“Joshua, son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of 110. They buried him in the territory of his inheritance, in Timnath-heres, in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash. That whole generation was also gathered to their ancestors. After them another generation rose up who did not know the LORD or the works He had done for Israel.” – Judges 2:8-10.
These verses haunt me. Most of the time, when we look at the book of Judges, or even in the Chronicles, as Christians we are infuriated by the blatant disregard for the God of Israel. The entire book of Judges is characterized by the repetitious motif that “each person did what was right in his own eyes.” We can’t see how a people so providentially blessed by Yahweh could fall so far away from Him in such a short period of time. We are appalled by the truth that the Israelites, God’s chosen people who were formed, preserved, and delivered by His hand alone, would be spiritually adulterous as they were. It is just sickening. And rightfully so. There is no excuse. Their sin was theirs alone, and the penalties for that sin were rightly placed on them. But they were only two generations removed from the Exodus! Their grandfathers and grandmothers were delivered from Pharaoh’s hand! Yet they knew not God, nor what He had done for Israel. How does something like this happen? Where does this kind of apostasy begin?
Deuteronomy 6 was God’s plan for raising up generations who knew Him. Parents were to tell their children of the great works of God. They were to teach their children Godly morality and principles as they went about everyday life. They were to write reminders on their walls and doorposts. They were to wear things on their persons that would remind them of the truth about Yahweh, the God of their creation – the God of their deliverance – the God of their preservation. But something got in the way. You know what it was? – Life.
During Joshua’s generation, the fathers of the nation spent almost their entire lives in battle – conquering lands and establishing territories, cities, and other necessary societal structures. I would imagine that the short amount of time they enjoyed with their children was mostly spent catching up on time missed, wrestling on the floor, or other “good” things. They were busy with life.
What did Joshua’s generation know about God? Well, they had heard the stories (from Joshua and the other elders at least, if not from their own parents who were present) of God’s deliverance in the Exodus, the parting of the Red Sea, the providing of food and water for 40 years in the wilderness, the walls of the rushing Jordan river stacking hundreds of feet high as the entire nation crossed over. They also knew the mighty works of God from their own lifetime: the walls of Jericho crumbling at the sound of trumpets and shouts, and the battles in which they themselves were personally engaged, when God led them and fought for them victoriously. This generation had both heard and seen great works of God. But for some reason, they didn’t communicate those things to their children. They didn’t Deuteronomy 6.
The affairs in which these fathers were engaged were important things. Following through on God’s promises and setting up the cities and regions of their inheritance. Arguably, these were “good” things with which they were consumed. And then, there were also the “bad” things, such as not dispelling the natives of each city, and instead, living among them and allowing those natives to impact their spiritual beliefs (Judges 1:21-36). But still, the fathers of Joshua’s generation were in large part, following through on God’s providence and God’s promise. But they were so busy at this task that they apparently failed to tell their children what God was doing and had done. And the result was the generation that began what we consider one of the most appalling spiritual failures in Israel’s history.
We are busy people. And most of the time, we’re busy with “good” things, enjoying God’s blessings and tending to the gifts He has given us. But if we fail to communicate God’s activity in our ancestry and in our own lives, our children will not know God, nor the works he has done. What do you believe about the establishment of the United States of America? What do you believe of God’s involvement in our nations’ war history? What do you believe about God’s providence in the liberation of women and African Americans? What do you believe about God’s gracious and merciful hand on your own life? And are you communicating those things to your children and your grandchildren? It is difficult – it means intentionally taking time out to talk to our children and grandchildren about spiritual things. But if we are sincere about the next generation not growing up apostate as the children of Joshua’s generation, we need to keep some things in mind:
1. It means stopping what you’re doing and intentionally bringing up spiritual things. Yesterday, Ethan was looking up some information for a project at school. His subject was Langston Hughes, African American poet and novelist. I saw that Hughes had written a short story entitled, Salvation, so I read it to Ethan, having no idea what it would be about. Well, it was heretical. Hughes’ story about his “salvation” was, at best, embarrassing for biblical Christianity. When we finished reading it, I looked up at Ethan and he was dumbfounded that someone who he studies in school could think that poorly of his Jesus, and his personal faith. He was visibly distraught. Ethan needs to know that as he ages, his faith will constantly be attacked. He will be ridiculed, ostracized, and marginalized because of his faith in Jesus as Savior. I’m so glad we took the time out to look at this project together.
2. You, father or mother, will be ridiculed, ostracized, and marginalized. Ethan (3rd grader now) brings home books from the library about dinosaurs. I enjoy reading them with him, and hearing all the “new” facts that I hadn’t heard when I was a kid, equally as interested in these archaic thunder lizards as he is today. But the literature on dinosaurs is largely monopolized by those who hold to an Old-Earth theory. And the Old-Earth theory is absolutely in conflict with the literal reading of the biblical creation story. There are mounds of evidence that contradict the evolutionists’ theory, but in our world today, Intelligent Design or Creationism proponents are considered ignorant right-wing idealists who are thorns in the flesh of our American education system (if you haven’t seen Ben Stein’s “Expelled,” you need to watch it). Yes, I’ve heard it from all angles – and I expect to “get it” from a few of my friends whom I know will read this post. But I will tell my children of the great things God did in creation – and they will be able to decide for themselves between biblical creationism and darwinism, because I am teaching them what I know of my God.
3. It will be inconvenient. Our culture today is so busy. We have deadlines to meet, events to attend, practices to make, debates to watch, social functions to grace, etc., etc., etc. If we are not careful, we will get so caught up in “life” that we’ll exempt ourselves from having time to teach our children about God. And if we, parents, don’t teach our children about God, then who will? The government-subsidized education system? The three-hours-per-week church gatherings? Spongebob Squarepants and Phinneas and Ferb? Make time for telling your children about your God and about His mighty works.
4. It’s going to get personal. Telling your children what God has done for you and your family often means admitting to them sin and failure on your own part. If God-sized forgiveness and restoration has happened in your life, you’ll have to tell them from what you’ve been restored. If God’s great mercy has been revealed in your family, you’ll have to explain to them why you don’t deserve it. But guess what… your children don’t need to think of you as perfect. If they do, there will be innumerable psychological and spiritual ramifications to come. They need to know that you are imperfect, but that you have a God who loves, heals, and restores. They need to hear of the mighty works of God in your own personal life. And that means you’ll have to get personal, even when it reveals your weaknesses.
This has weighed heavily on my heart this morning, and I’m not sure why. I wonder if we’re creating an entire generation of people who will “not know God or His works” because we are just too busy.
Grace and Peace,