The Old Testament book of Judges is a story of a nation gone mad with sin and rebellion. One generation would serve God, but then the ones that immediately followed turned far from Him. What went wrong? Why didn't the children follow the religion of their parents? Find out now as Stephen begins his study of Israel's judges.
"Winning the Second Generation"
Judges 1 & 2
The Old Testament Book of Judges is a story of a nation gone mad with sin and rebellion . . . it will sound at times like a history book on Western Civilization . . . it sounds much like our nation today.
No one would deny that we are facing an enormous moral crisis; we are being deluged by a flood of immorality and amorality. What's right for you must be right?!
A cartoon showed a college student speaking to a missionary unmistakable identified by his pith helmet and shorts and hiking boots. The student asked him, "I don't see how you do it . . . what do you do when you can't take the superstition and violence and immorality any longer?" "Simple," came the reply, "I just get on a plane and go back to the mission field."
Now, we can't get on a plane - question is, "How do we live?!"
I invite your attention to the answer - a remote place . . .
Two key verses - 21:25 . . . "everyone did that which was right in his own eyes". That is God's diagnosis . . .
There is one other key verse that I want you to note, because it not only serves as an explanation for the entire Book, but it will be the focus of our discussion this morning.
2:10 And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel.
Paraphrase - they knew about the Lord but did not know the Lord.
Now this really troubles - (get two chairs) why is it that one generation can be filled with the passion of fire of faith . . . and the next generation only partially follow the Lord or completely abandon the Lord?
This problem exists throughout the entire facet of society:
Why is it that Spurgeons and Tozer's and Sunday's children walked away from their father's great faith?
Why is it that schools like Princeton and Harvard and Yale began as Bible Schools . . . the major study was the Scriptures; everyone was required to take Greek - 1 hour of personal devotions accounted for?
Why is it that the average church doesn't remain effective for more than 2 or 3 generations? I recently read a survey that concluded the average church reaches it's peak of effectiveness and outreach and enthusiasm at 12 years of age (we're almost 1/2 way to the grave).
How can we remain in the spirit and passion of first generation faith?! How do we stay in the first chair of faith?
Judges chapters 1 & 2 give some answers; not all of them, it even raises some fresh questions . . . but God gives enough of the story to warn and challenge us!
It seems that there are . . .
Fundamental problems related to being in the second generation?
1. they are influenced by the partial obedience of the first generation. (no generation is perfect . . . deal later with that)
Two rather disturbing notes are found early on in Judges:
First in verse 4 - And Judah went up, and the Lord gave the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hands; and they defeated ten thousand men at Bezek.
5. And they found Adoni - Bezek in Bezek and fought against him and they defeated the Canaanites and the Perizzites.
6. But Adoni-Bezek fled; and they pursued him and caught him and cut off his thumbs and big toes.
That was the ancient way of ending his military career; there was no way he could handle a bow or sword, nor stand steady to fight. But mutilation was a pagan practice. They were already drawing their standards from people around them. God had commanded to put these men to death, not to torture or mutilate them.
The next verse that hints of spiritual trouble is verse 19. "Now the Lord was with Juday, and they took possession of the ill country; but they could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley because they had iron chariots." Now that seems logical; Judah was outgunned. The problem was Judah compared the Canaanites to themselves and they had the short stick, rather than compare them to God. It's interesting in chapter 4, Deborah led Israel into victory against an army with 900 iron chariots.
The problem was not Judah's lack of power, it was Judah's lack of faith!
In all, 7 references are made of incomplete disobedience:
v. 27. But Manasseh did not take possession of Beth-shean and its villages . . . last phrase - so the Canaanites persisted in living in that land.
v. 28. And it came about when Israel became strong, that they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but they did not drive them completely.
v. 29. Neither did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites who were living in Gezer, so the Canaanites lived in Gezer among them.
v. 30. Zebulun did not drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, or the inhabitants of Nahalol; so the Canaanites lived among them and became subject to forced labor.
v. 31. Asher did not drive out the inhabitants skip to v.32. So the Asherites lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land, for they did not drive them out.
We'll stop there - you get the picture!
The picture Judges 1 gives us is of an Israel in control of Canaan, a people clearly successful though certainly disobedient. Outward success but spiritual failure - a strange but possible combination.
