Question about Hebrews 12 v 5 and 6
My son despise not the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
In what particular ways does the Lord chasten and scourge us? How do you know if this is the case? Is it because of particular sins or at His will? How does Exodus 20 v 5 'visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation that hate me' come into it? Does that still apply in this day and age or was it just for back in the old Testament times? So if the Lord does chasten and scourge us how can we know if its from our own sins or from our fathers / grandfathers / great grandfathers sins?
The ways in which God chastises His people are endless in variety and degree. He always measures the crosses to the need (shoulders) of His people. He knows what needs to be corrected in their life. Of He sees a particular weakness in their character and appoints a certain trial or correction to mature that grace in the struggles of life. He may even permanently 'break a leg' (metaphorically) to prevent one of His to run the wrong direction. A good father doesn't measure out a certain discipline just because he feels like it. There is a need or an action in His child that calls for his action. So it is with God's dealings. See also Lamentation 3: 32-33.
Your second questions seems to flow from the first and did I read you right in that you are worried that the Exodus 20:5 truth is applying to your own particular situation?
To answer that let's consider what God really means in the second commandment and the threat. The second commandment deals with His demand in how we worship Him appropriately whereas the first is with who we are to worship.
This 'how of worship' forbids us to make a presentation of God that is unworthy of Who He is. We usually don't make stone/wooden images today and bow down before them. But it is just as wrong to make a 'mental image' of God and worship a God Who isn't the Biblical God. Perhaps we present as only 'holy and righteous.' Or as an indulgently loving God Who really is very 'easy going and accepting.' Or we neglect to emphasize His justice. In each case we make a misrepresentation of the Godhead. Or our 'spiritual instruction' to our children is that God is just for Sunday! In the rest of the week He doesn't really matter. We do our business and enjoy our pleasures and we bravely begin our week in the Lord's house without really giving Him more than lip service. Such a life-style is certainly making a mocking image of God and that's poured into the minds of all too many children. Now let's assume that our father or mother is teaching us by direct instruction or by example this 'wrong image' of God? What will happen to their children?They will pass on the 'incorrect image of God' in an even more incorrect way. Once we get to the third and fourth generation (grand/great grand-children) the damage is usually so bad that those grand children have long departed from the ways of God. That's what God is warning about. He will visit the sins against the second commandment (as outlined above) in such a way that they will show up in their destructive fruit in the third and fourth generation. It is to make us parents today to realize that what we 'sow' will not fully be reaped till we are in the grave already. Notice also the encouragement in this commandment. Parents who do take His service serious and who love Him, though they will never lead a perfect parental home example, He has promised to show 'mercy' to thousands (of generations). Notice the word 'mercy.' God doesn't expect anyone to keep His commandments perfectly.
So with that explanation, you ought not to interpret the chastisements that you experience in your life as an illustration of the teaching in Exodus 20. Instead, seek the Lord and continue to listen for the answer in His Word on your prayer, "Lord, show me why thou are bringing this affliction or cross in my life? Show me what Thou sees and I don't see. Teach me to know what I know not and what Thou are seeing to remedy in me."
I hope this helps, Sharon. May the Lord uphold and bless you in whatever troubles you are facing. Thanks for reminding me of how important parenting is also.