Grandparents have a significant role in the covenant home. Those who are come to this stage of life ought to realize this. This role can be the source of great blessing and joy. It also involves a serious calling and responsibility. God’s covenant mercy extends farther than only one generation. God is pleased to continue His covenant to succeeding generations. The covenant family in the church of the New Testament sometimes has present in it at one time three or even four generations. This is an amazing thing! On the day of Pentecost it was declared that God’s promise is to believers and their children even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
The Word of God has many passages in it that allude to the succeeding generations in the covenant among the God-fearing. After its beautiful description of the covenant home, Psalm 128 concludes with the promise of God: “The LORD shall bless thee out of Zion (the New Testament Church): and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life. Yea, thou shalt see thy children’s children, and peace upon Israel.”
In Psalm 78, the inspired Psalmist exhorts fathers (and grandfathers) to instruct their children in the fear of the Lord. New generations arise in the covenant home and they must be instructed. “We will not hide them (the commandments of the Lord) from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done… which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments” (Psalm 78:4-7). Count if you will, the number of generations mentioned in this passage. After these words the Psalmist warns about the serious consequences which follow when fathers and grandfathers fail in their God-given calling. God’s chastisement will fall upon His people. They will be cut off in their generations. Yet the Lord will surely preserve His covenant with His elect people.
In the New Testament we also have examples of the so called multi-tier family in the church, where several generations live together. The family where the evangelist Timothy was raised included a godly grandmother as well as a godly mother. It seemed that the father was either absent or pagan. In spite of this, God’s covenant was preserved by the Lord in a wonderful way. See 2 Timothy 1: 5 and 2 Timothy 3:14-17. Timothy inherited spiritually by the grace of God the legacy of the faith of his mother as well as his grandmother.
In Titus 2, the various generations are instructed. The aged women are exhorted to teach the younger women to love their husbands and to love their children. The aged men are to be held in high regard by the children; and their godly instruction and discipline are to be submitted to.
According to the natural instinct which God has put in man from creation, men and women love their own children in a very special way. They take pride in their children more than in anything else in the world and are greatly offended when their children are judged and condemned by the world in which they live. It is common that this natural affection extends to grandchildren. But because of man’s depraved nature, this natural affection is thoroughly carnal and worldly and motivated by sinful pride and ambition. According to God’s law, He visits the iniquity of the fathers on the children unto the third and fourth generation. The failure of man in raising a new generation contributes greatly to the evils of society among its youth. Society as a result loses all of its cohesion between the generations. In the nominal church, God’s covenant is forsaken and forgotten. Man is self-centered and proud and egotistical and consumed with concern only for his own welfare and personal enrichment and glory in the world. His days are cut off by God. He is destroyed in his generations. Therefore, every generation grows worse and worse.
No church in this world will ever continue to be spiritually strong when there is no concern about coming generations. The boating of vast world-wide evangelism campaigns will come to nothing when there is neglect of the new generations that arise. The church that does not repent of this evil will soon be in the state of spiritual decline and apostasy. After a wave of excitement and enthusiasm and numerical growth it will decline and soon disappear from the earth. Very soon those who attend the worship services will only be the gray-headed. Children and young people will be gone. Their joy and laughter will no longer be heard. They will be lost to worldliness of life and ungodliness and even to total agnosticism. How very serious this is!
In the faithful covenant home and with the blessing of God there must be and will be a great difference. Godly married couples to whom God graciously gives covenant children must be concerned not only about their own homes but the homes and family which these children will establish in later life for themselves. Grandparents will be concerned about their children’s children and assist in teaching them the fear of the Lord and the knowledge of His truth. The Lord will pour out His blessing. There will be the great joy of the play and the laughter of covenant children. Few things in this life give greater joy and pleasure.
Psalm 128 speaks of the blessedness of the covenant home as culminating in the great joy and blessing of seeing one’s children’s children and peace upon the Israel of God. The apostle John in one of his letters says it in this way: “I have no greater joy than to see that my children walk in the truth”.
