v 6. The Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out,
A great verse you say– but what about the next one,
v 7? But I do not excuse the guilty. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations.”
This appears a hard saying and seems to fly in the face of compassion. Does it mean that children suffer punishment for the parent’s wrongdoing? Ezekiel faces up to that when he records chapter 18 ‘ “‘What?’ you ask. ‘Doesn’t the child pay for the parent’s sins?’ No! For if the child does what is just and right and keeps my decrees, that child will surely live. The person who sins is the one who will die. The child will not be punished for the parent’s sins, and the parent will not be punished for the child’s sins. ‘
What we need to reflect on however is the reality that children are affected by the behaviour of their parents – often for several generations. Eating and drinking habits, foul language, abusive behaviour, lax working practices and so on are often repeated in the next generation. Sin has consequences, and subsequent generations continue with the unhealthy lifestyle. Praise God, this cycle of sin and wrong living can, and often is broken by a generation of young people determined to live better.
None of this negates the basic, compassionate character of God. We can still announce to an enquiring generation that God is merciful and compassionate to needy people ‘slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.’