Shortly after rescuing the Israelites from Egypt, God needed to introduce himself to a frightened and bewildered people. After the drama of crossing a divided sea, the Israelites needed to know what kind of a god it was who they were following. This was God’s pitch: “The Lord: a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving transgression, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation."
There is a deeply ingrained belief among Christians that the God of the Old Testament is a harsh and judgmental god, whereas the God of the New Testament is gentle and loving. This common prejudice draws our attention to the idea that God would punish children and grandchildren for the failings of their parents. We read it, and dislike what we read. But that is only a fraction of God’s self-description. He may visit the iniquity of the parents on the children to the 4th generation, but he keeps steadfast love for the 1,000th generation. In mathematical terms that means God is 250:1 loving, and plans on being so for at least the next 20,000 years.
This is God’s own understanding of himself and of his dealings with humanity. He’s not a total pushover. He has his limits. But when he handed his proverbial calling card to Moses, it read: “God: 99.6% loving and forgiving."
by Robert Harrison
the life and loves of a disciple of Jesus