While reading my Bible recently, I came across an old note written in the margin. It said, “One of the saddest verses.” It is Judges 2:10 and reads, “And all that generation were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD, nor yet the work which he had done for Israel.” Its inclusion in scripture is poignant reminder of our duty to teach the next generation and a warning of what happens when we do not.
Before Moses died and as the Israelites were at last preparing to enter the promise land, Moses reminded the Israelites of God’s commands by repeating the Ten Commandments. We find that in Deuteronomy 5. Continuing his instructions in Deuteronomy 6: 4-9, he says, “Hear O Israel! The LORD our God is one! And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk to them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” He follows this with a warning. He warns that God leads them into the land and they find themselves comfortably settled to watch so that they do not forget the God who brought them to safety. Their worship is to be reserved for him and him alone. Sadly, just a generation after settling the land and the Israelites forgot the teachings of the Lord through Moses.
For many of us today, we look at the current generations on the earth and mourn. We see so many who have walked away from the knowledge of God and turned to the gods of this world. We wonder how to fight it when it seems like so many of our youth in our churches turn from their faith once they enter college or take a job. We find the answer in the two above scriptures.
Why has our generation wandered?
This generation has wandered because it has forgotten the Lord. Not only do they not know the work he did for Israel, but the work he has done for the entire world through Jesus Christ. They have not seen the personal relationship of Christ in others and cannot comprehend what it looks like or why it is necessary. When looking for meaning, they do not know that meaning is found in serving God and pleasing him; and so must search for meaning among the trivialities of humankind.
The same problem faced Israel in the day of the Judges. Without an intimate knowledge of God, they found themselves forgetting his goodness, forgetting his righteousness, and forgetting his provision for them. They were lost and did not know it. They had lost an enormous wealth and did not recognize that they were suddenly poor.
How do we respond today?
The answer is as simple today as it was thousands of years ago. First, we must remember our God. “Hear, O Israel! The LORD our God is one” is a clarion call to remember our God. It is the call to Israel not to forget the God who loved, rescued, and provided for her. That call has not faded with time. It calls out not just to Israel, but also to the entire body of believers in Jesus Christ! We must not and cannot forget our heavenly Father. He is and should be both the beginning and the end of all that we desire!
Second, we should love LORD our God with all of our being. His love for us and our love for him should consume us. Our passion, our strength, and our minds must be turned toward him. His words should always be in our hearts.
And, if his word is always in our heart, then our third step is to teach our children and youth why we have that passion and to encourage the same in them. When we wake them in the morning, we should remind them of our God, the blessing and love we have in him, and why we have it. When we are at home, we should share with them why he is the center of our homes. When we go out, whether to work or to play, we teach them about God and how important he is in each thing we do. As we lay down at night, we teach them to thank God for the day. We explain that God was there through the trials of the day as well as in the blessings of the day. We teach them to surrender to him morning, noon, and night.
Finally, we teach them not to become complacent. We are never to take for granted the bounty that we have or to grow comfortable with our place in the world. Our place is with God and we are just on a journey here. We remind our youth and children (and ourselves) each day that all that we have is given by God and we are his stewards here to watch over and care for what he has given. We are thankful, graceful, and loving because of whom he is and all he has given. We train them to teach their children in the same way.
Let us raise a generation that does not forget God. Instead of a Judges 2 generation, let us raise up a 2 Chronicles 34:2 generation, “And he did right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the ways of his father David and did not turn aside to the right or to the left.”