Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Missing Link

After Joshua had dismissed the Israelites, they went to take possession of the land, each to their own inheritance. 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.
Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten. And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres e in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.
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. 11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. 12 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 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.
Judges 2:6-13

            Israel just finished the period of epic battle conquering 33 kings of Canaan under the leadership of Joshua.  And now they are entering the period of peace in the Promised Land.  All God’s promises are fulfilled.  All Israel follow the Lord as long as the generation of Joshua lives.  However, just as the entire Joshua generation is gone, the new generation goes wild.  Here the reason for their wildness is spilled out in 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.  The key is knowledge of the Lord.  This reminds me of the opening of the book of Exodus when a new Pharaoh arises, one who knows not about Joseph and what he had done to save Egypt.  Then the new Pharaoh begins to oppress Israel and enslaves them unjustly.  Similarly, here the new generation of Israel begins their wild lifestyle due to
their ignorance of the Lord and what he had done for Israel.  The author of the book of Judges did not tell why the Lord is not known by the new generation.  This is shocking.  There is something missing here.  Something very important that constitutes transfer and transition of knowledge is obviously not in place.  The Tabernacle is there, the monuments are there, the heroic stories are there, the book of the covenant is also there, the priests are functioning normally, but yet the knowledge is not passed on.  There is a missing link between the older generation and the younger generation at the time of Judges.

            Moses commanded all Israel to teach their children everything that is written in the book of the covenant (Deuteronomy 6).  This teaching includes the beginning of the world, the fall of Adam and Eve, the promise of salvation by the Lord, God’s mighty act and providence from the beginning, God’s covenants with the patriarchs, God’s fulfillment of his promises, and also all his laws, rules, and regulations for proper living as God’s people.  Those are to be taught from generation to generation.  But shockingly, not even two generations passed, the next generation right after the Joshua generation is said to be ignorant of the Lord.  Even though the author did not mention what is missing, it is safe to conclude that the education is missing in this context.  Knowledge is not passed on through any other means but education.  By nature children receive their first knowledge of everything from their parents.  Since their birth until they are able to explore the world, they always go back to their parents for guidance, protection, and help.  This includes knowledge of what is appropriate, what is right, what is good, what is useful, and so on and so forth.  Commonly parents will teach their children the way of life and functioning in the society and in the fabric of the nation.  The symbols for effective children education are all in place.  The Tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, the monuments, the book of the covenant, the law and rules and regulations of life, the teaching of the priests, the rituals of worship, etc. are all there to impress children of the truth about God.  They are there prepared by God himself through his servant Moses so that such precious knowledge can be passed on to the next generation for their foundation of life.  If all these functions properly, then it would be unthinkable for the next generation to know not about Yahweh whatsoever.  But the scripture is clear, the next generation knew not the Lord and what he had done for Israel.  And so, something must not function properly somehow.

            The missing link has something to do with what the author of the book of Judges described in the previous passage:

1The angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land I swore to give to your ancestors. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.’ Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? And I have also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; they will become traps for you, and their gods will become snares to you.’ ”
When the angel of the Lord had spoken these things to all the Israelites, the people wept aloud, and they called that place Bokim. b There they offered sacrifices to the Lord.  (Judges 2:1-5)

The missing link has something to do with how Israel disobeyed the Lord, even in the time of Joshua.  Their disobedience is fatal.  Instead of destroying the inhabitants of the land completely, they make covenant with them.  And so Israel allows the inhabitants of the land to flourish, together with all their evil practices and ways of life.  The Lord is absolutely right when he says that this will be traps and snares for Israel.  In fact it is.  Educationally speaking, with the competing ways of life right in front of the eyes of the children of Israel, they would explore them further.  This makes them become the judge of what they consider to be best and right for them.  Even though all the symbols and teachings of the law function properly, but the lure of the interesting way of life they never knew before becomes too attractive for them to resist.  How much more if their parents are also attracted to that lifestyle and adopt it into their everyday life.  Soon they will forget to educate their children on the right way of life.  One key effective education is that teachers educate when students’ motivation is high.  The indication of the motivation to learn is when students are curious of things and thus ask questions.  With the fact that the new generation knowing not the Lord and what he had done to Israel, clearly the Mosaic education is not working.  Either the children ask nothing about all the symbols, the teachings, and thus shows that they are not interested in whatever it is in the Mosaic education, or the parents do not have the authority and courage to teach their children on what is right.  Parker Palmer wrote a wonderful book of education called “The Courage to Teach,” and it is obvious that often teachers are timid which results in their teaching being crooked.  Instead of teaching what is right and true, often teachers teach to please their students.  In the context of our passage, it might be true that the parents, as the children’s natural teachers, are timid to teach them the truth about the Lord.  Since they have made covenant with the inhabitants of the land, they would not teach the truth that God wanted them to wipe out the people of the land completely.  And so their teaching becomes crooked, and slowly but sure, they no longer want to embrace the Lord.  They then teach other things.  The only way someone to forget what is very dramatic experience in their life is by suppressing the truth and thus lying to him/herself.  Continue not talking about the Lord for so many years, then you will believe that there is no Yahweh.  This is what happens in our passage.

