Raising a Godly Generation
As the world grapples with the effects of a pandemic, we have been forced to face lockdowns, and quarantines, something the majority of the world is trying to come to grips with. These lockdowns have compelled us to stay home with our families like never before. In general each of us, as members of a family, have our own schedules. Most parents are at work, children are at school or college and we usually get to spend time together only in the evenings or on weekends. All these routines have turned topsy-turvy, and a majority of people have been forced to stay within the confines of their homes. Suddenly the family has become the only place of security. This is when I began to wonder as to why God has allowed this particular situation and realized that families are the core, as they form the fabric of our society and the world at large.
We all know that marriage and family are God’s idea. It’s His design, He instituted it and He gave the blueprint. So, if we want our families to function well and smoothly as God intended it to, it will be possible only if God is there with us to guide and counsel us.
Biblical narratives are mostly about families
If we study the Bible especially the Old Testament, much of the narratives are about families. God worked through families and God chose families to fulfil His purposes. These narratives also portray issues that families were challenged with. I believe that they are mentioned in detail to help us understand that families are not perfect. Every family have their own set of issues, difficulties, struggles, but the beauty of this is that in spite of these myriad challenges, most families are able to stay together and enjoy each other.
Take the very first family for instance, Adam and Eve, their children Cain and Abel. Cain hated his brother Abel simply because he was jealous of the fact that God accepted Abel’s offering and not his. This is an interesting detail to note, for we realize that right from the beginning, innate in each one of us is the desire to please God and to be accepted by Him.
The New Testament commences with the birth of Jesus to let us know that Jesus Himself was born into a family. Further the New Testament goes into great detail to explain how families should function by elaborating the different roles of each member of the family. The role of a husband, the role of a wife, the role of parents and children are all mentioned so together we can operate as God designed us to.
Lessons we learn from the people of Israel
I want us to look very briefly at the life of the Israelites to see if there is something that we can pick up from their experiences for our families today. The people of Israel were in bondage to the Egyptians for more than 400 years. This was really a gruesome sort of a bondage, and eventually God sent Moses to deliver them out of this slavery. God used Moses and Aaron to perform mighty signs and wonders to let the people of Israel (and the Egyptians as well) know that He was the Almighty God. There was the astounding parting of the Red Sea which brought the Israelites to safety and God used the same sea to destroy the Egyptians who pursued the Israelites.
God’s commandments for the family
Once they were rescued, the Lord led the people of Israel through the wilderness for forty years because He wanted them to learn to depend on Him completely. During their wanderings, God specially called Moses to Mount Sinai and He gave him the laws and the commandments which he conveyed to the people. Now, many of these laws and commandments detailed out the specifics for the functioning of a family.
I just want to highlight a few points that Moses instructed the people of Israel in.
1. Remember to pass on to your children all that God has done for you
Firstly, we read in Deuteronomy 4:9-10. “This is what Moses told them, “But watch out? Be careful never to forget what you yourselves have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live and be sure to pass them on to your children and your grand-children. “(NLT).
Now the Lord had performed so many wonders and mighty miracles and Moses had to remind the Israelites, ‘Do not forget all that God has done for you.’ All of us know that as human beings, our memories are limited. We tend to forget many things that God has done in our lives. Therefore, God is reminding us, to not forget the wonderful things that He has accomplished in our lives. So what are we supposed to do about them? You know, it’s good for us to talk about them to our children and our grand-children. I remember the many times, my Dad used to share amazing testimonies of God’s guidance, provision and protection in his life. I think that these are the things that really encourage us and help strengthen the faith in our children.
2. Love God above all else
And then we read in Deuteronomy 6:5 - These are the words of Moses again. He says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart and you shall teach them diligently to your children.” (NKJV)
Here Moses is talking about a love relationship that parents need to have with God first of all. We need to love God so much that our children will know and recognize this themselves. When parents love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, their children will certainly follow in their footsteps and love God the same way.
3. No idols in our lives
And then we find that the next thing that he told them in Deuteronomy 5:15-19. He warned them against any form or idolatry, and then he gave them the reason for it in Deuteronomy 4:20. He said, “Remember that the Lord rescued you from the iron smelting furnace of Egypt in order to make you His very own people and His special possession, which is what you are today.” (NLT)
So God’s command was very forthright. He told the Israelites that He was their God, He was their only God and they were not supposed to have any other so-called gods. God has made them His own special possession and made it clear that He is a jealous God who will not share His glory with anyone else.
That’s what I believe God is telling us today as well. We are His people and God alone is worthy of all our honour. He will not tolerate any other gods or idols in our lives. He desires to be the one who has the topmost priority in our lives.
