Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The greatest generation

The World War II generation is often referred to as the greatest generation of American history. But which is the greatest generation of redemptive history? My answer would be the generation of Israelites, led by Joshua, who crossed the Jordan River and took possession of Canaan. It was to this generation that the LORD granted the promised rest. Compared to the generations before and after they were remarkably faithful. They feared God, the opposite of which is forgetting God. It's telling that they weren't prepared to tolerate even the hint of idolatry (see Joshua 22). The writer of Judges pays tribute to them with this epitaph.

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

As great as that generation was the last sentence suggests a failure. Because every generation was/is prone to forget God, the Law repeatedly commands Israel to diligently teach the next generation.

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. Deut. 4:9

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. Deut. 6:6-7

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. Deut. 6:20-21

I wonder how this generation of God's people is doing. According to Scripture the primary responsibility falls on parents and grandparents, but that doesn't mean those of us without children are off the hook. It takes a covenant community to raise a generation to fear God. When a child is baptized into our church, the congregation takes vows similar to the parents. These vows are as solemn as any others we take before God. This might mean helping out in the nursery, or teaching Sunday School, or simply praying for the children of the church -- all for the purpose of doing what the Psalmist describes.

One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. Psalm 145:4

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