Bible Text: Judges 2:6-19 | Preacher: Brandon Bonnici | Series: Will The Next Generation Know? | Your generation may be a generation of God worshippers, servers and lovers, but the question is will the next generation be?
In our family, we have a custard recipe that we love and is delicious! My nan was taught the recipe by her mum and they enjoyed many years of eating the custard together. My nan then taught my mum the recipe and they enjoyed many years of eating it together. My mum now makes the custard in our household and we have enjoyed many years of eating it together, with our apple pie or fruit. If us kids are to know the recipe, not only do we need to enjoy eating it, but mum needs to teach us how to make it. My older sister Elyssa has already been taught the recipe. The custard recipe will continue on in the family. It has been passed on down the generations and if it is to continue, we have to keep teaching and enjoying the custard to our children and their children.
Our whole world actually works like this. It depends on the now generation teaching and modelling to the next generation. The whole schooling system is made to achieve this, so that society continues to flourish and develop. If we don’t teach and model things to the next generation, there won’t be a next generation. Or they will be useless and potentially destructive.
Family cultures work like this. We need to teach the next generation how to do the dishes, how to mow the lawn, whether we eat at the dinner at the table or not, why it’s important to say hello and goodbye and model spending time with family. A family culture can quickly collapse if the now generation don’t teach and model to the next generation.
My dad’s father used to sing all the time. And because he used to sing all the time, my dad now sings all the time. My sister sings all the time. I now have the urge to sing all the time. It’s a part of our family culture because it has been modeled and taught through the generations.
What the next generation will know and do is dependent upon the now generation teaching them and showing them.
In Judges 2, Israel is in a generational crisis. Although they haven’t been perfect in their obedience to God, they have had generations of knowing and worshiping the Almighty God of heaven and earth. God had promised them that they would be in an everlasting covenant relationship with him through a man named Abraham. They had been delivered out of slavery in Egypt. Led by Moses, they wandered in the desert for 40 years because of their disobedience. But God still provided for them and was still faithful. Now Moses had handed over the leadership baton to a new leader named Joshua. He had led the people into the land of Canaan, the land promised by God, and they had half-successfully driven out the previous inhabitants of the land. The generations of Israelites since Abraham had until this point been fairly successful in coming into what God has promised them. But the question that hits us as we read this powerful narrative is, “Will the next generation know? Will they love, serve, and worship the Lord? Will they trust, follow, and know Yahweh?”
The question is the same for us today. Will the next generation know?
It is crucial that they do! It’s not just that our society and families are at stake. This is a matter of people’s eternal destinies.
Three generations of Israelites are described in this passage of Scripture. We are going to engage with each of them, so that we might be fully equipped and convinced to invest in the next generation. We need to impact the generations to come.
After Joshua had dismissed the Israelites, they went to take possession of the land, each to their own inheritance. (Judges 2:6 NIV)
Joshua is the leader. He has just spoken to the Israelite community and then they have gone into each of their sections of land given to them. This part of Judges overlaps with the end of Joshua (Josh 24:28-31). This is so important! Israel have been delivered into the land God had promised them. We know from chapter 1, the rest of Judges, and from the book of Joshua, that the complete move into Canaan for Israel doesn’t actually happen. There are still Canaanites lived among them and owning parts of the land. The point here though is that life is good for Israel.
The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel. (Judges 2:7 NIV)
Not only have they been taken into the land, but they were serving the Lord and walking with him. They served the Lord though while Joshua was alive and while the leaders and elders who outlived Joshua were alive. Why? Joshua was anointed to be Israel’s leader by God through Moses by the laying on of hands (Joshua 27). When godly leadership is installed, God’s people flourish. Joshua had also called all of the leaders and elders of Israel before he died together (Joshua 23), and inspired them to keep walking in obedience with God by following all that the law says, warning them of the consequences if they didn’t, and urged them in remembering all the great works of God they had seen with their own eyes! This is the key to a generation of believers: knowing the greatness of God!
