The Lord said to Moses, “Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. Be ready by the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to me on the top of the mountain. No one shall come up with you, and let no one be seen throughout all the mountain. Let no flocks or herds graze opposite that mountain.” So Moses cut two tablets of stone like the first. And he rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him, and took in his hand two tablets of stone. The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” …

10 And he said, “Behold, I am making a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the Lord, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you…

29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. 30 Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. – Exodus 34:1-7;10;29-30

God will not clear the guilt of any who worship anything other than YAHWEH to the third and fourth generation. He is a jealous God. To fail to worship him is to hate him. God extends his steadfast love to a thousand generations of those who love him and obey his commands.

Reality check

This is sort of a shocker. We have been reading about how merciful and gracious God is and how he forgives iniquity and transgression and sin. (All really good news for me!) Then, a gut punch. But will by no means clear the guilty. Well, my goose is cooked. I am afraid I am a guilty one.
The best commentary on Scripture is Scripture.

You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. – Exodus 20:5-6

These verses follow the command to have no other God’s before YAHWEH and clarifies our passage. The guilty who will not be cleared are those who have other God’s before YAHWEH. Those who hate him.
(A gracious note here. The bad news only extends for the third and fourth generation while the good news extends for a thousand generations.)
Our covenant God does require allegiance. To fail is fatal. However, this same covenant God has provided a solution in the substitution of his own Son.

Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior. – John Newton, author of Amazing Grace

Our common failure and common solution

We have all failed to worship God exclusively and do not deserve to be cleared of our guilt but God, in his eternal steadfast love and faithfulness to the Son, has accepted his sacrifice on our behalf and we are accepted in Christ. Christ’s obedience is substituted for my disobedience. That is overwhelmingly good news. Thank you, Jesus.
Do you struggle with a sense of guilt over your transgressions? I hope this will put it in perspective and allow you to trust the substitution of Christ on your behalf. Please tell us about how this has affected you.