“You shall not bow down to them 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” (20:5, ESV).
God is a jealous husband. His wife, His people, cannot “hate” Him and not suffer consequences. God will see to it that the natural consequences of parents building false values into their children’s lives will continue to the fourth generation. This is not to say that He may not sovereignly save individuals from among those generations, but there is no promise that He will. When men reject the true image of God as sovereign in their lives, He exercises His sovereignty in judgment.
“…but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments” (20:6, ESV).
This is the promise to those who obey the second commandment. God will bless their generations with the grace to come to the knowledge of the true God. No amount of godly training alone can bring a person to Christ. Only God can turn hearts toward Himself. No idol of man’s making, no God fashioned in man’s image has such sovereign control.
Even if we don’t worship a fashioned likeness of God, we may still be operating with a purposely distorted image of Him. The Pharisees fashioned a God of rigid standards (true to an extent) that they believed they could keep and therefore expected certain rewards from Him. What false images of God have you constructed?