And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.” Exodus 34.6-7
“As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son—both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die.” Ezekiel 18.3-4
Seemingly two different passages that say diametrically apposed things.
Personally, I see a progression of understanding for the biblical writers. For the group in Exodus, there was nothing but community. With out families, tribes, nations and such; there would be no survival. Individuals just didn’t make it on their own. It was a very different understanding of life from what we have today in America. In Ezekiel, they would still have a strong sense of community; but God is revealing more to them. People couldn’t blame their parents any more for their perdicaments. People had to take responsibility for their actions. God would hold people responsible for their actions, period.
I also like to point out that God’s propensity to lavish love and forgiveness far outweighs his willingness to punish. You’re right, it isn’t fair. God’s Mercy and Grace has never been about Fairness.
Darren has been sick lately.
It started with him sleeping fitfully through Friday night. We noticed him eating funny on Saturday. That is when I opened up his mouth, seeing a cluster of three ulcers on the inside of his bottom lip. ( At one point I had counted well over five ulcers in his mouth.)
I died a little bit inside.
You see, I get ulcers. Usually, only one at a time. But, on occasion and for various reasons, I’ll have anywhere between two and five erupt in my mouth. I know what it is like to wake up with my mouth on fire. I don’t want to move, I don’t want to talk, I don’t want anything to be put into my mouth because of the pain.
I look down at my son, my 19 month old son, awakening to his mouth being on fire. He doesn’t know why. He doesn’t know that it is temporary. He lives completely in the now, the horribly pain filled now.
My heart broke for him. I was sure that he had inherited my ulcers. I was positive that my son had inherited a painful, chronic condition from my loins. I died a little inside, feeling oh so responsible for my son’s condition.
The nights were especially hard on him. Friday night, Saturday night, Sunday Night, Monday night, and Tuesday night were all hellish nights. He would wake up ever hour and a half to two hours. His mouth would be on fire. He would wake up, start whimpering a bit, then let out a full throated cry of pain. I would be at his bedside instantly, picking him up, walking him around, rocking him back and forth, holding him through the pain. Somewhere between thirty minutes to an hour, he would fall back into an exhausted fitful sleep.
I cried, I prayed as I held him tight, and I cried some more. No one should pass on a legacy of pain to their children. It just shouldn’t happen.
I was finally able to get him to our Pediatrician on Tuesday. Our Pediatrician diagnosed him with “Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease.”
I blinked, then asked the doctor, “Did you just say my son has Hoof and Mouth Disease?” The doctor laughed, “No, not that. This is different. It won’t kill him, but he’ll be in severe pain for a little while. Probably not much longer, since he started to present ulcers on Friday night, or so it sounds. They last somewhere between four and five days. He’ll be better sometime between Wednesday and the weekend.”
I asked the doctor about my ulcers and the likelihood of passing them on. He told me that it wasn’t very likely. Ulcers like mine have been misdiagnosed as being related to the non-fatal form of the Herpes virus. Basically, some people believe that the ulcers are the virus as it is passed down in the family, when someone (a father, mother, grand-parent, etc.) had previously contracted it. He assured me that wasn’t the case. (Which explains why viral inhibitors made for Herpes doesn’t work on it. Trust me, I know.) To this day, the medical profession doesn’t really know where they come from, just that some people have a propensity for them, or not. So, if my son gets them, it shouldn’t be “because” of me, or someone in our family history.
Does our Heavenly Father hold our children responsible for our sins?
No, he doesn’t.
Can we pass on habits and tendencies on to our children that leave them with a life full of pain?
Without a doubt. I see it around me everyday. I see it in the children, running the streets in 103 degree weather. I see it as they ride their bikes around at 11:00 o’clock at night. I see it in the high area divorce rate, and the co-habitating couples having babies, then breaking up. I see it in the cigarrets, alcohol, and illegal drug use in the children; who inherit it from their parents. These things aren’t taught as much as they are caught by the kids.
The chains of our sins seem to be passed on to our younger generations. Oh God, please break these chains.
By the way, Darren seems to be better now.