One of the indications that we have drifted away from our biblical moorings can be seen in how we think of weddings as the simple possession of two individuals, dancing alone, instead of thinking of it as a generational ball extending late into the evening. Lex and Bel are in the spotlight now, as they should be, but many came before them, and many more shall come after. And the success of the completed dance is entirely dependent upon the grace of our covenant-keeping God.
After the appalling incident of the golden calf, what did God in His mercy say to Moses?
“And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.”
Ex. 34:6–7 (KJV)
He speaks of visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and on the grandchildren, but this is a merciful limit that He is putting on His judgments. Three generations, maybe four. But what does He do for thousands? Thousands of what? The context makes it clear that He is speaking of thousands of generations. He speaks in a similar way within the ten commandments themselves (Dt. 5:9-10), but two chapters later, he uses the word generations explicitly (Dt. 7:9). Just to provide a little context, the history of mankind has not gotten to just one thousand generations yet.
God’s redemptive purpose and plan for this world is to fill it with His kindness. And one of His principal tools for doing this is a thing called generations, and each new successive generation is formed at a wedding.
“But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children [that’s you, Bel]; To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.”
Psalm 103:17–18 (KJV)
This doctrine does not overlook or minimize the realities of sin. What is it that God bestows for generation after generation? It is mercy. The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting. Those who keep His covenant are not doing anything in the power of their own strength. They are keeping a covenant which extends mercy to them. And earlier, in the Exodus passage, this is explicitly stated. When He keeps mercy for thousands, while He does not clear the guilty and unrepentant, He does forgive iniquity and transgression and sin.
This is why covenant ancestors are promised a glimpse of the covenanted future.
“Yea, thou shalt see thy children’s children, and peace upon Israel”
Psalm 128:6 (KJV)
They also are in the privileged position of being able to bestow on that future, to help fund the work that God will do through their descendants They do this through providing a godly legacy, a goodly heritage, a rich inheritance.
“A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children: And the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just.”
Proverbs 13:22 (KJV)
It is always wonderful when the gospel advances, and glorious when the good news of Christ risen takes root in a sinner’s heart. It is always glorious. But there is a peculiar richness, and additional depths of grace when grace extends across generations.
“Children’s children are the crown of old men; And the glory of children are their fathers.”
Proverbs 17:6 (KJV)
In believing families, this crown is not possible unless the children, and their children, and their children after them, are not believers also. Because regeneration is an immediate work of the Spirit, there is a sense in which it is true that God has no grandchildren—all His children are His children. But while God has no grandchildren, we do have them, and God in His covenant mercy makes promises to those who believe Him. And those promises include future generations.
“And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever.”
Ezekiel 37:25 (KJV)
Lex, my charge to you is that you must be a covenant-keeping man. This means that you must be a man of the Word. You must be in the Word, and the Word must be in you. This is because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. I am charging you to listen to the promises of God. Read the promises of God. Remind your wife of the promises of God. Teach your children the promises of God. Faith is the natural, reflexive response to the perceived faithfulness of God. When you see God as faithful, the result is faith. This is how the faith of Sara is described—she judged Him faithful who had promised (Heb. 11:11). So when you see God as faithful, when you mark all the promises He has made, both upstream and downstream from you, your faith in the Word is going to be like a rock. And when your faith is like a rock, it will be the kind of rock that will keep your entire household steady. You don’t hold onto the covenant—the covenant holds on to you. Your role is to look to the promises, and let your wife and family see you resorting to the promises constantly.
Bel, you are the first of my grandchildren to marry, and so I want to begin by thanking you for providing such a good example to the others. In Scripture, the pattern we see between man and wife is the pattern of provision and glorification. The husband provides, and the wife glorifies what he provides. A house into a home, a paycheck into the aroma of dinner through the house, and so on. The supreme example of that would be the gift of children—from whom the gift of children’s children comes. And it does come. But my exhortation to you now is this. You have heard what I said to Lex. He is going to be a man of faith. He is going to be a promise-believing man. He is going to be a covenant man. What you are called to do is glorify his faith. Glorify his steadiness. Glorify his commitments. Your task is to take all his commitments and resolutions and labors, and make them altogether lovely.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.