In the Bible we find God warning His people that it might take three to four generations to root out sin that was practiced by an earlier generation.
In the giving of the Ten Commandments to the children of Israel, God says in Exodus 20:4-6, “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments”.
This is repeated a second and third time in Deuteronomy chapter five and chapter seven.
Now the Bible is not saying that children will be punished for what the fathers did—
Deuteronomy 24:16 tells us that “sons shall not be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin.”
Ezekiel 18:20 also says, “The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.”
The point of the truths taught in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy chapters 5 and 7 is that children would experience the impact of their parent’s disobedience to God’s law and their hatred of Him. Children brought up by ungodly parents would naturally incline themselves toward .disobedience and hatred of God and His law. With each ungodly generation, sin and wickedness would be rooted deeper and it would take several generations to reverse the ungodly pattern.
The Exodus and Deuteronomy passages let us know that the father’s sin “visits” or impacts the lives of his children. Let me explain how this happens:
- The father’s rebellion is passed on to his children by reason of association. If the father is a liar or a cheat, a thief or con artist, his son, learning from his father, will in all probability grow up to be like his father.
- The calamities or tragedies of judgment for the father’s sin are visited upon their children–much like a child might be injured or killed as a result of a child being caught up in a drug turf war his father was involved in.
- Sometimes God punishes the fathers by bringing calamity upon the child as He did when King David sinned by committing adultery with Bathsheba and murdering her husband Uriah. God judged David by not letting the baby live (2 Samuel 12:11-19).
Jeremiah 16:10-11 says “For what reason has the LORD declared all this great calamity against us?… It is because your forefathers have forsaken Me.”
As unfair as it might seem, our Sovereign God has the right to punish fathers using the tragedies that come upon their children.
Though they rarely attribute it to God’s judgment, even the secular world sees this happening. A quick browse of the internet on this subject you will find a lot of information under the category of “Breaking the cycle of family dysfunction.”
Some of the family dysfunction dealt with by the professionals are sexual abuse, verbal abuse, drugs, drinking, pathological liars, narcissism, multiple sibling rivalries, parent-child–conflicts, domestic violence, mental illness, single parenthood, alcohol or drug abuse, extramarital affairs, gambling, unemployment.
But in the event you feel that people are without hope, there is Good News! In Ezekiel 33:14-15 God says, “When I say to the wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ and he turns from his sin and practices justice and righteousness . . . he shall surely live; he shall not die.” In Psalm 103 we find these words: The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.
Jesus came to save us from our sins. My wife Debbie and I grew up in Baltimore City. Both of us grew up in homes without Christ as Lord and Savior. My wife’s mother had her when she was only 15 and Debbie had two children by the time she was 14 years old. I also had a child out of wedlock. Debbie and I met each other at the age of 20 when both of us had recently become followers of Jesus Christ. We married at the age of 22 with an instant family of three children. Since that time, God blessed us with five more children for a total of eight (seven daughters and a son).
In the mid to late 1980s we began to attend a church where the elders exposited the Scriptures much like they do at BBC and we began to learn about God’s design for marriage and parenting. Since that time we’ve tried to live in submission to Scripture and God has given us over 41 years of marriage together and we now have 17 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren.
I wish I could tell you that Debbie and I have unfeigned devotion to Christ each and every day but we don’t. What I can tell you is that God’s Word has been doing the work of sanctification in our lives over the years and the Spirit of God has been conforming us to the image of Christ…again, using the Scriptures as Jesus prayed in His “high priestly” prayer of John 17, saying, “Father, sanctify them in the truth; Your Word is truth”.
The Path to Deliverance
One section of Scripture that God has used in my life is the Book of Proverbs. Proverbs is a “resource manual” that fathers use to teach their sons. Many of the modern translations have changed the word “son” in these pages to “child” or “children”; One version of the Bible uses the words, “My friends” but it is better translated, “My sons.” Fathers are to teach their sons; not because the Bible is teaching that men are better than women, but because men, who have been called to leadership roles in the home and church, are on average more rebellious than women when it comes to fulfilling their roles in the home and in society.
You can see the rebelliousness of men today through the ratio of men and women found in the church.
Certainty of belief in God: 69% women. 57% men.
Adult church attendance: 61% women. 39% men.
Believe in Prayer: 64% women. 46% men.
Attend a church small group: 27% women. 21% men.
When a woman (wife and mother) becomes a follower of Jesus Christ, her husband and children might follow her in repentance and faith toward God. But studies show that when the man (husband and father) comes to know Jesus as his Savior and King, there is a higher probability the entire family will live to obey the commands of Christ (Acts 16).
This may be a hard saying, but rebellion against God and the resulting dysfunction that is passed down to the family from generation to generation is to be laid at the feet of men. As fathers go, so goes the family, and so goes the nations. Throughout Scripture we find the Lord’s judgment on His people was directly connected to the father’s decision not to follow the Lord and His Word, and to rebel against the Lord.
In Deuteronomy 6:1-3 Moses says to the children of Israel, “Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the LORD your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it, so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. “O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it, that it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey. ”.
In Daniel’s prayer of repentance recorded in chapter nine of his book we find these words:
Dan 9:5 we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances.
Dan 9:6 “Moreover, we have not listened to Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to: our kings, our princes, our fathers and all the people of the land.
In Zechariah 1:2-6 the Word of the LORD came to the prophet to speak to the Jews living in Judah and Jerusalem (Ezra 5:6):
“The LORD was very angry with your fathers. Therefore say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Return to Me,” declares the LORD of hosts, “that I may return to you,” says the LORD of hosts.
“Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets proclaimed, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Return now from your evil ways and from your evil deeds.”‘ But they did not listen or give heed to Me,” declares the LORD.
“Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever?
“But did not My words and My statutes, which I commanded My servants the prophets, overtake your fathers? Then they repented and said, ‘As the LORD of hosts purposed to do to us in accordance with our ways and our deeds, so He has dealt with us.'”‘”
These verses are addressed to the nation of Israel. But in particular, they are addressing the fathers and grandfathers because of their leadership role according to Scripture, and because of the responsibility of parents in the perpetuation of the faith in their children.
In the next couple of my blog posts we are going to look at a book where we find a father pleading with his son to fear the Lord and to know wisdom and instruction. We are going to look at the Book of Proverbs. Stay tuned.
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