This first generation of Israelites under Joshua and the other elders leadership served the Lord because, in verse 7, “they had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel”. They had witnessed God’s mighty hand at work—maybe delivering them out of Egypt, providing for them in the desert, speaking to them from Mt Sinai, then taking them into the land, crossing the Jordon River, driving out powerful nations before them. For this generation and the next generation to know and worship God they must know of the greatness of God! Joshua handed over the baton as well as Moses.
Godly and God-anointed leadership is a must if God’s people are to flourish. We are so blessed to have great and godly and gifted Pastors and spouses at this church. We are also so blessed to have a heap of godly elders, deacons, and leaders in various ministry doing a range of things for this church. They help us make godly, wise choices and urge God’s people to be gospel driven, kingdom minded, and to model gospel-centered leadership to us. They are here because God has placed them here. We look to leaders to help us look to God.
Do you pray for our pastors, elders, deacons and leaders? Do you pray for more to be raised up? Are you praying that the leadership batten will be handed over well?
If we are not investing into the next generation, there will be no future leaders, pastors, and elders to whom we can hand over the baton! The key is that we need to know the greatness of God! For the now generation to impact greatly the next generation, we must know the greatness of God and we must model a life of worship and service to God!
How are you doing these things? How do you know about the greatness of God? Open your Bibles, pray for more understanding as you listen to him, exercise faith in your life as you see God’s greatness at work in your life. Turn up to Church. Have your children and other children look up to you as you worship God in song, as you pay attention and respond in sermons. Have them see that corporate Sunday worship is important to you.
Worship God with your life. Paul says in Romans 12, “Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God: this is your true and proper worship”, in other words, “Love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul and with all your strength”. Are the decisions you make full of integrity? Are the words you use godly? Is the time you spend given to kingdom work? Are you using the gifts you have?
Teach the young. It’s implied here in story of this first generation, that they were taught not just by their leaders, but by their parents or other older people of influence in their lives. There is a solid generational connection. This probably means there was effective teaching to the next generation by the older generation.
When God gives the greatest commandment in Deuteronomy chapter 6, he says this in verses 6-9:
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (NIV)
The law was to be taught to the children of Israel, and to be written over all their lives, and made visible in its very words in their households.
I’m so thankful I had a childhood where the Bible was open and present at our dinner table and in other areas of my life. I’m so thankful that I was taught to pray at night before bed. Although I had a period of severe rebellion, I was grounded in knowledge and experience of the greatness of God.
Do you teach your children? Is God’s Word shown or open in your home? If the next generation are to know and worship the Lord, it’s a must. Some of you need to begin to do this. Some of you need to start to do this again. Some of you need to know God first yourself and stop worshipping false God’s before you do this.
We have a great leader. His name is Jesus. The Bible says he came and he led us out of slavery to sin. He is our good shepherd who leads us and who laid down his life for us. Jesus is a greater Moses. He’s a greater Joshua and he’s the greatest leader in all of history. He enables us to be able to lead and invest and teach the next generation through the Holy Spirit and by the power of the gospel. He does all the heavy lifting. He is in us today. Paul says in Romans 8 that the Spirit of Christ is in those who belong to Christ. We are empowered to lead, to worship, and to teach.
The first generation of Israel after it entered the promised land is a flourishing generation that know the greatness of God. But the second generation is not so good.
