Finishing up in Joshua this morning while on a bit of vacation visiting my favorite granddaughter . . . and her parents . . . in B.C. And came across a verse that has a ominous ring to it. Pretty benign, I’m thinking, for someone who might be reading Joshua for the first time, but carries a pretty ominous foreshadowing for those who know what lies ahead in Judges. And as I hover over the verse, I can’t help but reflect on the challenge it presents to every generation of those who love the Lord. That of passing the faith along. And that of being a Next Gen Believer.
Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the work that the LORD did for Israel. (Joshua 24:31 ESV)
Israel served the LORD. Good deal! As it should be. As they said they would when Joshua exhorted them to “choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (24:15). And choose they did, “We also will serve the LORD, for He is our God” (24:18).
And Joshua presses them, “You can’t. You’re not able to. He is a holy God. He is a jealous God. He will not tolerate the unfaithfulness of playing around with other gods which are, in fact, no gods.” To which the people affirmed, “No, but we will serve the LORD” (24:19-21). So they said, and so they did. Israel served the LORD.
But then the ominous part . . . the foreshadowing, foreboding, toll of the bell . . . they served the LORD “all the days of Joshua.” As long as the elders lived who had been part of the conquest of the land. As long as those who had witnessed firsthand the mighty works the LORD had done for Israel. As long as they were around, Israel served the LORD. Leaving the question hanging, so what about the generation after them? What about the next generation who had things easier than their parents before them? What about those who had often been told the “old, old, story” but had not witnessed God’s mighty works for themselves? I’m not yet there in my reading plan . . . but my mind flashes ahead to the answer . . .
And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that He had done for Israel. And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals. And they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. (Judges 2:10b-12a ESV)
To be sure, there’s often an innate “advantage” for 1st generation believers . . . those who have been delivered from sin as adults . . . led on their own exodus from the bondage of the sin and the world . . . those brought into the promised land of newness of life, having vivid memories of the old life . . . the reality of light being so real because they had walked in darkness for so long. But what of their children. What of the Next Gen?
What of those having grown up in the truth of the gospel . . . having received the Christ of their bedtime stories and their Sunday School lessons at a young age . . . not really aware of the world . . . not familiar with the tyranny of the flesh? Certainly, God’s hand is not too short that it can not save to the uttermost, whether 1st gen Christian or 5th gen believer. But, I think we 1st gen’ers often have the advantage of seeing the mighty works of the LORD in a different way. While our kids and their kids are blessed with the potential of avoiding a lot of the world’s dirt that we got on ourselves.
But at the end of the day, it comes down to the gospel . . . the good news for all men and women . . . all boys and girls . . . all generations, whether 1st gen believers or the Next Gen of Believers. That it isn’t just about how well the story is passed along, but about the grace of God which will invade the lives of those who, by faith, know their need and know in Him the only solution for that need. Who know their thirst and that He is the only one who can satisfy their thirst. Who hunger for the things of the kingdom above the things of this world and know that only He has the keys to the kingdom.
O’ that God’s people would serve the LORD whole-heartedly. And that it would transcend this generation but characterize the Next Gen . . . and the generations beyond them until the LORD’s return.
All by His grace . . . all for His glory.