A. Exodus 20:5 says, "You shall not bow down to [idols] or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me."
The word punishing in this verse proves a stumbling block for some people. The King James Version translates this as visiting, which is more reflective of the original Hebrew word paqadh, meaning to inspect, review, number, deposit, or visit in the sense of making a call. It's also used for taking a census.
Ezekiel 18 assures us God doesn't punish children for their parents' sins. God clearly says, "I will judge you, each one according to his ways" (v. 30). I believe God is numbering or reviewing those who have been adversely affected by the sins of their parents and grandparents. For instance, if a pollster took a census of the number of alcoholics in three generations of an alcoholic patriarch's family, the head count likely would be very high. Why? Because alcoholism was deposited in the family line. It came calling, and an unfortunate number of children and grandchildren answered the door.
Can you think of any negative traits or habits in your life that have been in your family line for generations? Perhaps you can identify negative patterns such as alcoholism, verbal or physical abuse, pornography, racism, bitterness, or fear. These areas of bondage are anything you may have learned environmentally, anything to which you may be genetically predisposed, or any binding influence passed down through other means. Whatever the bondage may be, the Lord wants to rebuild, restore, and renew these areas of devastation.1