“After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals (Judges 2:10–11).”
This topic is interesting and comes up quite frequently these days as there seems to be so much frustration among generations: the traditionalists, the boomers, generation X and millennials. Some of these various generations are mortal enemies. I don’t think it’s new…it’s always been that way. Any generation containing a parent and teenager is going to struggle. Every generation shudders thinking about the next generation one day running the country!
I don’t believe this verse blames the next generation. You’ll notice the problem with this new generation is that they did not “know the Lord or the works he had done for Israel.” I don’t think for a minute that means they didn’t know about the Exodus or the Red Sea crossing, or the Jordan crossing, or the walls of Jericho. They knew the stories; they celebrated Passover each year.
I think it describes how they had no personal experience with God. They had failed to make those important, historical, saving acts of God central in their lives. We might say they knew about God, but didn’t know him personally.
In other words, this new generation was riding on the faith coat tails of their parents and grandparents. They didn’t own it themselves. God was a subject to be studied. Their religion was simply their heritage.
Since there was no relationship, following God’s rules was no longer important. And so, we soon find them breaking the Second Commandment and worshiping idols.
This isn’t the last time we see this in history. In the American church in the 17th/18th century, Puritans created what they called the “Half-Way Covenant.” It described someone who had been baptized and belonged to the church, but had no evidence of being a Christian: in other words, half Christians (of course, the Bible describes no such thing.).
Who’s to blame when one generation fails to pass along their faith to the next generation? Maybe the parents did a poor job communicating the truth? Maybe the kids hardened their hearts? I imagine there’s enough blame to go around.
To pass along our faith to the next generation, we must begin with ourselves. We must first love the Lord with our whole heart, soul, and strength. We must take God’s word seriously before we can ever hope to pass it along to the next generation. I’ve seen two things that turn younger generations away from the faith. Hypocrisy is one, for sure. But a lack of fervency is just as off-putting to someone who is trying to find meaning in life.
The goal is not just the passing along of information about God to the next generation. Instead, we introduce them to the Lord so they might begin their own relationship with him.
Jim Mann, Ph.D. pastors New Life Church at Robson Ranch. This interdenominational church meets at the Robson Clubhouse on Sunday mornings at 8:30 a.m. Visit www.newlifedenton.org for more information or www.drjimmann.com.