Passing on the Faith
May 9, 2019 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
A tragedy is recorded in Judges 2:10. It’s the tragedy that every believing parent and grandparent dreads. “And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.”
The faith was not passed on to the children.
The Old Testament is full of stories of children not following in the faith foot-steps of their parents. Aaron with his sons, Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10:1-3). Eli and his sons (1 Sam. 2:22-25). Solomon with his son, Rehoboam (1 Kings 12:1-15). Hezekiah with his son, Manasseh (2 Kings 21:1-3). Josiah and his boys, Jehoahaz and Eliakim (2 Kings 23:31-35).
God-fearing parents with children who reject God and his ways. It’s a heart-breaking tragedy.
Before we start judging these parents for failing to pass on the faith to their children, let me highlight a little, utterly important, detail from Judges 2:10. The new generation “did not know the Lord.” The word “know” is such a rich word in the Old Testament. It’s used to speak about sexual intimacy (Gen. 4:1). It’s used for spiritual intimacy with the Lord (1 Sam. 2:12). It’s used to speak of God’s covenantal commitment to his people (Ps. 1:6).
The writer of Judges says that this new generation did not have a spiritual intimacy with the Lord when he says they “did not know the Lord” (2:10). Why is this so important to note for parenting?
- Parents, no matter how faithful they are to teach their children the faith and pray for them, cannot change the hearts of their children. Certainly, this generation that Judges 2:10 speaks about knew some facts about God. They certainly had heard of the exodus and the tabernacle and the sacrifices. And there are examples, even from that generation, of people who still followed God in faith. But Judges 2:10 says that, for the most part, that generation had no heart for the Lord. Parents are responsible to pass on the faith to their children. They are responsible to pray for their children. But no parent is responsible to transform the hearts of their children. We can’t do it. Let’s not be too quick to judge the parents of that generation.
With that said, there still is a word of warning for parents in Judges 2:10. For it not only says they “did not know the Lord,” but is also says that they did not know “the work that he had done for Israel.” I just cannot imagine that within one or two generations after the events of the Exodus that no one spoke about what God had done for Israel. What could Judges 2:10 mean, then? This generation did not learn a God-centered, God-exalting, God-saving perspective on the events of the Exodus. They did not hear of the stories as God’s personal, saving work on their behalf; therefore, God became impersonal to them.
So, we can add one more lesson for parents, deduced from Judges 2:10:
- Parents have the primary responsibility to train their children to have a personal, faith-filled relationship with their covenant keeping God. We can’t just teach them stories about God. We can’t just keep God in a Sunday, church compartment. We can’t just pass on to our children head knowledge. This life of faith must be modeled. Children need to be trained in how to live by faith in God on a daily basis.
This is the heart of the exhortation in Deuteronomy 6:4-9:
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.
We are called to model and teach a covenant relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, for the next generation.