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Generational Christianity September 10, 2015

Posted by TJ Friend in Encouragements.
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I want to talk about something that has been on my mind recently. I read this passage and it got me thinking about the interaction between generations of people, especially those who believe in God.

The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel.

Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten. And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.

10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals.12 They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the Lord’s anger 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. (Judges 2:7-13)

This passage is found at the beginning of the book of Judges and tells the result of Joshua’s death. To recap – the Israelites were given a promise (through Abraham) to receive a certain portion of land as their own. God had miraculously delivered the people from Egypt and led them on a journey to this promised land. The generation of people delivered from Egypt ended up dying in the wilderness because of their lack of faith. The next generation, led by Joshua, went throughout the land defeating the people living there. As it says in Josh 2:7, “The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and the elders who outlived him and had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel”. This second generation saw God fighting for Israel and helping them to defeat armies much greater than them. They saw God stop up the waters of the Jordan so they could cross over, they basically defeated Jericho just by marching around it and they even saw the sun stand still. They had every reason to believe God and follow him.

What saddens me about this passage is verse 10 – “After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who neither knew the Lord nor what he had done for Israel”.  Probably the most important time in Israelite history was when God delivered them from Egypt. Not only did God prove his power over the Egyptians with the 10 plagues, but He literally parted the Red Sea so that they could walk across on dry ground. God proved once and for all that He was the only true God. Now, only two generations later, the people have no knowledge of what God did for His people.

Back in the book of Deuteronomy God specifically told the people to keep the commandments and “impress them” on their children.

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

10 When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, 12 be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. (Deut 6:6-12).

In this passage, He even warns them not to forget the Lord. God’s intention was not that one generation would be blessed and honor Him. God wanted future generations to follow Him as well. God even had the people set up things to help them remember. He instituted the Passover so that they would always remember their deliverance from Egypt. He even had them set up altars like the one in Joshua 4 (after they had crossed the Jordan on dry land) to help remind the future generations.

When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe,and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.”

So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites,to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” (Josh 4:1-7)

So, what does all this mean? It means we need a shift in our perspective. We are naturally prone to forget what God has done for us. We have a tendency to think only about ourselves and our own current situation. I think these passages challenge us to broaden our perspective. We need to think generationally. When God does things for us, it is not simply for our benefit so that we can rest in His goodness. This primarily happens in the family. I actually believe that one of the reasons God instituted families was to instill the knowledge of God to the next generation. Even if children end up turning away from God, there is no excuse for someone to be born into a Christian home and not know about God.

When we look at the results of the Israelites who grew up not knowing God, we see they defaulted into idolatry and ended up incurring God’s wrath. The whole book of Judges repeats this cycle, where God would raise up a judge to save Israel, they would follow that leader until he died and then the next generation would fall back into the same sin patterns which would lead to them being taken over by other nations and God having to raise up another judge for them. The cycle would have broken if they could have carried over the dedication to serve God from one generation to the next.

We have a responsibility to take what God has done and share it with the next generation. This doesn’t just apply to those who are married with a family. We as part of the family of believers have a responsibility to share God’s goodness with the younger generation as well. We need more spiritual fathers and mothers in the Church who are willing to share what God has done for them and disciple others in the teachings of Christ.

It seems, especially in America, we are extremely individualistic. We have a hard time thinking of the Church outside of our own personal relationship. We are called to be a unit, a body, working together and supporting each other, not isolated units that share common beliefs. This individualism makes us miss God’s heart. God is eternal and his desire is that generations would be saved. We are so focused on our own individual link in the chain that we forget that we are part of a bigger chain that stretches through time as parents share with their children and those children share with their children.

I would encourage those who are older in the faith to intentionally seek out younger people to share with. Spend some time with them and let them know what God has done for you. For those who are younger, make an effort to get to know the older generation of believers. Listen and learn from their experience and knowledge. Don’t miss out on what they have to offer.