Speaker: Mike Connell
So you notice here, a very clear warning against idolatry. So as we look at this verse, we begin to see that God sees people as families, interconnected families. Notice that, when we look at people, we see them as individuals. When God sees people, He sees them as part of a family line. So God views people generationally, and His plan is for His blessing to be generational. God desires blessing to flow from one generation to another. So remember, blessing is God’s favour. Blessing is the flow of the life of the Spirit around us. God’s plan is that blessing flow from one generation to another. That as you walk with God, your children benefit from your godly life.
In other words, without doing anything, they can receive great favour from God, because they are the children of someone living rightly for God. God’s intention is that each generation should build on what the previous generation established, or accomplished. So in God’s original design, blessing would flow from one generation to another. Each generation would have the advantage of what their parents had done, and they could go further. In other words, God’s desire and plan is that parents would leave a Godly legacy. This isn’t always seen at the beginning of a person’s life but it does show up in the latter part of their life. We often don’t notice that the little choices that we make each day are leading us on a certain course.
I’ll just give you an example. My wife’s parents have both died now. But I remember very vividly going to her father’s 80th birthday. It was a family celebration, and present at the celebration were all the family, and also friends. There were five children who had all grown up and all got married, and all had grandchildren - there were many grandchildren there of different ages. At a certain point in the evening, we began to celebrate and honour Joy’s father. Each of the 20 grandchildren stood up and shared briefly why they loved their grandfather.
He had intentionally over the years, walked with God, sacrificially given to the work of the Lord, and had made a decision to invest in each of his grandchildren. So when they were from the age of about 5 through the age of 11, he would take them on holidays. Two, three, or five of them together, and they would have a grandfather holiday. He would take them, and they would have a morning devotional, and pray together, and read the Bible together. They would go out and have fun together. Everyone had an opportunity to choose an activity and plan the day. He did all kinds of things over many years. In other words, he believed in generational legacy. So rather than spending money wildly on all kinds of things, he invested in his family. So at the age of 80, all of the grandchildren were able to testify how they loved him, and what they learned from him.
His brother was also present at the celebration. His brother had taken a different course in his life. He had rejected Christ, and he was now on his second marriage. He had committed adultery and been unfaithful, and now he was with another person. He had two daughters, neither of whom was married, and they were unusual people - and he had no grandchildren. I looked, and of course when his brother was growing up, he’d laughed at his faith in Christ. But here at the age of 80, you could look and you could see the life’s course, and the result of the decisions.
One had invested in family and walked with God and there was a Godly legacy – the legacy of a stable family, a good marriage, a legacy of grandchildren who loved their grandfather. The other one had an unstable marriage, unstable family, and no legacy to grandchildren.
So we understand God’s plan is that a legacy flow from one generation to another. We can align with Christ and leave an intentional legacy, or we can live a destructive life and other things come on our family. So if we walk with God, blessings begin to flow into our family, without us even realising it. They are blessed because we have walked with God - and this is what the scripture tells us.
I can remember when I was in Indonesia some years ago, and I was taking a meeting, and there were about 2000 people there. I had my son David with me, and he had come with me on more than one mission’s trip. Normally when I plan them, we do all the training of the leaders, and after we’ve trained the leaders, then we do the ministry. So we got to the first day, and I’d asked them: train leaders, then ministry - but it was a holiday, so they had meetings - and we had no one trained. So no one knows what to do, and they’ve all come wanting deliverance. It was only David and me, and more than 1000 came up in the altar call - it was a monstrous altar call - rows and rows and rows of people.
So I remember looking at my son saying: well Dave, you can do half of them, and I’ll do the other half, and so we got going. I got praying and things were happening, people who were slain in the spirit, demons coming out everywhere. Suddenly I thought: I need to have a look and see how Dave’s getting on. All around him, people are on the ground and demons have been coming out. He’s just had a major move of God around him. I spoke to him a little later about it. I said: “What happened?”
He said: “Well, about 3 months ago, I decided that what was on your life from God was an inheritance for me.” So I began in prayer to take hold of what belonged to me. Isn’t that something? He said: “...and this is what happened today”. So, there’s an example of Godly legacy. He stood up and said: what is on your life is mine to have. What he’s saying is: I don’t have to pay the price you paid, to get that. I can have that, because I’m connected to you, we’re family. Interesting thinking isn’t it?
So we can have what is upon Christ, because we are connected to Him - He is our elder brother. We just have to arise and take hold of what Christ has provided for us. He is the elder brother, who broke through and became blessed. We are blessed because we’re in Him - we just need to take hold of the blessing.
Now, notice the two sides of this. We see then that families are interconnected. Now He says this: The Lord your God is a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me; but showing mercy to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. So God is saying in this scripture here, that there are generational consequences of sin. Of course the most obvious one is Adam. Adam sinned, and we’ve all been born in sin. In this particular scripture, God says: certain kinds of sin will have generational consequences; and this is echoed in other scriptures.
Let me read another one for you. Lamentations 5:7. In this chapter 5, the prayer is for God to bring restoration. It starts of in verse 2 - Our inheritance has been turned over to aliens, and our houses to foreigners. 3 We have become orphans and waifs, our mothers are like widows. 4 We pay for the water we drink, and our wood comes at a price. 5 They pursue at our heels; we labor and have no rest.
