From Generation to Generation

When we arrived in Israel as brand new immigrants, our children were 22, 19, and 4 years old. Connie was pregnant with our “sabra” (native born) Israeli, who was born 23 years ago, in February 1993. The truth is we never expected to “found” any ministry. Our hope was to get the family sufficiently established to enable our children to join Israeli society and take part in the renewal/rebirth of Yeshua’s movement in the land.

To our surprise, 20 years ago we were given the privilege of launching Tents of Mercy as an indigenous, Hebrew-speaking, Messianic Jewish congregation emphasizing humanitarian aid. Then, the Lord expanded the work further by birthing another four congregations to create a modest network in northern Israel.

What about our children? All full adults now, their ages this spring will be 46, 42, 28, and 23. The younger ones are working and studying, integrating into Israeli society. The two eldest are involved (along with their spouses) in teaching, discipleship, pastoral, and humanitarian work. I could not have anticipated what satisfaction and joy it is to see the next generation embrace the call of God to be pioneers in this historic move of the Spirit. And not only have I watched my own children grow into this mature faith, but an entire generation has come of age while we spent two decades laying a foundation.

L’dor va’dor is a time honored phrase in Hebrew. Roughly translated it means “from generation to generation”. This is a concept woven through the whole fabric of the Hebrew Scriptures. Some 197 times the words “generation, generations, all your generations, etc.” appear in the Bible. God’s kingdom, His throne, name, salvation, crown, faithfulness, covenant, righteousness, and praise – are all said to endure from generation to generation.

A Man of Like Passions

This is seen vividly in Elisha inheriting the ministry of Elijah into the next generation. Elijah rose during a backsliding era in Israel’s history. He defied idolatrous politicians in a clarion call to repent. He was the “breakthrough prophetic generation”. His ministry was raw, but effective in changing the “playing field”. He exhibited boldness, faith, and confrontation with the powers of darkness. (I can relate to that in some measure. In the early days we faced a fire bombing, lying posters distributed against our leaders, and an evening when the tires on every car in our lot were punctured while we worshiped.)
After great victory, Elijah ran in fear. He got locked inside depression. While licking his wounds in a cave of self-focus, God called him out. I can relate to this part too. More than I care to admit, there have been times of discouragement and introversion. Battlefields – including spiritual ones – can be traumatic.

God “pulled him out” of the cave, getting Elijah back on track with the assignment of anointing – commissioning – two kings and his own successor. Investing in the next generation is a superb recipe for personal and kingdom “re-generation.” The senior prophet anointed Elisha as prophet in his place (I Kings 19:16). The unwritten questions here are relevant for us.

Are we secure enough to give away our place to the next generation? At same time, is the next generation humble enough to honor and learn from their forebears?

Both generations in this story had their challenges. Elijah needed to know that Elisha was seriously dedicated and willing to be trained. I hear him saying “Hey, kid, if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.” Elisha had to become a true servant, who “poured water on the hands of Elijah” (2 Kings 3:11).

Then, nearing the climax of the whole transition process, Elijah seemed to rebuff the younger man three times, telling him “You don’t need to come with me.” Elisha persevered, determined to receive a “double portion” of his mentor’s spirit (2 Kings 2:9). The dramatic result was that Elisha literally received the mantle of his spiritual father, going on to record almost precisely twice the miracles of Elijah. He extended and consolidated the breakthroughs of Elijah.

Fathers’ and Children’s Hearts

This generational shift came at a time of great spiritual need in Israel. Today, the need is no less intense; and we are also seeing a profound generational shift. Noticeably, many congregations both in Israel and abroad are going through this very transition, including ours. As with Elijah and Elisha, this is not an automatic or slick process. What pointers can we glean from these prophets?

First, the transition was authored by God. He sent Elijah to anoint Elisha as his successor (1 Kings 19:15-16).

Second, it involved a choice by both the father/mentor and the son/protégé (1 Kings 19:19-21). They had to walk together in radical mutual commitment with the younger man faithfully serving the older prophet. (1 Kings 19:21).

Third, Elisha refused to quit, remaining steadfast in following Elijah until the shift occurred (2 Kings 2:2,4,6). A simple, yet riveting statement in 2 Kings 2:15 sums up this change. “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.

In the final verse of the entire Hebrew Scriptures, God keys the coming of “the great and awesome day of the Lord“, to the generations turning to one another in heart.

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” (Malachi 4:6).

On the one hand this is sobering. On the other hand it is deep and tender. Our priority could not be clearer. As those who quite possibly will see the “day of the Lord”, we are to give our very hearts to each other as generations. What encouragement and inspiration to know that this is just what’s happening!

This article originally appeared in Israel’s Restoration Newsletter, February 2016.