In the Book of Exodus, we hear God:
punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation
Taken out of context it seems awful and unjust. And is the perfect example of the dangers of individual bible verses. Do children suffer the consequences of their parents choices? Sadly, we see it every day. But does God punish the children for the parents' sin? Of course not.
Today we hear Ezekiel's correction,
Son of man, what is the meaning of this proverb
that you recite in the land of Israel:
“Fathers have eaten green grapes,
thus their children’s teeth are on edge”?
The prophet the goes on to explain,
I swear that there shall no longer be anyone among you
who will repeat this proverb in Israel.
For all lives are mine;
the life of the father is like the life of the son, both are mine;
only the one who sins shall die.
Did God change? Of course not.
In the original cast of Saturday Night Live there was a character named Emily Litella. Each episode she would get upset and go off over what she thought she heard someone say, then after her rant, someone would correct what she misheard. She would then respond with her famous, "Nevermind."
We humans often hear what we want to hear. The Bible was inspired by God, not dictated. That means the hands who committed it to writing were still human, with all that being human entails. Were the Old Testament the complete truth about God there would be no New Testament. Both are essential to our faith, but must be interpreted together.
As the Catechism says clearly:
The Church, as early as apostolic times, and then constantly in her Tradition, has illuminated the unity of the divine plan in the two Testaments ...Christians therefore read the Old Testament in the light of Christ crucified and risen... As an old saying put it, the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.
God has not changed. God will not change. God is immutable.
We constantly change. And the Holy Spirit continues to lead us to a deeper and deeper understanding of the truth contain in the scriptures.
We must let all the scriptures speak to us, not going looking through the Bible for verses that tell us what we want to hear. In the psalms David often rails against his enemies. Does Jesus give us permission to do the same or are we not called to love our enemies?
It is hard work to be a true disciple. It's why we can never divorce discipleship from discipline. There is only one perfect example in the scriptures, Jesus. Today and every day we strive to model him and only him.