Fathers and the Next Generation

Exodus 34:1-9

Do you ever wonder whether God is fair? Sometimes He blasts people with the fury of His wrath, and at other times, He is loving and kind toward people who are just like those He blasted!

No one deserves God’s grace and mercy—and certainly, not the Israelites. The Jews as a whole have been blinded to Christ and salvation in Him because of what they asked when they cried for the crucifixion of Jesus—

“Let his blood be on us and on our children!” (Matthew 27:25).

Can one generation blow it for the next? Does the consequences the fathers’ sin spill over into the lives of their children? YES and NO according to the Bible!

It is a good thing to remember that today you can commit a sin that will affect your children, your grandchildren, your great-grand children, and your great-great grandchildren.

However, neither Moses nor anyone else knows at what particular times God chooses to be compassionate and gracious!

For two chapters the aftermath of Israel’s apostasy has been played out in Exodus. It is still not clear how God will make good on His promise to Moses in 33:17—

“I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”

Although Israel does not deserve God’s Mercy and Grace, Yahweh, being COMPASSIONATE and GRACIOUS, will forgive the people and welcome them back into the COVENANT RELATIONSHIP.

Many of us can be thankful that God sometimes gives a second, third, and even fourth opportunity to repent. He is not obligated to show compassion and grace, but He does!

The second set of Tablets of Stone is symbolic of God’s grace!

Once again, the two stone tablets inform the Israelites of the status of their relationship with God. Although God is compassionate and gracious, He also stands for righteousness, justice and holiness. To maintain relationship, His commandments must be obeyed.

Exodus 34:1-3—

The LORD said to Moses, “Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. Be ready in the morning, and then come up on Mount Sinai. Present yourself to me there on top of the mountain. No one is to come with you or be seen anywhere on the mountain; not even the flocks and herds may graze in front of the mountain.”

Nothing has changed! God has not lowered or reduced His standards—they are the same words written on the first tablets that Moses, when seized with anger, threw down and broke at the sight of the Golden Calf Debacle. The smashing of the two stone tablets symbolized Israel breaking the whole Law.

Here Moses is a type of Christ the Mediator who said in Matthew 5:17—

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.

Accordingly, the second set of Tablets were securely deposited in the Ark of the Covenant, typical of Christ who said in Psalm 40:8—

I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.

Exodus 34:4-7—

So Moses chiseled out two stone tablets like the first ones and went up Mount Sinai early in the morning, as the LORD had commanded him; and he carried the two stone tablets in his hands. Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. 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.

Since Moses had broken the Tablets, which were the work of God, it was appropriate that he chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones.

As God passes before Moses, proclaiming His Name twice, YAHWEH, YAHWEH, He emphasizes His unchangeableness. In Exodus 3:14, at the Burning Bush, God revealed His Name to be YAHWEH—“I AM WHO I AM”— the self-existing One. We exist because of God; He exists because He is God. And being self-existent, He is self-sufficient. He is eternal and unchangeable, always the same, yesterday, today, and forever: He will be what He will be, and what He is.

YAHWEH is the Name by which God desires to be known and worshiped. His Name became so scared to Israel that they actually forgot how to pronounce it. To avoid profaning His name, they did not use it.

YAHWEH expresses His character as dependable and faithful to all those who put their trust in Him. When God speaks of Himself, He says “I AM” and when we speak of Him, we say “HE IS.”

Jesus called Himself “I AM.” Christ Jesus is God’s revelation of Himself. Hebrews 1:3 asserts—

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

YAHWEH denotes that God is UNSEARCHABLE and INSCRUTABLE—being beyond our powers to discover, understand, or explain. We can know only what He reveals about Himself and His Name.

As He comes Moses with His hand in the cleft of the Rock, he announces that He is “the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness”—literally, STEADFAST LOVING-KINDNESS and TRUTH. These attributes belong to Christ Jesus.

Fortunately, God is SLOW TO ANGER. At this point, Israel deserves to be annihilated in His wrath, but Moses has convinced God not to destroy them for the present time. Knowing the Israelites to be a stiff necked people, God does not want go with them. At any moment they may arouse His anger again and He might destroy them on the way.

Wrath is not a continuous aspect of the nature of God but a particular response to a historical situation. Yet, Yahweh, the compassionate and gracious God, is slow to anger, abounding in STEADFAST LOVING-KINDNESS and TRUTH. He is totally RELIABLE—DEPENDABLE, TRUSTWORTHY.

Therefore, God is faithful and maintains love to thousands, and forgives wickedness, rebellion and sin. But keep in mind what He said to Moses back in Exodus 33:19—

I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

With the apostasy of the Golden Calf Debacle, the entire nation forfeited all rights to blessing, and deserved destruction. Yet, God showed mercy on Israel. Why? First, because Moses asked Him to forgive these stiff-necked people and secondly, in His sovereignty, God chose to have mercy and compassion on them.

Did they deserve mercy and compassion? Absolutely NOT! But we don’t deserve His grace either! We all come from Adam and are born with his nature—dirty rotten sinners—what theologians called “totally depraved!” Yet, God saved us!

Sometimes people tend to overemphasize the mercy of God and conclude that God is too kind to punish the guilty.

The other side of our merciful, forgiving, and loving God is His holiness, justice and righteousness. Woe to them who reject God’s Grace. Look at the middle of Exodus 34:7—

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.

The Second Commandment (Exodus 20:5) has two important qualifiers—

You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.

