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God Builds through Generations

Did you know there is a specific reason why God chose Abraham? It has to do with generational continuity and God’s prophetic words. Through this choice, God imprints something deep from the heavenly realm into our natural world. In this four-part series, we will take a look at why God chooses to use generations to tell His story.

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In Fire has a 125-year legacy of working in high conflict areas across the globe, turning children at risk into powerful peacemakers who can transform their own communities from within. We stand in the line of fire for children at risk. In the social justice world, we talk a lot about cultural change, transforming a community, not just in individual practices and situations, but cultivating a culture of health and growth.

We really can’t get anywhere close to impacting a culture without looking at the culture from a generational perspective, both the generations before us and the generations to come. Generations represent eternity. They are a spiritual DNA thread traveling from the present day into perpetuity.

God says of Abraham in Genesis 18-19, For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham that which he has promised him. God was looking for someone who would disciple their entire house so that God’s promises could be birthed generationally. And it’s not just Abraham’s immediate house that is affected.

Those words after him give us a key. The Hebrew word here is ahar, and it can mean behind, as in location, or after, as in time. Simply put, God is referring to Abraham’s posterity.

The kingdom-minded business consultant Andy Mason says it like this, “If my dad’s first name is Warren and my last name is Buffett, you would expect me to intuitively understand business.” When families are deeply exposed to Jesus’ kingdom across generations, God’s big redemptive picture becomes second nature and an intuitive way to see the world. This generational inheritance is not just spiritual.

We also see it reflected in the scientific realm of DNA. Studies in 2005 challenged the belief that epigenetic changes to DNA only last for one generation. These external changes to our DNA makeup can actually endure for at least four generations.

Some other interesting studies also indicate that events like near starvation experienced in World War II were imprinted down to the third and the fourth generations. These skip manifestation in the second generation and then reappear in the third and the fourth generations. This scientific finding is interesting when we look at the scriptures that say iniquities or generational sins are passed down to the third and fourth generation with no mention of the second.

Is this a coincidence? Probably not. It’s fascinating and maybe even a bit unsettling that our generational lineage has so much impact on us today. But be encouraged that no matter what your physical or spiritual lineage is, God has plans to bless you and those around you through your generations.

Two Key Manifestations from Egyptian Slavery

In Genesis 15, God tells Abraham that his dependents will experience 400 years of servitude in Egypt. Not exactly a pleasant prophecy. It’s almost too far out for us to wrap our heads around.

Most of us have trouble with just 50 or 60 years of history. Many years later, when Israel finally emerges from Egyptian slavery, we see two important things were manifest in God’s people. One was that Israel still had the slave mentality.

We can see this in the wilderness of Sinai, while Moses is up on the mountain, and the cloud and the glory are clearly visible. But down below all this glow, Israel still convinces Aaron to make a calf for them to worship. Even with all these visible signs on the mountain above, this generation’s pushing back into the safety of a local idol that they can create, instead of the God that they can’t control and feel enslaved to obey.

They understand covenant from a slave mentality, and so this first generation must die in the desert. The second thing that is manifested in the hearts of that generation of freed slaves is care for the alien and the oppressed, and this was deeply embedded in their culture, and Moses brings it up very often. For example, here’s a common phrase in the Torah, because you were strangers, because you were oppressed, remember the alien, the widow, and the orphan.

This shows that God was intentionally building a culture that reflected the government of heaven. We see this idea mature in the wisdom books of Proverbs and Psalms, and it finally bursts into full glorious color in the Minor Prophets, with rich words like, let justice roll like rivers, and righteousness like a never-ending stream, Amos 5:24. I have a theory that intentional Christian discipleship can actually imprint something on our spiritual DNA and impact generations.

Let’s look at this idea in Israel, starting with the Abrahamic covenant. God specifically chose a man, Abraham, who could help form a culture of keeping the commandments of the Torah, a culture that built kingdom values into their children, generation upon generation. For I have chosen him that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord, by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham that which he has promised him, Genesis 18:19.

This generational movement created a clear outworking of Israel blessing the nations. Theologically, this is evident, but the spiritual blessing translates into innovation and development in the physical world as well. We can’t separate the two.

Look at the pattern of discipleship in Deuteronomy based in loving God that becomes generationally established in Israel. Here, O Israel, the Lord your God is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might, and these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You will teach them diligently to your children and will talk of them when you sit down in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. We often forget how many innovations and works of beauty have come from the Jewish race. Let me list just a few.

Nucular fission, genetic engineering, monotheism, both capitalism and communism. Fiber cable, the microprocessor, drip irrigation as in desert farming. Roughly 23 percent of our noble prizes have gone to the Jewish people who make up only a quarter of a percent of the world’s population. What if there is something very significant about generational stewardship of spiritual truth? I’m painting you this picture of Israel through the generations so that you can dream about a church that has a snowballing influence for good in our world.

Israel went through this fiery birthing process, enduring immense suffering to one day pour out blessing to the nations. I have a strong respect for the suffering church. I believe from her suffering God wants to create an overcoming resilient spirit.

I also believe that suffering for the right thing produces an incredible outpouring of eternal good for those called to walk through these fires. A church that has learned to suffer for generations is a church that has developed a deep bedrock of friendship with God. This spiritual foundation is essential for the church.

But I also think it’s okay to dream about a church that brings scientific solutions, innovations, and artistic beauty into our world. The world is God’s gift to us to be stewarded, discovered, and used for worship of the Creator. If we suffer, may we do it in partnership with heaven and with great joy.

If we prosper, may we do it in partnership with heaven and with great humility. Creating an impactful legacy means taking our best promises and gifts from God and sowing them into the generations under us. If you have a heart to see cultural transformation, that means you have a heart for generations.

Culture makes more significant changes in generations than through individuals, but it begins with individuals like you who dream a bigger picture of God’s kingdom on earth. I don’t know if you’ve heard this often used example of the great Puritan revivalist and philosopher Jonathan Edwards family line. Jonathan Edwards legacy includes one U.S. vice president, one dean of a law school, one dean of medical school, three U.S. senators, three governors, three mayors, 13 college presidents, 30 judges, 60 doctors, 65 professors, 75 military officers, 80 public office holders, 100 lawyers, 100 pastors, and 285 college graduates.

Together, let’s dream of our church leaders intentionally teaching each successive generation to sacrificially value the one coming up behind them. Let’s dream of churches empowering families and small groups in the art of prophetic stewardship of promises instead of prophetic fame and followings. May God raise up wise builders in his church who, like Abraham, sow faith down through the generations and envision a heavenly community, and may the architect and the builder of that city, that community, be our Lord alone.