“For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” Exodus 20:5-6; Cf. Deuteronomy 5:9-10
A key to knowing the LORD God and how He deals with man is contained in these verses of Scripture. The LORD God is a jealous God who punishes the sins of those who hate Him and rebel against Him and His commandments, even down to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Him. But He is also a merciful God who forgives the iniquities, transgressions and sins of those who, by His grace, repent and turn back to Him for mercy.
In Exodus 34, God describes Himself in these words: “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation” (v. 6-7).
In the history recorded for us in the Bible, we can see the truthfulness of these words. When the Israelites rebelled against the LORD, went their own way and disobeyed His commandments, even worshiping other gods, God’s judgments fell upon them; and children and grandchildren who continued on in their sinful ways suffered the consequences – not only of their own sins but also of the sins of their fathers – when the Assyrians and the Babylonians came and destroyed their land and carried them away into captivity.
On the other hand, God showed great mercy to such men as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Jeremiah, Daniel and others. For the sake of the promised Messiah and Savior who was yet to come, God pardoned and forgave the sins and iniquities of those who turned to Him for mercy and forgiveness. Cf. Psalm 32:1ff.; 103:8-18.
The question for you and for me today is this: “Do we want God to deal with us in His mercy? or in His wrath?” If we continue on in rebelliousness and sin against God and His commandments, we will suffer His wrath, both here and forever in eternity! But if, by the gracious calling and mercy of God, we repent of our sinful and rebellious ways, turning to Him for mercy and forgiveness, He will, for the sake of the innocent sufferings and death of Messiah Jesus in our stead, have mercy upon us, forgive our sins and give us a place in His everlasting kingdom.
O LORD God, have mercy upon us and turn us from our evil thoughts, desires and ways to Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son and our Savior, for forgiveness and life eternal. Amen.
[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible]