17 ‘Oh, Lord God, you did indeed make heaven and earth by your mighty power and great strength. Nothing is too hard for you! 18 You show unfailing love to thousands. But you also punish children for the sins of their parents. You are the great and powerful God who is known as the Lord who rules over all. 19 You plan great things and you do mighty deeds. You see everything people do. You reward each of them for the way they live and for the things they do.’
Jeremiah 34: 14b-15a, 18a
‘But your ancestors did not obey me or pay any attention to me. 15 Recently, however, you yourselves showed a change of heart and did what is pleasing to me.’ 18 I will punish those people who have violated their covenant with me.’
‘The person who sins is the one who will die. A son will not suffer for his father’s iniquity, and a father will not suffer for his son’s iniquity; the righteous person will be judged according to his righteousness, and the wicked person according to his wickedness.’
Exodus 20:5-6 (also Dt. 5:9)
‘I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.’
‘Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin.’
‘The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.’
Generational sin. Like a prison cell you are confined in and cannot escape – or can you? A child is born into a household in which the father is abusive. Is the child at fault? Will he suffer for his father’s sins? Will he be just like his dad? It breaks my heart when children are told that it is seemingly impossible for them to escape the sin handed down in their families, as if they were destined for them by a wicked legacy they cannot escape. The righteous requirements of God’s law require that God punish evil. When evil is unpunished, it begins to grow and thrive. But what is meant by the Scripture which says children are punished for the sins of their parents?
Taking all Scripture together and knowing God’s character that has been revealed to us, we know God would not be so unjust as to punish one who is innocent of sin. But what is meant by the Scripture above which says God “punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me”? Certainly if one is born into an ungodly environment it will affect him adversely. He will also bear consequences if he does not recognize the sin all around him and chooses to live a similar lifestyle. We have possibly all witnessed the effects of sin in a family which continue generation after generation, whether for righteousness or evil. But is a child at fault if that is all he knew?
I was once in darkness, until one day when God opened my eyes. The Holy Spirit revealed sin in my heart and my need for salvation. No matter what had happened to me or what I was surrounded by, God in His justice and mercy convicted me of my sin nature. The Holy Spirit convicts all of sin and righteousness (John 16:8). We are all without excuse. Innately we all have different struggles in the flesh that we must master, before sin masters us. We cannot blame our predecessors for our weakness, but admittedly the influence of sin can have a profound affect on us.
No words exist to adequately convey the gratitude I have that the LORD revealed the sins of my family and in my own heart. Apart from this revelation, I could easily have continued in the sins before me and would not been saved. The blame for our own sins lies within each one of us. We are also not culpable for other people’s sin, but if we cause someone to sin, we will bear judgment from God (Matthew 18:6). But what a difference choosing to walk in obedience to God can make for your life, your children’s lives and their children’s lives. To a thousand generations. Wow. Notice that the judgment from God is only a few generations for those who hate God. But a thousand generations for those who love God and keep His commandments. God is merciful. He is kind. He reaches down into the individual steeped in sin and offers forgiveness and enlightenment to live a different way. Your past does not define you, nor your upbringing! You can CHOOSE this day whom you will serve. Amen!
Thank You, God, that you are just, kind, merciful and forgiving! Praise You that You reveal our sins to us. Help us to walk blamelessly before you that we might pass on a legacy of righteousness and hope to those who come behind us. May we be found faithful, testifying to Your great salvation.