“You shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me.” (Exodus 20:5)
Those that hate Him and who risk feeling the consequences of that antagonism toward the Almighty are measured in three and four generations. That sounds like a lot but then compare it to how many generations He extends mercy to according to what is written in Deuteronomy.
“Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments.” (Deuteronomy 7:9)
Men have long debated just how long a generation lasts but if we just used the 40 year theory, then God extends mercy to those who love Him up to at least 40,000 years, in other words, much longer than the earth and mankind have existed. The point of this is to see that our Father’s merciful attributes far outweigh His attributes of judgment. It is His heart to forgive, heal and restore whereas the punishment that goes with judgment is almost a last resort. Even then, He still continues to extend a hand that invites the judged to repent and be restored.
Seeing that this is His heart we must ask ourselves what is in our heart. We know that those who are shown such great mercy are those that “love” Him and His commandments. That must include the admonition to love our neighbor as ourself. In other words, if we are to emulate the attributes of our King, we must be willing to demonstrate the long suffering and willingness to forgive in a manner that reflects His nature — that nature that has been interjected into our hearts when we became a new creation. If God is merciful, then we must learn to be merciful as well — to those who love us and even with those who don’t.
Blessings and Shalom,