Generation to generation.
The older guy staring back at me in the mirror last Tuesday, January 1, 2019, was pondering a few questions generated by this new found age realization. One of them was about the stewardship of the influence entrusted to me. It's true, there is a unique responsibility society typically places on the shoulders of the older generations. Surely the years have etched experience and knowledge and information in our memory banks. Wisdom is recorded there as well to those whose reverence for God enables their growing wise. Most cultures depend on their senior citizens to pass along that treasure chest of valuable data to the generations that follow. One of my questions that morning was simply whether or not I had been a faithful communicant in that generation to generation dynamic.
Scripture must be the basic reference point in this kind of assessment. Seeking to hold and live a Christian worldview means that the dictates of the world around us can't be our measuring standards. And, of course, this relationship between older and younger generations is a significant theme in the Bible. Throughout their history as a nation Israel was expected to follow this family plan for preserving their history and communicating the essentials of their faith. You don't have to look far in the Old Testament to encounter it---
And in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have
obeyed my voice.
Genesis 22: 18, ESV
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them
diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when
you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
Deuteronomy 6: 6-7, ESV
We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious
deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.
Psalm 78:4, ESV
One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty
Psalm 145: 4, ESV
And there are many more clear references. My personal favorite has been hanging over my desk for more than 38 years. It has been labeled as my passion verse---
So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might
to another generation, your power to all those to come.
Psalm 71: 18, ESV
There are New Testament passages that echo this same theme. Among them is one that has challenged many of us fathers---
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and
instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6: 4, ESV
The elderly were to be honored in Scripture because this generation to generation connection was their assignment in old age, to influence the younger people with their knowledge, information, experience and wisdom where it existed.
That old guy in the mirror on January 1, 2019, was pondering the degree to which these Scriptures had marked those previous 69 years, and would continue in the seventieth and beyond.
One short section of the Old Testament illustrates the critical nature of this generation to generation truth. In many ways it reflects where we are in our own nation right now and how, perhaps we boomers have minimized this biblical assignment. Make note---
And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another
generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for
Israel. And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the
Judges 2: 10-11, ESV
An entire generation had passed during Israel's 40 years wandering in the wilderness. Evidently they had ignored and disobeyed God's earlier commands to "teach these things to your children". As a result, when Moses' generation died, the ones that followed them "did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel." As a result, "the people of Israel did what was as evil in the sight of the Lord". It was a sad and extended period of disobedience and national digression. The older generation had not told their children about the parting of the Red Sea, God's provision of manna in the wilderness, the water drawn from a rock, or any of the other miracles that had enabled them to enter the Land of Promise.
A quick survey of our culture reinforces the importance of the generation to generation preservation of history and faith in our own nation, one known officially as "one nation under God" since 1954 and certainly evident in the years since our founding. Today, we are a secular nation. Revisionist history is evident in our classrooms and therefore among the generations that will follow us. Somewhere in the learning processes of our culture the generation to generation transmission has been transferred from families and religious institutions to governmental agencies with no compulsion to preserve the matters of history and faith that have so marked our history.
Hey, boomers. Regardless of culture, government, or societal trends, this generational influence is on us. Even in our seventieth year our prayer can be that of King David, that when we are old and gray God will give us what we need so that we can transmit faith and history to the generations that will follow.