Our family tree (like most family trees), is littered with a long list of tragedies and train wrecks. I'm sure we've had our share of scoundrels, adulterers, drunks and thieves, all of which illustrate the pitiful human condition and the wages of sin. "The way of the unfaithful is hard" (Pr. 13:15). The Booth clan can lay no claim above any other, since "there is none righteous, no not one" (Rom. 3:10). Just look at this picture and you can see the flaws right there in 2-D. Image how bad it looks in 4-D. But as this band of Christians gathered around the family table today I considered the great gift of God in the person of His Son, and what a profound affect that grace has had on every person you see in this picture―how it has radically changed our family tree―I was both humbled and grateful. After the Apostle Paul enumerates all kinds of sins―most, if not all, of which were surely present in our ancestry, he declares: "And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor. 6:11). That truth has made all the difference, and will continue to make all the difference for many generations (Ps. 103:17-18). It is at the very heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
When God called Abraham, part of that call was for Abraham to instruct his family in the way of the Lord so that God would bring blessing to his family for many generations and ultimately to the whole world (Gen. 18:19). At the close of the Old Testament many had lost sight of this calling and the prophet Malachi declared in the last two verses of the Old Testament: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse." As the New Testament opens an angel of the Lord appears to the old priest, Zacharias, to tell him that his wife Elizabeth will have a son, and the angel quotes from this passage in Malachi, applying it to John the Baptist: "He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, 'to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,' and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:17). Gospel promises and blessings flow downstream.
At some point our family was "without God and without hope in the world" (Eph. 2:12); we were "dead in our trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1); "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:4-7). At every point where the gospel broke through individuals were changed and families began to bear fruit. The family tree began to look very different. It was filled with hope and happiness and expectation. Procreation reclaimed its original purpose. "But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring" (Mal. 2:15).
And so, (back to the joy of this Christmas day), as four generations of grace gathered around a table I couldn't help but recall Psalm 128:
1 Blessed is every one who fears the Lord,
Who walks in His ways.
2 When you eat the labor of your hands,
You shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.
3 Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
In the very heart of your house,
Your children like olive plants
All around your table.
4 Behold, thus shall the man be blessed
Who fears the Lord.
5 The Lord bless you out of Zion,
And may you see the good of Jerusalem
All the days of your life.
6 Yes, may you see your children's children.
Peace be upon Israel!
We now press on, knowing that the good news keeps on doing its good work in us and through us. This is deep evangelism. I am grateful to my parents, for they led the way and told us and showed us the truth of God's grace in Jesus Christ. My children are busy instructing my grandchildren (two more on the way), so that they too can see their children's children reveling in grace.
4 We will not hide them from our children, telling the
generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His
strength and His wonderful works that He has done"
And appointed a law in Israel,
Which He commanded our fathers,
That they should make them known to their children;
6 That the generation to come might know them,
The children who would be born, that they may arise
and declare them to their children,
7 That they may set their hope in God,
And not forget the works of God,
But keep His commandments. (Ps. 78:4).