This post is meant to offer guidance to common “What now?” questions that could emerge from Pastor JD’s sermon “Consequences: 2 Samuel 12-16” preached at The Summit Church Saturday/Sunday February 5-6, 2011.
When we see and hear how the sin of David affected his son Absalom many of us may begin to experience fear. This fear is compounded if we consider God’s words in the second of the Ten Commandments.
“You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments (Exodus 20:5-6).”
The gracious disproportion of numbers is not much comfort if you are in one of the first three generations. So we have to ask, “What is this verse talking about?” Some would say it means that God punishes children for the sins of their parents. God has heard His people ask this question before and answered it in Ezekiel 18:19-21.
“Yet you say, ‘Why should the son suffer for the iniquity of the father? When the son has done what is just and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. But IF a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die (capitalization added).’”
The question we are asking pivots on, “What makes the ‘if’ so hard?” We are all wicked in the sense that we are born in sin and righteousness is unnatural. So the link between Exodus 20 and Ezekiel 18 seems to be that it is harder for someone to turn from sin when their family of origin rejects God.
One reason for this is that following God is unnatural. Proverbs 22:15a describes all our beginnings; “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child.” There is a natural consequence to absence of godly parenting – we go in the way that seems right to us which ends in death (Prov. 14:12, 16:25).
But there seems to be more to it than natural consequences in Exodus 20. I would describe it as a “life context with momentum.” There is more than the absence of good; there is the presence of bad. A child learns a lifestyle, collects hurts, gathers fears, and takes on goals. This is the child’s life context for years, even decades.
Like braces on teeth, this molds the child, even if the child can tell the context is wrong and doesn’t want to continue it. The child only knows what not to do. In avoiding the evil they know, there are many more dysfunctions to fall into. After all there is only “one way” that leads to life (John 14:6) and many ways that seem good that lead to destruction (Matt. 7:13-14).
I believe this gives us insight into another passage that speaks of influences beyond our immediate life and choice – Ephesians 6:10-20 on spiritual warfare. It is interesting that the only active steps we are called to in spiritual warfare are to “put on the armor (v. 11, 13)” and “stand firm (v. 13).”
In light of this discussion, I would say this means:
- Study the Bible diligently to “put on the armor of God”: to learn God’s truth, gain a vision for God’s righteousness, embrace and live in the gospel of peace, by faith resist the lies of your upbringing, trust in God’s salvation, and ask the Spirit to penetrate these things into your heart.
- Understand the context of your family of origin. Examine what you learned inaccurately from them—what things they taught you to be good, valuable or desirable that are not. What things did they model to be scarce or withhold that are plentiful in Christ? Know these influences “with momentum” so that you can “stand firm” in God’s armor when they push you towards destruction.