After Israel enters the promised land, Joshua died, and verses 8 to 9 says that he was buried in the land God gave his tribe. Then all of the first generation died off, and another generation rose up, verse 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)
Okay, something happened here. The first generation knew God, but the second generation don’t know God. After Joshua handed the baton over to the elders and leaders, the leadership pipeline ends there. The bible doesn’t say that those leaders and elders commissioned others, or that God raised up and appointed another leader. When no leadership is installed, God’s people don’t flourish. There was no one leading and directing and guiding the people of God or proclaiming God’s greatness. The second generation hadn’t witnessed the great acts of the mighty God like the first generation. We can only assume that the second generation wasn’t taught by the first generation either. There was a disconnect, and the outcome was devastating. Judges chapter 2 verses 11 to 15:
Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the Lord’s anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. In his anger against Israel the Lord gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the Lord was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress. (NIV)
Israel has completely back flipped. They have moved from a generation of God worshipers to a generation of false god idolaters. The first generation swore to Joshua in Joshua 24:24 that they would serve the Lord. There was no voice of the second generation that promised this. They followed the gods of the pagan Canaanites, the Baals and the Ashtoreths, which were said to provide agricultural success.
But God was angry because his people broke the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exod 20:3). So God judged them and gave them over to the hands of their enemies. The Lord’s hand that was with them was now against them. They would experience great and terrible distress. This was a very different people of God. God then raised up Judges who would save God’s people from their enemies. But if the second generation was bad, the third generation was even worse.
Judges 2:19 tells us about this third generation.
But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways. (NIV)
The third generation of Israel in the land were even more corrupt than the second generation! Verse 17 says that they “prostituted themselves to false gods”. They were God’s people and they sold themselves over to other gods. The hearts of Israel had been turned away from the One True Living God and had been given over to the petty, false gods of the pagan world that have no power and aren’t true, hence their name, ‘false gods’.
Do you want the next generation to look like this third generation? I don’t. We must know God, worship God and teach God to the next generation to impact generations to come! If your children don’t know or worship the Lord, don’t give up on them. I was once in the same boat as the second and third generations. I remember when I came back to church that I had found out that a whole bunch of the church family that my dad was pastoring at the time had been praying for me. That blew me away. “Always pray and never give up”, Jesus says.
How you live your life and what you show and teach the young has eternal consequences!
I love that MBM is a multi-generational Church. Our kids’ ministry is phenomenal. We start to teach kids from a very young age about Jesus. We have always seen the importance of investing in teenagers and youth. It is a crucial stage of their growth and development. Most people come to faith under 18. The 6pm service (which used to meet at 5pm) was started to reach the young adults of western Sydney. It’s now one our most vibrant, pumping, and largest services. We have the morning and traditional services to build up and reach the adults and oldies age group.
All these ministries and services create opportunities for different generations to invest into different generations.
Now a word to each of the generations we have here. To the ‘Baby Boomers’ and ‘Gen X’, you have a whole lifetime of knowledge and experience. Please pass it on. The world will tell you that you are now of no use. That is so far from the truth. You have so much to give, so much to teach, so much to offer. Be patient with the young though. We are often slow to learn. Let the young flourish. Don’t hold them back too much. They have a lot to offer: time, willingness, passion, creativity and gifts.
Picture your children. How do you want them to be living in 20 years? What do you want them to look like?
To ‘Gen Y’ and ‘Millennials’, don’t allow the culture voice that says, “The young generation is the most important” to dominate. We are important, but so is every generation. Take more time out to listen to those who are older. I struggle with this at times. We can be really arrogant at times. Ask the older ones to invest in you. Have lots of mentors. Try new things, you’re in a good season!
‘Gen Z’, you need to listen to your parents and grandparents and leaders. They want to teach you, they want to show you. They can’t if you aren’t playing ball.
Here are some closing words for everyone. Generations come and generations go, the only generation that will stand is the eternal kingdom generation. There is one thing that every generation has in common, and that is that Jesus is God and he is to be worshipped, loved, followed, and taught. Are you a part of the kingdom generation? This is the generation that “take up their cross and follow him”, who “worship in Spirit and truth”, who take the call to “make disciples of all nations” seriously, to make disciples of all generations in every nation!
Every generation has been given a clear warning by the Son of God that “whoever is ashamed of him in the adulterous and sinful generation, he will be ashamed of them when he returns with the holy angels in his Father’s glory.” Let us be the kingdom generational church who knows God, worships God, and teaches God to the next generation to impact generations to come!