The Herald Weekly Vol XVII : 3

They Do Not Know God

How do we enable the second and third generations of Christians to hold onto their faith? Not only is this a challenge face all the time, I have observed from my ministry in various countries that it is a growing challenge which the Church has been looking into.

Judges 2:6-7 records the living conditions of the Israelites in the land allocated to them after their leader, Joshua, had passed away. The Book of Judges showed how the Israelites disobeyed God repeatedly. As a result, God’s anger came upon them, causing them to suffer at the hands of the Gentiles. The Israelites would cry out to God. In His mercy and faithfulness, God raised up judges (vc16) who would rescue them from the Gentiles. Peace would return. However after some time, the Israelites would make God angry again, and the cycle would be repeated seven times. Why did the Israelites end up in such a state?

(1) Failure in educating the family about God (verse 6-10)

When Joshua was alive, the Israelites obeyed the Word of God and served Him because they had witnessed the acts of God, and experienced His presence. However, when the generation that had personally encountered God passed away, what God had done became just memories. The Bible described it as: “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 He had done for Israel.” Here, the phrase “who did not know” refers to a state of unbelief. It does not refer to a lack of knowledge.

While they were growing up, their parents and older members of the family neglected teaching about God and all that He had done for their ancestors, thus failing to pass on their faith. Thus, this generation did not know God or His works and grace shown towards their ancestors. Neither were they aware about God’s covenant with His people.

God knew the weakness of the Israelites. Before He gave them the land of Canaan, God gave His commands through Moses on how they were to live in Canaan (Deut. 6:1-9), especially on their spiritual responsibilities of (Deut 6:4-9) teaching the children to obey His laws. Until today, every Israelite is to memorize the Scriptures, a commandment from God. They would be blessed if they obey His laws (Deut 6:13-18). God requires parents to tell their children about His works in the history of Israel (Deut 6:20-25). Before the Israelites settled on the land allocated to them for building their  homes, Joshua gathered them once again in Shechem and exhorted them to serve God in sincerity and in truth (Josh 24:14-15). The people responded positively and set up a large stone to serve as a witness to their covenant with God (Josh 24:24-28).

It is clear that God wanted the Israelites to teach His laws to the next generation. So why did the families of Israel neglect His instructions? There are a few reasons:

1. They were busy battling with the remaining Canaanites in order to take over the land completely.
2. They were busy building their homes, focusing on establishing external living conditions without equal attention paid to internal spiritual condition.
3. The younger generation might not have listened to or ignored their parent’s teachings.

Such problems also exist in many families today. Parents emphasize outward progress but neglect the home and children. Inevitably, neglected children get into trouble, as seen from rising crime rates contributed by neglected youth today. Although parents may not be totally at fault, their absence when children most need their guidance is a key factor that impacts the formation of their children’s character and future direction. Children who grow up without good parenting role models would not know how to raise their own children, which in turn perpetuates a vicious cycle as described in Judges 2. Therefore, parents must honour God first by loving, obeying and glorifying Him in word and deed. This includes teaching their children about His grace and works, so that they, too, will know who God is and acknowledge His sovereignty.

(2) Failure in worship (verse 11-13)

Why did the Israelites turn away from God to worship the gods of the Canaanites – Baal and Ashtaroth? These two idols were often credited for human productive fertility and agricultural harvests, both of which were highly sought after in an agricultural society. Since the God of their fathers could not be readily seen, any idol that was visible and touted to provide some benefits was an easy temptation to turn away from the true God leading to it’s worship instead.

This is also the current situation. When a person is not connected to God, he would look for a false god (not necessarily visible) to fill the emptiness in his heart. Yet we know that nothing in this world can truly satisfy our souls, because anyone who replaces the true God with other god will only increase and intensify his or her own misery. If we are not careful, we may end up in such a state. Parents who are busy and consumed by secular activities lack the heart of true worship of God and dishonour Him, causing them to lose their spiritual authority to teach, influence and impact the next generation.

My God protect all of us and grant each of us a heart and burden to truly honour Him by being sure of whom He is truly, and holds Him in the highest honour and glory. May we together boldly proclaim with Joshua: “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh 24:15). Today, God has given us parents the spiritual authority to teach our children. We must treat the task of securing our children’s faith seriously and endeavour to give our best to God by fulfilling His command faithfully and diligently. Let us tell all our succeeding generations who our Almighty God is and what He has done so that we will nurture them to continue to honour and glorify Him.

Article from Living Word NewsLetter

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