Keeping Promises

And the Lord said to Moses, “Cut two tablets of stone like the first ones, and I will write on these tablets the words that were on the first tablets which you broke. So be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself to Me there on the top of the mountain. And no man shall come up with you, and let no man be seen throughout all the mountain; let neither flocks nor herds feed before that mountain.”

So he cut two tablets of stone like the first ones. Then Moses rose early in the morning and went up Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him; and he took in his hand the two tablets of stone.

Now the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:1-7)

Angry at the Israelite’s sudden idolatry and his brother Aaron’s collusion in it, Moses had smashed the tablets bearing the Ten Commandments. God made replacements for the lost commandments. God’s word cannot be destroyed or undone by human actions.

The word translated “mercy” is sometimes rendered as “love” or “loving kindness.” It is a word used to describe the sort of love that exists within a contractual relationship. It expresses the obligations of that relationship.

If God’s law to Moses specified that children could not be punished for the crimes of their parents (Deuteronomy 24:16), what does it mean that the iniquity of the fathers would be visited upon the children and the children’s children down to the third and fourth generation? It means that no one is an island: your actions affect not just you, but also those around you, including your family and your descendents. If the father violates the covenant with God, he will go into exile and thus his children will also be in exile, along with their descendents. The repercussions of bad behavior reverberate for a long time. Israel’s exile in Babylon for violating the covenant has affected the people of God for generations.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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