the sins of their great, great, great grandfathers. This is not the case, nor is that the intent of the text. It is sad to see many parents who think sickness, deformity or the death of their child is their fault. In some case, it may be, but usually, it is not. These parents spend the rest of their life in guilt and self-abasement. But, we must understand that each person makes up his or her own mind to rebel or live for God.
Many of God’s choice servants have descended from the worst of parents, and many of the most wicked men and women have had godly parents.
We are told clearly that it was not the sins of the parents that caused the blindness of the man in John’s gospel. “ And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” John 9:1-3. Still, the nation was under the heel of Rome.
The facts are that many of God’s choice servants have descended from the worst of parents, and many of the most wicked men and women have had godly parents. If anyone turns out to be a vessel God can and will use, it is only by His grace!
Raise your children the best you can under the influence of godly people and a good church. Then pray that they will listen and live for the Lord. But, don’t beat yourself up, blaming yourself, or your great grandfather for your behavior of that of your children. We all have a free will, and we make our own choices. Let us pray that they will be the right ones.
Pastor Ken Blue was born in Boswell, Ark. In 1955 he accepted Christ as his Savior. He and his wife Joyce were married in 1955. They have 5 children. He graduated from Midwestern Baptist Bible College in 1969 and started the Open Door Baptist Church in Lynnwood, Wa. where he pastored for 39 years. Because of health issues (ALS) he was forced to resign as pastor. It is his desire to continue to be used of God to help pastors and believers through this ministry.
Amen, Bro. Blue! I agree. As one of the markets here puts it, “The choice is yours.”