Among God’s glorious obsessions (and there are several), “generations” rank near the top. He cares about human history—our ancestors, our sons and daughters, and their sons and daughters, and on and on, all down through the ages. God’s promises to one generation overflow to the next, and the next, and the one after that.
It pulses through Scripture, God’s love for our sons and daughters, our grandsons and granddaughters. His covenant with both Noah and Abraham is “for all generations to come” (Gen. 9:12, 17:9). That’s a phrase that thrums through the Pentateuch – the five books of Moses – like a drumbeat. God reveals His sacred name – Yahweh – and then declares, “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation” (Ex. 3:15).
And it’s not just in the five books of Moses. The Psalmist pleads with God not to forsake him until “I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come” (Ps. 71:18). Paul prays that God would be glorified “in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!” (Eph. 3:21). Jesus prays from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” quoting a psalm that ends with a vision of what his death will accomplish: “Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!” (Ps. 22:30-31).
On and on it goes, filling Scripture top to bottom, end to end: the generations are God’s glorious obsession.
Sharing the Obsession
A piece of hard-won wisdom: anything God obsesses over, we should obsess over too. It’s hard won because I was late to this party. I absorbed, osmotic-like, the obsession of my own generation, which is to obsess over my own generation—to care mostly about what happens to us and for us, what we win and lose, what we accomplish and suffer, what we build and amass. Who cares about what comes after?
But I’m starting to awaken to this deeper theme: real success is measured by what’s left after I’m gone.
One of the most practical ways to leave something behind is to mentor. Mentoring is getting close enough to another person that the fire in you ignites the tinder in them. The Apostle Paul puts it this way to his young protégé Timothy: “I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Timothy 1:6). Paul’s care for Timothy sparked into flame the younger man’s faith and gifting—themselves bequests from his mother and grandmother (see 2 Timothy 1:5). Timothy might never have caught the fire were it not for Paul’s “laying on of hands.”
Learning to Look Ahead
All that helps make sense an ancient prophecy the Apostle Peter quoted on the Day of Pentecost when the fire of the Holy Spirit fell on the church. He explained what was happening to the bewildered onlookers: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams” (Acts 2:17 cf. Joel 2:28).
The fire of the Holy Spirit releases an intergenerational synergy. Our sons and daughters hear and speak God’s words. Young men have visions that fuel the dreams of old men. Old men have dreams that breathe life into the visions of young men. When the Spirit shows up, we all get to play with fire.
And God’s glorious obsession keeps on keeping on.