The Expository Files


We Need A Generation

Mighty Moses led Israel out of Egyptian bondage to the brink of Canaan’s land. Yet, the conquest of Canaan took place under the leadership of Moses’ successor, Joshua. The nation of Israel enjoyed great success through Joshua. Unfortunately, the fruits of their labor were short-lived. Judges 2:10 describes Joshua’s generation and the one to follow saying, “When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel.” The consequences of these negligent heirs are seen throughout the book of Judges as the younger generation of Israelites endured a repetitious cycle of oppression due to their trademark faithlessness.

Can New Testament Christians today make parallels to post-Joshua’s Israel? In order for Christianity to succeed, we must “commit” the teachings of Christ to “faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim2:2). If this “next generation” fails to absorb these teachings, it will lead, as in the days of the judges, to spiritual devastation. Another generation will arise, but how can they avoid the stigma of the post-Joshua generation? Christians today can find helpful warnings by going back to the root problems of this evil generation. By doing so, let us affirm…

We need a generation of separation! Joshua’s final speech commends Israel’s diligent work in driving out the foreign nations from their allotted territory (see Joshua 24:18). Yet, in the book of Judges, it is repetitiously observed that the next generation did not separate themselves from the influences of these pagan nations (see Judges 1:19, 21, 27, 29, 30-32, 34). Israel’s refusal to separate themselves had consequences (Judges 2:2-3). Sadly, all of the sacrifice and work of the previous generation was ruined by the compromise of the upcoming generation. If the church today expects to enjoy the successful growth of yesteryear, Christians must part company with sinful influences. Many young Christians deceive themselves into thinking they may behave with loose morals, talk with untamed tongues and live by the ungodly standards of the world around us. We will never truly win the world to Christ by living the same way the world lives! With reference to the sinful world around us we must be non-conformists (Rom 12:1-2). The “friendship of the world is enmity with God” (Js 4:4). Paul bluntly demands, “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you” (2 Cor 6:17). Christians must be different.

We need a generation of reflection! We tend to think progress always means forging ahead and never looking back. Yet, when someone heads down the wrong path, the best idea may be to backtrack and find out where they took a wrong turn. Post-Joshua Israel would have been wise to have gone back and reflected upon the words of their aged leader. Joshua declared he would “put away the gods” Israel had compromisingly served “on the other side of the River and in Egypt” (Joshua 24:14). The choice for Joshua and his house was “we will serve the Lord” (24:15). It is easy to think of older Christians, aged elders and old-time preachers as outdated and out of touch. Yet, it may just be those aged souls are the very ones with wisdom to see the danger of current trends. Joshua, in his final speech, may have seen how Israel was tempted to go back to the pagan gods of their past. He was worried all of Israel’s hard work would be ruined by an imperceptive generation. Likewise, older Christians who have sacrificed to establish and maintain local congregations do not want to see their work destroyed. Thus, their advice and their warnings should be heeded with serious introspection and reflection if we expect to build where they have left off. As individuals and churches, the key to moving forward is sometimes taking a step back!

We need a generation of restoration! Those in Joshua’s day made a pledge and promise to completely devote themselves to the Lord (see Joshua 24:16-21). Their restoration of God’s order was paramount to their success. If the next generation wanted to enjoy a similar success, they needed to renew their forefathers’ promise. We could solve many ills if we would go back to God’s Word and simply devote ourselves to it. Our nation is divided over many moral and ethical issues and many take their stand with the divergent views of political parties. Yet, if we would all restore ourselves to the truths of God’s Word, we could find common ground on many of the key issues which divide our country. Churches are divided over doctrinal issues and many proclaim their creed or body as being greater than another. Yet, if we would commit ourselves to the law of Christ instead of the creeds of men, we could bring healing to the fractured religious scene of our day. Families are being wrecked by rampant immorality. Yet, how many family woes could be avoided if we would rededicate ourselves to the moral laws of Jesus Christ and His apostles? A nation, church, family and individual built on God’s Word will resiliently endure the storms of life if completely built on the foundation of truth (see Mat 7:24-27)!

We need a generation of proclamation! In Joshua’s day, he made a monument proclaiming the vow of the people (Jsh 24:25-27). This monument was to be a memorial of their contract with the Lord. Yet, building a memorial alone must not have been enough. After all, the next generation “did not know the Lord” (Jdg 2:10). Could it be the message behind the memorial was not being declared enough to the next generation? The beauty of a memorial is what it memorializes! The symbols of Christianity are everywhere for the world to see. Crosses hang from necks and are tattooed into people’s skin. The Lord’s Supper is taken every Lord’s day by faithful Christians. Baptism is symbolic of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Yet, the mere symbolic staples of Christianity are not enough to win the next generation. We must understand and proclaim “the message of the cross” (1 Cor 1:18-21). Christians must realize and proclaim the meaning of Christ’s shed blood (Mat 26:28). The next generation needs to know the meaning of our own death, burial and resurrection to “newness of life” in baptism (Rom 6:3-6). The failure to comprehend such meaningful symbols will lead to a generation of traditionalized Christians unable to proclaim the message of Christianity. It is easy to pinpoint the mistakes or gloat of the success of generations past. However, each generation must make its own mark. If the rising generation of Christians expects to look back upon its mark with a sense of joy, we must be a generation of separation, reflection, restoration and proclamation. It is wonderful to know another generation of young people is in place to follow the pilgrims of yesteryear. Yet, how much more wonderful will it be if the next generation embraces the spirit of their faithful service as it does the work God calls it to do? What kind of generation will we be?

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by Joshua Welch
{From Our Good Fight, June ‘09}
From Expository Files 16.7; July 2009