“The Lord is slow to anger and
abundant in loving-kindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He will
by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the
children to the third and the fourth generations” (Numbers 14:18)
Today’s Scripture is presented in various forms in the
Old Testament, leading many to think that God will somehow harm innocent
children because of what their parents have done; an idea that is offensive to
us all. Most who love the Lord, choose to think about OTHER verses – not these.
Many have cried out: “How could God allow this to happen to my child?” or “How
could He allow this to happen to me?” It’s a great concern, and we should take a
look at God in relation to what happens in this world. One of the great problems
for all humanity is to come to grips with the CHARACTER of God. Once we decide
that He is real and then begin to discover that He is indeed All-Powerful and
All-Knowing; then our next concerns center around the problems in our lives. We
reasonably ask: WHY are things the way they are? A partial answer is – humanity
does it to itself.
Last week, we were in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in the
USA, where we visited the campuses of Focus on the Family and the Air Force
Academy, and toured the beautiful “Garden of the Gods.” We traveled as far south
as Blanca, not far from the New Mexico border and went north to Denver. We read
the Colorado Springs “Gazette” each day and found
an interesting article in that newspaper, entitled “Research
Ties ADHD to Lead, Smoking.” The article reported on a study that
connects “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder”
to cigarette smoking and/or childhood exposures to lead.” Amazing – If you and I
smoked when our children were being formed in the womb, they may have ADHD as a
result. Also, on the Internet you'll find that prenatal alcohol exposure can
lead to many difficulties for unborn children, including mental retardation,
seizure disorders, asthma, and more. The parent who has such a child, might
wonder, “Why me? Why my child? And the truth is, we often don’t know. Your
decisions and your actions may have been the best and STILL the problems
occurred. Sometimes, like the Agent Orange herbicide used in Viet Nam, what
happened in your grandparent’s lives may jump generations and attack your child.
But remember: God loves that little one and He loves you. The other day, our
friend Barbara Davenport, who has been paralyzed for many years, made this
interesting statement: “Often these things happen in your
life to see if you will go to God.”
It should be noted that we make decisions in life and we
tend to excuse what we do by thinking of certain actions as “victimless crimes.”
We might think, “If it hurts anybody, it’s only me, and it’s my business
anyway!” Actually, our smallest actions can have profound effects in the lives
of others, often in sad ways we don’t expect. And the human tendency, when
problems do arise, is to blame others, especially God, for what went wrong.
Last week, in Colorado Springs, we decided to take the
“Cog Railway” train to the summit of Pike’s Peak. Now, I KNOW from the past that
I don’t do well at high altitudes. One time, at 12,000 feet, I had a lot of
difficulties and know very well that un-pressurized heights are not for me. Yet
off we went, up from the relatively low 7,500 feet or so above sea level at
Colorado Springs, to the 14,110 feet atop Pike’s Peak. I made a decision and we
went up the winding tracks through the beautiful passes of the mountain in a
slow-moving railroad car. Now, nothing really terrible occurred. I simply had
difficulty breathing; I felt considerable pressure in the center of my chest;
had a bad head and neck ache, and while there, experienced a profound
uneasiness. But something COULD have happened, and I should have known better.
The experience at 12,000 feet was an indication that my heart and lungs aren’t
suited for heights like 14,110 feet. And if something did happen, it would not
be just about me. I am called by God to be a husband to my wife, a father to my
children, “grandpa” to my grandkids, and more. I am called to prepare these
studies and sermons, not to mention praying for those who are in need. We’re to
be friends to those we meet, and we all should be the best and the healthiest we
can be, not just for ourselves, but also for others. We’re to serve and to help
those who are around us, but God allows it to be OUR DECISION as to whether we
respond to that call or not.
It’s amazing that many of us as parents have smoked,
imbibed questionable substances, involved ourselves in dubious behavior, and
seldom gave a thought that our decisions might result in difficulties for the
children we did not yet have, and others yet future to us at the time.
Governments thoughtlessly behave in a similar manner, dumping garbage into
canyons and then allowing homes to be built on the hills of trash that were
created by previous generations. We wage war on one another, using weaponry that
can harm our children. The atomic bomb is an example. Another is the “Agent
Orange” used in Viet Nam. It was intended as an herbicide to kill the vegetation
that hid opposing forces. It was also a deadly substance that entered the
drinking water and filled the air. It was taken into the bodies of soldiers and
civilians alike, and it seeped through lungs and intestines into the very
genetic structures of people on all sides of the conflict. Thousands died during
the war, but millions continue to be damaged by Agent Orange at this time.
Maladies like “spina bifida” afflict the CHILDREN of those who were or are in
Viet Nam and surrounding countries - it is a concern that children will be
damaged at least “to the third and the fourth generations”
by war. The decisions of a few can cause problems for many.
The bullets and artillery shells used in “modern” combat
are jacketed with “spent uranium,” which offers low level radiation “to
the third and the fourth generations” of those who are or have been in
places where wars have occurred. Children are scarred by war, and they are also
VERY scarred by “invisible” wounds inflicted by the “wars” of their parents.
World War III is occurring right this minute in many homes and marriages, as
children, born and yet to be born, are injured by the three “A’s” of adultery,
abuse, and alcoholism.
What should we do? Well, for one thing, let's quit
blaming God for what goes wrong in our lives. And it’s not always true that you
should blame yourself or other people. Sometimes your situation was caused by
something you don’t know about that happened three generations ago. Don’t waste
your time with anger. “The Lord is slow to anger and
abundant in loving-kindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression” and He
sent Jesus Christ into this world, so that we might be changed into people who
begin to forgive.
Father, we pray for this world, for we are at war in
our hearts and it is damaging to our children and grandchildren. Let our
decisions be Yours instead of merely our own. Please forgive us; heal our hearts
and heal our little ones. In Jesus Name. Amen.