There is a phrase in the midst of the Ten Commandments given by God in the Old Testament books of Exodus and Deuteronomy which has received much attention … perhaps even more attention these days than the context in which it resides. The first instance of it came up in my Bible reading today, which included the Ten Commandments given in Exodus chapter 20.
“… 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 phrase, which is repeated nearly verbatim a number of times in the Old Testament, has been the focus of many articles and books in contemporary Christendom. The general thought is that the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children in a form of a curse, which binds those children to a certain lifestyle or negative behaviors or issues in life.
Many solutions are posited in these articles, ranging from certain types of deliverance prayers to breaking soul ties and battling demons.
Two things are usually left out of all these solutions to this problem, and they both are right here in the context of the noted scripture.
The first is the source of the visitation. All of the related scriptures point out that the iniquity of the fathers are visited on the children by God Himself. And God categorizes the group that receive this visitation: “Those who hate Me.” May God employ demonic spirits to achieve his purpose? Certainly! We see that God sent a spirit to torment Israel’s King Saul in the midst of his disobedience to God. But the originator of the visitation is always God.
The second part —often left out — in all these methods of deliverance, is that God shows “lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”
It is no accident that this is embedded in the greatest Old Testament declaration of Truth, the Ten Commandments. Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my Commandments.” We know that Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength, and, the second is to to love your neighbor as yourself. He said that all the law of the Old Testament is summed up in that Greatest Commandment.
Let’s just take one of those Ten Commandments and apply it to contemporary culture: “You shall not commit adultery.” Immorality is condemned so very often in Scripture and is portrayed so often in a positive light in contemporary culture, because it is central to our relationship with God, a relationship which the greater part of our culture hates.
Why is adultery wrong? In one sense, it is theft. We are taking something that does not belong to us, or giving away something that does not belong to us. The Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians, “Do you not know… you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” Adultery is a clear violation of God’s Old and New Testaments’ Commandments.
The key to not being under the negative generational promise (I refuse to call it a “curse”) that God declares in the midst of the Ten Commandments is to love God and keep His Commandments. That puts us under the blessing that God promises those who love Him and who keep His Commandments.
We may feel that we are are powerless to address the sin in our lives, but two simple steps place us in the hands of our Father, who is well able to preserve us against sin. Repentance and Faith towards the Lord Jesus Christ give us the ability to walk in the Commandments He gave us. Repentance and faith not only happen at a single point in time that starts our walk with Jesus, they are a lifestyle that ensure our success in his Kingdom.
If you are not a follower of Jesus and plagued by sin, take the life-changing step to commit your life to the Lord Jesus Christ. And if you are a follower of Jesus and plagued by sin make inventory of your life and confess and repent of those areas that you are not in alignment with his commandments.
Psalm 51 is a incredible example of a repentant heart:
“Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity And cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when You speak And blameless when You judge. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom. Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness, Let the bones which You have broken rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins And blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners will be converted to You. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation; Then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, That my mouth may declare Your praise. For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. By Your favor do good to Zion; Build the walls of Jerusalem. Then You will delight in righteous sacrifices, In burnt offering and whole burnt offering; Then young bulls will be offered on Your altar.”