One of the most tragic verses in the Bible is Judges 2:10. “After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.” What?? How is that even possible? Think about this. Joshua led the Israelites after the death of Moses, and through Joshua’s direction, this band of nomads conquered the Promised Land, defeating strongholds like Jericho simply by marching around the city and blowing trumpets. They had seen God’s hand powerfully at work in their lives, and had witnessed what their forefathers only dreamed of- entering the Promised Land of Canaan. But then that generation died and their children grew up, not knowing the Lord. Why? I hate to say it, but it was because of the parents.
This pattern of falling away is not unique, unfortunately. Look at 1 Samuel 2:12. “Eli’s sons were wicked men; they had no regard for the Lord.” Wow. Eli was a priest himself, and apparently a faithful one. He was faithful enough for Hannah to trust him to raise her son Samuel. Samuel then became a faithful judge over Israel, but even his sons didn’t follow suit. 1 Samuel 8:3 tells us, “But his sons did not walk in his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.”
King Hezekiah, whose reign is recorded in 2 Kings 18-20, “trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the Lord and did not cease to follow him; he kept all the commands the Lord had given Moses,” 2 Kings 18:5-6 tells us. Yet his son Manasseh “did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites” (2 Kings 21:2). This guy even sacrificed his own son in the fire! What a contrast from his godly father. Thankfully, he did repent of his sin and turn to the Lord at the end of his life, as 2 Chronicles 33:10-17 shows, but the damage had been done. He had successfully led Judah astray again.
So what can we take from these grim lessons? Simply this: parents, this is serious business. You cannot treat your faith casually and expect your children to absorb it by osmosis. I’ve heard parents make the excuse that their kids “get religion” in a Christian day school, so they don’t feel the need to go to church on Sundays. Others may think church and Sunday school are enough, and they don’t want to “overwhelm” their kids with Bible stuff, so they talk very little about it at home. Both of these mindsets are very dangerous. Kids need to hear about the Christian faith from their parents. Whatever society may say, parents are still the most influential factor on a child’s life, especially at an early age. What you do- or don’t do- at home will have a huge impact on their own faith walk as they grow up.
Psalm 78:1, 3-6 gives us a glimpse of how God intends the faith to be passed along. “O my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth… [I will tell of] what we have heard and known, what out fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would known them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.”
You see, God’s design is that children inherit more from their parents than hair and eye color. They are to pass along God’s Word to their children as well. As the well known passage in Deuteronomy 6:7 reminds us, we are to “Impress [God’s teachings] 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.” In other words, live your faith. Make it such a part of your daily life that your kids can’t help but grow up to hear about all God has done for them in Jesus.
So parents, pray that with God’s help your children will indeed be strong and secure in their faith their entire life through. Teach them Bible stories. Have devotions. Take them to church. Pray with them. Talk with them about Jesus. It’s never too early- or too late- to start.