The next generation picked up on it!! Like today; a couple argues all the way to church; the man complains about having to spend "good time" in church . . . "Oh, that was a wonderful sermon Pastor Sominex. . . have you met my dear wife?" Susie's watching, "Liars, hypocrites. . ."
One greatest stumbling blocks young Christians have is not the opposition of the world, but the disobedience of so-called established Christians.
Another fundamental problem. . .
2. They are often isolated from past experiences of faith.
Look back again at chapter 2.
2:8 Then Joshua, the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of 110. v 9. And they buried him in the territory of his inheritance . . . skip v 10. And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel.
That's the "Old Time Religion" . . . no sense of involvement; no appreciation of the past . . . this church is about to begin it's 2nd generation - Tryon Road; the first was East Cary.
How well will we communicate your vision of faith and mission; our rich heritage of observing God's grace and power - our future depends upon it.
3. They can become ignorant of the practical preeminence of God.
2:11 Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals.
12. And they forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers . . .
13. So they forsook the Lord and served Baal and the Astartes (plural form of Ashteroth, a goddess)
It was bad enough that they turned away from the living God. What they chose to put in His place is almost beyond belief. It reveals they knew nothing of God's sovereign power.
Let me insert a better understanding . . .
Baal was a god in charge of storm and fertility, and for the Canaanites, fertility was the name of the game - fertility of crops and livestock and family.
Baal naturally had his female consort, Ashtoreth or Ashtart (and she was quite a tart).
In Canaanite theology the fertility of the land depended upon the sexual relationship between Baal and Ashtart. The revival of nature was supposedly due to intimacy between Baal and his mistress.
But the Canaanite faithful didn't just sit back and hope their two gods got along - A Canaanite man, for instance, would go to a baal shrine and have relations with one of the sacred prostitutes serving there. The man would fulfill Baal's role and the woman Ashtart's. The idea was that the copulating of the worshiper and the spiritual prostitute would encourage Mr. and Mrs. Baal to do their thing and thus the rain, grain, wine and oil would flow.
So guess what the Israelites get involved in - much more than buying a little Buddha and saying of few prayers and throwing some rice at him -
They got involved in the most degraded form of worship - engaging in temple prostitution, fertility rites, drunken orgies, idolatry, snake-worship, homosexuality, and even human child sacrifices.
What do you expect God's response will be . . . "Well, you sin some you lose some . . that's the way the cookie crumbles . . . No, look at verse 14 . . . "And the anger of the Lord burned against Israel." This is not the petty anger of hurt feelings, but the holy anger of a righteous God against sin and betrayal and idolatry.
They would become enslaved 6 different times for a total of 114 years . . . sin produces slavery.
But verse 16 reveals the incredible grace of God - "Then the Lord raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of those who plundered them."
Thus the Book of Judges is the story of Israel cycle of sin and servitude and despair and God's mercy and grace . . . it is the story of the men and women God raised up to deliver his people.
Now we've uncovered the negatives that lose a second generations; what are the positive given to keep them?
How to keep the second generation from falling into the second generation syndrome:
Let me suggest 2 key ways to keep the second generation in the arena of first generation faith!
The first generation needs to:
Develop Cooperation With the Second Generation (two ways)
physically - look at Caleb's daughter . . . 1:12 And Caleb said, "The one who attacks Kiriath-sepher and captures it, I will even give him my daughter Achsah for a wife.
13. And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, captured it; so he gave him his daughter Achsah for a wife.
14. Then it came about when she came to him, that she persuaded him to ask her father for a field. Then she alighted from her donkey, and Caleb said to her, "What do you want?"
15. And she said to him, "Give me a blessing since you have given me the land of the Negev, give me also springs of water."
She sounds just like her Dad - she is asking for more territory which you understand must be conquered and maintained! She had seen her father's faith in action . . . she had been a part of it, and now she wants to carry on in the same way.
You ever wonder why missionary kids grow up and go back to the field where their parents served? They had a high level of involvement in their parents ministry. And it became their ministry.
Do you teach a Sunday School class - put out hymnbooks - teach a children's club; plan ministry together!
