30 October 2015

Jehoshebah: Not My Fate

"...visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation." (Numbers 14:18)

2. Chronicles 22:10-12

Violence courses through my blood;
a curse runs in this family:
doomed we are to cruelty
    - can't help it.

a good man made a bad mistake,
and now we are cursed,
now David is fated
to spill David's blood,
and history repeats itself
over and over again
   - can't help it.

Generation to generation
the curse flows on;
violence courses through our blood,
drowning the promise,
strangling the blessing
that God said was ours.
A curse runs in this family
and can't be stopped
   - can't help it.

Or can we?

What if I rise and stem this flood?
What if I counter this violence with peace?
What if I refuse to be controlled by this curse?
What if I say this is not my fate?

There is no curse
except of our own making.
Nothing holds us back
from being free.
So I will rise and save a life;
I will rise, and bring violence to an end.
I will rise and break free from this curse
which was never imprisoning me.


[26. October 2015]

I'm currently working in a church with some "charismatic" tendencies - so the concept of "generational curse" has come up in a few conversations. I think the "generational curse" idea can be interpreted in a very problematic and unbiblical way (e.g. the idea bases mostly on a misinterpretation of Num 14:18 which I quoted at the start) - though I don't think it's an idea only charismatics have, nor is it completely totally "wrong" if looked at the right way.

The way I see it (and from what I have read in the Bible), the sins or mistakes of one generation can influence future generations: what we do and how we live influences how our children grow up, the example they learn from and copy, and the patterns which they take over. However, if we talk about it as a "curse", it can very quickly turn into "I can't help it; I'm trapped". And I don't believe that. We are not trapped in the bad habits and patterns we grew up in and grew into. We don't have to repeat history.

Jehoshebah was born into a very violent family. It all began with her grandfather Jehoshaphat's mistake. Jehoshaphat was a very good king who made important reforms in Judah and led people back to God by sending out teachers among them and even travelling the country to teach them himself. His mistake was connecting his family to the family of Ahab. He himself did not have to suffer many consequences for this - his family did. I do not see this as "God's punishment on future generations" - I see this as the natural consequences. Our actions affect others, they can affect generations after us. (E.g. the damage we do to the environment now will affect future generations.) God's punishment is in the sense that he allows this to happen. The trouble is that we "pass on" our sins; children learn from their parents and repeat things. This is not about "inheritance" as much as about learning and copying.

The consequences of Jehoshaphat's wrong choice played out in the second generation: his son Jehoram (Jehoshebah's father) killed all his brothers to ensure power for himself (that's why "David is fated / to spill David's blood"). His son Ahaziah was also not a good king. After Ahaziah's death, his mother Athaliah started killing all her grandchildren. Her grandchildren! I can't imagine how she could do that! So as you can see: a violent family, killing each other off for power.

I think saying something is a "curse" is a bad excuse. Of course our parents, our pasts, our experiences mark us and influence us and can to an extent also bind us powerfully to unhealthy patterns of thinking and living. But I don't believe we are "imprisoned" in a "can't help it" situation. The mistakes of the past don't have to be repeated. The curse can be broken when we realise it's not there. No one is "cursed" in the sense that they are "fated" to be some way. David's family had a promise and a blessing upon it - and through all the killing (over 3 generations, only 1 child per generation survived!) God always made sure that promise lived on: the promise of the Messiah from the family of David. But those involved seem to have seen the curse more than the blessing - and that made them stay stuck in the curse.

I believe we can be free, if only we realise we already are. No one forces us to repeat the mistakes of previous generations. Someone just has to break the pattern - and Jehoshebah did, by standing up and saving the life of her nephew, Joash, instead of letting Athaliah kill him with all his brothers. We are not "cursed" or "fated" to anything; it's our choices that matter, and we can always choose to break with the mistakes of the past and start something new.

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