Now look at what he’s saying. He’s saying: we are in reproach. That means we’re incredibly ashamed and embarrassed of our condition. He said: the Godly inheritance has been taken away from us by other people. He’s saying that the blessing have been stripped away. He said: we’ve become orphans, or no one to father us, we’ve lost parents. He said: the water that we drink, which should be free, we have to pay for. The trees which we should be able to cut down for wood, we have to pay for them as well. He said: we are labouring, or working, and there’s absolutely no rest; and we’re in bondage to the Syrians and Egyptians. So that’s a very unhappy condition isn’t it? So what’s he saying, we’re in bondage, we’re in slavery.
Notice now what he says in verse 7, he actually says what the cause of the problem is. 7 Our fathers sinned and are now no more, or have died, but we bear their iniquities. What he’s saying is: our parents did something wrong, and we’ve experienced the consequences. What they did has brought problems to us. Or in other words, their sin has had a generational impact. That’s exactly what he said in Exodus chapter 20. So there are many scriptures that are like this.
Let’s go back to Exodus 20. God is speaking specifically about idolatry and iniquity. Let’s first of all, talk about idolatry. Verse 5 says: I the Lord your God, am a jealous God. We need to understand what that means. When it says: God is jealous; He’s talking about having a passionate love for us. It says: I’m passionately in love with you. So when I see someone else be your lover, I am extremely upset by this. It’s not saying that God has got some evil nature to Him. It’s saying that I love you so immensely; it hurts Me deeply to see you follow some other person. He’s using a marriage language here. He’s saying: I’m like a jealous husband.
It would help you to understand this a little more, if I just tell you a little bit about the context here. The context in which something is said, is very important for what it all means. What is going on that causes God to give these 10 commandments? So we’re going to answer that one. If you don’t know anything about the Hebrew culture, this is a bit of a mystery. It’s like God has just written down laws: you keep the law. Do the law – good! Don’t do law – punish! Most people think of it like that.
You need to understand that there is a much bigger picture here. You remember that the Lord drew the people of Israel out into the wilderness, then God came down to encounter them. God began to talk to them about wanting to meet with them; and there was a covering that came down over them. The words God spoke are quite meaningful to the Hebrews. He said: you are a special treasure to me.
In the Hebrew culture, when someone wanted to marry someone, there were steps that they took. The first step was to say: you are a special treasure to me. There were a number of steps that would take place. Finally they would come to the place of engagement, or betrothal to marry. They would come under a canopy, and in preparation for marriage, the groom would bring out what was called the marriage arrangement.
Their marriage arrangement consisted of the requirements of this marriage covenant. So this Exodus 20 is what’s called the ketubah, it was called the marriage covenant. So what they would do is that they would exchange vows, and there would be an agreement. This is what we agree to, so we can maintain our marriage relationship. They had lived in slavery for years, so this ketubah was absolutely wonderful to them.
But notice what God is saying: rethink this! Rethink it as a marriage relationship. I’m the Lord your God, you have no other gods before Me. I want to be number 1 in your life, don’t have any other boyfriends. Don’t make images of other gods. Don’t keep the pictures of your old boyfriends. Honour the Lord your God. Don’t take My name in vain. In other words, when we get married, I want you to live a life that honours me, so I’m proud of you and not ashamed of you. So it goes through, and all of those steps – don’t steal - I’ll provide for you.
It’s all about a marriage relationship. It’s all about the terms of living as a husband and wife betrothed to God. I encourage you to look up and search on the internet a Hebrew wedding, and the engagement process; and you will see here in Exodus 19 and 20, this is the whole process of coming into covenant agreement with God.
So now God says: there are consequences if you are unfaithful in marriage. We tend to think of relationship with God being casual - but it isn’t, it’s called covenant - a binding agreement. So this is what God is saying: if you’re unfaithful to Me, there are consequences. So this is what He says: if you follow after idols, the impact of that idolatry, will last for generations. Let’s go and have a look at that. Have a look at what He’s saying here.
So in Exodus 20: I the Lord am a jealous God. In other words, I’m a passionate lover - I don’t want you to have other boyfriends. That’s what that means - it’s true! In James He puts it this way: if you follow the world with all its values - you’re an adulteress. You’re unfaithful to God! God loves us – and He wants to have an intimate relationship.
Notice God talks about specifically idolatry. There are many sources of cursing, but idolatry is a significant one. He said: you’ll have no other gods before Me. Don’t make any images, don’t bow down to them. Now, to “bow down” means to worship, or pay respect, to an idol. It means to give that idol a place of honour and value in your life. When a person bows down to an idol, they are actually acknowledging the demon that’s in the idol. The power behind an idol is an evil spirit; but the idol itself is just a piece of wood - it’s actually nothing, it’s meaningless, it’s a carving of hand; but behind it and within it is an evil spirit. So when people bow down to the idol, they are actually honouring and yielding to the demonic presence that inhabits it. So you understand God being very upset with that.
