Dear radio friends,
Will the next generation know? Will they possess the faith that you have? Will your children and grandchildren know God? Will they live unashamedly a godly life? The little children that you, perhaps, have in your arms today, the infants, the little boys and the little girls, the kindergarteners and the pre-schoolers, the generation that is coming in the church — will they know? Will they know the truth of the gospel? What about those not yet born, those within the womb? Will they grow up to love God? Will they embrace, with heart, the glorious and vibrant Reformed faith that proclaims Soli Deo Gloria, to God alone the glory? Will they live holy lives in Christ in marriage and in family? Will they keep the Sabbath Day? Will they love the church? Will they forsake the world? Will they confess Jesus Christ as their only Savior? Will the next generation know?
Will they truly know that our only comfort is to belong to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ, and will they henceforth be ready sincerely to live no longer unto themselves but unto Him? Will God be in your generations?
The answer is found in what you do as a parent. Now, understand that the Word of God proclaims that God is powerful and faithful. In Ezekiel, the Lord says to a disobedient people: “Yet will I do it for my own holy name’s sake.” He will have a church on earth even unto the end. God has been and is and will continue to be faithful to His church. We must remember that, as believers today and as parents, we are what we are by the grace of God alone — by His irresistible, unchangeable, covenant-keeping grace.
But all of this does not deny the responsibility that God has given to parents, that God has given to each generation, to teach the truth to the generation that follows. To the utmost of out ability, we vow, we will teach them.
If we, as parents, allow our children to grow up without the knowledge of God, if we do not see to their spiritual life, we serve not only their ignorance, but their destruction.
The way of humility and love and zeal and dedication as parents is clear. No, as the entire generation of believers today our calling is not laxity, our calling is not indifference. Our calling is zeal for Jehovah of hosts, especially in the life of the generation that is following us. One of the worst things to be said of a person in the Day of Judgment is: “I never knew you. Depart from Me ye that work iniquity.” One of the worst things that can be said of any generation right now is: “They know not the Lord, nor yet His mighty works which He did for Israel. They have done evil in the sight of the Lord.”
Today this program goes forth to those who most likely profess a knowledge of Jehovah, a knowledge of God, a knowledge of the Bible, a knowledge of Jesus Christ. What are you doing with that knowledge?
Specifically, as a parent, the Word of God goes to you today. What is the heartbeat of your home? It is your calling, it is your responsibility before God, that you must teach your children the truth. Seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day, three hundred and sixty-five days a year, all the years of your life — teach them the praises, the might, the works of the Lord that they might hope in Him.
In Judges, chapter 2, the verses 6-14, we learn of a generation that knew not the Lord, nor yet the mighty works that He had done for Israel. It was a generation that arose shortly after the death of Joshua and the elders that lived after Joshua. On the basis of that Word of God, I speak to you today on the behalf of the generation that is coming after you — because they cannot speak. Perhaps they are but little children. Or perhaps, as I said earlier, they are still in the womb. Let me speak for them. Let me speak God’s Word that they would speak to you. It is this: “Teach me to know Jehovah. Teach me to trust, obey, and worship Jehovah.” The covenant seed of the church calls you, this present generation, to do that. This is the God-ordained responsibility of every believing generation, every age group that gives birth to the next generation.
In Judges 2 we read that Joshua, the man who brought Israel into the land of Canaan, died when he was 110 years old. He had led Israel over Jordan and into the promised land. He had fought many a battle and had divided the land and had set a good example of faith. He had confessed, in Joshua 24, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!” Under Joshua, and under the generation of elders who had seen all the great works of the Lord and who outlived Joshua, Israel faithfully served the Lord. While a generation lived that knew Jehovah’s greatness and His mercy toward Israel, the people remained devoted to God.
But then something terrible happened. Something that can happen at any time when instruction and godly living ceases in a people. We read in verse 10-12, “There arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.” They were not taught. And the result? See verse 11: “And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim: … and they forsook the LORD and served Baal and Ashtaroth.” There arose a generation that was born in believing homes, that was “in the covenant,” as we say, but who did not care about the faith. They did not know God personally. They became devoted to the world. They became indulgent to every lust of the flesh and to every sin under the sun.
And then we read: “The anger of the LORD was hot against Israel … so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies” (v. 14).
