(This is the third and final part of a series of posts pertaining to Dt.5:8-10. It is recommended that, if you have not already done so, you read the two previous posts.)
The Third and Fourth Generations
God communicates that He sees a father’s iniquity produce ramifications within a family for three and four generations. First, three and four generations should not be seen as a literal parameter, but rather as a literary way of communicating that it has a long-term effect. In addition, as previously emphasized, this is not to be viewed as a deterministic statement but rather as an observation of the result of moral agency in action. This is also a conditioned statement in that it refers to “those who hate Me.” The question to probe is, “Is it necessary to continue hating God?” In fact, as we minister to people from this perspective, we must do what we can to convince people that it is appropriate and possible to love God.
We have seen that as God “visits” a family, He observes manifestations of character and behavior resulting from responses to the iniquity of fathers from the past. We would do well to capture the relational, spiritual and moral significance and power of fatherhood; the role God has designed for men who are to prepare their children to love God, advance His purposes and govern affairs on planet earth in a manner that produces blessing. To be sure, the particular manifestation that surfaces involves the response of the children and the way they process the events and situations to which they were exposed. This is not to be seen as a generational curse that is beyond our control. Neither is it resolved by an elaborate scheme requiring that we identify a specific sin committed in generations past for which we must now repent. What is needed is for a person in this chain to turn to the Lord in genuine repentance and complete surrender, actively seeking the wisdom and power of God to break this chain. As they cooperate with the Lord during the transformation process, they can become an influence that potentially changes the direction of the moral development that has been unfolding. Of course, there is great dynamic in this process, as well. Each “link” in the chain will be responsible and accountable for the choices they make. The question is, “What kind of influence are you?”
Such complex entanglements related to the inner workings of one’s character are not unraveled by mere “Sunday morning religion.” In fact, we must be very careful that we do not produce religious environments in which people are simply encouraged to feel good about themselves and yet do nothing to minister to the real issues and struggles that threaten to overtake and “control” their lives and relationships. If the ministry of the church (or should I say Sunday morning church services) leads people to avoid confronting the personal realities that God would like to help them change, we could find ourselves working against the Holy Spirit.
A reflective reading of Ezekiel 18, with special attention given to the “if” factor, can help us begin to see the dynamic elements involved in developing fruitful, moral character. A significant role the church (the pillar and support of the truth) is to play in a culture, is to work together with God to help people sort out and unravel the very real entanglements that too often rob them of meaningful, victorious, fruitful lives. Instead of simply being a Sunday school memory verse, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (Jn.8:31-32) might find its way out from underneath the basket, come alive in a way we have never imagined and produce the deep levels of freedom Jesus had in mind.
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Mt.5:13-16)
 This is not intended to overlook or demean the role of mothers. There is tremendous significance to all such relationships, however, the text I am looking at states, ” visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children.”
 As I encouraged a young man battling to remain free from heroin and other “demons” to make sure he gets connected with a solid church, he stated, “I’ve been involved with (a certain large church) for years but it seems no one wants to talk seriously about the stuff I am struggling with.”