The work of tracing a family tree can be a daunting one especially if you care to do it right. Scouring records of genealogical data from multiple sources for hours on end is no laughing matter especially if someone in the past wasn’t a very good bookie. We all come from a long ancestorial lineage and few of us are privileged enough to have met but only a few of our familial forebearers and hence, an investigation in necessary. One thing for certain, while conducting our inquiry, we discover quickly that we may know very little about their past. Baptismal records may reveal some affiliation to a religion, work documents to their occupation, land surveys to determine where they lived, and, of course, court records may divulge their badness but ultimately, we know only sparse few details about our distant past relatives.
While visiting a cemetery recently, I considered my ancestors and these realities. I reflected upon the reality that I know little about the minute choices of these men/women of old, whether positive or negative, that may have swayed my course in life. These ancestorial choices impacted however such things as where and who I am and sadly that I have no rich uncle to leave me his fortune. These very real past options from a multitude of different individuals had a bearing upon me! While they were instrumental in the hand that I was dealt, I want to be clear that I take full responsibility as to what I do with that hand, and, in return I allow my ancestors a token of grace that they weren’t perfect, but neither is yours truly. While I’m sure that most of them weren’t thinking in terms of their effect upon multiple generations in the future, nonetheless, their actions did have an outcome upon me. There were countless decision points (and I’d venture to say even decisions that were imposed upon them by others) that brought them to situations in life that flowed down to yours truly.
While I stood at these memorial markers, I also realized that almost everything about them is largely lost from memory. Whether their passions, their talents, their use of money, their anxieties, their spiritual beliefs, their parenting skills or whether they married in love or with a shotgun, all these things had an impact upon me, and the influence of these memories may never fully be understood this side of eternity. As we read in Ecclesiastes:
For the living know they will die; but the dead do not know anything, nor have they any longer a reward, for their memory is forgotten. Indeed their love, their hate and their zeal have already perished, and they will no longer have a share in all that is done under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 9:5-6)
I can never know to any extent exactly the fullness of how they affected me. In return, once I’ve left this world, and my children are in eternity, there may be no memory of them personally at all. But let’s flip things around for a moment shall we and think about another reality. While the memories are perhaps lost, their actions are never truly missed. Whether one wants to admit it or not, what they decided mattered, and it still makes an incredibly significant difference in my life and in the lives of my progeny.
Yahweh of History
Still, another point of ponder is that while their memory will be forgotten (as will mine), one of the comforts that came to mind was that the omniscient God of scripture doesn’t forget. God is the One who knows all things, whether decisions or actions, past, present, or future, He knows and doesn’t forget. The prophet Isaiah reveals this to us:
“Remember the former things long past,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is no one like Me,
Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things which have not been done,
Saying, ‘My purpose will be established,
And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; (Isaiah 46:9-10)
Yahweh is the God of all generations (Psalm 102:24) and while time goes on and the people continue to change, He never does, and most importantly He is ever present. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the 12 tribes of Israel, the Father of the Lord Jesus and of all those who come from Him throughout history. But Isaiah saw something more than simply Yahweh possessing a knowledge of history, He attributes to God a distinct purpose in the line of time that is directly linked to Him. History is not filled with random and mindless activities that have no purpose or meaning, but God’s intentions are effectual and based upon His own good pleasure. He is bringing about a history where He can demonstrate His glory. He communicated this intent in the middle of history. Right in the center of that history is where we find the coming of Christ and the New Covenant. This is the event that would have the ultimate impact upon all generations in all nations. God the Father promised Him the nations as an inheritance (Psalm 2:8) and at His resurrection, a new king entered His rule in this world (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:29-36) to claim that inheritance to which the earth has never been the same. He brought in the beginning of the final victory over the enemy of history in the form of the salvation for the forgiveness of sin and the hope of the resurrection at the end of time. In all the decisions of men, even my unbelieving ancestors, God is fulfilling His purposes in their decisions and actions. There is no wasted moment in their lives and in a very real sense, He brought about my salvation through the choices of my ancestors, through His choice of me. Even prior to my birth, the Lord had chosen me, in His grace, to this salvation which He established in Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:13).
History Has an End
While many believe that the generations of humanity will never cease (or that they’ll come to an end in a nuclear war), the message of Christianity is that history had a point of beginning in time and it will also experience a culmination. The decisions, actions and memories of those who lived during the great age of history will be addressed in a sudden finality! But not prior to fulfilling God’s objectives. Whether believers or unbelievers, all are somehow a part of the story, but with different functions. In other words, while all decisions make their way to fulfill God’s sovereign decree, the unbelievers are left with largely negative actions while the believers, have a combination of both. The individual in Christ, when doing acts and making decision according to the will of the Lord, is doing so to the glory of God. These works are blessed and reflect in exalting Jesus as obedient servants of their Lord.
The Generational Gardeners
I want to focus now on exhorting you to consider your place and purpose in history. But if I may back up the truck, prior to thinking about making choices that will affect many generations to come, you need to first take into consideration that you must believe that there is going to be a future. You need to believe that possibly those generations to come will exist unless the Lord comes. Christians need to stop being short term actors in a microwave generation who seem to take this whole imminence doctrine way too far. We read of evils in the news and the moral collapse of our day then conclude that it’s all going to hell in a handbasket so let’s just get ready for the rapture. We’ve adopted a “for the moment” mindset that doesn’t think about building foundations that will last. We need to start thinking long term. When men of old built churches, they built them for the long haul, because they believed this age still had quite some time attached to it. When they planted seeds, they really expected for them to grow. The kingdom of God to these saints of old was truly like a mustard seed that will grow into a large tree, not just appear out of the blue as a half-grown plant (Matthew 13:31-32).
I want you consider being concerned about the impact you will have on those who will walk this earth many generations from now, because of seeds that you will plant for future generations. Consider how you invest your time and your money in people. Bear in mind how impactful your actions are towards a family in need, towards the orphans, widows, the hungry, will influence their lives. Utilize your God given spiritual gifts to bless others and don’t cease to offer prayer for others, and let them know that you’re praying! Provide an ear towards a soul in distress and have a mind how it will affect that person and even those people down the ancestral line. Do not be afraid to confront sin whether in an individual or its institutionalized form. Never forget however that what you are doing is all within the purposes of God, we might simply hope to do them for his glory. All these things through Christ and for the glory and honour of our God. But primarily, let us plant the seed in the life in another through sharing the gospel. Let them hear the good news that Jesus has paid their debt for their sins and that He was victorious in defeating death through the resurrection. Those who believe in Him will not taste death, and the Lord will remember them in His kingdom.
A wise man recently said, and I summarize, that graveyards are full of dispensable men, but the One who is no longer in the grave, is the One who is indispensable. Let us look to Him as our hope in the future and be good gardeners! Plant away!