Christianity 201

January 10, 2015

When a “Faith Generation” Dies

Joshua 24:31 Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the Lord had done for Israel.

When you read the above verse in the NIV, it sounds like a commendation of Israel’s steadfastness, but in the CEV, we see it as conditional:

31 As long as Joshua lived, Israel worshiped and obeyed the Lord. There were other leaders old enough to remember everything that the Lord had done for Israel. And for as long as these men lived, Israel continued to worship and obey the Lord.

Matthew Henry tries to put a positive spin on this:

While Joshua lived, religion was kept up among them under his care and influence; but soon after he and his contemporaries died it went to decay, so much oftentimes does one head hold up: how well is it for the gospel church that Christ, our Joshua, is still with it, by his Spirit, and will be always, even unto the end of the world!

However, we know that even in an era after the giving of the Holy Spirit, we often see a falling away from the truths of God and His ways among generations which follow, even those who follow periods of great revival, and the rise of apostasy. The Zondervan Bible Commentary states:

That the people were faithful “throughout the lifetime of Joshua” is eloquent testimony to the power of Joshua’s influence. The memorials, confessions and rituals of covenant renewal were designed to keep the people loyal, but these were not adequate forever. (p. 327)

That commentary follows with a reference to how the story turned in Judges 2:

10 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. 11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the Lord’s anger 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. 14 In his anger against Israel the Lord gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. 15 Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the Lord was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress.

My oldest son is now in his 20s and though he has come late to it, has taken up learning to play the piano. He plays a few jazz standards, a lot of classical music, and as come to love the hymns. He’ll find an old hymnbook, mark a few titles that interest him and then sight read the selections.

He gets the accidentals better than I do playing by ear, and certainly captures a chord structure that is not present in our modern worship. But often I wish there were more places where he could go online and hear the hymns the way I remember us signing them in rousing evening services (remember the days of the 7:00 PM service?) and evangelistic meetings.

It’s not just music. Sometimes the teachings of the church are not passed on to successive generations, or perhaps instead, the next generation outright rejects what has been given to them. Now, it must be said that the book of Ezra is a reminder that these truths can be rediscovered. But at the same time, books like II Kings remind us that successive generations of people (in its case, the royalty) can vacillate between honoring God and rejecting him.  (See this article for more on this.)

Perhaps in our day some didn’t quite grasp all that the Lord in his grace and mercy was offering. Perhaps those who were stewarded the responsibility of teaching the next generation did not adequately prepare or study what it was they were supposed to be imparting.

What is the spiritual state of our children, teens, twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings? What are we passing on to our kids?


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