Is our past a hitching post or a guidepost?

14 If, however, he begets a son who sees all the sins which his father has done, and considers but does not do likewise; who has not eaten on the mountains, nor lifted his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel , nor defiled his neighbor’s wife…17 but has executed My judgments and walked in My statutes – he shall not die for the iniquity of his father; He shall surely live!” Ezekiel 18:14, 17

You are probably familiar with L. Thomas Holdcrofts’ quote, “The past is a guidepost, not a hitching post.” A hitching post is a post to which a horse (or other animal) is tied to prevent it from straying. Holdcrofts’ quote seems to imply that our past does not have to keep us from moving forward. Our past can help guide us in to the future by avoiding things we did in the past or repeating them if they help us go in the direction we want to go.

But in light of Ezekiel 18:14, 17, I would like to look at Holdcrofts’ saying in a slightly different way. Instead of the past referring to our own personal past choices, what if we were to think of it as the past involving our ancestor’s choices? Have you ever thought or felt that the sins of your ancestor’s are unavoidable? That you will repeat the same sinful and shameful things they did and said? You view your past as a hitching post which does not allow you to change or be different than your ancestor’s?

For example, I know of some Christian married couples who refuse to have children because they do not want to repeat the sins of their parents and grandparents. They are viewing their past as a hitching post which will be passed down to their children.

Ezekiel 18:14, 17 reminds us that we can learn from our ancestor’s sins and not repeat them with God’s help. Having wicked grandparents or parents does not guarantee that we and our descendants will be wicked. Through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13), we can still choose to do what is right and teach this to our children and grandchildren. God can break the sin/shame cycle when we trust and obey Him. In other words, our past can be like a guidepost, not a hitching post, when we yield to God’s amazing grace.