There was a generation that did not know the Lord. That generation arose because the generation before them did not instruct them. We perceive from Judges 2 that all of this began rather gradually. There are a number of generations that are mentioned. Joshua, the elders after him, the generation after the elders who did not teach, and then the generation that did not know.
The idea is this. First there was a generation in whom the memory of God and His works was alive. Then there was a generation that neglected all of that for some reason, perhaps affluence. Whatever it may have been, the result was that they did not teach their children. Then a third generation arose that forsook God and God brought judgment upon themselves.
What is God saying? He is saying this: The knowledge of God is preserved when a generation personally knows and experiences God’s power — personally experiences it — when faith flourishes and godliness is beautiful in their life.
Secondly, when parents do not instruct the next generation, then a generation arises that is not only ignorant of the truth but forsakes the truth and joins the world and is destroyed.
Thirdly, it is therefore the solemn duty of believing parents to teach their children about God and His saving work, to live as an example, so that the faith is transmitted to them. It is God’s will, it is ordained by God as a precept, that parents teach their children His saving work and mirror that saving grace to their children in how they live. It is your calling, as a parent, to teach your child to think correctly about God. It is your calling to form their moral values. It is your calling to teach them how to be a man or woman of God — how to live a holy life. The first assignment a parent has after God says, “Store up the Word of God in your own heart,” is this: Teach it to your children.
What is so striking in the passage that we read in Judges 2 is that there was a generation that did not do this — they did not teach — and the very next generation did evil in the sight of the Lord and forsook Jehovah. We are told that they did this because they did not know the Lord. That means that they did not know Him in faith. I do not believe that it means total ignorance. I do not believe that after Joshua and the elders of Israel died, Israel went into spiritual stone-age. No, I believe that these children, this generation, probably knew some data, knew some dates, knew some events. Perhaps even the Canaanites around them knew of God’s works. They did, you know. The Canaanites, the people of the land of Canaan, knew about the ten plagues in Egypt, knew about the Red Sea, knew the history of Israel. They knew it quite well. But there arose a generation that did not know the Lord — not about the Lord — but did not know the Lord — did not know Him in the heart, did not know Him personally in their life. They were dead. Religion was dead orthodoxy to them. They did not know the works that God had done for Israel. Oh, they knew the Bible stories. They knew about the bondage in Egypt, the water out of the rock, the walls of Jericho, the sun standing still. But they saw no correlation between those works of the past and their own life. It was only history. They did not see that all of those works were pictures, were enactments of how God worked in their own lives. They did not see God’s power mirrored in any of these things. What makes God’s works so stirring? What makes the truth of creation, and David and Goliath, and all of the other stories of the Bible so stirring? Because they are God’s works for me. That is how God works in my life. This God, this same God, works the same way in my life.
Now, parent, do you know Jehovah? Do you know Him as the God who has established a covenant of love and warmth and grace with you in Christ Jesus? Do you know that He did not need to do this? He did this entirely of His own grace. Did you know that He opened your heart so that you might know Him? And do you hate your sin and desire to live a pure and holy life before Him? You must teach the generation to come of that saving grace, of that true religion, of that orthodox, correct, loving, vibrant confession of God in the midst of the world.
God issues a severe warning against neglecting this privilege by showing us the results of such neglect. The results were there: an entire generation that knew not the Lord and fell away into ungodliness and destruction.
Why did that happen? A number of things contributed to this.
First of all, in chapter 1 of Judges, we read that the people of Israel did not, after the death of Joshua, drive out the inhabitants of the land, that is, the Canaanites. They did not live the antithesis. The antithesis is the biblical truth that God has made a spiritual separation between the believer and the world. The believer is to abstain from ungodliness. Instead of abstaining from ungodliness, there was a generation that thought that that was too costly and that it was not all that important to live a holy, separate life from the world. So, in today’s terms, they were not very careful about what came into their house and what was watched on television. They were tired of giving vigilance to their eyes and to their ears to make sure that their eyes and their ears were kept pure. They grew weary of watching over their heart so that their heart did not lay up treasures upon earth, but rather they gave themselves over to the things of this world. A generation grew up that was a generation that lived in luxury.
When Abraham came into the land of Canaan, he had no property and he lived in tents. He confessed that he was a stranger and a pilgrim on the earth. But the generation after Joshua had houses that they had not built. They had vineyards that they had not planted. They had cupboards that were full. They did not have to chop trees but the fields were all ready for planting. They “had it good.”