4. Don’t forget God when all is well
And we read again in Deuteronomy 6:10-12, “So it shall be, when the Lord your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, houses full of good things which you did not fill, hewn out well which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant – when you have eaten and are full – then beware, lest you forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.” (NKJV)
This was a word of caution that Moses gave to the people of Israel. They were moving into the land of Canaan – the land of promise and abundance that God was going to give to them and he knew what could happen. He had to admonish them that when they went into that Promised Land, had everything in abundance and all was going well with them that they were not to forget the Lord from whose hand they received every good thing.
The Word of God clearly reminds us that every good and perfect gift comes from heaven, from God Himself and He is the source of everything. If for whatever reasons we do not acknowledge this we will become the most ungrateful people who have overlooked the Giver because we are obsessed by the gifts.
The commandments of God to the families can be summarised this way. Firstly we must remember and recollect the goodness of God and pass them on to our children. Secondly, our love for God must supersede everything else. Thirdly, there should be no other gods or idols on the throne of our hearts. Fourthly, when enjoying the bounteous blessing of God, we must never forget the One from whom we received these blessings.
Whose responsibility is it anyways?
Moses spoke to the Israelites on a different note in Deuteronomy 11:2. He said, “Know today that I do not speak with your children, who have not known and have not seen the chastening of the Lord your God, His greatness, and His mighty hand and His outstretched arm.” (NKJV)
If we read that passage carefully Moses told the elders of Israel who had gathered there that he was not going to speak to their children, but that it was their duty to talk to their children and share all the wonders of God that they had seen and experienced first-hand.
Moses went on further to say in Deuteronomy 11:18-21, “Therefore you lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when you rise up. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers to give them like the days of the heavens above the earth.”
The exhortation to the parents here was that they were supposed to make the best use of every opportunity to share about God and His mighty deeds in their lives. They were encouraged to teach their children the ways of God and speak to them about God at every favourable time.
This is the responsibility that God has placed on us as parents to share God’s love and His word with our children whenever possible. We often have those God-moments when we can tell our children the things that God is teaching us. It is our duty to share from the bible and the experiences that God is or has taken us through, so that our children will understand that we believe in and worship a living God. We must be aware and seize these opportunities and not lose out on sharing our faith with our children.
The lost generation
As long as the people of Israel were with Moses and Joshua, they were doing all that they commanded them. The people of Israel then moved into the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua. As long as Joshua lived, all the people and all the elders who outlived them served the Lord and were faithful to Him. Now this was a generation who had seen the mighty works of God first-hand and had experience His deliverance. They has been partakers of God’s divine provision, protection, deliverance and healing in their journey through the wilderness. They also saw the manifestation of God’s awesome power and might on Mount Sinai.
However, here’s what happened to the generation that came after them. We read in Judges 2:10, “After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord, nor what He had done for Israel.” (NIV)
Isn’t that a woeful situation that when the older generation passed away, the younger generation that grew up did not know anything about the Lord? What happened as a result was that they were caught in a vicious cycle and the book of Judges explains this in great detail. This is how it went:
• The people did evil in the eyes of the Lord. They were so engrossed in their wealth and abundance that they forgot God
• They turned to idolatry which the Lord said He would punish.
• The Lord handed them over to their enemies
• In their distress they cried out to the Lord
• The Lord relented, heard their cry and raised up a leader
• The leader rescued them from the hands of their enemies
• Peace was restored, they followed the Lord for a while and then went back into idolatry and their evil practices.
I wonder if we too have fallen into a similar pattern, where we’ve become far too comfortable with all that God has given to us. We’ve received so much from the Lord and have become so preoccupied with them that we have forgotten to give the Lord the rightful place in our lives and in our families.
We may not literally be bowing to graven images, but there are other things that we have made idols of in our lives.
The idolatry of materialism and worldliness that many are immersed in. A constant desire to have more and more. The craving to have bigger and better. In 1 Timothy 6:6, there is a beautiful equation that should be a part of our lives. It goes like this, Godliness + Contentment = Great Gain. The reason is also spelled out clearly, for we brought nothing into this world and we take nothing out of it.
There’s also the idolatry of ego and pride which reveals itself in our obsession for our jobs and our careers. We let these consume the major part of our waking hours and sadly we have also pushed our children into this rat race. We pressurize our children, constantly compare them with others and want them to compete, and in the process we have given them loads of material things but have left them starving for love and attention.
