Losing the Legacy

“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.

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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.

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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,

Tony

6 thoughts on “Losing the Legacy

  1. I am reading through Judges with my children, and we have definitely noticed that one generation would draw close to the Lord and the next would turn their backs on Him. The very next generation! As parents, we do need to be purposeful. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Deuteronomy 11:16-21

    I think we sometimes forget how formative those early years are. Your comment about Ethan’s reaction to the book reminded me of how sad I was when I found out, probably around middle school age, that not every single one of my friends went to church and knew Jesus. I guess maybe that’s about the age when we really started talking about that stuff, and I began to have more friends, other than just the ones from Calvary because we all grew up together and were even in the same classes at school. And then, imagine my shock (seriously, I was naive and dumb) when I got to my BAPTIST University and learned that (A) not everyone there was raised Southern Baptist and (B) not everyone there was a Believer, period. Those are hard truths to grasp at any age, but it’s so hard as a third grader when you learn that not everyone believes as you do because Ethan has such a strong faith for such a young boy, and it is so evident in his words and actions!

    I was really challenged by this blog and appreciate you posting it. We have to be so deliberate and intentional. They are only under our care for a certain amount of time (hopefully!), and then they will leave and go out and make decisions based on what they’ve learned and seen and heard. Last night, as I put Grace in bed, I was so exhausted and it was so late, and I fell asleep in her bed as soon as my head hit the pillow. A few minutes later she woke me up and said, “Momma, we forgot to pray.”

    We cannot let the church (and certainly the school system) be the sole educators of our children, especially regarding all things spiritual or moral; however, I do think that we should take advantage of (if that’s the right phrase) those opportunities when we can. For example, attending worship services together regularly teaches the importance of corporate worship and different “components” of worship, Sunday School exposes them to Scripture and its application, a program like Awana or something similar, teaches the importance of Scripture memory and the list goes on. It makes me sad when we fail to utilize the resources and ministries at hand because it also gives a chance for other believers to play an important role in our children’s spiritual upbringing as well. Some of those ministries cannot be replicated at home; HOWEVER, they also can’t take the play of what should already be going on at home but should only supplement it.

    What are we intentional about? Hunting? Little League? Golf? Sleeping in on Sunday morning because of Saturday night social calendar? Social networking?

    There are many decisions I’ve made in my life that I’m ashamed of and wish I’d never done those things for the very reason that I know that some day I may have to share those things with my kids, but it will very much be worth it if it means that they (A) realize the miracle that God has performed in their mommy’s life and how I needed God’s grace too and (B) if it means that they don’t follow in my footsteps in some regard.

    Thanks for sharing this! So relevant and challenging!

    1. Courtney, that was very well put, and I’m glad you commented here. We DO need to participate with our children (as well as ensure that they are participating individually) in those activities which will encourage them to grow in the Lord. Attending a Bible-believing church is so important… and providing our children with as many opportunities to learn God’s Word and experience the fellowship of His body as we possibly can manage is a necessity. But, as you said, those things should be supplemental to the primary source of biblical education for our children – that primary source is Mom and Dad in the home.

      The scripture you posted is very relevant. Especially Deut. 11:19… Not only do we need to carve out time to educate our children in spiritual things… but we also need to capitalize on every opportunity throughout the day – to “teach as we go,” using the experiences that everyday life provides to communicate biblical truth to our children. Yesterday, Aaron was being his normal goofy self and said “I swear!” real loud (can’t remember what the context was). I told him what Jesus said in Mat. 5:37. Since my boys are so into boy things like karate and superheroes, last night before we prayed I told them the Judges 3 story of Ehud and Eglon. They loved it.

      I heard a grandfather once say that his five year old grandson and he went into a McDonalds, and the granddad walked up and took a straw from behind the counter because there were no straws in the dispenser. They got in the car and drove off. About five minutes down the road the little boy told the grandfather that he had stolen that straw, and God doesn’t like us to steal. So the grandfather turned around and drove all the way back, took the boy inside with him, and apologized to the cashier. You can imagine the confusion on the employee’s face… but that grandfather taught his grandson much more than happy meals and ice cream cones that day.

      Thanks for commenting.

  3. I wish I had deep and meaningful comment, Tony. I hope it will suffice to say that I really enjoyed this post, it is timely and a wonderful reminder to of what is really important in this life. God bless you!

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