A Ticket to the Future: Hebraic Perspectives on History and the Children of God

Beit Midrash for calendar_month August 2021

If someone were to offer to sell you a ticket to the future, your immediate response would have to be, “Who is this really? Am I on Candid Camera?” At best, the very idea sounds like one of those fantastic, once-in-a-lifetime chances at the marvelously stupendous wares that are hawked to the naive or unsuspecting by late-night television hucksters.

But then, it might just be a story line from a Sci-Fi movie. That’s it: buy a ticket to ride on an amazing time machine that will transport you from the doldrums of today’s ho-hum life into the exhilarating world of the future. You can experience what must be a better life since everyone knows that humans are evolving into a higher species, and the destination is Utopia!

Well, there is, indeed, a ticket to the future, but it’s not a magnificent machine of pseudo-science or a transcendent application of mind over matter. Your ticket to the future is right in your own home: your children!

A Different View of History and the Future

In Hebraic tradition, there is a far different view of history and of the future than exists in the rest of the world. History is considered to be covenantal and linear, rather than causal and cyclical. This means that the Hebrews understood history as being the unfolding of God’s covenant with his children, his chosen people. It also means that that for them history was viewed as a linear progression, virtually rectilinear in reality. God’s overarching purposes for humanity have always been established from before all creation, and they work themselves out in a predetermined progression wherein individuals choose for themselves whether or not to be “on the Lord’s side.”

Other worldviews, including the Hellenistic worldview, consider history to be causal, with one event precipitating yet another event ad infinitum. They also consider history to be cyclical, with events of the past continually replicating themselves in unending cycles in the present and in the future.

The Hebraic view of the future is also considerably different from that of other cultures. In biblical thought, the future is intrinsically connected with the past and the present. As a matter of fact, the word for “the future” olam is also the word for “the past” and means “a long time” (even “forever”). The future, therefore, is not some mystifying, lurching leap into the unknown where the influence of incomprehensible, capricious forces determine one’s outcome. The Hebrews knew who was in charge of their history and their present; therefore, they knew what to expect in the future: the continuation of God’s covenant faithfulness. Yahweh was for them the God who promised, “I change not” (Malachi 3:6). The earliest Jewish Christians understood this truth expressed in the maxim: “Jesus Christ the same, yesterday, and today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

From Generation to Generation

In biblical Hebrew, there was no word for “history.” The only way in which the concept of history was conveyed in the Hebrew Scriptures was through the term m’dor l’dor which meant “from generation to generation.” History was intrinsically connected, therefore, with the birth of children who were to be reared by their parents to pass along both the DNA and the values of the previous chosen generation. This was the reason why great emphasis was placed on genealogies so that the present generation was connected with the past generations (as in the case of the genealogies of Jesus that form the preamble of two gospels, Matthew 1:1-20 and Luke 3:23-38. If the transgenerational nature of God’s calling was not important, 26 verses of Holy Scripture were wasted by these two Evangelists.

Replicating God’s Image in Children

God created humanity specifically to bear his image and likeness in the created universe. “So God created humanity in his image and likeness, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them.” After the creation of the first human couple, the replication and maintenance of God’s image and likeness was dependent upon the collaboration of God and humans in the process of procreation.

Much more, however, was involved than mere reproduction of the physical human species. Everything that was involved in the manifestation of God’s image and likeness was also dependent upon the divine-human partnership in the procreative continuum. Indeed, human beings demonstrate the image and likeness of God that is inherent in their being by the act of co-creation wherein they join with God in ensuring the continuing presence of the divine image in living human beings.

The truth of this premise is demonstrated and confirmed by God’s own instructions following the Deluge when he said, “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made humanity” (Genesis 9:6). The death penalty is upon everyone who commits murder, and the reason is simple: murder destroys the image of God.

Children: The Heritage of God

David understood that the continuation of the image and likeness of God was the commission of co-creativity that God gave to humanity. “You possessed my inward parts … you wove me in my mother’s womb. … I will give thanks to you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. … When I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them” (Psalm 139:13-16). God has plans for all his children, even while they are being formed in the womb!

This is why David also declared, “Children are the gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb his reward” (Psalm 127:3). Children are not merely biological accidents. They are divine gifts, the reward of God to parents who conceive them, bring them to term, deliver them, and then rear them.

Arrows in the Hand of a Warrior

David continued his exultation about children as God’s gift by saying, “Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth” (Psalm 127:4). Then, he made this statement: “How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” David clearly valued the prospect of young adults having their marriages blessed with many children. Clearly, marriage and family are normative in the biblical experience of life. The hermit is the rare exception, not the rule for spirituality in the Hebraic worldview and mindset. Being married with the intention of having children is essential to the propagation of God’s chosen people and their values from generation to generation. Living life selfishly for today for whatever reason defeats the purposes of God in creating human beings with anatomy, brain, and hormonal systems that are prepared and predisposed toward having and nurturing children.

Propelling DNA into the Future

While King David’s analogy comparing children to arrows in a warrior’s hand was designed to underscore the need to have many children so challenges from enemies could be met with force, there is also another insight which can be discerned from these words.

