As a dad, I realize that I need to teach my children some basic principles of life. Yes, there are YouTube videos available to learn how to do things, from tying a tie to chopping down a tree (including examples of what happens when the latter is done incorrectly, leading to property damage!). However, I have an obligation to show each of my children how to do important things, like being a good friend and showing common courtesy to others, since they are not guaranteed to pick these things up from other sources.
One of those responsibilities is teaching my family to rely on God. Now, I can lecture them all day about the importance of this. I can read the Bible to them daily. However, if they don’t see this behavior reflected in me – in a tangible way – few would blame them for not believing me.
Have a look at this verse from the Psalms:
So each generation should set its hope anew on God,
not forgetting his glorious miracles
and obeying his commands.
Psalms 78:7 NLT
Here, it is clear that my relationship with God isn’t enough for my children. My parents’ (and grandparents’) faith wasn’t automatically transferred to me, through some sort of genetic predisposition to the truth. Each generation has its own responsibilities to seek, to remember, and to obey God.
Note that there are 3 instructions in this verse, conveniently formatted into separate lines (at least, in the translation shown above).
- First, each generation needs to trust in God. While a devout parent, grandparent, aunt, or uncle can provide evidence and instruction in matters of faith, each person must make the choice – for God, or against Him – individually.
- Next, each generation should remember God’s works. While Biblical miracles are probably a little more specific than the generalized way that we can use the word “miracles” today, remembering all that God has done for us is important to keeping our faith during the quieter seasons of our lives (when we don’t see His intervention quite as dramatically as we do at other times). This means that history – whether personal, cultural, historical, or Biblical – must be passed down, and not ignored by the hearers.
- Finally, each generation needs to obey God. God’s commands have a purpose, and define His expectations of His people. The belief that a new generation has better ideas (than God) about what makes something right or wrong, is the start of a dangerous path. God’s instructions must not only be told to successive generations, but modeled as a pattern of living (along with admitting when one falls short, and apologizing). I can tell one of my sons how to tie a necktie, but without a demonstration or hands-on assistance, he is probably going to get confused.
As we read the Old Testament, we see how “cultural memory” is sometimes fairly short-lived, when one generation follows God because they have seen miracles or walked with God personally, but successive generations fall farther away until a major event brings them back. It can be painful to read about this cycle and its negative consequences when generations are far from God, but it is a good reminder that keeping the truth about God active in the minds of those who succeed us is a much more pleasant path than the dramatic punishment that is sometimes required to get our attention (whether individually or collectively).
I don’t know if you are in a generation that is passing along a legacy, or in a generation that is trying to catch the wisdom of generations that have gone on before. Whatever your role, I hope that you are doing your best to ensure that real wisdom – the truths that transcend the variations of culture, trends, and technology – is passed along by each generation, and caught by the next.