            This situation is similar to our today’s world.  In the book of Judges the people’s ignorance of the Lord does not happen only once, but it is repeated throughout the book.  Once the judge passed away, the people start forgetting the truth and then again doing evil in the eyes of the Lord.  This has become a pattern.  A pattern that has plagued humanity since the Fall.  In our modern world today, many of us are also timid in teaching our children.  We do not teach them the truth, but we tolerate their ignorance and even affirm their false conclusion as truth.  Especially with the rise of science and modern schooling system, parents feel they are outdated and stupid and so not fitting to teach their children about anything.  Thus they give in to their children.  Instead of parents having authority over their children, children have sovereignty over their parents, especially with the law only protecting children and not protecting the parental rights to educate what is right and true.  And we are now wondering why are the younger generations leaving the church?  The difference between the Eastern model of education and the Western is on their perspective of time.  The East looks to the past for the foundation of education at any level.  The West looks to the future for the foundation of education at all level.  Confucius taught his students to read the old books and listen to the wisdom of the past.  Plato and Aristotle taught their students to project their knowledge to the future in order to build the ideal life.  Since the western model of education currently prevails in the world, thus the world moves forward at the speed never imagined before.  The 20th and 21st centuries are testaments of the fastest development humans have ever achieved.  But the development is sided only on the area of science and technology, at the expense of morality and spirituality.  The younger generation comprehends knowledge totally foreign to the older generation.  That is how big the generation gap that we have today.  And so the younger generation think they know better than their parents, that they are smarter, and because of that they believe that they are destined to rule.  But ruling requires something deeper than just new knowledge and advancement of technology.  Ruling requires wisdom.  And wisdom comes from the fear of the Lord.  How can one fear the Lord if he/she knows not the Lord?  How can one know the Lord if no one is teaching them about the Lord?  In order to teach them the Lord and what he had done, one must refer to the past.  The past is not outdated, and is not obsolete in that respect.  They are not myth.  God’s law is eternal.  The Lord himself outlives anyone that has ever set foot on earth.  And so when parents have in their hearts and minds the knowledge of the Lord, why are you being timid in teaching your children the truth?

            The missing link is crucial.  It is not to be missed.  This is how important Christian education is.  God told Moses to command Israel to continue to teach their children.  This is the very thing they ignore.  They went to battle and captured the land.  But they forgot to win their children for the Lord, and thus they lost the more important battle.  No wonder the next generation that arises do not know the Lord and what he had done for Israel.  This pattern does not happen just in the book of Judges, or just happen to Israel.  But this pattern is the pattern of humanity.  For example, China becomes moral-less because Chairman Mao started the Cultural Revolution.  He was so much into Marx’s idea of the just and modern society and so he abandoned all the values of the Confucian morality and whatever other moralities which he considered as antique and hampering the growth of China.  So he commanded that all older generations to be “schooled” by the younger generations.  They threw away all the teachings of Confucius and also all other teachings of the past including Christianity, and then they adopted Communism as the way of life.  Years past, China lost its spirituality and morality.  The moral compass did not function anymore in China.  An entire generation raised without knowing what is right and true.  This is one example of many.  Right now we are facing the same problem people in the book of Judges faced.  The younger generations are leaving the faith.  And what do we do as the parents, as the leaders in the church, as teachers?  Do we give in?  Do we then become timid in teaching our children, students, things of the past?  Are we going to compromise our faith for the sake of pleasing and getting along with our children?  An article in the Banner a few months ago titled “Tomorrow’s Theology” by Rev. Walhout is the reflection of how Christians have prostituted themselves with the world just like Israel prostituted themselves with Baal in the time of the Judges.  Our theology should not be dictated by the advancement of science and the temporary findings of the knowledge in scientific research.  For even Thomas Kuhn in his “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” hinted that every new finding will not stay forever, for it will soon be replaced by the newer finding.  Are we then going to substitute what is eternal with what is temporary?  Walhout is completely mistaken when he suggested for theology to be redefined based on the new findings in the world of science.  Walhout’s suggestion will only lead Christians to raise a new generation that will not know the Lord and what he has done throughout history, especially what he has done through Jesus Christ our savior and lord.

            Therefore, we ought to stand our ground.  Have courage to teach our children things of the past, things that are written in the Scripture.  Then we will teach them the truth, which will result in the rise of a generation that knows the Lord and what he has done for us.  The book of Judges should have reminded us what will happen if we let the link be missed.  Be careful to obey what God commands us to do or we will bring disaster not only upon ourselves but also upon our children and our children’s children.  God’s command is clear that is to disciple all nations, to baptize them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and to teach them everything that Jesus commands us.  This is our Great Commission from our Savior, Lord, and God eternal.  Coram Deo.

* The Business of Christian Education LVII

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