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 2.8-10, ESV
What is the tragedy in the above passage? Joshua’s death? The death of the conquering generation?
The tragedy is in the last verse: “there arose a generation… who did not know the Lord. How did this happen? How did all those people grow up ignorant of God? Do you think they were completely clueless? Our conclusions are, of course, speculative. I suspect they knew about God on some small level, but they did not have a relationship with God. Their parents had failed to diligently teach who the Lord was and what he had done for Israel. To them, God was no greater and no different than the gods of the people of Canaan.
As a parent, the following set of verses resonates with me. The command was directed toward Israelites, but the example is still applicable for us:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
~ Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV
It is not easy to instill in children a deep, abiding love for the Lord. Not every child will readily take it to heart. Yet, like everything we do as parents, we have to be persistent in teaching and fostering their growth.
How do we help our children know the Lord?
- Direct Teaching. This should consist of daily reading of the Bible with your children. This is quite a bit harder than you might think. Other activities will regularly compete for this time slot. Fight to make it a routine. If there is a regular meal that you eat together as a family, take time to read one chapter from the Bible at that meal. If you have very small children, it might be helpful to use a “story” Bible to give them a visual picture of what they are reading. When my oldest was around 11 months, I used to read to her while she was snacking in her high chair—a captive audience!
- Teachable Moments. This takes creativity. You really have to keep your eyes pealed for things that teach about the Lord or the character of a Christian. Warning: Do not use your child’s mistakes as your sole teaching tool. If you only bring up God or character when they are in trouble, they will have a negative association with God.
- Teach while working in the garden: pulling weeds is a good time to talk about pulling out sin!
- Teach on a nature walk: show the beauty and design of God’s creation.
- Teach with the current events: point out the results of poor choices.
- Teach with literature and movies: ask questions about character and morality.
- Personal Example. Have you ever read this poem?
A Little Child is Watching Me
A little child is watching me
Knows every move I make,
Hears every word I utter,
Sees every step I take.
Is conscious of my attitude,
Is wise to all my flaws,
Is witness when I am unkind,
Or angry without cause.
She silently observes me
As I go from day to day
While in her mind an image forms
Of what she’ll be someday.
Yes, although I do so much wrong
Leave so much good undone,
I’m the model Lara has.
I am what she’ll become.
Dear Father, help me realize
All that I must do.
Let me train and teach my child
To always live for You.
But Father, more than training her
By words and counsel true,
Let me by the way I live
Show her how to follow You.
—Mrs. Debbie Scales
Does this one scare you a little? It should! A little fear is good when it evokes us to positive change. What does your child observe in you? How do you use your money, time, and resources? Do you make worship a priority or do other things usurp that hour? Do you help others? Do you admit when you are wrong? Do you control your anger? Are you impulsive or prudent? Do you talk about God regularly? Is He in your heart?
Look again at the above passage from Deuteronomy. It says, “These words… Shall be on your heart. You shall teach them…” Out of the mouth comes the overflow of the heart. What is in your heart? What do you talk about? What is important to you. These are questions I need to ask myself daily.
Today, pray the following for yourself and your spouse:
- Ask the Lord to help you to make and guard time for regular Bible reading with your children.
- Request that He open your eyes to see timely and teachable moments and grant you the wisdom to use them effectively.
- Ask the Lord to make you aware of how your example is helping or hurting your children.
- Finally, plead with the Lord to give you grace for your imperfections and extend mercy for your children.
- If you are a single parent, ask that the Lord will provide good godly mentors to help you and your child because it is no cake walk being a single parent!
In the coming weeks, I hope to share some books and tools (Bible based and secular) that I have used with my own children. My children are still very young, so I am no expert and I do not have long-term results from my methods. I hope that some of my readers with grown children will share their tools and ideas as well!