Understanding Your Spiritual Heritage.
Recognizing the iniquities of your forefathers.
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Looking back to our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, we can often trace our physical features, strengths, and weaknesses through the family line. In the same way, we can observe character traits and spiritual influences that span the generations. A Godly heritage offers a sturdy foundation of virtue and faithfulness, but deeds such as anger, lust, and bitterness set destructive patterns that need to be recognized and overcome.
In the Biblical account of Abraham’s family, the iniquity of deception became a stronghold that affected the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jacob’s sons. (See Genesis 12:10–20, 20, 26:1–11, 27:1–40, 37:12–36.) On the other hand, the New Testament examples of Lois, Eunice, and Timothy demonstrate the richness of a heritage of faith. (See II Timothy 1:5.)
When we understand how our lives are influenced by our forefathers, we can respond appropriately to that influence. We should appreciate and celebrate the good that has been passed down through our families.
Also, we should acknowledge the iniquities of our forefathers, repent of our own sins, and endeavor to overcome the tendencies toward specific sins that we have inherited. While we are not held responsible for the sins of our ancestors, we are susceptible to their areas of weakness and should be alert to these inclinations.
Identify Generational Iniquities
When God gave the Ten Commandments to the nation of Israel, He included this description of His character and ways: “. . . 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” (Exodus 20:5–6). God repeats this warning about generational iniquities in Exodus 34:6–7, Numbers 14:18, and Deuteronomy 5:9–10.
What we do matters to the next generation, because children have a natural tendency to imitate their parents. When parents do something that is wrong, their children are very likely to justify the same action. In fact, they often justify even more destructive attitudes and actions, going beyond what their parents deemed permissible.
The most vivid example of this influence is seen in Adam’s sin. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). Because of Adam’s decision in the Garden of Eden to disobey God’s command, each person on earth has inherited a nature of rebellion against God.
An example of how our forefathers’ actions can influence us for good is found in the seventh chapter of Hebrews: “. . . Levi also, who receiveth tithes, paid tithes in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him” (Hebrews 7:9–10). Although Levi was not born until many years after Abraham and Melchisedec met, he is credited with paying tithes because he was a physical part of Abraham when Abraham paid the tithes.
This concept rests at the heart of our inherited strengths and weaknesses. Because we are a physical part of our ancestors, we are deeply influenced by their decisions and the patterns of their lives. We can see this influence clearly in Abraham’s family.
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