One Generation Away
At the end of the book of Joshua, the future for the people of God looks bright. God had fulfilled His promise to Abraham to deliver His people from bondage and to bring them into the land which He promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Joshua says that "not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass" (). The people made a covenant with the Lord, Joshua recorded all of these things in the Book of the Law, and then he sent all of the tribes to their inheritances to finish clearing the land of its inhabitants. All looks good, then we come to the book of Judges where we are told this in 2:7-11:
"And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work that the LORD had done for Israel. 8 And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of 110 years. 9 And they buried him within the boundaries of his inheritance in Timnath-heres, in the hill country of Ephraim, north of the mountain of Gaash. 10 And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel. 11 And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals."
Unfortunately, commitments are too easily forgotten. A generation later, things are completely different. One generation serves the Lord, but the next does not know Him. How can this be? How can you have a generation that remembered God's promises, was strong in taking the land, then a generation later, have a people that do not know the Lord. Have you ever wandered how this can be?
I would like to look at three interconnected reasons why this may have happened to the Israelites. And as we examine this text and the circumstances that led to them being in this state, we need to make sure we make some applications in our own lives so this does not happen to us and our children. This can happen amongst congregations of the Lord's people also. You may know people in which something like this happened. A parent was by all looks of things faithful in serving Christ, but unfortunately their children go in the wrong direction; not knowing the Lord. We need to learn from scripture how these kind of things happen so we don't fall into this trap, with either us or any children we may have not knowing the Lord.
Side note: A good number of the things that we will talk about will be speaking to parents, but even us who are not parents need to listen up, especially those who are young, so you don't end up being one of the ones who ends up not knowing the Lord or forsaking the Lord as we see so often in the book of Judges.
The first reason this generation in Judges may have arisen not knowing the Lord is not mentioned directly in the text, but I believe it can easily be inferred:
1. THEY DIDNT KNOW THE WORD OF THE LORD
Usually when people don't know the Lord, it can be traced back to a lack of knowledge of His word. When the teachers of the law failed to do their duties, the people suffered.
- "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children."
Do you know how often in the book of Judges that we see the people seeking the word of the Lord to find out exactly how they should be living? I couldn't find one. There are times they cried out to the Lord because of their circumstances and decide to serve Him for a short time, but we do not see them actually seeking the law of God. There is a reason why the time of the Judges is known as the time in which "every man did what was right in his own eyes" (). A large factor in why people do what is right in their own eyes is because they are avoiding or neglecting to find out what is right in the eyes of the Lord. It doesn't seem like they knew God's word in any substantial way. If they did, it sure didn't make a lasting impact on the generations within the book. This wasn't only the failure of the priests and teachers of the law, but also the parents. God tells parents in the law to teach their children and to talk to them about Him.
"And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 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" ()
If we want our children to not be like this generation in judges who did not know the Lord, we need to teach them the word of God and talk about God often in our homes. The teaching that they receive here is important. I don't want to discount that at all. Bring them here as often as you can so they can hear the word of God, but do not do it to the neglect of teaching your children at home. The teaching in our Bible classes should be the supplement to what is done at home, not the majority of the spiritual food that your children receive.
does not say, "Bible class teachers, bring up your congregations' children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."
really says "Fathers...bring them [your children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."
Knowing the Lord begins with knowing His word. If we don't want our children to end up like the generation that arose not knowing the Lord, we must all as men of God "man up" and fulfill the duties that God gives us in our homes to teach our families. We need to take this responsibility seriously.
2. THEIR FATHERS DIDN'T FULLY OBEY THE LORD
During the life of Joshua and after his death, we see that the Israelites did not obey the Lord in a couple ways as they were receiving the land:
• In making covenants with people in the land. In , they made a covenant with the Gibeonites. The Gibeonites out of fear made a plan to trick Joshua into making a covenant with them. Joshua fell for the trap because he did not seek the word of the Lord in the matter.
"1 Now the angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, "I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I said, 'I will never break my covenant with you, 2 and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down their altars.' But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done?
This generation, who knew not God, followed in the footsteps of their fathers, but took it a step farther.
• In driving all of the inhabitants out of the land. begins at the death of Joshua, giving us an account of the people going to their inheritances to clear the land of its inhabitants so they can possess the land. But they were not successful in ridding the land of its inhabitants:
• These nations would become a snare to their children.
What do your children see in you?
Are there things that you are not currently doing in your service to God? Are there commands of God that your children see you violating or neglecting?
Encouraging your weaker brothers and sisters?
Seeking those who are straying (or have strayed) from the faith
Evangelism (commanded to all Christians)
Spending time with the Lord reading and studying scripture, or spending time in prayer.
