“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 ESV)
Bear with me. We are on the brink of having our first child (hopefully the first of many) and so everywhere I look I can not help but think of child rearing and how Faith and I are going to disciple our little ones.
After years of wandering, Israel has finally made it to the promised land. They have failed to love their Lord however, and so naturally they are going to reap the consequences. One of the largest ways in which we read that they have failed is in discipling their children, as the passage above indicates.
Back in Deuteronomy, with the giving of the covenant, Israel had been given three distinct commands on how they are to raise their children. Notice how closely related the raising of children is to the nations covenantal relationship with their loving God who delivered them out of bondage and called them His children.
“Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children—how on the day that you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, the LORD said to me, ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.’ (Deuteronomy 4:9-10 ESV)
“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 on 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV)
“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth. (Deuteronomy 11:18-21 ESV)
Now let’s look back to the passage in Judges. Another generation has passed away and a new generation has arisen in Israel. But this generation does not 1. know the LORD or 2. know of the work that he has done for Israel. And so, Israel has not only failed in their job of driving out of the land of it’s former wicked inhabitants, thus being hindered by the presence of their fake gods; but, parents have also failed to properly teach their children to know the LORD and to boast in the deeds of the LORD. This is going to have a profound effect on the nation.
How familiar does this sound to America? In a large part, conservative Christians have wondered why our nation has become religiously, politically, culturally, even logically confused and has wandered into the deep dark abbys of relativism, far away from it’s former identity. With our fists wagging in the air we blame the direction of our nation on the media, government, and dance moves of Miley Cyrus. But to what obvious extent is this our fault?
For the most part, Christians have left education, both of spiritual and secular natures, to the government and the institutional church. Sunday schools, youth groups, and ‘kid’s church’ are not in and of themselves wicked and evil, these are helpful programs set up with the nurture of our children in mind. But these programs should only come as secondary to the discipleship done by parents, and they should not be the only means by which our children know Jesus and know of his work.
Brothers and sisters, what a blessed task we have been handed. God has not only commanded you but invited you to to herald the good news of the Gospel of grace to your children. The Gospel is good news; it is the good news of who God is and the work he has done. Parents, there is no better news that we can teach to our children. To know the LORD and to know what he has done. There is no better news that we can share at the dinner table. There is no better story that we can read to children in their beds. There is no better song that we can sing. There is no better word that we can write on our doorposts and display on our walls.
Dads, you are your child’s first pastor, the first shepherd of their souls. Mom’s, you are your child’s first teacher, the first mouth to tell them of the work of the cross. What a blessed responsibility! May we raise our children to know the LORD and know of his work, that they may teach their children and announce the good news of the Kingdom of God to the world, for their joy and for the glory of God.