When we talk family, we think nuclear. Like the guy prayed: “Dear God. Bless me, my wife, our son, his wife, us four, no more.” When the Bible thinks family, it talks generations. Sin is serious because it impacts four generations out (Ex. 20:5). On the other hand, blessings accrue from one generation to the next: “Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn—for he has done it” (Ps. 22:30,31).
Look at the staggering impact of the family of Jonathan Edwards during the founding of America. He and his wife Sarah had eleven children. 150 years out showed 100 missionaries, 13 college presidents and 7 high officials, among other world-changers. One family impacted succeeding generations powerfully. Maybe yours will. The world will take note when a group of parents agree to raise godly children who raise godly children who raise godly children.
I’ve told my kids that I am praying for their grandchildren—who do not yet exist. Four generations worth. I have also told them to go where I haven’t gone and do what I haven’t done. What if each generation grew stronger? By the fourth generation, children are stopping cancer cold, seeing things we have only dreamt about.
Psalm 112 says, “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands. His children will be mighty in the land” (1, 2). What is “mighty” to the fourth power? A successful passing of the baton brings an acceleration of righteousness. When Moses passed the baton to his spiritual son, Joshua? They took the land. And when Joshua passed it to—whom? No one. Read the tragic book of Judges.
The following truths surface regarding generational thinking:
History and destiny merge. We worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Hey, three generations right there. The feasts helped Israel celebrate the God who worked in the past and promised faithfulness to a thousand generations: “Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come” (Ex. 12:14). Holy Communion does that for us. Names at one time marked the generations. I am an Anderson—a son of Anders; Ben-Adam—son of Adam. It was so much a part of the way they viewed life that if you wanted to curse someone, you went after succeeding generations: “May his descendants be cut off, their names blotted out from the next generation” (Ps. 109:13).
Obedience counts; disobedience costs. The Lord told Jehu, “Because you have done well in accomplishing what is right in my eyes and have done to the house of Ahab all I had in mind to do, your descendants will sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation” (2 Kings 10:30). His obedience brought blessings for a century. Way to go, Jehu. Generational thinking helps us to remember that obedience matters to God.
Listen: if you’re thinking about an affair—have another thought. Of if you should ponder divorcing your wife of thirty years—ponder again. Do you really want to leave that legacy and potentially destroy a whole line? How selfish can you get.
Honor connects the generations. Children honor their parents and grandparents. Our culture has worshiped youth and not properly regarded old age. We pay tribute to beauty, brains and brawn. They chose gray hair; we color it. It was a sad day in Israel when “elders are shown no respect” (Lam. 5:12) and “the elders are gone from the city gate” (14). One of the curses for disobedience Moses reviewed with the nation about to enter the Promised Land was that God would send them “a fierce-looking nation without respect for the old…” (Deut. 28:50).
Grandparents: tell the stories, connect the dots, and pray like crazy. Parents: walk in righteousness and pass the baton deliberately. Children: honor your parents and fear the Lord! (Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a longer article on this topic).