Those who attain this second level of blessedness are freed from iniquity as well as sin. While we often lump “sins and iniquities” together as though they are the same thing, there exists a significant difference between the two. Persons on the Zion/Jerusalem level, for example, receive God’s forgiveness of their sins but must still overcome their iniquities. Once, when I was learning Hebrew, a teacher on an Israeli kibbutz defended her atheism to the class with the argument, “Ezekiel says a person isn’t guilty of his father’s sins, but Moses says the iniquity of the fathers is on the heads of their children to the third and fourth generation. So you see, the Bible contradicts itself!”
I raised my hand in defense of the Bible but for a moment didn’t know how to respond. I finally blurted out that Ezekiel spoke of wrongs a person does, for which he alone is responsible. But Moses spoke of the consequences of wrongdoing on succeeding generations—residual effects children may inherit from their parents. I had seen the evil effects of World War II in my childhood and the fear and confusion it caused in the rising generation. Like my good Hebrew teacher, many Jews had become alienated and had abandoned Judaism. I had also seen a teenage friend devastated by his father’s suicide and families with young children wrecked by the repercussions of their parents’ divorce.
In response to my teacher’s statement I would now say that covenant curses follow breaking God’s law, perhaps long after we have repented and gained forgiveness for personal wrongs. Such curses continue down the generations until finally reversed through righteous living. Who can calculate the spiritual and emotional ripple effects of war, violence, abuse, molestation, drugs, divorce, teen pregnancies, and so forth on victims and their descendants and how those things distort people’s attitudes towards each other? Such are a curse indeed on human society. For the sake of convenience I will refer to individual wrongdoing as “sins” and to the evil aftereffects of wrongdoing as “iniquities.”
As a parallel example, Adam’s and Eve’s transgression of God’s law brought the curse of death on us their descendants. While God may forgive us our personal sins, we have all still inherited our mortal condition. Although the Bible mentions no covenant in connection with Adam and Eve, we one must have existed as all relationships with God on any level are covenantal in nature. God’s law and word in every instance that God reveals them constitute the terms of his covenant with his people and with individuals. Adam’s and Eve’s descendants may do their part by keeping his law and word and thereby qualify for immortality. But immortality still depends on Jehovah fulfilling his role of Savior.
God’s end-time sons/servants resemble Israel’s ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob by going a long way toward reversing covenant curses for others, notably their descendants. Abraham turned around the cursed condition of idolatry and famine from which he came into a blessed one, creating a new starting point in life for his son Isaac and his entire household. By his own loyalty to God, Isaac increased God’s blessings on himself and his descendants. So did his son Jacob. To Jacob’s son Joseph, for example, his father said, “Your father’s blessings have exceeded the blessings of my progenitors to the utmost bounds of the ancient hills. They will rest on the head of Joseph . . .” (Genesis 49:26).
Each generation of Israel’s righteous ancestors thus added to God’s blessings on their descendants. Instead of being cursed to the third and fourth generation, as were Abraham’s immediate ancestors, from Abraham on they were blessed. That was because Abraham dealt in a proper way with the curses afflicting his generation. In so doing he “paid off” the debt of iniquity he had inherited from his fathers. In modern terms we might say that Abraham overcame the dysfunctional patterns passed on to him by his progenitors, passing none to his own posterity. Abraham took ownership of them in his life by replacing inappropriate with appropriate behavior through living God’s law.
Just as Isaiah equates cleansing from sin with healing, so he does cleansing from iniquity. This secondary healing—of a person’s whole soul—involves turning curses into blessings not just for oneself but also for others. Covenant curses are the cumulative, generational effects of sin, the result of transgressing God’s law and word on the offender and his offspring. Through a process similar to “repenting” of wrongdoing and “returning” to God, individuals come to terms with their iniquities—with inherited dysfunctional patterns—and clean up their lives. Then, having progressed that far in overcoming evil, they inspire others to do the same. By such means they ascend to the son/servant level.
Those who make this transition completely change their thought processes. As they open themselves to the influence of God’s Spirit, God enlightens them to his truth, to things as they really are—different from their former imperfect perception of the truth. They become aware of and discard fixed beliefs about themselves and others that have bound them to patterns of living below their potential. Their “emotional clearing,” or rather, their spiritual purification, involves forgiving themselves and others their inappropriate behaviors and loving themselves and others unconditionally. An internal compass guides them. In the end, they find themselves by losing themselves in the service of God.
(Taken from Isaiah Decoded, pp 173–177)