Blog 63: 2.8.15 - 2.8.19
How misunderstood the Law of Moses has been! It begins with and is grounded in--grace. Always! For the Exodus from Egypt was but the foreshadowing of the greater Exodus of gospel deliverance in Christ. This is why, says Calvin, "There is no one, I say, who ought not to be captivated to embrace the Lawgiver, in the observance of whose commandments he is taught to take especial delight" (II. 8.15).
Thus the First Commandment calls us to adoration, trust, invocation, thanksgiving. It compels us "to drive away all invented gods" (2.8.16). But it also provides us with a powerful motivation. God bids us to have no other gods "before my face" any more than a woman would bring her adulterous lover before her husband's eyes.
The Second Commandment follows and calls us to purity in worship. Our hearts, Calvin has taught us, following Ezekiel, are a "perpetual factory of idols." God is a jealous husband ("unable to bear any partner") -- and rightly so. We are called to spiritual chastity.
But how can the jealous husband be a righteous husband if he visits the sins of men on the third and fourth generations of their family? This, for Calvin, is not an arbitrary phenomenon. It is how life is, how God has constituted the blessing of family. Ungodly parents breathe their ungodliness into their children. Their children breathe the air in and follow their example, breathing their ungodliness into the next generation--unless God graciously intervenes.
Observation of the world teaches us that this is so. How strange, then, that parents do not learn the lesson from observation, never mind from biblical instruction. But -- like some smokers who become so accustomed to the atmosphere they enjoy -- all such parents do is protest that God should have the audacity to find this atmosphere polluted and, sometimes when family life disintegrates, they blame him for not doing something about it.