The Second half of Commandment 2 says ‘…for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me but showing mercy to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.’
There’s so much in this commandment but I won’t deal with Him being a jealous God today since that would take another video. I’ve heard people say that the God of the so-called OT is an angry, warlike, blood-thirsty God, while the God of the so-called NT is a God of love and mercy… That is not what this Second Commandment in the Torah says.
The Hebrew Bible is a book filled with idiomatic expressions that paint pictures for its readers …for one picture can paint a thousand words. The third and fourth generation is not to be taken literally; “third and fourth” is a Hebrew expression denoting multiplicity and depicts a limited period of time while the thousandth generation holds eternity in its grasp. If that’s not mercy, what is? This gives us hope especially in this period of our history where hope is being crushed on a daily basis.
It also speaks of the fact that family curses can be passed down throughout the generations, but they can also be broken by those who love and obey the Creator.
Let’s look at the words hate and love. In Hebrew Lisnoh לשנאי hate is an emotion that leads to actions of denial, rejection, even violence. Love, ahava לאהבי in biblical Hebrew has a far more expansive meaning than the Hollywood idea of love that we think of today, the romance that we long for. When we make a commitment before God, as we stand under the chuppah on our wedding day, vowing to love, we are saying that we will be loyal to that person, even in those moments when we don’t feel the emotions of love. That’s when we need to remember why we took that oath if we are to remain true to our vows. That concept of fidelity is so easily lost when all we are looking for is instant gratification.
Notice that the Second Commandment doesn’t say that God will be merciful to those who He loves, rather it says He will show mercy to those who Love Him. That is so hopeful. It means we have a choice.
What does that look like …to be loyal to the Creator? Does it mean that we have to read our Bibles every single day? Or recite the Tehilim, the Psalms every morning; pray from the Siddur three times a day? These are all good but how do we show God that we love Him, that we’re loyal to Him. Our prophet Micah in chapter 6 verse 8 tells us “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”. He doesn’t want the sacrifices that we think we are making so that He’ll be pleased with us. He doesn’t need to be appeased or pacified. He doesn’t count what we do right and measure it against what we do wrong. He wants our obedience. Not for His sake but for ours, for our good.
To act justly…what does that look like? In spite of how I may feel about a person, even if that person has hurt me, my actions need to reflect God’s heart of justice and mercy. That takes an act of the will and a strong shot of humility. It can hurt. That’s what Yeshua meant when he said, to turn the other cheek.
There is hope that comes from the fact that we can choose to keep His Ten commandments. And even if and when we fail, He knows our hearts. When we return to Him and make things right first with Him, then with ourselves and finally with our neighbor, we can rely on His mercy.
When we say we love God, are we just giving lip-service? We can say that we love Him, we can recite the most magnificent prayers in front of others and put on a really good show. We can fool some of the people some of the time, but we can’t fool all the people all of the time and we can never fool God. We can say that, of course, we love God but then is who our God. Is He the Creator of the universe or is he simply a god that we created and carry around like a talisman to be used at our whims and desires? Is your God the one who brought the Israelites out of Egypt, the one who freed us from slavery? He’s the only one who will show us mercy; all the other gods cannot. He is worthy of our obedience.