“…and that’s what I never liked about the Bible…” My ears perked up at my desk and I quit typing mid-sentence. One cube over, barely divided from my space by a gray half wall of cork board, two of my favorite coworkers were discussing the concept that sin carries down generations. Specifically, one had quoted Deuteronomy 5:9,
“…for I am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of their fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me..”
I listened for point to break in and add my two cents from behind the gray divider, but none came. As they talked, I thought about how harsh that statement sounds and then how I wonder if it was more of an observation than a statement of intent. In our line of work, we have the occasion to see first hand how sin and trouble and trauma become generational.
There wasn’t a good point for me to insert a comment, but if there had been I think I would’ve just brought attention to the verse that immediately follows the one that had been the catalyst for the conversation:
“…BUT showing love to a thousand generations to those who love me and keep my commands.”
Mercy triumphs over justice or perhaps its that mercy is the best kind of justice…? One way or another, the statement that on its own sounds so hard and rigid, is a blossoming revelation when paired with its paralleled truth. Sin trickles down down to the third or fourth generation, but goodness? Goodness and love can be found a thousand generations from its roots.
We’re to be like Him which is why we are instructed to act justly and to love mercy like He does. I am glad He is just and also very glad that He has demonstrated His unflinching love for mercy. Aren’t you?
Someone or rather, a group of someones, made a decision this year that hurt me. I wanted to be offended because anger is an easier emotion to express, but under the scab of offense was a wound of sadness. After one good hard afternoon cry in the car this May, my sister sent me a text that paraphrased part of Psalm 23,
“He’s preparing a table for you in the presence of your enemies, sister”
Of course, my first inclination was to see that through the lens of my flesh and stick my thumbs in my ears and sing “na nana na na”. Conviction speared my heart a moment later as I consider the kindness of the Lord in the picture David painted. He’s is walking through the valley of the shadow of death… and there the Lord gives him pause to be physically restored and feast right in the middle of it all- even while the trouble looks on. My tears became less about self pity and more about thankfulness.
Not that I had a chance to share with the group of persons, but if I had, I would’ve brought them to that same passage in Deuteronomy. Not to tell them that doing the wrong thing would follow them, but to encourage them that doing the right thing would be immensely worth it, no matter how much money it cost them in the here and now.
God went to great lengths to express His long lasting, super strength, vigorous, just-can’t-quit favor toward those who love and follow Him. Sin may get passed down to a great grandson, but goodness to more generations that ancestry.com can count!
I found myself at the church yesterday for a little over an hour. I’d been running all day with some heavy decisions weighing on my mind. And there’s nothing like big decisions with looming time frames and consequences of great proportions to drive you to the altar at a church, right? I had deadlines in the day and advice from everyone who had a right to give it, but I just needed to hear from God. I don’t know if you’ve ever felt like Moses, but a deep part of me just refused to move forward without the signal that God had already paved the way in front of me and would be with me.
I called David on my way into the sanctuary. His advice, as always, was sound and on-target. Don’t grovel and beg and plead, just worship and celebrate that the Lord is on your side and He’s working it out.
So I did and some point I ended up on the floor with my Bible. Not one to often do this, but I just flipped it open and asked the Lord to speak to me. It has been some months since I visited the book of Joshua, but that’s where my Bible opened up: Joshua chapter 1. Two verses were highlighted in blue from the first page:
“Every place upon which the sole of your foot shall tread, that have I given to you…” (v.3) and
“…take possession of the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess…” (v. 11)
Faith comes from hearing the Word and can I just tell you that faith came bounding to my heart as those verses sunk in? It did.
I ended up re-reading the better part of the book, reflecting in particular on the verses the Lord had given me some months back. This morning I was up before the sun and reading through the final chapter of the book and Joshua’s review of history of God’s people. He called the people together and reminded them that:
Terah, Abraham’s father, lived far away and had served other gods. Abraham was led by God and given a son of promise in his old age when that seemed laughable. God brought His people out of Egypt in an unbelievable way- red sea, anyone? Then after wandering in the wilderness due to their own hard headed and stiff necked ways, the Lord gave the Amorites into the Israelites hands, gave them their land, and destroyed their enemies all around. God delivered them out of Balaak’s hand by exchanging a curse for a blessing. Though they were warred against by the people of Jericho, God just went ahead and gave all the surrounding peoples into the Israelites hands (Perizzites, Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Girgshaites, Hivites and Jebusites just to name a few).
In verse 12, Joshua continues to recall how the Lord defeated the Amorites, but it the end of the verse that caught my attention. He tells the people “…but it was not by your sword or your bow” that the battle was won. Sure the implication all through the chapter is that the Lord is the one who has done all of these feats on behalf of his people, but here Joshua gets very blunt and unbending on the matter. Somehow the history of Israel is really the history of how God was good to Israel, wasn’t it? The verse that followed about laid me out this morning:
“I [the LORD] have given you a land for which you did not labor and cities which you did not build, and you dwell in them; you eat from vineyards and olive yards that you did not plant.”
Joshua goes on to encourage the people to use this truth as a springboard for their loyalty to God. Soon follows the famous verse from the book- “choose this day whom you will serve”– and Joshua leads God’s people in a responsive oath to serve and choose the Lord only.
I felt my heart reaffirming the oaths as I read them. How could I not?
I spent the morning sitting in the hallway of the courthouse and the afternoon sitting at my desk and this evening sitting with my beautiful son. Not far from me at any given moment was the thought that God has given me much that I didn’t labor for. I couldn’t help but reflect on all the good in my life I didn’t plant or water or tend to… all the daily provision in my life that I don’t deserve or work for.
Surely mercy is better than justice. Where the ugly stuff trickles down, the redemptive stuff proliferates. I feel like borrowing the New Testament’s “how much more” language… “if _____ is true, then how much more is ______ true”… are you feeling me? If its true that we reap what we sow, then how much better is it that we, as children, reap what Jesus in His unwavering obedience sowed?
Tonight I am taking a few moments to recall and to speak out loud the history of how God has been good to Kate Adelsberger McDonald. I am making special notice of all the rescuing work of the Lord that didn’t require my sword or my bow. I am taking the time to be thankful for the blessings and gifts in my life that I didn’t acquire or work for or even come close to being able to merit. I am reaffirming my love and loyalty to the One who will favor a many, many generations for the good He has opened my heart to.
Surely the Lord is and has been dining with me in the very presence of trouble. I understand how the flow of the psalmist as he moves from that picture in Psalm 23 to emphatically stating, “You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows”
The cup of my heart is filled to the brim and continuing to spill over, Lord.
While I am remodeling a house, but surely You are the architect and the builder and the foreman of my life, planning and executing much more than I could have ever known to ask for.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Right in the midst of a shadowed valley I will dine with You and love You.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.