Now, when a person makes an offering to an idol, they are trading with an evil spirit. They are trading. That means, they are offering in exchange. To trade, I give you something; you give me something - it’s an agreement. So if you make an offering to an idol, you are intentionally entering in an agreement with an evil spirit - that’s why there’s a problem with this. You give the offering to the idol, and implicitly you are looking for protection, or provision, or power.
These are all things God wants to provide, so when you bow down to an idol, you are rejecting God as the source of provision, power and protection, and you are trading with an idol; trading with an evil spirit. So this is the problem with idolatry – that when we bow down and offer sacrifices to them, we are trading with an evil spirit, entering into an agreement with an evil spirit, and the evil spirit now has a legal right of access. A legal right of access!
In Psalm 115 verse 8, we’ll read from verse 3. Notice what it talks about idols. “3 But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases. 4 Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. 5 They have mouths, but they do not speak; Eyes they have, but they do not see; 6 They have ears, but they do not hear; Noses they have, but they do not smell; 7 They have hands, but they do not handle; Feet they have, but they do not walk; Nor do they mutter through their throat.” Now notice this: “8 Those who make them are like them; and so is everyone who trusts in them.”
Those who make them are like them - so you become like what you worship. So if you worship the idols, then what will happen is, you will end up becoming like them – cold and hard. So I have observed: that people who are involved in idolatry, usually have deep roots of bitterness in their lives, and emotional coldness and hardness. Literally, a spirit of death gets hold of them. So when there’s family idolatry, usually the people are very hard emotionally.
Let’s go back into Exodus 20. So God says: if you bow down to them, I the Lord am a jealous God, and I will visit the iniquity of your fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those who do these things. Notice God says: He visits the iniquity.
The consequence of sin is death. God set that law in place – you sin, you die - and a number of sins in the Bible had death penalties. The problem is, if God kills you when you do that sin, it cuts of all the generations. So rather than kill you, the judgement on that sin is just spread generationally. So no one dies; but everyone’s affected.
The word iniquity then, means to be crooked. The Greek word ‘avon’ and the Hebrew language means: what you look at with your eye, will hook you in. So iniquity then, is to be crooked - to be twisted or bent. It’s to have a leaning towards a certain kind of problem. So iniquity is the driving power that turns people towards sin. Iniquity is the root, out of which the sinful acts turn up. Iniquity is a problem!
I want to show you a verse in Exodus 34:6-7 – 6 “And the LORD passed before Moses and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, 7 keeping mercy for thousands.” I want you to notice this very carefully – “forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin; by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.”
We see here that God is proclaiming His name or nature. The first thing we see is God says: I’m a God of mercy. 1) Mercy. I give mercy - merciful, gracious, long-suffering, kind; also, He’s a God of justice. Mercy is greater than justice. God’s mercy means He forgives; is long-suffering, goodness. God’s justice - He requires us to come account for sin.
Notice what He says here – that God forgives 3 things: Iniquity; Transgression; Sin - those are 3 different things. We just tend to think of sin - I did something wrong, but the Bible distinguishes between them. Iniquity is one thing; transgression is something else; sin is something else - these terms all turn up in the New Testament as well. We tend to just use one broad word – sin. Jesus died for my sins. Actually, we need to understand iniquity, transgression, sin. All of them, the blood of Jesus has the remedy for it, but each of them is completely different.
Iniquity means to be crooked or twisted - it’s the bending in your life towards sin. That’s what we’re going to be dealing with, when we’re dealing with generational curses and iniquities.
Transgression – that’s something different. It means to deliberately break the law of God. You knew it was wrong, you knew in your conscience it was wrong, but you did it anyway - you broke the law of God.
Sin means to fall short of the mark; to cause an offense. It pertains mostly to things we have done but we didn’t realise ot. We did something wrong, but we didn’t realise we were doing something wrong - we did it ignorantly.
For example, you may not realise there’s a 50 km/h speed zone outside, and you went 80 km/h; and you were stopped, and they said: “You did 80, this is only a 50 km/h zone.” You say “Well, I didn’t know”. The policeman doesn’t say to you, “Oh, I’m so sorry you didn’t know - it’s ok then - move on”. He doesn’t say that, instead He says: “Whether you knew it or not, you still broke the law. You have to pay the fine”.
Notice now, three categories of issues that need to be addressed. 1) Iniquity – the twist in the person’s life. So even if they say they’re sorry, they still keep moving towards that. 2) the transgression – deliberate violating of the law of the Lord; 3) I made a mistake I didn’t know I was doing wrong, I’m so sorry.
There was an offering for sins of ignorance, and there was an offering for transgressions, so they were quite different. You notice in the Old Testament that when Moses required the people to apply the blood, notice what he did: apply it to the lintel, the post, the post. Iniquity; transgression; sin - Basic crookedness; willingly breaking the law; sins of ignorance – apply the blood. Why did he not say: just put it on the top one? Because the blood of Jesus Christ totally deals with every aspect of our sin and failure - iniquity, transgressions, sins. Notice that in applying it, they literally make a cross. So right back there in Exodus 12, God points out the cross and blood that will deal with iniquity, transgression, and sin.
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