Your Name, O Lord, is everlasting, Your remembrance, O Lord, throughout all generations (Ps. 135:13).
We make a big mistake as believers, if we centre the purpose of God in our lifetime. Our lifetime is certainly important to us, but God has a far greater time-frame in mind than the few years on the planet that we’ll have.
This means that we have to think about those years when we certainly won’t be here. We won’t be around, but our children and our grandchildren will. We can’t live their lives for them, nor should we try. But what we can do is help prepare the next generations of God’s people for faithful service of Him.
For this, homeschooling presents us with a great opportunity, and more. We can fulfil our obligation to the Lord to use our time productively, with the next generations in mind.
But when the first digit on your age changes as many times as mine has, you realise that statistically, there can’t be a lot more of these. We simply run out of time, run out of life.
On my office wall, I have a photo taken of the property where I grew up, near Cowra in the central west of NSW. In the foreground is a mob of sheep, and five hundred metres back is my home till I was 18. Another five hundred metres back, is the home my grandfather built around 1910, where my father (the youngest, born in 1918) and his siblings grew up. The last of my father’s generation died in 2000. Now, the property is owned by my cousins and their sons. Life moves on, to the next generations.
Abraham was the first of his family to be called of God. He sojourned in the promised land, knowing that God had promised it to him, but not just yet. For God said,
I will give it to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojourning, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God (Gen.17:8).
Abraham and Isaac both lived in tents, dug wells, and built altars to the Lord. Some family traditions are futile, but not these ones. When you have lots of livestock (Gen.13:2) and dependent families (and Abraham must have had over 1,000 people-see Gen.14:14), a good supply of water is critical. But Isaac’s well-digging was fiercely contested by the Philistines (see Gen.26:12-25), because they were envious of him.
Moses was called by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, but it was Joshua who led them into the land. And what was the centrepiece of God’s encouragement to Joshua? Faithfulness to the law of God.
This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success (Joshua 1:8).
David had it in his heart to build a temple for God, and that was good. But it wasn’t his task- it was Solomon’s. All David was supposed to do was prepare for it, by assembling the raw materials for its building.
David was a great man, but Solomon, who seemed initially to show great promise, ended up in compromise and idolatry (I Kings 11:1-13). Though God had appeared to him twice, he frittered away his great inheritance, influenced by hundreds of foreign, pagan wives: “…the foreign women caused even him to sin” (Neh.13:26). In this, he did what his father had actually initiated: he married lots of wives; something God’s law (Deut.17:14-17) specifically forbade Israel’s kings to do.
This much is clear: the next generation of God’s people either builds on the past successes, or abandons them.
Everyone has to pass the baton, sometime. But what we must do as well as we can, is make those preparations for others who come after us, even while they are children.
This requires some things. It requires that we have faith in God, that He will lead and keep our successors just as faithfully as He has led and kept us. If we leave something of worth behind, they will have something to build on.
The first thing to leave for our children is a godly example. This aspect of leadership is a prominent theme in scripture.
It is a show of false modesty for a parent to say, “Well, my role is not a very important.” You are important, because you will spend a significant portion of your adult years modelling a lifestyle to your children, and then perhaps your grandchildren. Saying, “I don’t model anything,” is not facing the facts; you may not deliberately do so, but it will just happen in the day to day affairs of home and family, as others observe your speech, attitudes, behaviour and decisions.
Godly Gideon said to his three hundred men, “Look at me and do likewise. And behold, when I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do” (Judges 7:17).
Even evil leaders understand the importance of leadership. Abimelech said to his followers, “What you have seen me do, hurry and do likewise. All the people also cut down each one his branch and followed Abimelech … (Judges 9:48-49).
Leadership by example is God’s way. The Bible says that “…God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Ro.5:8). Jesus commanded us to “take My yoke upon you and learn from Me…” (Mat.11:29), and He also said that “when he [the good shepherd] puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice” (Jn.10:4).
When Paul explained to Timothy the requirements of an overseer (see I Tim.3:1-7), implicit in his description is that the overseer is to be an example to those he leads, while Peter plainly says that the elders are to be “examples to the flock” (I Pet.5:3). Paul said, “the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil.4:6). He also said, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (I Cor.11:1).
Conclusion: Everyone godly person leads with the hope and prayer that those who come after them will follow the Lord, and build on the useful foundations laid before them. We cannot ensure this will happen. But this we know: God wants to lead successive generations.
…Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he crouched down on the earth and put his face between his knees. He said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” So he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go back,” seven times. It came about at the seventh time, that he said, “Behold, a cloud as small as a man’s hand is coming up from the sea” (I Kings 18:42-44).