"Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing." Ecclesiastes 1:4-8
Generations come and generations go.” In 1517 Martin Luther ignited the Protestant Reformation when he nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany. That same year Bernard Gilpin was born. He became an English church leader who worked for social reform. He died in 1583, the same year that Simon Episcopius was born. He became a leader of the Dutch church and took part in the Remonstrance of 1610. He died in 1643, the same year that Solomon Stoddard was born. He was the first librarian of Harvard College and the grandfather of Jonathan Edwards. He died in 1729, the same year that Catherine the Great was born. She was Empress of Russia and brought the ideas of the Enlightenment to the Russian Empire. She died in 1796, the same year that Horace Mann was born. We remember him as the founder of free public education in the United States. He died in 1859, the year that John Dewey was born. He became a controversial figure for theories regarding the education of children and teenagers. He died in 1952, the same year that I was born.
That’s seven generations spanning 435 years. And I, well, I’ve done nothing comparable to any of those important figures. But I have one great advantage over them. They’re dead and I’m alive. But I will pass off the scene eventually, and someone (many people, to be precise) will be born on the very day I die.
Life is truly short and transitory. Most of us have never heard of the first two names on the list-Gilpin and Episcopius. Theology students might know about Solomon Stoddard. Probably everyone has at least heard of Catherine the Great, Horace Mann, and John Dewey. But all the names grow fainter by the day, dusty remnants of the past. And so, sooner than I prefer, my name will join theirs, and generations will rise up and never know I existed. Surely this is the height of futility.
Isaac Watts said it well: “Time, like an ever-rolling stream, bears all its sons away; they fly, forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day.” Those lines from Ό God, Our Help in Ages Past” remind us that only God can give our lives significance. Without Him we are here today, gone tomorrow, and eventually forgotten.
Father, You are from everlasting to everlasting. When the earth itself passes away, You will remain forever. I believe that You are eternal and that Your Son is the light of the world. Amen.