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.
How did they not know? God had left specific instructions for teaching children about Himself (Deut. 6:4-9) and He had provided natural opportunities to do so both in physical landmarks (e.g. ebenezers or monuments to the Lord's deeds- see Josh. 4:1-9) and in the Israelite calendar (e.g. the Passover festival among others- see Ex. 12:21-27). Somewhere along the line the Israelite parents neglected their duty to teach their own children about God and his deeds. That, combined with the powerful influence of the pagan culture around them, seduced their children away from the Lord. This failure cost the Israelite community dearly over hundreds of years. They fell into a pattern of sin that resulted in God's punishment. They would cry out to God for deliverance, and mercifully God would rescue them from the hand of their enemies. But after a short-lived peace, the people would once again fall into sin.
Judges 2:10 has a sobering effect on me as a dad and as a minister to youth and children. As I look around at our churches and families I fear that the church in America may be falling prey to the same shortcoming that plagued the Israelites so long ago. How can we win the world if we are losing the battle for the hearts of our own children?
We send our children to secular schools for seven or eight hours a day. They spend countless hours practicing and competing in secular sports leagues. Every second of every day they are inundated with information about which starlet went braless at what premier and which running back will be starting for their team. Our children are growing up in an environment that is arguably filled with more information and entertainment than any other society in history. In the swirl of all this distraction we cannot allow our homes to become secular environments as well. Our homes should not be filled with secular movies, music and TV shows; but with the gospel of Christ lived out every day in the context of family. They should be filled with family Bible study, Christian music, worship, and careful individual instruction in the Word.
I am not suggesting that we retreat from our task of winning the world for Christ and hide our children away in little Christian monasteries. What I am saying is that if we cannot win our own children for Christ then I think we have very little of hope of winning the world for Him either. We must begin here. We must win this battle if we hope to fare well in the war. And right now I fear that we are losing the battle for our own children.
For further reading...
- Deut. 6:4-9- The quintessential passage in the Bible on teaching our children about God.
- Josh. 4:1-9- A physical monument to God's work can be a great discussion starter for teaching kids about God.
- Ex. 12:21-27- Work natural opportunities to teach your children about God into you yearly calendar. Use holidays like Easter, Good Friday, Christmas, and Martin Luther King Jr. day as learning opportunities for your family.