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Exodus 20:1-6 outlines the first commandment forbidding idolatry and verse 5 states: “...for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate me”.
Notice how this verse does not say the penalties for the sins of the parents are passed on to their children, regardless of what the children do. The verse simply says that God will be "visiting the iniquity" upon the fathers and the following generations "of them that hate me." Verse 6 of Exodus 20 goes on to say: “And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.”
We can ascertain from this verse that people who hate God and teach their children to follow false gods will bring curses upon themselves and their children, even to the third and fourth generations. In contrast, if people love God and show their love by keeping God's commandments and do not bow down to false gods and idols, then God will show mercy to them and their children who follow the righteous example of their parents.
From these scriptures, we see God is always ready to forgive us if we repent of our sins, and will extend mercy and forgiveness to anyone who turns to God and keeps His commandments (1 John 1:9).
King David summed up this lesson for us in Psalms when alluding to the sins of ancient Israel in the wilderness:"For God… commanded our fathers:...That they might …keep his commandments: And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not steadfast with God" (Psalms 78:5-8).
We should love God our Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, and keep all His laws and commandments. By doing this we set the right example for our children so that they don't bring a curse upon themselves.
Beyond Today Blog