“6 When Joshua dismissed the people, the Israelites all went to their own inheritances to take possession of the land. 7 The people worshiped the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work that the LORD had done for Israel. 8 Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of one hundred ten years. 9 So they buried him within the bounds of his inheritance in Timnath-heres, in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash. 10 Moreover, that whole generation was gathered to their ancestors, and another generation grew up after them, who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel.
11 Then the Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and worshiped the Baals; 12 and they abandoned the LORD, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; they followed other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were all around them, and bowed down to them; and they provoked the LORD to anger. 13 They abandoned the LORD, and worshiped Baal and the Astartes. 14 So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers who plundered them, and he sold them into the power of their enemies all around, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. 15 Whenever they marched out, the hand of the LORD was against them to bring misfortune, as the LORD had warned them and sworn to them; and they were in great distress.” NRSV
This story contains one of the most unnerving verses in the whole Bible, at least for me. “Moreover, that whole generation was gathered to their ancestors, and another generation grew up after them, who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel.”
The generation that was gathered to their ancestors is the generation that conquered and settled the promised land. One wonders how their children and grandchildren could not know the LORD? We are not told the circumstances, only the result.
It is the faithful’s responsibility, in every generation, to pass the knowledge of, faith in, and love for God to the next generations. It is the faithful’s responsibility to wrap their children and grandchildren in the love and joy of their faith; to share the life-energy they get from their faith as something that will want to claim and treasure for themselves.
Too often, we communicate more of a sense of duty than love. More of sense of judgment than grace (God will punish you if you don’t go to church!). Or, an “I’ll go to church when I have nothing us to do with my Sunday morning” kind of apathy toward God.
And, it is the church’s responsibility to create a nurturing atmosphere of love and joy within the gathered community for the younger generations. Too often they get more of our frustrations and fears; or disagreements with the pastor or leaders; or they are told budget constraints or a lack of volunteers will no longer allow them them to have the activities that feed and nurture their tender young spirits.
An astute observer of all things church can’t help but wonder if we are walking the same path as the generation “who did not know the LORD” in this story from Judges?
For sure, there are a lot more factors involved than just what the faithful and the church can provide, but we must be diligent in doing our part. If our faith matters to us, then passing it along to the next generation ought to matter more to us.
Our written will leaves them only our possessions. It is the will of God that we leave them our knowledge of, faith in, and love for God. This “will” requires no words, only action.
Be a blessing to someone today!