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Wednesday, 7 January 2015

The Ten Words (2.2)

In the post before the last one,I made some comments on the 2nd Commandment: "You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 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 upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love Me and keep My commandments." (Ex 20:4-6).

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that I actually commented only on the first part of that Commandment.  So what has the second part got to say to us, today?  It reads: "for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love Me and keep My commandments."

The first thing that we must notice is the word 'jealous'.  This does not mean that Almighty God is envious of anything, and certainly not of man-made images.  It's a word that expresses, in context, God's deep love for His chosen people.  It doesn't refer as much to an emotion, as to an activity - in this case a zealous activity that "springs from he rupture of a personal bond as exclusive as that of the marriage bond." (Alan Cole).  This phrase is a reminder that God desires, and expects, the exclusive love of His people.

The other phrase that causes difficulty for some people is the one about "... visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate Me, ..."  However, this is merely the usual Semitic manner of expressing continuity.  It is not saying that God punishes my children, grandchildren, etc for my sins.  It is making the point that sin has long-term consequences.  It is a reminder that children suffer because of what their parents, and even earlier generations, have done.  To take a simple example, if a young woman is addicted to hard drugs, and becomes pregnant, then her unborn child may be born with the same addiction.  If that child is a girl, she too may become pregnant, and her child may be born with the same addiction.  

However, we must also note that this is applied only to "... those who hate Me ..." - in other words, those who refuse to live their lives in accordance with His will; those who 'bow down', and 'serve', idols. 

The other side of all of that is the assurance that, while God will punish those who fail to conform to His will; and while such failure will have long-lasting consequences; those who seek to keep His commandments will know His 'steadfast love'. 

So, this commandment reminds us, also, that we have responsibilities - and that God is the Judge of all the earth.   That judgement, of course, is already over for all who have placed their trust in the Lord Jesus, the Christ - recognising, and confessing, their own sinfulness, and depending solely upon His perfect sacrifice for their salvation.  I trust that all who read this blog are in that company!

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