God's nature is all about uniting the generations. He never chooses one generation to carry his heart without building upon the blessings and teaching from the failures of those who paved the way. Additionally, he never releases his heart in a generation without thinking of the lives who are to come. He urges us to learn from the past and to look to the future. Why? His purposes transcend time. He looks upon the stage of recorded history and sees one people and one plan.
We see this love for the generations all throughout the bible:
God refers to Himself time and again as the God of "Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" (Ex. 3:6) taking a multi-generational approach to his covenant. He declares to Abraham that "all peoples of the earth will be blessed because of him (Gen. 12:2-3) - not just his generation, but all!
In Psalm 145:4, David said, "One generation shall praise your works to another and shall declare your mighty acts. In Psalm 102:18, he said, "This shall be written for a generation to come that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord."
And how could we forget the powerful passage that ends the Old Covenant and is echoed again in Luke's gospel where God says, "I will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers" (Malachi 4:6; Luke 1:17) or the passage that is recorded in both testaments that says, "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions," (Joel 2:28, Acts 2:17)?
Church history is ripe with generational intentions because it is the very intention of God's heart. He uses one generation to be the carriers of promise for the next. Think of those who have gone before who were paying a price and paving the way for the generations to follow:
Martin Luther and his quest for the church to understand salvation by faith as their 'norm'; William Seymour and his quest for tongues to be restored to every Spirit-filled believer; the healing evangelists of the 30s & 40s who made it their quest for healing to be expected when we pray - so many of the things they plowed for us in the spirit are things we accept today as basic and understood. But their generation paid a price so we could enjoy a 'new normal.' It's the way of the kingdom.
As I stated in my last blog, Kingdom promises come to us in seed form. Even 'moves of God' come to us this way. What do I mean? Well, consider the above scripture of Joel 2:28: God promises an outpouring, a movement, a revival, to one generation and if the next generation is going to see the promise come to fruition, the current generation must steward that promise (or seed) well. One generations blessing is tied to another.
The live of Elizabeth and Mary are the perfect example of this generational tie. In my last post I shared on the life of Elizabeth and how she carried the promise of God into her generation. Luke tells us that Elizabeth's promised child was to be called "John" which means "favored." She was promised to carry Favor in the natural (John - favored by Yahweh) because she already had carried it in the spiritual. In the secret place of her devotion to the Lord, it was already done. Elizabeth had sewn favor with God with her devotion and favor with God will always birth something in you. Favor is an avenue to carry something great even if you don't live long enough to see the full fruit of it. Why? Because favor is very often about the next generation and not always about the present one.
Now, when Gabriel arrives at Mary's door, he calls her "highly favored" (Luke 1:28). Did you catch that? Elizabeth was essentially called favored but Mary was called highly favored. Although Elizabeth was carrying the greatest prophet of the Old Covenant (Matt 11:11), Mary was carry someone even greater! She carried God's own son! Now, without a generational mandate here, it would have been very easy for bitterness and competition to breakout between these two women. I mean, why should Mary, the younger one, receive the greater promise? She hadn't even lived long enough to desire a child let alone to carry the Messiah. Elizabeth could have been offended at this and Mary could have been haughty in receiving it. Too often this is exactly what happens when one generation receives a promise that seems to outshine the last. The younger generation begins to despise the fruit of the previous generations because they think what they've got now is greater while the older generation begins to discredit the current move of God. But because these two women were righteous, they were able to receive their promise for their generation without despising the gift the other carried.
In Luke 1: 35-37, we see how one generation's promise was tied to another when the angel said to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible." What was the point in mentioning Elizabeth to Mary? I believe he wanted her to understand that what God does for one generation he will do for another and that his promises to each are best enjoyed together and not apart.
What was Mary’s response to what the previous generation carried? Luke 1:39 says, "Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste....and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth." When Mary heard what God was doing in the previous generation, she humbled herself and went to the home of the older to receive from them. She came under their covering in submissiveness to be a part of what God was doing in their generation. Because of her humility, Mary was able to serve as a midwife to what God was birthing in that day (vs 56) all because she honored the promise that Elizabeth carried.
But the story doesn't stop there. Because Mary humbled herself, Elizabeth received part of her prophetic promise. Recall what God had promised her in Luke 1:14: that John would be filled with the Spirit while in her womb. Luke goes on to say, " Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste...and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. (vs. 39-41)" I believe it is at this moment that John was filled! I believe that the two becoming one (Mary and Elizabeth) caused THE two to become one (the babe and the Spirit). Don’t you see? It was the joining of the two generations and the honoring of what they carried that caused the prophetic promise to come to pass! Elizabeth received part of her promise only when Mary humbled herself and honored Elizabeth. And when she received HER promise, Elizabeth then in turned prophesied over the next generation saying, "Blessed are you and blessed is the fruit of your womb" (Luke 1:42). She was able to bless what was coming after her as honor was released from the younger generation!
And at the blessing of Elizabeth, Mary receives her prophetic song! Mary prophesied over herself what Elizabeth had proclaimed – I am blessed. But the generational mandate was resting thick upon Mary, because she took it a step further and said, ‘Now that this generation before me has called me blessed, every generation will call me bless afterwards (vs 48).’ Mary had gotten ahold of God's heart for His purposes to be everlasting from generation to generation. She understood that although she carried something (or SOMEONE) great, it didn't start with her and it wouldn't end with her. If we want to steward what God is doing in our midst today, we must think like Mary and Elizabeth, too. We must do what they did and grab a hold of God's generational mandate through humility and honor. We must be a people who honor all that God has done before us and all that he is currently doing in order that we may pave the way for the generations "yet to be created" (Ps. 102:18).