God punishes the guilty

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“(…) Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
Exodus 34:7 

Today’s text is a difficult one. Does God punish children for the sins of their parents? No, not in an absolute sense. Read for example Ezekiel 18:20: “The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”

At the same time, it is true that sin can have devastating effects on one’s descendants, and that children often follow the sinful paths of their parents. Seen from this perspective, children are indeed punished “for the sin of the parents”, if they copy their behavior. These children remain fully responsible for their own lives, and therefore God will not leave them unpunished.

This gives great weight to God’s call in 2 Chronicles 30:7-8: “Do not be like your fathers and your brothers, who were faithless to the LORD God of their fathers (…) Serve the LORD your God, that his fierce anger may turn away from you.” Did you already answer this call?

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