Then there is this idolatry of Science and Technology. The booming advancements in Science and Technology with numerous apps and information has given man the sense of being self-sufficient. The wealth of information that is readily available at our finger tips has allured us to give more importance to man-made theories and has set aside or even decried the eternal word of God.
How about the idolatry of self-indulgence, where we have become so caught up with ourselves? We have prided ourselves in the fact that we are an individualistic society, who care for no one and bother about no one. When challenged with the present situation of isolation and quarantine, hopefully most of us have realized that that is not such a good place to be in.
1 John 2:16 says it this way, “For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (NKJV)
God’s word is categorical - He will not accept idolatry in any form. God desires to be the most important person in our lives and He will not trade that with anything or with anybody else. So we really need to give God, (in our individual lives and in our families) the rightful place that is due Him.
Let me reiterate a few points. The responsibility to teach our children the ways of the Lord is ours as parents or grand-parents (if God has given us children or grand-children). We must share with them the experiences that God has taken us through, the good things that God has done in our lives, the answers to our prayers, the sins and temptations that He helped us overcome, so that we encourage them to follow our God.
Our relationship with God must be so genuine and dynamic that our children will actually observe that we really love God and are walking in His ways. Someone said, “More is caught than taught.” We can say a lot of things, but if our children don’t see us having this close relationship with God, they are not going to follow God because they will be quick to identify the discrepancy. It is only when we have a genuine relationship with God with no dichotomy, will our children be motivated to walk with God. Let us keep in mind the fact that children reflect parents and parents are their role-models.
We have outsourced education, which has its benefits, but sadly we have even tried to outsource the responsibility to share about God and His word with our children to the church. I know for certainty that the church and Sunday school play a vital role, because I know how much they influenced me personally. Nonetheless, we as parents are the primary people that God has appointed to share the love of Jesus with our children. We should have the joy of seeing our children come to know the Lord as their personal Saviour and grow in the knowledge of Him. It should be through us that our children understand who God is and they should see His character evident in our lives.
If you look at the situation in the world today, in many parts of the world, the churches have been closed down or sold out for other purposes, and you may wonder why. A study has revealed that many of them have been converted to worship places for other faiths, some into libraries, shops, cultural centres, museums, apartments and even discotheques. Most churches have the elderly fill their pews and the younger generation wants to have nothing to do with church. If this breaks your heart and you are wondering why this is so, the answer is quite plain. One generation of parents failed to love God the way they should and did not pass on their faith to their children. The consequence of this failure is that the next generation grew up with no place for God in their lives.
I believe that for far too long God has been trying to get our attention, and we have ignored His voice. But today, we are grappling with an unseen virus that is destroying all that man has taken loads of effort to build, and this is a time for us to really get back to God as individuals and as families.
Let us rebuild our families giving priority to worshipping God, reading the bible, praying together, and not be content to make this a once a week ritual. The Lord Jesus should be the Head of our homes, and we must live this life of faith and obedience every day of the week. Our children must know that God is important to us every day of the week and they must witness it at home. Let us share with them the testimonies of God’s grace, His provision, His protection, and his miracles that He has performed and continues to accomplish in our lives.
Families that serve God
When Joshua entered the Promised Land, he laid a kind of ultimatum to the people.
These are his words in Joshua 24:14-15, “Now therefore fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the river and in Egypt; serve the Lord. And if it seemed evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (NKJV)
Here’s the amazing response of the people of Israel to Joshua in Joshua 24:16-18, “So the people answered and said, ‘far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods, for the Lord our God is He who brought us and our fathers out of the land of Egypt from the house of bondage who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went and among all the people through whom we passed. And the Lord drove out from before us all the people, including the Amorites who dwelt in the land. We also will serve the Lord, for He is our God.’” (NKJV)
I would like to paraphrase this for our context and this is how we would probably say it today, “Far be it from us that we should forsake you Lord, to run after the things of this world. It is you oh Lord Jesus who died for us, saved us and delivered us from all our sins. You did mighty wonders for us. You are the one who preserved our lives, so we and our families too will serve you Lord.”
This, I believe is God’s call for families today. Someone said it so beautifully, “I want my marriage and my family to look less like the world and more like Christ.” Our greatest concern for our children should be that they love God more than anyone or anything else in this world. Our families are God’s blessings to us and our children are His precious gifts whom He has graciously entrusted to us. May God grant us His grace to raise a godly generation who will love God, walk in His ways and serve Him whole heartedly. May it be never said of us, ‘they raised a generation that did not know the Lord’ but rather, that we were the generation of parents who raised a godly generation of men and women who are zealous for the Lord and who have impacted the world like never before.
God bless you.