What Does It Mean That the Sins of the Fathers Are Visited on the 3rd and 4th Generation?

This week, Pastor J.D. answers the question “What does it mean that the sins of the fathers are visited on the 3rd and 4th generation?

Show Notes:

  • There’s a phrase from Exodus 34:7 where God says that he will punish the children and their children for the sins of the parents to the third and fourth generation.
    • Let’s start with what it clearly doesn’t mean. The Bible says elsewhere that it would be unjust for God to hold the children guilty for the sins of the parents.
    • What it is doing is stating that sins of the fathers affect the children.
  • One of my mentors when I was in seminary said every single major Bible theme is introduced in Genesis and the rest of the Bible kind of just explains those themes.
    • So take the Genesis story of Joseph: Joseph’s brothers are jealous of him and sold him into slavery. But that sin of jealousy didn’t come out of nowhere. Joseph was the son of Rachel who was Jacob’s favorite wife. Jacob had showed extensive favoritism to Rachel and Joseph, so the sons of Leah took it out on him.
    • I’m not saying they’re innocent. I’m just saying that they were actually responding to anger and bitterness over the sin’s of their father.
  • Our sin affects shapes our children. They learn to repeat our mistakes often to even greater degrees.
    • I don’t know about you, but it breaks my heart when I see my idols replicated in my children. And I see it all the time. Things that have become a little too important to me manifest in them.
      • If we worship the idol of success, then your kids will always have that pressure of feeling like they got to be first or best or top of their class.
  • If there’s one big takeaway from this Ask Me Anything podcast it’s that sin is serious. It is deadly serious. It’s like John Owen, the Puritan always said, “You got to be killing sin, or it’s going to be killing you at any given moment.” One of those two things is happening and not just in you, and you and your children and those you influence for generations to come.
  • I don’t want to end this on a really negative note. So let me say this: Exodus 34 also says that God keeps faithfulness with 1000s of generations. And what that means is that God is much more merciful and healing that our sin is damaging. So when you sow faith, you can actually break the cycle. God loves to help you break the cycle of sin. I can think of several examples throughout the Bible and in my own life.
    • There’s a movie out right now called Jesus Revolution about the life of Greg Laurie. Greg Laurie was raised by a single mother who struggled with addiction and had multiple failed marriages. As a result, Greg Laurie himself experimented with drugs and lived a rebellious lifestyle as a teenager. In some ways, that’s her sin being replicated in him. But then Greg Laurie becomes a Christian and helps lead this Jesus movement. He becomes a pastor and founds Harvest Christian Fellowship out in California. So yes, it’s true that God sometimes lets the effects of our sin go into the third and fourth generation. But it’s also true that one courageous act of faith can change not just your life and your destiny, but the destiny of your children, your children’s children, and the lives of those you influence for generations to come.
  • So for those that are known by God and loved by God, Romans 8:28 says that he can use all things for good, including the sins and the struggles that at one point in our life negatively affected us. God can reweave those for good in our life and produce the gold of his presence and and the brokenness of our sorrow.

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