A Thousand Times Over


How can a God who IS love, punish innocent generations? Abigail Kelly answers this question.

“You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generations of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Deuteronomy 5:9-10

Do you have a problem with this verse?

This is one of those verses that send people running, screaming, “How can a loving God allow future generations to suffer for their parents’ sins? That’s not FAIR!”

Yes, God is sovereign and can do whatever He wants, but that simplistic explanation doesn’t work for me. God has allowed us to know Him through Jesus Christ and His word and everything He does is consistent with His character. So, how can a God who IS love, punish innocent generations?

Amanda had been shooting heroine for three years. After an untimely one night stand, she stood in the stall at Walgreens and a little pink stick told her future. Pregnant. Forty weeks later, her daughter was born addicted to heroine before she ever had the chance to say no.

The consequences of Amanda’s sin were instantly translated into her daughter’s life. Amanda was destroyed every time she looked at her little girl. But that agony thrust her into an all out effort to get clean. She would offer Julie the best future possible. 

Amanda began to speak about drug addiction in public schools and other forums. Every time she looked at Julie she was reminded of her sin and rededicated to abstinence and reaching out to others in desperate situations.

God allows the consequences of sin to tarry for three and four generations because people are hard headed and slow learners. He allows the consequences to linger so that future generations will not repeat the sins of their fathers. And remember, He said, “to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Him.”


And hear the goodness of your Father’s heart: “showing steadfast love to THOUSANDS of those who love me and keep my commandments.” God’s love endures infinitely beyond the curse of sin. It is absolutely in keeping with God’s character to work for us to keep us from sin and to offer us an undying, incorruptible love. (Jer. 31:3)

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