You must not bow down to them or worship them,
because I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God,
punishing the children for the fathers’ sin
to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me,
This is a difficult verse for many Christians, and it is especially difficult for non-Believers. How, many ask, could you worship a God who would punish innocent children? And besides, isn't this confined to the Old Testament and Mosaic Law? Didn't Jesus come to take all our punishment upon Himself? How could this idea of "generational curses" still be in effect today?
I know that many who discount the Old Testament as having any relevance to modern Christianity will probably stop reading right now; or at least give no credence to what I'm about to say. And to be sure, it is only my opinion, but I would like to share my thoughts and experiences with you, and why I believe that the whole Word of God is still our reality today.
First of all, God has not changed. He is the same God, consistent in character, from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21. What He has determined about our relationship with Him is the same today as it was with Adam in the Garden and in Moses' time. The reason that His punishment seems so harsh to us, is because we don't fully comprehend what He means when He says, "I am a jealous God." And it is important to understand this, because the punishment of the children for the fathers' sin is the end result of God's jealousy. So, what does He mean?
The word jealous comes from the Hebrew word Qanná, and according to Strong's Concordance, refers directly to the attributes of God's justice and holiness, as He is to be the sole object of human worship and does not tolerate man's sin. His holiness does not tolerate competitors or those who sin against Him. In other words, He is zealous for our worship, and desires our full allegiance and obedience; so much so, that our sin can provoke Him to anger.
Now, for those who only see God as Love, Grace, and Mercy (all part of His holy character), this characteristic of a God who demands Justice for Himself, is a difficult pill to swallow. That's why we must take the full counsel of the Word, not just the New Testament .
And there will be those who will point to Ezekiel 18:20, which says, The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. They will say that we are each only responsible for our own personal sin. That our sins will have no effect on anyone else, and certainly not on subsequent generations.
But let me share with you some of my observations. How many children from broken homes become rebellious and fall into sin? It's easy to point to those who fall into drug addictions or promiscuous sex, and say that they made their own choices to sin. No one made them do it, and you can't possibly think that it is a generational curse. I will agree that each of us can resist the devil and make our own choices to live a righteous life. But can you honestly say that a father's adultery, or a mother's abandonment did not open a door for the Enemy to attack their child with thoughts of acting out, or pursuing a sin that would help stop the pain? And what of the child, who on the outside looks to be living a blameless life, but suffers from anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, and stifled anger and bitterness? Are these not tangible results of the parents' sins?
In the healing ministry that my husband and I have been brought to by the Lord, almost every person seeking healing from their spiritual wounds can trace their hurts and soul damage to events that happened in their childhood; events that opened the door for Satan to attack them in areas that would remain vulnerable into their adult years. That is not to say that we are to blame our parents for every slight or injury and not take responsibility for our own actions. But it is to say that the actions of each one of us, when we offend God, has a huge impact on those we love.
We can make God jealous when we pursue obvious false gods, such as those in secret societies and organizations (such as Freemasonry). But we can also make Him jealous when we worship our jobs more than our families; when we worship our status in the Church more than showing Jesus's love to all we come in contact with; when we allow our culture to compromise our faith and we bow down to unholy principles and values.
What has been absolutely astounding to me, is that when we minister to people who need deep spiritual healing, there is always a root of some demonic spirit that gained a foothold in their childhood. The Holy Spirit can heal that wound, helping them to know (in their spirit) that Jesus was always there with them during the hurting times. They can allow that inner child to surrender the hurts to Jesus and let Him lay them at the foot of the Cross. Once they do that and forgive the ones who hurt them, it is time to deal with any demonic spirits that may still be in them. Oftentimes, the Holy Spirit has healed them with very little residual interference from Satan. But when the hurts are deep-seated, the Holy Spirit has to root out spirits of anger, or resentment; spirits of rejection or abandonment; and oftentimes spirits of perversion, lust, or Jezebel. Yes, she is still around afflicting and oppressing people, even in the 21st Century. But you know what? When asked how these spirits gained authority over the life of the person, they almost always reveal that they have been there for multiple generations! They have been passed down from generation to generation; the sins of some long-ago ancestor affected the lives of his children and the sins became familiar and habitual down that family line. Just think about it … alcoholism and drug addiction; sexual, physical, and emotional abuse; and unwanted pregnancies often form patterns in a family that continue for several generations.
Could anyone at any time break that pattern and repent of their sins? Absolutely! And that is where the personal responsibility comes in. But we cannot dismiss the Word of God and God's holy character, either. If someone in our family line falls prey to Satan's lies and worships anything other than Almighty God, He is good to act on His Word. That part about hating God means that one has rejected Him and is subject to this pronouncement of His judgment as presented in Deuteronomy 5:9. It couldn't be stated any plainer than it is, and is the undisputed Word of YHWH.