“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.” Judges 2:10
Joshua had led Israel through the conquest of Canaan, and now they possessed the land. While Joshua’s generation lived, the memory of God’s mighty works in their midst remained, and God was worshipped. Joshua’s generation could be called the “greatest generation” of their time. Theirs was the generation who, by God’s grace, had defeated the Amalekites, had crossed the Jordan River on dry ground, had seen the walls of Jericho come falling down, and for whom even the sun itself had stood still. How sad that when Joshua’s generation died off, so did the memory of the God who had given them so many victories. This generation to whom God had been so faithful spawned a generation that was completely faithless to Him.
“And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger.” Judges 2:11-12
Their parents were the strong and courageous generation that had led the nation into the land that God had promised them, conquering the inhabitants of that land and leaving nothing in their wake. Perhaps they were just too busy defeating foreign armies to remind their children that it had been the Lord who had fought for them. Maybe, after many hard years of war, the parents just dropped their guard, complacently dwelling in cities they had not built and eating the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards they did not plant. (Joshua 24:13)
It’s not that Joshua’s generation intentionally dropped the ball. They did not forget what the Lord had done for them. (Joshua 24:16-18) They just weren’t purposeful about passing those stories on to their children. They might have hung Joshua’s well-known challenge on the walls of their new homes in Canaan: “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:14-15)
Sadly, Scripture tells us that this generation who had been the recipients of so much of God’s gracious activity in their lives raised a generation “who did not know the Lord or the work he had done for Israel.” (Judges 2:10) The book of Judges reminds us again and again that when we forget the mighty acts of God, we stop worshiping Him, fall into syncretism, and begin to worship whatever idols are worshipped in our culture instead.
And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger. They abandoned the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. Whenever they marched out, the hand of the Lordwas against them for harm, as the Lord had warned, and as the Lord had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress (Judges 2:11-15).
As a dad, this tendency for the next generation to forget the God of their parents and serve the gods of their culture motivates me to be intentional about discipleship in my home. Dads, you cannot outsource the discipleship of your children to your pastor, your children’s minister or your youth pastor. You cannot count on Sunday School, small groups, “disciple now” weekends, or camps to pass along the faith to your children. Of course, God’s saving grace in their lives will ultimately be His work and His work alone. But God has commanded us to teach our children about the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:4-7). Your church will not be held accountable for Deuteronomy 6, nor will your youth or children’s pastor. You and I will be held accountable by God for the discipleship of our families. In previous blogs, I have discussed modeling and teaching spiritual truth to children and teenagers. May the Lord help us to be faithful to this awesome responsibility, that by His grace we will raise a generation that will serve and know the Lord to His glory and our joy.