Every time that I read/study/teach through the Old Testament, I am struck by something different. When I brought my kids through the last couple of years, I was struck by the constant example of a faithful God to unfaithful people. From Adam and Even, to Noah, Abraham, the people through the wilderness, and then into the land, the people exhibit an all too familiar penchant for exchanging the glory of God for the world around them. They pursued the creation rather than the Creator.
Over the course of our study with the Foundation’s Bible Study, I have been hit with something new. I think this pattern is one that I have noticed now due to it connecting with my own fears. It was never too much of a concern, but as I get older, and, more specifically, my kids get older, I realize this hits much closer to home than it used to.
The pattern is this: throughout Israel’s history, the nation and its leaders show an astounding failure to pass God’s truth onto their children. While I cannot say authoritatively that the reason many of their children fell away, there is definitely a pattern and many were not taught the fear of the Lord or to walk in His ways.
The list is somewhat comprehensive. Let me provide a few examples of this pattern:
- From the get go, Cain kills his own brother in a jealous rage over not understanding what pleases the Lord in worship!
- Abraham’s failure to bring Ishmael up in the fear of the Lord.
- Jacob raising sons who think killing their little brother is ok and then resigning to pretend he is dead and sell him into slavery.
- Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, offering profane fire to the Lord. They would have been intricately involved in leading the people in worship.
- In the beginning of Judges, after the conquest of the land (2:10) it says, “There arose another generation that did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for them.” The generation of the conquest didn’t pass on the fear of the Lord to the next generation, preparing the way for the constant cycles of faithlessness in Judges.
- In I Samuel, we see Eli, the religious leader of the nation, raise two completely morally corrupt sons. They were supposed to be leading the nation in worship before God and they were sleeping around with women who were serving God.
- Samuel, who replaced Eli, had his own failure. The nation of Israel was so afraid of his corrupt kids taking over that they demanded a king to rule over them.
- David’s sons didn’t win any “Sons of the Year” awards, either. Amnon, one of his sons, raped his half sister, Tamar. When Absolam, Tamar’s brother found out, he eventually hunts Amnon down and kills him. This is shortly followed by Absolam leading a rebellion and claiming the kingdom his while his dad is alive and well.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, by any means, but you get the idea. Here are examples of people, many of them who served the Lord in faithfulness, whose own children fell so far away. One doesn’t have to look far today to see young ones brought up in Christian homes who grow to want nothing to do with their parent’s faith.
As the father of two adorable children who claim to believe and want to grow in obedience, I fear that they too will walk down that road some day. I know that nothing I do will save them, that there is no winning formula to guarantee their desires will be for Christlikeness. But I think the tools to put them on the best path possible lay in my hands, just as they did with the children of Israel.
Deuteronomy 4:9 “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.”
Deuteronomy 6:20-25 “When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. And the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to our fathers. And the lORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.”
Deuteronomy 11:19 “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.”
It is clear that there is no way to guarantee your child will follow in your steps in their pursuit of the LORD, but there are things that we MUST do, not only for the good of our children, but primarily for the glory of God. Teach them God’s Word. Instruct their hearts to fear the LORD. Train their hearts to beat for God’s glory. Failure to do so is more of a guarantee that they will fall away.
It is astounding for me to read those words in Judges 2:10. How does a nation fail to pass along the law of the LORD and tell of His great faithfulness and works on their behalf?! A generation that saw the walls of Jericho fall at their feet, who saw armies destroyed by God, saw water just separate at His commands, fail to pass those along? Again, it is easy to point disbelievingly at them, but the greater miracle has happened in the redemption of our rebellious hearts through the death and resurrection of God’s Son. And there are those that fail to pass this along to their children. May we be a people that do not hesitate to proclaim God’s unending faithfulness in our lives, and may God be gracious to open the hearts of our young ones to bring Him glory.