So do we. We are swamped in prosperity. We have so much. We do not say anymore, “No, we can’t have that.” We can have it. And if we do not have enough money to get it, then we can get it on a credit card. We have so much! Sometimes we ask ourselves, “Why do we have so much? Why does the Lord give us so much?” That is not a hard question. You want the answer? God has given us so much so that we can use it for His kingdom. If we have so much, then all of His kingdom causes ought to be flourishing right now. Are they? The Christian school? The work of missions? That is why He gives us so much. And if we do not use it for His kingdom and glory, He will take it away.
But the devil uses materialism to set our hearts on things below. We lose our zeal for the true riches and the passion to teach them to our children. We must look at ourselves. Are you teaching your children? Are you teaching them the catechism? Are you teaching them personal devotions? Are you reading to them? If you do not teach them these, youare teaching plenty. If you do not teach them these, then you are telling them that Jesus does not matter. If you do not teach them these, then you are saying, “Mom and Dad don’t really consider religion, don’t really consider the truth, don’t really consider the church, as exciting as new furniture.” Then you are saying to them, “Mom and Dad, while they confess the name of Jesus, really live for the weekend at the lake.” Then you are saying, “Dad’s job is really more important than Jesus Christ.” You see, if you are silent about Jesus in your home, you are teaching them. You are teaching them that Jesus is not worth anything. You are teaching them that the infinite value of Christ and of salvation is not all that it is made out to be.
Do you study, as a parent? Do you study the Scriptures? Do you pray, as a parent? Do you know the doctrines of the Christian faith? Or are you too busy, too busy with vacations and luxuries, and you say, “I’m not interested. I don’t have the time.” Do you go to church twice? Do you bring your family to church under the sound preaching of the Word of God?
God warns us today that it is our responsibility as parents to bring up our children in the vibrant truth of God’s Word. Do not say, “I can’t be expected to do this.” Do not say, as a parent, “I don’t know enough about the Bible to teach the truth to my children. What if they ask me a hard question?” Do not let that stop you! First of all, it is never too late for you to grow in your grasp of biblical truth. And, secondly, if they ask you a hard question that you cannot answer, do not be afraid of that. Respond to that humbly. Say, “Well, that gives us an opportunity, doesn’t it, son? We’re going to have to go find out the answer to that question. I don’t know the answer right now. Let’s go find out. Our church has a good library. We’ll go find the answer to that question. We’ll ask the pastor or one of the elders.”
But, perhaps, you say, “This is all idealistic. You can’t really expect, in today’s world, children to be godly.” It seems to be the unspoken belief that young people and children in the church really cannot be expected to be obedient and to be godly. You cannot expect a child to obey you, to be chaste, to be clean-mouthed. Our expectations have become low. And because our expectations are low, our discipline lacks firmness and consistency and rigor.
Disciplining of a child in love is to love them and not let them go their own way, but to be involved in their life and to see to it that they go the right way. Our generation must be warned. Are we teaching our children? Will the next generation know?
Yes, by God’s grace working in us as parents, through zeal and through humility and through passionate teaching of our children, yes, in that way they shall know.
Let us remember all that the Lord has done for us. Let us remember the grace of God that is shown to us in the wonders of His redeeming love. And then let us be zealous. Let us be zealous to preach and to teach and to know those precious truths and to transmit them to our children.
Let us live before them a life of holiness. Let us show our children that we want our lives to be governed by God. Let us come to church and say, “I don’t want anything in the church but God’s Word. I want God-honoring worship. I want my family in such a church that honors God through His Word.”
So, let us hear this warning today. Let us ponder the question: Will the next generation know? For they will not know by our power, but only by God’s grace and faithfulness. But God’s grace and faithfulness will transmit it to the generation following in the way of parents taking up their calling, parents teaching their children by example and by word. Will the next generation know? Yes, because God is faithful. And He is faithful to you when He makes you diligent, when He makes you concerned, when He makes you love Him, and to love Him in such a way that you want to teach your children all about Him.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word. And we pray for its blessing upon our hearts today. We pray, heavenly Father, for the forgiveness of our sins. And we pray that, as parents, we may be zealous to teach and zealous to be an example of the truth of Thy Word. Since, O Lord, we cannot do this of ourselves, we look to Thee. And we pray that Thou wilt work faithfully in our hearts. In Jesus’ name, Amen.