Adonai descended in the cloud, stood with him there and pronounced the name of Adonai. Adonai passed before him and proclaimed: “YUD-HEH-VAV-HEH!!! Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh is God, merciful and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in grace and truth; showing grace to the thousandth generation, forgiving offenses, crimes and sins; yet not exonerating the guilty, but causing the negative effects of the parents’ offenses to be experienced by their children and grandchildren, and even by the third and fourth generations.”-Exodus 34:5-7
When we last left off, Moses was hiding in the cleft of a rock while God’s visible essence passed by at the top of the Holy Mountain.
The Lord then uttered some words containing a couple of phrases that have baffled Bible readers throughout the centuries.
What the Lord is doing in verses 6 and 7 is proclaiming His character to Moses.
He is teaching Moses that His very essence is MERCY, LOVE, PATIENCE, and FAITHFULNESS and that He remains loyal to those He has chosen or set apart.
These verses, known as “the 13 Attributes of God” are so important, that they have become a part of Jewish liturgy.
Now some of the baffling parts of these verses are about the Lord keeping loyalty to the 1000th generation but causing the sins of the fathers to affect their offspring to the 3rd and 4th generations.
As with many other phrases in the Bible, some expressions should NOT be taken literally.
The “1000th generation” is just a Hebrew idiom that means “forever” or “everlasting”.
And likewise, “to the 3rd and 4th generation” is a Hebrew expression that means “for a short period of time”.
But why a period of 3 to 4 generations?
Because in those days an extended family living together from birth to death lasted about 3 or 4 generations.
The nuclear family in those days consisted of the great grandparents, grandparents, parents and children.
Whereas in our day and age, the family is only the parents and their immediate children.
So 3 to 4 generations is referring to the entire household covering the lifespans of ALL family members.
This makes sense because when one family member sins, it affects the whole family.
The Lord will allow the natural consequences of our sin to play out and unfortunately, in many cases, it will damage the whole family.
I’m sure some of us may have experienced this, like for example if one has a family member who is an alcoholic.
His or her alcoholism will negatively affect all the other family members and eventually become a burden on society.
Ultimately, the meaning of these verses is that the Lord will show loving kindness FOREVER to those who love and obey Him, but will contain the consequences of one’s sins to within a relatively short period of time.
Now there is a lesson here I feel the Lord placing on my heart.
I talked about how one’s sins can have negative effects on one’s family members.
However, outside of our flesh-and-blood kin, let’s not forget that if you are a believer, you are a member of another MORE IMPORTANT family.
The family of God which the Scripture calls “Israel”.
If through the shed blood of Messiah you have been grafted into Israel, it is important to be aware of how your actions could affect your spiritual family so to speak.
How does your speech and your actions represent yourself when it comes to Israel?
CONNECTING THIS TEACHING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT
“Indeed, God has put the body together in such a way
that he gives greater dignity to the parts that lack it,
So that there will be no disagreements within the body,
but rather all the parts
will be equally concerned for all the others.
Thus if one part suffers,
all the parts suffer with it;
and if one part is honored,
all the parts share its happiness.”
-1 Corinthians 12:24-26
“Remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth
and called “uncircumcised”
by those who call themselves “the circumcision”
(which is done in the body by human hands)—
remember that at that time you were separate from Messiah,
excluded from citizenship in Israel
and foreigners to the covenants of the promise,
without hope and without God in the world.
But now in Messiah Yeshua you who once were far away
have been brought near by the blood of Messiah.”