Fathers Who Break Generational Patterns of Sin

The Westminister Confession of Faith describes the doctrine of repentance and explains that in order for there to be true repentance, we must repent of “particular sins particularly” (Westminster Confession of Faith, Ch 15. 5-6). In Psalm 78, Asaph exhorts the current generation of fathers to turn away from the sins of their fathers from previous generations. 
 
The Psalm identifies past sinful attitudes and actions practiced by the fathers of Israel over a long period of time.
 
The following sins are some of the sins Asaph is warning his readers about. Each one warns of bad patterns that we and our children may need to identify and break. Take note of these sins. These are the problems of the fathers of Israel – which ones are yours?
 
Stubborness and Rebellion: And may not be like our fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not set its heart aright, And whose spirit was not faithful to God (v. 8). 
 
Cowardice: The children of Ephraim, being armed and carrying bows, Turned back in the day of battle. They did not keep the covenant of God; They refused to walk in His law” (vv. 9-10).  
 
Forgetfulness of God’s Works: And forgot His works And His wonders that He had shown them. Marvelous things He did in the sight of their fathers, In the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan” (vv. 11-18). 
 
The fallout from the forgetfulness of fathers from the previous generation was that they lost the ability to acknowledge the faithfulness of God, even though it was demonstrated over and over again through miraculous acts. It marred their appreciation for the salvation of the Lord and filled their hearts with gloom.
 
Doubting God: Yes, they spoke against God: They said, Can God prepare a table in the wilderness? … Can He give bread also? Can He provide meat for His people (vv. 19-33)?
 
Flattery and Deceit: Nevertheless they flattered Him with their mouth, And they lied to Him with their tongue; For their heart was not steadfast with Him” (vv. 34-49). 
 
Provoking and Tempting God: How often they provoked Him in the wilderness, And grieved Him in the desert! Yes, again and again they tempted God, And limited the Holy One of Israel. They did not remember His power” (vv. 40-55). 
 
Acting Unfaithfully Towards God: Yet they tested and provoked the Most High God, And did not keep His testimonies, But turned back and acted unfaithfully like their fathers (vv. 56-66). 
 
This long section makes it clear that the fathers of old were stubborn, cowardly, forgetful, doubting, flattering, provoking, and unfaithful — just like their own fathers before them. 
 
We later see the consequences of the sins of previous generations. After Israel failed to heed this warning to break the patterns of their fathers Nebuchadnezzar attacked in 586 BC and the destruction was terrifying. God sent judgment because the sons did not turn away from the sins of their fathers. 
 
Jeremiah writes, Because your fathers have forsaken Me, says the Lord; they have walked after other gods and have served them and worshiped them, and have forsaken Me and not kept My law. And you have done worse than your fathers, for behold each one follows the dictates of his own heart, so that no one listens to Me. Therefore I will cast you out of this land into a land that you do not know, neither you nor your fathers; and there you shall serve other gods day and night, where I will not show you favor” (Jeremiah 16:11-13). 
 
The plea of Asaph is for fathers to break the cycle of rebellion against God. He fills his heart with the knowledge of the faithfulness of God and then he spreads enthusiasm for Him to his children, his children’s children, and for the children yet to be born. It is a marvelous ministry. 
 
We must encourage the rising generation to break the bad patterns of their fathers. Even though no one has the opportunity to have a perfect home life and all parents are flawed in their techniques and their training, each generation can an improve on the former one. Parents should pray that their children will exceed them in every way. But, in order to bring this about, it is critical that we repent of “particular sins particularly.”

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