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, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. (Deuteronomy 5:9-10)
This is another reminder that the God of Israel is a jealous God, unwilling to share His people with the nation’s philosophies and their gods. This reminder underscores the previous prohibition against fashioning images that were to be considered as a god. This would include attempts to portray the Almighty in some type of image, thus imitating the nations and how they insist on having something to touch and feel — and then worship. The danger in the former is obvious but, in the eyes of God, the latter is just as dangerous because it mimics the mindset of the world. If His people think like the nations, it only stands to reason that, in time, they will act like the nations — and end up like the nations.
The Creator feels so strongly about this that He warns lawlessness such as this amounts to hatred of God. Furthermore, stubborn resistance to God has ramifications for the offender and, quite probably, their descendants — even to the third and fourth generation. On the other hand, those who love Him and are faithful to keep His instructions have access to His mercy. Not only do they benefit from this but their descendants do as well, in fact, to a thousand generations. If we regard a generation to be approximately forty years, then His mercy extends to the faithful up to at least 40,000 years, longer than mankind has existed; so in other words, forever.
When the Almighty described Himself to Moses at Sinai, the attributes He emphasized were mercy, compassion, long suffering, and forgiveness; in fact, much more so than His duty to judge. And so the message we glean from all of this is, though He is jealous and is aroused to anger by unfaithfulness, His anger lasts only for a short time. In sharp contrast, His mercy is forever. Thus it is written:
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. (Psalm 103:8-10).
Blessings and Shalom,