This text shocked me: "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." (vs 10) What?! God finally had a generation of Israelites that He could take into the Promised Land.... and it only took one generation to unravel it all. Unbelievable.
Really, I can’t get over this. How could this generation grow up not knowing God or what He had done for Israel? Didn’t their parents tell them the stories about the Exodus, about camping in the wilderness, about taking the land? Didn’t they recount the miracles? I’m sure they must have told their kids something. But, I think there were two major obstacles in the way.
First, the previous generation didn’t do what God told them to do when it came to driving out the heathen nations. Consequently, the Israelites ended up mixed in with the Canaanites—and all their false gods. Because the older generation of Israelites tolerated the false gods of the Canaanites, the younger generation of Israelites embraced them.
Along with that, the second major obstacle for this older generation to overcome was the fact that there is a huge difference between hearing something and internalizing it. Just because parents share their faith is no guarantee that their children will embrace it. And certainly, a watered-down faith that doesn’t even trust God fully translates tenuously, at best.
At the end of the day, we all stand equal before God. He has only children, not grandchildren. Though we may be influenced for the good or the bad by our parents, they don’t determine our salvation. We are not saved or lost by their choices; we are saved or lost by our choices. If the generation before us has been faithful to God, we can choose to throw that overboard and be unfaithful to Him. And vice versa.
We are not God’s grandchildren. We are His children. And to each of us, He gives the same opportunity to choose. So, may we not be like either of those Israelite generations—not the one that tolerated evil and certainly not the one that embraced evil. And no matter where we have come from, may we remember that those who would influence us for good or evil are no more God’s children than we are. God wants us to decide for ourselves which way we will go.