Children are the only way in which human beings can propel their DNA into the future. They are literally one’s ticket to the future, the place where ultimately no one can go because of the inevitability of death.

The reason for the powerful human instinct for sexual intimacy is not just the quest for a momentary ecstatic experience that takes emotion, body chemistry, and satisfaction to an incredible high. It is rather for the purpose of transferring human DNA to produce the next generation of earth inhabitants.

Propelling Values into the Future

But, there is a far more important purpose involved in human intimacy. God created sexuality to be the final consummation of the joining of male and female, husband and wife, into a sublime oneness that parallels the oneness of God himself. Indeed, in Genesis 2:24, God uses the same Hebrew word, echad, to describe marriage that he uses to describe himself (Deuteronomy 6:4).

Malachi answered the question of why God made male and female one: “Did [God] not make one? … and why one? So that he might have godly offspring” (Malachi 2:15). It was within the security and safety of marriage that God planned for his gift of children to flourish. The true reason for human reproductive functions, then, is clear: this is the only way in which values of faith in God and obedience to God’s instructions can be transferred from one generation to another.

Children are, indeed, like arrows in the hands of a wise warrior for truth. Through them, one can propel divine wisdom and knowledge far into the future. Then, when children are instructed in the value of instructing their own children in the ways of God, those same values and the necessity of teaching them are hurtled further into the future by those children through their own children.

Lessons from Father Abraham

The importance of the transgenerational transfer of divine truth and value was underscored by God himself in the declaration of his primary reason for choosing Abraham: “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he has spoken of him” (Genesis 18:19).

God knew that Abraham would look well to the responsibility of teaching “the way of the Lord” to his children and grandchildren; therefore, he knew that the mechanism would be in place for the fulfillment of his divine promises to Abraham and his progeny. Abraham was a teacher of righteousness and justice, and his role as a teacher began and was focused in his own household.

Daily, Hourly Teaching Diligence

The inculcation of values into the lives of children is perhaps the most important role of biblical parenting. Teaching children the Word and ways of God is so vital that God himself spoke of it in this manner: “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). Teaching children the ways of God is no occasional, casual experience. It is a daily exercise in diligence that is to occupy the entirety of life. Throughout the day, children are to be taught by their parents the truth of God’s Word and the instructions for life contained therein.

The Lie of Secular Humanism

One of the greatest lies that are projected by postmodernity’s secular humanism and its hedonistic agenda is the charge that parents must not attempt to inculcate their own values in their children. They maintain that children must be free to establish their own values. Some even go so far as to argue that transferring godly values to children is a form of brain washing and amounts to “child abuse.”

The end result of this lie is that generations of uninstructed children demonstrate their utter disregard for manners, social etiquette, and ethical conduct in an all-pervasive explosion of narcissism and self-indulgence. Scripture accurately predicted this end result: “A child left undisciplined disgraces its mother” (Proverbs 29:15). Living proof of this divine principle walks the streets of every major city in the world. Self-consumed youth inflict an endless assault on simple dignity and honor on the debauched entertainment industry engaging in a public display of conduct that descends into an ever-deepening abyss of turpitude and opprobrium.

A Disposable Generation

Parents have been so deceived by humanism’s egomaniacal quest for self-actualization and pleasure that they are so wrapped up in themselves that they have no time for their children. Indeed, much of the world today is living in a disposable generation where the unborn are sacrificed on the altar of expediency and self-indulgence and children are virtually ignored and left to their own devices.

The ever-shortening attention span of postmodern society has left growing numbers of children groping for an instant transition from one emotional high to the next and have left them vulnerable to drug addiction, unbridled promiscuity, and a growing sense of the nothingness of such lifestyles.

The biblical values of self-sufficiency and self-sacrifice are overwhelmed by the evil inclination’s “what’s-in-it-for-me” demand that leaves one momentarily satiated with the serotonin, oxytocin, and other “feel-good” hormones, living the lie of “happiness” while all the time feeling empty and without real purpose in life.

Everything is disposable: values, relationships, family, and commitments. Lovers are discarded like empty soda bottles. Self-respect is jettisoned in favor of personal self-indulgence. Children have been thrown into the garbage heaps of promiscuity by self-consumed parents.

Overcoming Life’s Vanity: Living in the Future

Solomon observed that everything under the sun is vanity and the vanity was that death is coming and no one can take what he has accumulated with him (Ecclesiastes 1:14). The truth is that everything “under the sun” is vanity; however, everyone has the opportunity to “seek the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1). If you transfer heavenly values to children, you will live on.

You can’t take anything material with you beyond this life (Ecclesiastes 5:15). But, you can purchase a ticket to the future. Yes, it will cost you dearly with long hours expended in teaching by example and precept. But, it’s worth the price you will pay, for you can ensure that not only your DNA but also your deeply held beliefs and values will live on in the future.

The priceless ticket to the future is already in your hand. It’s your children, God’s gift to you. If you are wise and teach children the “ways of the Lord” as he instructed you in his Word, both you and your values will be thrust into the future.