The first qualifier is THE THIRD AND FOURTH GENERATION and the second is OF THOSE WHO HATE ME. It appears God’s statement about Himself is an abbreviation of the Second Command.

It’s hard for us today to appreciate the strong connectedness of families in the traditional OT cultures—for both good and bad.

The Middle East philosophy of family was emphasized over and over again on my recent trip to Jordan. Our Jordanian spoke often of the family and importance of the father’s name. Our guide would say, “Ask anyone throughout Jordan and they will tell you “Gustan” is a good person, because I have a good my family name!” In Jordan, one’s reputation is connected to the father’s name. And every family member is obligated to maintain that good name.

The extent of respect for one’s father is alien to our Western mind set. When our guide got married, his father called the family together. His father asked his older, married brother, who lived away, “How much money do you have?” His brother told him five thousand dollars and his father said, “Give Gustan four thousand.” His brother gave him the money! Now when Gustan’s younger brother marries, his father will ask him to give so much of his assets to his brother.

Periodically in Jordan, all the family groups are called together by the father and he makes important decisions regarding their lives. And of course, their mother wields a great deal of influence through the father.

The result of this lofty respect for parents in Jordan, the crime rate is extremely low, and morality is very high! We see the exact opposite in the West, where the family structure is crumbling all around us.

Over and over again, we were told that we could go anywhere at anytime day or night in Jordan—that we would be absolutely safe. It was very easy to see what God means by the Fifth Commandment—

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

The Bible often mentions the conversion of whole families, indicating that blessings the elders experienced were experienced by the children too. Our modern society is not immune to this. The detrimental effects of child abuse, for example, can be followed from one generation of a family to the next.

There are instances in the Bible where children experience the tragic consequences of their parents’ sin. David’s affair with Bathsheba resulted in the death of the son from their adultery. “Crack-babies” suffer for their mothers’ behavior. Until the addictive cycle is broken, generation after generation will be trapped by sin.

The Good News is that the cycle can be broken. Hezekiah, the son of the wicked King Ahaz, broke the cycle when he turned to God. So did Josiah, the son of the tyrant Amon. When children break the pattern set by sinful parents, they can receive God’s blessing. The Gospel of Jesus Christ offers power to break sin’s grip on families.

God punishes people for their own, personal sin. Nowhere in the Bible do righteous believers pay eternally for their parents’ sin. In no uncertain terms, God states that a son who acts righteously, even though he has a sinful father, will not die for his father’s sin. The law states in Deuteronomy 24:16—

Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin.

However, tendencies toward sin or righteousness are set into motion by parents that children learn by example. Parents, especially fathers, have an awesome responsibility before God to bring their children up in the training and instruction of the LORD.

Praying with the children, and especially at meal time.
Reading and explaining the Bible to your children.
Attending Sunday School and Worship—anticipating God’s blessing.
Applying God’s Word to life from rising up to lying down.
Implanting a biblical world view in the minds of your children.

Fathers, what should your personal goal be? As your pastor, I’ll tell you! When your daughter or son looks at you, they should see Christ! “Daddy, your just like Jesus!” Remember that very important verse from last week—2 Corinthians 3:18—

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

As you renew your mind and grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, you are being transformed into His likeness. Others are to see Him, especially your children!

Some fathers may want to tell their children they blew it! You may have become a Christian or really committed to Christ after your children were grown. You recognize that you weren’t the Christian example you should have been for them. It’s never too late to your children what Christ means to you now! Showing is better than telling, but don’t skip one because you skipped the other!

Last Sunday evening we talked about THE FACTS OF LIFE. Surveys consistently show that most parents never talk to their children about the “birds and bees” and “death”—the beginning of life and the ending of life!

How can children be prepared for life if parents never instruct them in the very fundamentals of life? Children need to understand the basics from a Christian perspective, before they hear the world’s view— and they will hear it! If your children do not know truth, it will be difficult for them to discern error!

I don’t know what’s the best age for a heart to heart talk about the FACTS OF LIFE. But, if your child is approaching his or her teens its definitely time! This afternoon is ideal!—Dad, you can make this a very significant FATHER’S DAY in the life of your child—get Mom and sit down and have the talk!

Teenager, if your parents have not had this talk with you DAD and MOM are scared! You’re embarrassed! But I want you to be courageous! It is now easier for you to ask them about THE FACTS OF LIFE than for them to come to you. Honor your parents this day by asking them to share their insights.

Training and instruction begins with the father’s own life, the example he provides for his children will have a profound effect upon their lives. That is Yahweh’s point when He says: “He maintains love to thousands” and “He punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”

We might think that is not fair! However, we have no say in the matter; God writes the rules and enforces them—and that is His rule!

One generation profoundly effects the next generation! The next generation often magnifies the characteristics of the preceding one. At times, God shows compassion and grace—forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin—and the next generation is blessed with righteous.

Such is the case with the Israelites who cross the Jordan River and take the Promised Land. They experience the victories of the LORD, while the bodies of their stiff-necked parents decay in the desert!

Revival is always a possibility with God. Moses hopes and prays that it will take place in his generation. Exodus 34:8-9—

Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped. “O Lord, if I have found favor in your eyes,” he said, “then let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as your inheritance.”

This prayer is beautiful! It’s offered in the light of the LORD’S revelation of Himself as the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Moses, the mediator, asks for the boundless grace and exhaust-less patience of God. None but Yahweh could bear with this stubborn people.

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