Second way to develop cooperation is to:
Involve them not only physically but prayerfully.
You have a problem - involve the whole family in praying about it! Especially the younger children will amaze you with their passion for transparent prayer; they will frighten you with their expectation of an answer from God.
My wife was shopping with our 4 year old daughter, couldn't find a parking space, drove around, finally a car pulled out, Candace said, "Thanks Lord, we needed that space." Marsha almost wrecks.
A couple of weeks ago I was cleaning in the garage, she's playing outside, she didn't see me in the garage; all of a sudden she kneels down in the driveway and says, rather loudly "Oh Dear Jesus," my first impulse was to look and see if any neighbors are outside; they're already uncertain about who Baptists are . . .
Involve them through the prayer: take them through the struggle - came home at midnight - woke my wife up and explained the whole story to her as I paced around the bedroom. She sympathized and listened - then reminded me of the sovereignty of God. I didn't want to hear about the sovereignty of God . . . I wanted some matching hysteria; anger. She also told the children and they prayed for me! Now wait a second . . . I don't mind them praying with me, and I pray for them . . . and even if they pray for me because I preach and counsel and pray and lead . . . but to pray for Daddy because he's having a hard time - he's upset! I came home that afternoon and my kids gave me big hugs - that's standard.
But my daughter was just staring at me; intently watching my face - she was seeing her father in an entirely different light - "He needs help!"
But parents are supposed to be perfect models, right? We're not supposed to have problems, right? Never let your kids see you sweat!
We involve them prayerfully - not only to ask but to thank; our thanks acknowledges the source of our strength and blessing.
We don't thank God because it makes Him feel good, but because it does us good. Praise, worship, thanksgiving, prayer are the greatest protection against the second generation syndrome.
Second major suggestion that I believe will keep the second generation in the first chair of faith is to:
Develop Communication With the Second Generation
One of the most crying needs of the second generation is "My parents never talk to me . . ." Communication in the households of America is at an all time low!
One recent survey suggested that the average father talks to his children less than 5 minutes a week.
But I'm not suggesting talk for talk's sake:
Two very important things to talk about:
1) Communicate spiritual events in your life:
Remember the passion of the 2 1/2 tribes in Joshua 22 - they built an altar to serve as a tool for teaching their children - telling them the stories - kindling in their little hearts a fire for God.
Let them know what God is doing in your life and through your life - you may be surprised how little they understand about what you do.
If you share Christ with a neighbor or co-worker, tell your children about the conversation; what you said, what you wished you'd said.
Nearly a year ago I realized I was making a mistake with our children along these lines. My most consistent meeting out is Wednesday night, Evangelism Explosion. "You're going there again?" I began telling them, "I'm going to tell people about Jesus Christ tonight . . . Oh, you are! . . . yea; that's really important isn't it. . . . couple of weeks ago one our sons came home and told us that he'd told his kindergarten friend about Jesus. . . and that he'd prayed to ask Jesus into his heart. I said, What all did you tell him? "Well, I asked him if he wanted to go to heaven . . . if he didn't ask Jesus into his heart he was going to hell . . ."He was going to burn in the fire."
I believe there is a connection - two nights ago, that same kindkrid put under my pillow a present - it was "the wordless book". I asked the next day what it was for - "For you to use at Evangelism Explosion" . . . he's catching the vision . . . he's part of it!
This has a powerful way of sharing our convictions. . . not just our beliefs. You've been invited to a company party - your clients are putting it on . . . you go out of politeness but politely refuse the offers to drink what the boys are drinking and dance with the pretty office secretaries. You know how you felt - like a stick in the mud, a holy Joe, a fuddy duddy - have you ever considered how powerful that story would be to your son or daughter; who are facing incredible peer pressure at school, college, career.
Tell them what God is doing in your life . . . let me expand that a little further.
Communicate your spiritual dreams for their lives:
It is a tragic misconception that parents have, that simply being present communicates a blessing - acceptance - a special future by following the Lord. We can't predict how God will use them, but we can verbalize things related to their makeup that God can use for His glory.
You disciple a believer - constantly encourage them in the Lord.
Don't ever fall into the trap that they can read your mind. Communicate to them how special they are to God - need to quit!
Close with a question - which chair are you sitting in?