What would your children say are your highest priorities? Work? The family? Where would your children say the Lord is on your list of priorities?
Many studies have shown that many children who grow up in churches leave because their parents did not adequately live out their faith. We need to consider our ways to make sure we are not being a stumbling block to our children by disregarding the commandments of the Lord. Your lack of obedience to the Lord, can make an impact on not only you, but on your children.
3. THEY DIDN'T WANT TO BE DIFFERENT THAN THE NATIONS
We see this in 1 Samuel when the people desired to be like the other nations in asking for a king and rejecting YHWH as their king, but we also see here in Judges that this generation that didn't know the Lord wanted to be like the nations and serve the gods of the nations. The nations that were left among them and the nations around them became a snare to the generation that did not know the Lord. They did not desire to be different than these nations, and decided to serve their gods instead of their Creator.
"they forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them; thus they provoked the LORD to anger."
The whole reason that God called His people out of Egypt was so that they would be different. He was looking for His people to not be like the nations.
· God's expectations for His people:
God desired His people to be different. He chose them to be His Holy nation. They were a precious, special people to Him.
· He warned them to destroy the peoples so they didn't become like them.
They got kicked out of the promised land because they wanted to be like the nations. In many ways, they became worse than the nations instead of acting like God's special treasure; His Holy people. They were even commanded to dress different:
· Tassels put on clothes to remind them of God's laws so they don't fall into sin
The Israelites were to be different because of their seeking the Lord that it led others to see they were different:
"The LORD will establish you as a people holy to himself, as he has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in his ways.10 And all the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they shall be afraid of you."
We are called to be sanctified, to be God's Holy people.
"who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds."
Christ died for us so that we will be different from the world and to be zealous for things that the world will look at as strange. We need to be teaching our children (and reminding ourselves) that it is expected by God that we be different from the world in how we act and think. If we look like everyone else around us, we may actually be in the world. We should not want our kids to fit in with their peers. If our kids are being brought up in the training and admonition of the Lord, they should learn that they need to be different from their peers.
Do we allow our kids to miss church for school, or sports events? I know how difficult it can be at times to be behind in school, or to have an exam that I have not studied for yet. We need to be reminded at times that our commitment to the Lord is more important than any other. We need to show this to our kids. We allow so many extra-curricular activities get in the way of spiritual things we or our children could be doing.
Do we teach them it is important to surround themselves with good people that are different from the world that will help them to be strong in seeking the Lord? Surround yourselves, and your children, with others who are like Christ, no matter what age they are. I remember when I first became a Christian. There was not anyone in the congregation that was my age that I could spend time with. Instead of surrounding myself with worldly people that would make it harder to be different, I chose to surround myself with people that we double, or at times, triple my age. If we allow our kids to be surrounded the majority of time by those who are of the world, we should not be surprised that they end up being like the world and not knowing the Lord when they get older.
Do we have different pursuits and teach our kids to seek the things of God as being what satisfies our greatest needs and desires? Or do we teach our kids to be like the world in what they seek?
What do we allow our kids to wear? Do we allow them to wear the same immodest clothes as their peers at school wear? Fathers need to be the modesty police for those who live under their roof.
In all of these things, we need to train our children to not just act, but think differently from the world (see ). We need to train our children to discern things and think about things from an eternal perspective, making decisions based on what is best for them (and others) spiritually, and most glorifying to God; not on what will make them most accepted with their peers.
If we want to ensure that our children will know God, we need to teach them to be happy being different. And one of the best ways we can do this is by being different ourselves. Just taking them to church is not good enough. Being distinctively different from the world around you is what is necessary if we want our children to be like Christ. Many times, worldly parents make worldly children. We should be so different from the world around us that the world notices. Remember that we as Christians are to be the salt and light of the world. If we are looking too much like the world, trying to make our lives more comfortable for us, then this will make an impact on our children. Remember, narrow and difficult is the way that leads to life, and there are few who will find it.
1. GET YOUR FAMILY INTO THE WORD OF GOD
2. OBEY THE LORD FULLY YOURSELF
3. BE OK WITH BEING DIFFERENT AND TEACH YOUR CHILDREN TO BE ALSO
If we do not want the next generation within this church to arise not knowing the Lord, this means that we ourselves need to make changes to better serve the Lord and be His disciples. Obviously, doing these things will not guarantee that your children will always desire to obey the Lord, but we must do what we can (and what the Lord commands) to make sure we do our part in bringing up our children in the ways of the Lord and that we are not a stumbling block to them. If there is anything we can do to help you better serve the Lord as a parent, or any other way, we pray that you will make your needs know today.