6So Isaac settled in Gerar. 7When the men of the place asked about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” for he was afraid to say “my wife,” ?thinking,? “The men of the place will kill me on account of Rebekah, for she is a beautiful woman.”
Genesis 26:6-7 (HCSB)

Sins of the Father Visited Upon Their Children

This verse records Isaac committing the same sin as his father Abraham. In Genesis 12 verses 2 and 3, God makes a covenant with Abraham (then called Abram) to make him into a great nation, to bless him and to bless all the people of the earth through him. (The covenant is repeated in Genesis 17.) He also told Abraham to leave his country and go to the land God would show him.

Also in Genesis 12, just 10 verses later, Abraham instructs his wife Sarah (Sarai at the time) to pretend to be his wife “so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.” (Genesis 12:13).

We have a classic example here of the sins of the father continuing in the son. We read this in Exodus 20:5 (and other places):

5You shall not bow down to [idols] or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity [sins] of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,
Exodus 20:5 (ESV)

Hmmm…does this mean that the children commit the sins or they simply experience the negative consequences of the parents’ sin? I would say both. It’s easy to understand how children experience consequences of their parents’ sin, but if we look around us, we also see many examples of children committing the same sins as their parents. This leads me to believe that the passage can also indicate that the sins of the father somehow spiritually give the children a proclivity toward that sin. John Piper, author of Desiring God and many other books, agrees and says this about the passage:

We are not told how the father’s sins become the children’s sins. That is a mysterious thing left in God’s mind. But they do. What we are told is that when father’s sins are visited on the children it is because the children have become sinners like the fathers. The father’s sins are the children’s sins.

It All Comes Down to Trust

What impressed me more than the repetition of sins through generations is that Abraham’s sin and Isaac’s sin both boil down to being acts of not trusting God. Both men had a covenant with God (although Isaac hadn’t yet received it personally). Both men chose not to trust that God was able to keep them safe so that He could, at some future time, fulfill the promise He had given them.

It was only ten verses of Scripture from the time God established His covenant with Abraham until Abraham denied Him. God’s covenant with Abraham wasn’t a small thing. He made it clear that He was going to make Abraham into many nations and that Abraham would not only be blessed himself, but that he would be a blessing to all people on the earth. So Abraham began to follow God. But along the way, he quit relying on God and began to rely on himself.

I’m sure Abraham (and Isaac) didn’t see that they were missing the mark on this. They were simply doing “what seemed right in their own eyes” (ref. Judges 17:6). They were protecting themselves. Protecting ourselves often seems like wisdom. So they too action – probably without a lot of thinking and certainly not a lot of praying. Abraham and Isaac developed plans to protect themselves in a foreign country.

What they didn’t do was trust God to protect them.

We’re Not So Different from Abraham and Isaac

I suspect that most of the lies people tell come from the same root – wanting to protect themselves either from the consequences from something they’ve done or not done, or from some real or imagined threat. So we make compromises hoping (or perhaps “helping” God) to “protect” our current life so that God can fulfill His promises for the future!

Can there be any Godly wisdom in that? Of course not. It is foolish, earthly wisdom. God wants to use our present situations to prepare us for the future fulfillment of the promises He’s given us. He wants to teach us to trust Him in the little things and the big things of today so that we are better prepared to trust Him in the little and big things we will face tomorrow and ten years from now.

We know that God uses all things for the good of those who love and pursue Him (Romans 8:28). So He takes our lies and our other missteps (aka sins) of the present, redeems them and uses them in our future if we submit them and ourselves to Him. But how much the better to have not sinned at all! How much the better to trust God in our present so that He can bring about the fulfillment of His promises

Where Do We Go from Here?

  • First, friends, ask God where you have made compromises in your life. The Holy Spirit will reveal them to you. Repent in those areas. Make changes where changes are necessary. Trust that God is in the process and He will be faithful as you do the right thing in difficult situations. I’ve lived by one maxim for many, many years: Do the right thing and trust God with the results. I find it especially helpful when faced with difficult decisions. Ask God to reveal the right thing, then do it, trusting Him to protect you.
  • Trust God to forgive past sins. Don’t carry around old guilt. That’s condemnation from the enemy, not conviction from the Lord. Confess your sins and trust that He is faithful to forgive them (1 John 1:9).
  • Be appropriately transparent with your children. Seek God about what, if anything, of your past sins you should discuss with children. They will see the change as you repent of past sins, but if a discussion with them helps them to avoid the same sins, ask God if and when the time is right to have those conversations.
  • Serve God in confidence that He is working in you and will fulfill all the promises He’s made to you as you continue to pursue Him.

God is very good, friends. He already knows your sins and He still loves you. Rejoice in that!

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