If you were to look up the definition of heir, you're more likely to find a definition more suited to the idea of assets, possessions, or something of monetary value being passed on to descendants, loved ones, or those that were close and trustworthy. But there was a time when heir had a greater meaning. A time when there was greater consideration given to the notion of passing on a legacy...a reputation if you will...that directly identified a person(s) to the family line.
This was a concept not lost on many before us. Look at a few of these quotes found at http://www.brainyquote.com/words/he/heir172566.html:
To state the facts frankly is not to despair the future nor indict the past. The prudent heir takes careful inventory of his legacies and gives a faithful accounting to those whom he owes an obligation of trust. John F. Kennedy
Those in supreme power always suspect and hate their next heir. Tacitus
Father was the eldest son and the heir apparent, and he set the standard for being a Rockefeller very high, so every achievement was taken for granted and perfection was the norm. David Rockefeller
I'm the heir apparent to the heir presumptive. Princess Margaret
This idea of passing on a heritage was not lost on the people of Israel (in biblical times) either. God actually made this a priority. Let's look at Deuteronomy 6:1-9:
1 “Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the LORD your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, 2 that you may fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. 3 Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the LORD God of your fathers has promised you—‘a land flowing with milk and honey.’ 4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
So you see that God's heart is for a heritage to be passed down from generation to generation. God wanted heirs to the legacy for all He did for the people of Israel. It's a legacy not only to remind them of God's faithfulness but also regarding their own commitment to God. It's important for them to know where they came from, to know how they got there, and equally as important, a vision for where they were going. This was a legacy as much for God, who brought Israel out from bondage, as it was for the Israelites to commit themselves to God and to ensure this commitment was passed on to future generations. They needed to remember.
But is this concept any different for us today? Has the idea of heirs become moot and irrelevant for our time? Why is it we don't place more of an emphasis of teaching our children the things that are important to our families so they can be passed on throughout generations?
What about the dad or mom who want the best for their children? Are they modeling the Christian life? Are they emphasizing the transcending nature of God to their son or daughter? Is the dad showing his son what a real man, one with integrity and a strong character, looks like in a perverse and ungodly culture? What about the mother and daughter relationship? Is the mom showing her very impressionable daughter the virtues of womanhood and what it means to be a Proverbs woman?
So much is lacking in the church today in this regard. Too many children and grandchildren are growing up in broken homes, living in sorrow and despair, and without any semblance of love within their four walls. And the church is partly responsible!
Our culture for years has been on the attack against families, breaking down the building blocks and foundations of marriages and healthy relationships between parents and children. Statistics would show a disturbing trend in the family dynamics. It's no wonder more and more people are turning to drugs, alcohol, sex, etc. as a means to cope with it all.
How did we arrive here? Why have so many generations past let go of what truly binds families together? I believe it's because people are turning their backs on God. The church is turning a blind eye to blatant unrighteousness. And the world is teaching children its version of virtue and morality, whether that's in the public schools, television, government, or other medium.
Many in the world today are looking for truth and leaders to point the way. Is that to say there are no leaders? No, but too many have busied themselves with church programs and itineraries, that they're neglecting what should be their primary focus. Christ needs to be their focus. OUR focus! Our shepherds need to be helping the flock cling ever more closely to our Great Shepherd.
God is offering hope through His Son, Jesus! Jesus is the only one who can meet our problems head-on and do something about it. So if our leaders know God's promises and know that God will always do what He says, why are there so many problems in the world? And why is the church virtually absent in these matters?
The church could certainly learn some valuable lessons from Abraham. In Romans, Paul tells us that Abraham received a promise from God. In contrast to the church today, when Abraham received that promise, he responded in faith. He became "the heir of the world," receiving God's promises not because he was exceptional at obeying the law, but because he believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.
So, instead of programs and telling people they need to try harder to be good, the church would do well to point them to Jesus, draw near to Him, and to believe in Him by faith. Unfortunately, the church is doing more to confuse people about God than they are at clarifying the gospel message. They present misconceptions that somehow we can make ourselves right with God through works. Some churches would suggest the false notion that someone other than Jesus (a saint perhaps) could intercede on their behalf. Even worse, some would suggest (like Oprah) that we are our own gods, in some weird kind of way. This, by the way, goes ridiculously farther than the notion that we can get right with God on our own.
If we want to understand what God wants from us, what's important to Him, we need to delve into His Word and pray. Without the Holy Spirit's guidance, we're not going to have a clue in how to turn our families and marriages around. But if we look carefully and listen to what He has to say, we'll see that He has a plan. Look at this following passage in Romans:
13It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, 15because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression. 16Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17As it is written: "I have made you a father of many nations." He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were. 18Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be." 19Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah's womb was also dead. 20Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22This is why "it was credited to him as righteousness." 23The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, 24but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
By reading this passage, do you get the sense of what Paul is saying? Here's a man that despite the odds and circumstances, Abraham still trusted God! Like us, Abraham could have been looking at the circumstances surrounding his wife's age and infertility and had thought that God was crazy for saying that he would be the father of many nations. But no. Paul says that Abraham believed God, "being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised," and that "it was credited to him as righteousness." Abraham understood the legacy that God was giving him. He didn't try to establish his own righteousness before God, but rather believed by faith, and because he did he received the promises of God. And even more than that, this passage says the offspring received the promise as well. The offspring became heirs through Abraham's faith.
Granted, this passage also shows that those of the law, the Jews, were part of the promise. Verse 16 tells us that the promise came by faith, that by grace it was guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring - not only those who are of the law but also those who are of the faith of Abraham. The emphasis is not that those who received the law (the Jews) would be the offspring to receive the promise, but that those who would later believe by faith (believers in Christ) would be the offspring of Abraham. This is confirmed when Paul says in verse 17, as it is written: "I have made you a father of many nations." So you see that we're all heirs in the promise, just as Abraham was, if we put our faith in God's promise, Jesus Christ. Just as it was credited to Abraham as righteousness, it is credited to us as well.
So what can we do? How can we make a difference? I think just like Abraham, we look at our families and our particular circumstances, and "against all hope, in hope believe." "Believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification." If you want to pass on a heritage to your family, believe in Jesus. Your sons and daughters will be heirs to a legacy that will pass on to generation after generation.