In this life… we don’t live forever.
Yes, of course, God has promised us eternal life when God ushers in the new heaven and new earth.
But, for now, we live (and live imperfectly at that) and we die. We see ‘dimly’ (partially, incompletely), the full nature of God, ourselves, and the world, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13. Where we cannot see… we are called to trust God. And, God exhibits God’s faithfulness by fulfilling promises that God has made.
The span of any individual life is not enough to see all that God has done, is doing, and will do. So, the promises of God are given to faithful people and passed on from generation to generation. Collectively across the centuries and millennia we see a fuller picture of God’s awesome power, love, and grace.
In other words, God has given us a legacy, an inheritance, to bless and assure each next generation that God is with us and God has an ultimate will and plan for all human life and all of creation.
One of the most important dimensions of the legacy we have received was first articulated to King David:
12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. When he commits iniquity, I will punish him with a rod such as mortals use, with blows inflicted by human beings. 15 But I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever. 17 In accordance with all these words and with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David. (2 Samuel 7:12-17)
The feature of this ‘promise of legacy’ cannot be overemphasized! Read it carefully. To rephrase it… it says:
“David, when the end of your life has come, I will make sure that YOUR next generations will continue to lead my people. Even when these next generations commit sin, injustice, crime, fall short, and mess up… and I WILL punish them for that… I will not leave them; I will not cease to love them. David, your next generations will forever be included in my ultimate will and plan for all humankind and all of creation”.
Of course, it may seem like this is a promise for one single family (David’s) in one single religious community (Israelites). But THIS promise to David eventually includes the coming of the Jewish Messiah, Jesus. When we read the Gospels we see, in the family lineage, that Jesus is born into David’s family!
When Jesus came, he extended salvation to the rest of the world (not just the Israelites): We all now share in the promise of legacy: redemption, new life, life to the full, life eternal.
What an awesome and wonderful God! Whose promises can’t be seen or comprehended by a single person or single generation. Collectively we can all look back and marvel at God’s promises being fulfilled even as we look forward, in faith, to new fulfillment in our generation and into the future.