In Genesis chapter 5, we have a long list of "begats," at least the word begat would be familiar to those who read the King James version of the Bible. While a more recent translation might say "fathered" or more simply "had," it all comes down to a listing of the male descendants of Hebrew history. (Note that there is mention, without names, in chapter 5 of . . . other sons and daughters, which is repeated every third or fourth verse.)
But what good is this list and all those in other places in the Bible, Genesis 10; Exodus 6:14-25; Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-38? Were our faith ancestors worried about genealogy? Was it to show God's pure theological family?
And then, a profound insight!. In the 17th Century an English pastor by the name of Thomas Fuller wrote a devotional based on observations that he made with these begats:
"1. Rehoboam begat Abijah; that is, a bad father begat a bad son.
2. Abijah begat Asa; that is, a bad father, a good son.
3. Asa begat Jehoshaphat; that is, a good father, a good son.
4. Jehoshaphat begat Joram; that is, a good father, a bad son.
I see, Lord, from this, that my father's piety cannot be handed on; that is bad news for me.
But I also see that actual impiety is not always hereditary; that is good news for my son."
Yes, Fuller discovered the truth that God doesn't have grandchildren. If our parents were faithful Christians, it doesn't give us automatic salvation. As well, when we come to faith and belief in the Risen Savior, Jesus Christ, none of our children inherit our good fortune. It is something that has to be shared, be lived and believed by each one, in their own time.
Dr. Paul Elbin, one of my mentors in the ministry, told me of his discovery about the "begats." Elbin saw another great truth, The begats listing shows that God doesn't give up. God doesn't just stick with the "favorites," but will work with, or in spite of, whomever is in the lineage. If one won't listen, God knows another will.
This is good news. We are not imprisoned to the fate or faith of our parents. Yes, we are free to choose or not to choose faith in God. Then again, God would rather have someone on their own actively seeking, than someone who is just blithely accepting, the love, faith and hope that God offers.
So, if you are gloating, that your reasoning has brought you to an understanding that you are on your own, that nature, and not faith rules your day . . . or . . . grieving over some relative who has not "seen the light" . . . know this . . . you are not the ending or the beginning of any generation.
Does this mean to give up your prayers? No. Does this mean you are safe in your gloating? No. It means that God still exists and rules and will greet us and accept us if and when we call and need . . . and that God will outlast us all.
(The opinions of this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Inter-Mountain, the Randolph County Ministerial Association or the author's church affiliation.)