And the people served 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. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of 110 years. And they buried him within the boundaries of his inheritance in Timnath-heres, in the hill country of Ephraim, north of the mountain of Gaash. And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel. (Judges 2:7-10)
I came across this passage in my Bible reading yesterday. (See this post I wrote about the plan I'm using this year.) As a mom, I think this has got to be one of the most sobering and saddening passages in the Bible. Think about it. The people of Israel were slaves in Egypt. Then God, by his own mighty hand and through incredible feats of power, delivered them. God's fame spread through all the known world. Then God led them through the desert. He provided them with food and water. And he gave them his law, so that they would know how to live. (They didn't have to use guesswork or trial and error to please him like the idol worshipers did with their gods.) He subdued nations before them. He even appeared to them in smoke and fire on Mount Sinai. And all through this time, he kept telling them to remember and pass down the stories of what he had done.
“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. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
The Exodus generation failed to believe that God could keep his promise to give them the land. So they died in the wilderness, and their children went into the land. That generation saw God work in a mighty way, too. They conquered the land. They drove out the Canaanites. And they followed God.
But they failed to pass on to their children the story of what God had done. Once they died, the next generation not only did not know God, they didn't know what he had done in the Exodus. They had never heard of Moses or the Red Sea. They knew nothing of Mana or water from a rock. And so they began to worship the gods of the people around them.
What a sobering thought. Am I passing on to my children God's story? My little guy is still to young to understand much, but I want to get in the habit now of talking to him about God. I want him to know what God has done in my life, in our family's life, in history, and in the Bible. I want God's story to be real to him. I haven't worked out exactly what that looks like yet, but I'm thinking about it.
I realize that I cannot make my son follow God. He will have to make his own choices and respond to the Holy Spirit's working in his life. But in the end, I don't want it to be said of him as it was of the Israelites that he made those choices due to lack of knowledge!
What are practical ideas do you have for ways that we can pass on God's story to our children?