Abraham had gone to Egypt because of a famine. His wife Sarah was a stunningly attractive woman and Abraham was deeply concerned someone might attempt to kill him to obtain her. So he instructed Sarah to say she was his sister.
It was a half-truth because she actually was Abraham's half-sister. But a half truth is a whole lie, and using such sophistry only leads to a deeper morass. Thinking Sarah was Abraham's sister, she was taken into Pharaoh's house, which brought the curse of God on the potentate and his kingdom until he returned her to Abraham. The occasion was not only a moment lost for an effective witness to the living God, but evidently had a negative impact on Isaac, Abraham's son.
Several years later, during another famine that occurred when Isaac was a grown man and had a wife, whose name was Rebekah; Isaac stayed in Gerar and was encountered by the king of the Philistines, Abimelech. Isaac, like his father before him, was frightened he might be killed so that his attractive wife could be taken from him. Thus, he instructed his wife to use the same lie his father had instructed Sarah, his mother, to use. Fortunately, God intervened when Abimelech inadvertently spied Isaac embracing Rebekah in a way that clearly demonstrated she wasn't his sister. Abimelech called Isaac on the carpet about the matter and told him that not only was his lie unfair in that it could have brought trouble on the Philistine kingdom, but it was unnecessary. Abimelech then issued an order that anyone that touched either Isaac or his wife should be put to death.
Is it any wonder that when Jacob, Isaac's son, came onto the scene, he was an accomplished liar? For years Jacob would spin an impressive web of deceit, as well become the victim of other people's lies, until God broke the cycle in a wrestling match He had with the patriarch.
At a 1994 Promise Keepers Conference in Denton, Texas, Pastor James Ryle explained how the sins of the fathers are often visited upon the children.
When he was two years old, Ryle's father was sent to prison. When he was 7, authorities placed him in an orphanage. At age 19, he was in a car accident that killed a friend. Ryle sold drugs to raise money to pay his legal fees until the law caught up to him. He was arrested, charged with a felony, and sent to prison.
While in prison Ryle turned to Christ. After serving his time, he eventually went into the ministry. Years later he sought out his father to reconcile with him. When they got together, the conversation turned to prison life.
James's father asked, "Which prison were you in?"
James told him, and his father was taken aback. "I helped build that prison," he said. He had been a welder who went from place to place building penitentiaries.
Pastor Ryle concluded, "I was in a prison my father built."
How amazing that a father's example can build a blessed place for his children to live. Or, it can build a prison.
Ronald Kessler, in his book The Sins of the Father: Joseph P. Kennedy and the Dynasty He Founded, records Kennedy's booze-running days during prohibition, his association with the mafia, his Wall Street insider trading, his philandering, his unprincipled manipulations, and his hunger for power. He asserts that Joe Kennedy purchased votes for his son, John F. Kennedy, during his political career. After John won the presidential race in 1960, Kessler says that Joe instructed John to appoint his brother Bobby as attorney general. In 1961, Joseph P. Kennedy suffered a stroke. For the next eight years, he would watch helplessly, unable to walk or talk, as one tragedy after another destroyed the kingdom he had by unscrupulous means built for his sons.
In Exodus 20:5 God says, "I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments."
The text certainly doesn't mean God will punish the children for their father's sins, except when they perpetuate them and when the sins committed involve certain social and physical consequences. But more interesting is that the text says God's mercy transcends His wrath, and His blessings extend to those who love and obey Him unto a thousand generations.
W. Eugene Spears, Jr., in Faith of our Families admonishes:
"Children are either growing like a weed or a rose today. The weeds just happen without any planning and they struggle to mature without proper training .... Seldom do they experience the comradeship and the partnership of their father. Seldom do his loving arms surround their shoulders and strengthen them on the straight path. Seldom do they share their ideas and ideals with a father who listens and loves and longs to enliven. Seldom do they hear God's Word in the home, and seldom do they share in family prayer. No wonder these orphan children grow up to be warped, wasted weeds!
But thanks be to God, there are some parents who grow Christian roses .... Some fathers do become the companion, the guide and the confident of their children. In the deepest sense, some fathers are shining examples of their Heavenly Father. Through them, the child learns that God is masterful, God is moral, and God is merciful. In these homes, the children mature and blossom as a radiant rose."
There's no escaping it. Dads either build a place of blessing for their children, or they build a prison. They either grow weeds or roses. Whatever the case, their influence extends to generations.
Rev. Mark H. Creech (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc.