I’ve been reading through the book of Judges for my devotionals lately, and I’ve been noticing a trend (in fact, I think I posted this earlier about the trend). It’s a trend that everyone from scholars to the casual reader picks up–the cycle. It’s a cycle of not remembering about what God did for them, then chasing after false gods, then pretty much being total jerks to everyone around them, then getting invaded and oppressed, and then they cry out to God, God rescues them by raising up a political and spiritual leader, called a judge, who then leads the people for a while. After the judge dies, the cycle starts all over again.
The question I keep asking: Why?
Why do they keep going through this freakin stupid cycle? You’d think they woulda learned something after the fourth or fifth time this happened. But they don’t. The New Revised Standard Version keeps saying that after each judge is used by God to deliver them, there is rest in the land for a while. Sometimes 20 years, sometimes 40 years, even 80 years. But after the judge dies, the slip back into bad habits.
Know what I think? (of course you don’t, but you’re here on this blog post, so wait for it)
The faith in God isn’t passed down to the next group of people.
Right before the people were about to enter into the Promised Land, God gave them instructions on how to live in the land He was giving them. He also taught them how to teach their children about what He had done for them.
We read in Deuteronomy
“In the future, when your son asks you, ‘What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees, and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?’ tell him: ‘We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand…” Deuteronomy 6:20-21
And then the story of how God delivered His people from the land of slavery and into freedom is retold. Funny thing is, is that the people being told how to do this were not part of the original group that left Egypt. That generation had died off. It was a new generation. A new generation whom had the faith passed down to them and now were being instructed how to pass the faith to their children.
The parents were to follow God’s Word. They were to live in such a way that they showed that they were different from all the other people groups around them. They were to show that they belonged to God. And their children were to see this in them and ask why. And the parent then was to instruct and teach. In doing so, the passing on of the memory of God’s work in the life of His people is remembered and passed on.
Apparently this doesn’t happen in the Book of Judges.
People start falling away from the God who had delivered them and start worshiping the other gods around them. Why? Well, because everyone else is doing it and it seems to work.
Back in that day, it was thought that the gods were attached to the land. The great god Baal, who was seen in the form of a bull, was the god of the harvest and of rain and thunder (think Thor but without his own Marvel comic series or movie and not as cool…and not Norse). And then there was Ashera who was the goddess consort of Baal and also of fertility. They both were attached to the Land.
God on the other hand was attached to His people not the land. He is the God of nations, not of just a tiny strip of dirt. His people who were to live differently, act differently, and worship Him alone as they agreed to do were now acting like everyone around them, and actually acting worse than that.
And when they got invaded, they cried out to God for help. I don’t really think because they remembered He is the one true God, but more so as a final ditch, “hail Mary” pass effort. It worked. But then God’s works weren’t passed on to the next generation.
Faith is a funny thing. It is developed in each person individually but also as a group. It can grow in people. In fact, it’s like a seed to a plant. It is sown and planted in the heart of a person when they hear the gospel message. But then it needs to be tended to, it needs to germinate. It can’t be left alone, hoping that rain will come eventually to make it grow. It has to be tended to on a regular basis. And then, it needs to be sown new somewhere else. It needs to be passed on to the next generation.
Yet we don’t seem to do that. We don’t seem to think that we need to. It’s as if some sort of spiritual honey bee will come along and pollinate the next generation with faith and then something mystical will happen and faith will form.
Don’t work that way.
There ain’t no mystical spiritual pollinating honey bees out there. None at all. I’ve looked.
I’ve heard it so much lately the bemoaning of the younger generation not coming to church, in fact leaving churches in droves. I’ve heard the tales of churches filling up more with blue and gray hair rather than the cries of little children and the laughter of families with min-vans, SUVs, and cross overs.
I wonder though, how was faith passed down? How was the seed of faith planted in the generation many are asking about their exodus from the church?
Faith formation is important. Passing down our faith to the next generation is important. How can they believe if they don’t hear? How can they hear if our faith isn’t told to them. It’s not learned just by them watching you as you fail to model your faith (trust me, if you watched me, you may not always see the best person).
As the church, we need to be intentional, authentic, real in passing down the faith, more than just planting seeds, but cultivating what is planted, helping the faith form, and mentoring them to begin to step forward in a growing, maturing faith.
There is a cycle. It can be stopped by simply passing down the faith, helping the next generation to remember and know the mighty acts of the one true God who delivered them.