A punitive God?

This weekend I heard a message that included a passage from scripture I find particularly troubling, and in fact I cringe every-time I hear it.

Exodus 34: 7  Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.

As I hear or read that it fills me with sadness, regret and shame.  The things I’ve done I’ll answer for, but why should my daughters, born innocent and spotless have to be punished because of me?  This week was one where the perspective was presented to me in ways I haven’t been able to hear previously, and framed so well.  The punishment for the sins of the father isn’t exactly that.  It’s what Bill and other teachers within Willow describe as *handing on the broken baton*.  It required additional passages and teaching for me to understand, it isn’t about the sins I’ve committed directly.  It’s about freeing from the sins of the father, and breaking the cycle, not being held to repeat them.

1 Kings 15: 3  He committed all the sins his father had done before him; his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his forefather had been.

The sins of my own earthly father, and mother, let’s just say the home I grew up in I carried forward into my home as an adult.  The quiet rage, the lustful heart, the materialism, the distance from God and continually chasing some-thing were a part of me I inflicted on my family.  Putting things between myself and becoming a fully devoted follower of Christ.  I was heading down a path of destruction, a path that was parallel to one lived out in previous generations of my family.  I took the broken baton, broke it some more and was preparing to hand it off to my daughters.  What a sad and sobering reality.  A counterfeit method to meaning, when the meaning I thought I needed and sought couldn’t be found there.  I see that chase in others, in my family and certainly in my own past.  Mercifully though, my family won’t actually have to pay for the sins of their father.

Deuteronomy 24: 16  “Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin.”

In the past, every time I heard about the sins of the father I sat thinking that I’d cursed my daughters.  That I would pay for my sins and they would as well.  But there’s no reason they have to.  Mercifully there’s no condemnation for them for my past, and if my wife and I can continue to breathe the living word into them we have the opportunity to change.  We have the chance, because of a Father that is slow to anger and quick to forgive.  A Father that came blameless to take on our sin, to be sin itself so we could have forgiveness for our sins.

Acts 16: 31  And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

I’ll continue to repent, and I’ll also continue to receive forgiveness.  I’ll also continue to work on myself, my relationships here and with God so the baton I pass on won’t lead my family to the same sins of their father, but to life everlasting in their Father.

John 15: 5-8 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Grace, peace and love

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