The senior generation in the church must guard against the sins of self-indulgence and self-pleasure. For the God-fearing, senior years are for more than endless vacations and world cruises, and visiting exotic places before one dies. It will be a generation that does not spend hour after hour and day after day sunbathing on the beach. This kind of life is worldliness, no less than the worldliness that destroys the youth in the early years of their lives.
Grandparents have a great calling in the church. It should be the case that they have gained spiritual wisdom and strength in the years of their life. They have learned even from their own falls and sinful weakness in the battles against sin and apostasy in the church. This wisdom must guide them in their lives and be evident in a life of holiness and devotion to God and the cause of His kingdom to the very end of their lives. Godly grandparents must support parents in the home in warning about the power of sin and the great temptations of the world. Grandparents must be an example of unwavering faithfulness and steadfastness in the truth of the Word of God for the great benefit of succeeding generations. In the times of many afflictions which often come with old age, they must show their genuine and sincere faith in God. They must be examples of trusting in the mercies of God and testifying of the strength of the Lord in their lives. This is not an easy calling. It takes a lot of grace. Old age in the church should be a time when grandparents live in such a way that they are worthy of honour and respect. This is the time for them to leave a legacy of faith.
Sometimes by this time of life people have been able to amass large sums of wealth in the providence of God through retirement programs and annuities and such like. Those who have been able to do this ought not to proudly imagine that they have gained their wealth by their own wisdom and power. Rather they must give God the glory as the One who gave them power to get wealth in this world. Godly grandparents will not imagine that they have the freedom to spend their monies as they please. Grandparents, especially those entrusted with great wealth, have a special calling to contribute to the church and to Christian education for covenant children as well as to the evangelism of the church. They must be willing to make personal sacrifices and to give liberally, cheerfully and joyfully. This is more important than merely passing down material wealth to children who may or may not benefit spiritually from the inheritance of their parents. Remember that our Lord used the example of the widow’s mite who was probably aged and destitute herself. Yet she cast in all her living to the treasury for the support of the church and of the poor.
Grandparents must be around to help practically in the homes of their children with the raising of their grandchildren. They must joyfully give of their time, talents and remaining energy to help with the raising of the covenant family. In Bible times and in other cultures than our own, grandparents often lived with their children and their grandchildren in the same house. In these homes, by the grace of God there was care for each other, from one generation to the others. Even from a practical perspective, raising a covenant family is a daunting task. It can be wearying and exhausting to young mothers. Fathers often need to work long hours to earn enough to maintain their homes and pay for Christian school tuition. Therefore in the course of daily life in the home, many opportunities will arise for grandparents to help in practical as well as spiritual ways. In this way children will learn to honour and respect their grandparents. Grandparents have a deep sense of purpose in their lives in the days of their old age when perhaps they have retired from their full-time earthly occupations.
God-fearing grandparents must love their children and their grandchildren fervently and sincerely. They must seek to be of great influence in the lives of their children even after these children have grown up and married and have homes of their own. Grandparents can be the source of great encouragement to young mothers in that they do not forsake their duties in the home for secular careers of the world. The calling of grandparents continues even unto the day of their death. They have great influence through their tender loving embrace and sober godly example in their lives before their grandchildren.
After many years of enjoying the underserved faith and blessing of God merited by the Lord Jesus Christ, what reason we have accumulated for a life of thankfulness. We have the solemn calling and obligation to speak of the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord in our whole life from our youth to old age. By doing this, we encourage new generations and our lives will be an occasion for the praise of God and thanksgiving to Him. Listen once more to the words of one of the Psalms that speak specifically of old age and the later years of our life and pilgrimage on this earth. After the Psalmist has testified of the goodness and mercies of the Lord from the days of his youth and his strength in old age, he utters this earnest prayer: “Now also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.” (Ps. 71: 18).
Written by: Rev. Arie Den Hartog | Issue 49