Generations of hope

When the guillotines fell in France to cleave rather ordinary people, the citizens dubbed the era the “Reign of Terror.” And only a decade later, artillery shelled cities across Europe in a deadly, protracted war for power. Families clung to the local newspapers to hear of relatives across the country, unsure of their safety. However, it was the rising generation that ushered in a time of peace and development in Western Europe.      

Throughout the course of history, in times of trouble—almost unexpectedly—a new generation rises to the challenges that gripped its predecessors. 

There is no shortage of generational deliverance in the Bible as well. Outcasted from the Promised Land into cruel slavery in Egypt, the entirety of Israel was subjected to servitude, even causing the people’s hope in God to dwindle. When the outlook was bleak, the Lord sent Moses. “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict” (Hebrews 11:23). Leading the people out of Egypt by God’s grace, Moses has been commended throughout history. Even the Psalmist likens children to the arrows in a man’s quiver, providing a God-given blessing to a man (Psalm 127:3-5). 

And a few exiles, foreign rules, and lapses of faith later, Israel experienced deliverance with a child once more: the fullness of God in helpless babe. 

At a time when hypocrisy was rampant in Israel and the Jewish people longingly awaited a king to deliver them from Roman occupancy, God in His wisdom “sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4). Without the Son of God’s birth and incarnation in the flesh, salvation would be unattainable and the cross void. In God’s entire redemptive plan, He delivers His people with child—two examples being Moses and Christ. In both cases, these two gave life to the generation around them and the ones to follow; for Moses, the people display faith to cross the desert, and for Jesus, the apostolic age saw believers preaching truth in the face of worldly death.  

So many generations removed from Christ’s incarnation, we can still see the God-given blessings of children and new influential generations at work. Both individual children and the generations as a whole can instill hope in even the most jaded adults. 

While we are the beneficiaries of this reinvigorating hope, the relationship is two-way. Our job as the Church has not changed: we must protect children at all stages and foster their development. Investing in an entire generation is a daunting task, but a crucial one nonetheless. Our responsibility to younger generations is twofold: to instruct and to protect. While the former is the duty of a parent, the latter is the duty of both parent and community. 

The whole history of Israel demonstrates the sheer importance of instructing a child. Of the Shema Israel—the centerpiece prayer of the Jewish religion, which, in summary, is “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one“—Moses tells the Israelites “you shall teach [these words] to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Exodus 6:4, Exodus 11:19). At no point in the day is the child to be forgotten or to be separated from godly instruction. Even as an infant, a child was to be welcomed into the covenant several days after birth. Not to be turned away, children were part of the community at the beginning of life. 

Most interestingly, the entirety of Israel’s deliverance through Moses hinged on one woman’s actions in preserving a child: Jochebed, the mother of Moses, because she “saw that the child was beautiful” and was “not afraid of the king’s edict” (Hebrews 11:23), she hid Moses, taught him the stories of Israel in youth, and quite literally shaped the course of biblical history.   

The New Testament likewise demonstrates the centrality of protecting and valuing children. In fact, the apostle James goes so far as to define true religion—a definition of religion neither from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary nor a philosophy textbook but from God: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27). To visit is not an explicit command to become a regular visitor of the nearest orphanage, but rather a description of how our faith should look in practice. Children, because of their innocence and vulnerability, should be protected by believers. Even the Savior laid His hands on the children in His earthly ministry and called for their care, urging his disciples to “see that you do not despise one of these little ones… for I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10). 

You, like me, may be wondering—I am no parent and not even expecting to be anytime soon, what does this have to do with me? 

Look at the world around us—the heartbreaking tragedy in Uvalde, the rise of stress-related suicides in youth, the number of teens shot in Philadelphia annually, the upward trend of children born into broken families. Certainly now is the time to act on behalf of the children in our lives and to turn to the mothers and fathers of the world and encourage them.

I can, by no means, offer a concrete solution. But from congregational gatherings to one’s own personal prayer time, I encourage you to lift up the children in your lives, in our nation, and around the world in prayer. And, wherever concrete steps can be taken, to act faithfully. Every child is significant in God’s plan and valuable to Him, and we are charged with protecting these little ones and not casting them away as insignificant. To not act on their behalf when the chance presents itself is to neglect the gospel calling. 

And when hope in our generation seems lost,

Hope in the Lord!  
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with Him is plentiful redemption.
And He will redeem Israel
from all his iniquities.
 — Psalm 130:7-8

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