by Mike Phay
There are certain pages of the Bible I always hesitate to turn.
I love the creative beauty and wonderful potential of Genesis 1-2. It kills me to turn to Genesis 3, which opens with the craftiness of a serpent and the fall of humanity. Sin enters the picture and ruins everything. Hopes are dashed and the story will never be the same.
In the very next book–Exodus–the wonders of God’s miraculous salvation are, unfortunately, interspersed with unfortunate complaining and idol-worship.
The anticipation of Numbers 13 and the anticipation of entering the Promised Land fizzles as the twelve spies return, and ten of them give a negative report and fill the hearts of the people with fear. A big mistake which leaves the new nation squandering 40 years in the wilderness.
The same thing happens when we turn from the last page of the Book of Joshua, and find waiting for us the Book of Judges. Joshua, of course, warns us of what is coming as he addresses the assembled Israelites at the end of his life: “You are not able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good” (Joshua 24:19-20). And the people, self-reliant as ever, respond: “No, but we will serve the LORD” (v. 21). In other words: “We got this. We’re good.” Yeah right. We know what’s coming. Just turn the page:
“When Joshua dismissed the people, the people of Israel went each to his inheritance to take possession of the land. 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. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of 110 years. 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. 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. And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD…” –Judges 2:6-11
So Joshua was spot on. He knew what the Israelites were capable of. He’d been watching them try and fail for decades. And he knew that this would continue.
A PARENTING FAILURE
But we find in this passage an interesting observation about just how this failure took place. Namely, we find a disconnect from one generation to another. It seems that there are three generations represented here:
First, Joshua’s generation, consisting of all those who died in the wilderness plus Joshua and Caleb.
Second, there is the generation of “the elders who outlived Joshua.” These are those who were allowed into the Promised Land and through warfare had been used of God to conquer the land. Many of this generation had witnessed the Exodus from Egypt as young people, and 40 years later, had helped to conquer the land. Others were born in the wilderness, but through the conquest had “seen all the great works that the LORD had done for Israel.”
Third, there is the generation that was born and raised after the conquest. This is the “baby boom” generation who did not know warfare, and had simply inherited the blessings secured by God in the prior generation.
The first two generations had seen the mighty works of God. They had participated in great things. Apparently, they “knew the LORD.” However, their children didn’t know the LORD. Why? What happened?
The people of Israel had failed to pass on the faith–namely, the Law–to the next generation. They had disobeyed God’s clear directive, laid out in Deuteronomy 6:4-7:
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be in your heart. 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.”
Somewhere along the line, diligence had faltered. The people had settled, they had become complacent. They may have become busied with all of the details of this new life in this new land: rebuilding cities, establishing farms, having families, getting married, feeding themselves, and dealing with the pesky Canaanites who were left in the land.
But in the midst of their busy-ness, they had missed the most important things: attending to the God who was with them (not just in the past, but in the present), and passing on that faith to their children.
In Psalm 78:1-8, the lyricist Asaph brings a much-needed corrective appeal to Israel:
“Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.
He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.”
SUCH A TIME AS THIS
We live in a strangely unique time here in the Spring of 2020, when the entire world is on lockdown. We’re all in quarantine in one way or another. Here in the United States, public schools have been closed for weeks, most of them for the remainder of the school year. Home-schooling is the new norm. Many families have an increased amount of time with their children.
This is no accident.
God is not surprised by the advent of this pandemic. He has not been knocked back on his heels or caught sleeping. He is sovereign over everything, even this virus. And he is sovereign over the reality for some of you that your kids are now at home with you full time instead of at school for 30 hours every week. On top of that, if you are forced to stay home because of drastic changes in your employment or the necessity of caring for your children, many of the things that used to “busy” you are now on the back burner.
So what are you doing with this gift of time? Are you taking advantage of this incredible opportunity to pass on your faith to your children? Are you picking up the mantle of responsibility as the primary disciple-maker of your children?
Parents, make the most of this opportunity. Don’t squander it. Don’t hide from your children the great and glorious realities of the Bible, of the Gospel, and of our faith.
Let’s use this gift of time to pass on our faith to our children so that they might set their hope in God.
There are so many resources out there for you to use as parents as you disciple your children. Here are a few that I would recommend:
- Justin Whitmel Earley, who wrote The Common Rule has put together a helpful guide called “Spiritual Rhythms for Quarantine“
- The New City Catechism is a great resource for helping children grasp the core truths of the Christian faith. One Question & Answer each week.
- Truth78(formerly Children Desiring God) has great resources for at-home discipleship for parents and children.