“You shall not make for yourselves an image in the form of anything in heaven above or earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations for those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:4-6, NIV).
These verses are the 2nd Commandment of the Ten Commandments. Although I’ve read and repeated the 2nd Commandment many times, I’ve never paid much attention to the second part of the commandment, which explains the consequences of obeying or not obeying the commandment.
But, God uses the pronouncement of a curse and blessing in the 2nd Commandment to make a striking contrast between the everlasting effects of His boundless love for those who worship and obey Him with the exigency of punishment for idolators.
Noticeably, the curse and the blessing are not equally proportioned. While the curse is prolonged to three or four generations, the blessing extends to a thousand generations–that is, forever love!
The consequences of idolatry or belief are both explained with hyperbole. But, the hyperbole is even more exaggerated concerning God’s love and grace. God’s blessing for his obedient people far, far exceeds His curse on disobedient people.
Worshiping the Living God by loving and obeying Him carries a blessing that is exponentially better than is the punishment for idolatry. God showing His love to a thousand generations is the promise of eternal life!
Idolatry is the worship of something other than the Living God. God construes idolatry as animosity towards Him–hating God and making Him your enemy. When you make God your enemy, then you become His enemy.
Idolatry is like committing treason toward God, which is a spiritual crime so egregious that it carries the death penalty according to this commandment.
So, this commandment teaches us a lesson in God’s character. Clearly, God prefers to apportion blessing rather than curse–to give life, eternal life, to the people who love and obey Him.
Because, God’s love is forever!
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. (Psalm 100:5, NIV)