Exodus 34:6-7 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”
Since this is recorded as God’s description of Himself, it calls for a lot of careful consideration. It’s worth noting that there is nothing physical about this description. He doesn’t say, “I am this tall, I am this color,” or anything of the sort. Rather, He describes His character. Even there, human language is severely limited. He emphasizes His loving graciousness, but lest people take Him lightly, He also makes it clear that sin has consequences. It almost seems contradictory, but that conflict stems from the limits of human understanding. The one thing He doesn’t mention here is repentance, because that is something required of sinful human beings. I think everyone has seen people who were suffering for the sins of their ancestors, just as this says, but even there, the solution is repentance and forgiveness. If we want to enjoy God’s grace and mercy we’ve got to acknowledge that we need it, and our ancestors did too. There are several examples in the Bible of people repenting for the sins of their ancestors, Daniel being one of the most prominent. (Daniel 9) We can’t excuse our sins by blaming them on our ancestors! Sin has to be confronted, acknowledged, and repented of, period. However, when that happens, the love and faithfulness mentioned here are manifested in abundance.
I am in the enviable, and rather unusual, position of being descended from generations of people who loved God and served Him wholeheartedly. However, I’ve got my own sins to deal with! I wallowed in pride for far too long, but God caught me up short and showed me my own heart. I sometimes say that it’s a good thing I’m not God, because if I were, I would have squashed me a long time ago! God is indeed slow to anger! As a pastor I try to teach others about God, not only that He is so incredibly loving and gracious, but also that He is perfectly holy and so cannot simply overlook sin. I am still learning more of God myself, so I need to be fully patient with those to whom I minister, and we are all dependent on the Holy Spirit to open our hearts and minds to understand Him, since human words cannot begin to convey it all.
Father, thank You for all You have done down through the centuries to reveal Yourself to us, and that You continue to do so today. Help me receive Your revelation and transmit it, accurately and faithfully, for the blessing of many and for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!