“The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in mercy and faithfulness, keeping merciful love of thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.”
In reflecting on this passage, we are given our first glimpse into the Father’s heart. And so here we are at the beginning our journey into the heart of our Father. I will highlight briefly these attributes.
1.Merciful and Gracious
2.Slow to anger
3.Abounding in Mercy and Faithfulness
4.Keeping merciful love of the thousands
5.Forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin
6.He will not clear the guilty
Visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and fourth generation
Our first step is this. God wants to pass before you. Hold these words in your heart. Doesn’t it seem that our Lord is giving a seven-fold gift to us? But wait a minute! How can God truly love me? This is the question that begins the journey. Perhaps, i suggest to you, right now you can’t accept these words because perhaps your father was a jerk who left you or ill-favored you and only had harsh words to say. Perhaps he rejected the love you tried to show him. And most importantly, perhaps he spouted his anger to everything about you and of your work to love him and you feel you fell short. It is important to note that this love is false. This understanding causes a deep harsh wound of the love your Heavenly Father wishes to pour upon you. Your heart and your body are physically and spiritually affected by this in our souls and bodies. I know my understanding of God was shaped by my father.
But you see? It is here that Our Lord wishes to encounter us. “Visiting the iniquity of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.” These type of father wounds, as I said, DO affect your whole being and they can even be passed on from our family lineage even if we had a pretty good father. Open up that place in your heart no matter how ugly big or small it is. And let this new understanding shape and mold it.
I know that with my own father he did sometimes come across as rough and quick to jump upon my mistakes and offer his advice. I think we are afraid to let God come here to us because we don’t know if we are going to get the friendly God or the mean one. The God of the old testament is so cruel. Really? Is he? Remember the sermon by Jonathan Edwards, Sinners in the Hands of an angry God from literature class? This is still so prevalent in this day and age and this mantra is still carried. God is angry and will throw us into hell the moment we sin but it is not so. The God of the New and Old Testament is the same.
Look again closer at the Seven attributes. There is only one attribute of God in the list that says he will not clear the guilty. So if our understanding is that we throw out the other six. We ruin the trust he has in mind for us. Do you trust the angry God or the righteous benevolent God? But looking deeper we discover a whole new understanding and where to place trust as the foundation. There is only an angry God at the sinner who has not accepted the love of the Father and who chooses to hold his sin in unrepentance. So basically the one who does not turn to the Father. This passage comes after the golden calf incident with the multitude of Israel. God is angered at their idolatry. So Moses becomes the intercessor for the people, “Please do not let your presence leave us for is it not your presence that sets us apart from the other nations?” And the Lord relented. Instead of wrath, he instructs Moses and through him the children of Israel on his heart and his desires.
We can see God bend down to us today just like to a little child who is being taught about God’s blessing. The result is totally up to you. If you want to keep holding your past than you will be the one who has chosen not to love, not the other way around. God always loves his children. He makes his covenant with the people that, if they follow His commands and his character, by turning to him he will not forsake them. Take a moment to let this sink in. Let God visit your heart and ask him reign there in that ugly wound. For perhaps the first time in your life, let go and crawl into his opened arms. Still need proof? Let me bring you to something in the New Testament that Jesus taught.
“But while he was still at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”
We all know the parable of the Prodigal Son. Basically this son was saying to his father, “You are dead to me! Good as gone.” Remember? He asked for his inheritance. He was so wicked and his father rewarded him. This does not mean that God will look blindly at our sins and just let us enter his court. No. Just like the parable of the lost sheep and the coin,God immediately is looking for us to take the slightest step toward him and he runs to us. God celebrates repentance. We can also see the result of the son who has always been there. We can tell his eyes are too much on the justice of the issue and not at the remarkable transformation that just took place in verse 28-31. What does the father say in response to the anger? “Son you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It is fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead and is alive, he was lost and is found.”
This means that that God’s gift always wants to be with us, it us who turns from him. It is interesting to note that this parable already existed and Jesus changed the ending to really show what the Father was like. The original story was when the son came to the father, he spat on him and threw manure at him and treated him as his slave. So the audience would have been astounded at his MERCY…He is not the angry God but the loving parent who looks for us in our sin to be walking toward him. In order to truly find our Father, we have to have some amount of rebellion to know who we are coming back to. If it was perfect all the time, we wouldn’t truly know Him. The danger is to become like the elder son who only sees what he doesn’t have and jealousy grinds his heart to stone. The younger son, because he has run far, sees what it is that he missed. Distance made him stronger. I’m not saying to act sinfully. No. I am saying question so as to find so that when you find Him you can love Him.
Listen to more on my podcast: https://twoheartstruehealing.com/index.php/2023/03/25/god-the-fathers-loving-heart-the-character-of-god/