When God had a message for the generation of the book of Deuteronomy, it was a call to correct the errors of the past—errors of unbelief, idolatry, and infidelity. The first generation from Egypt was filled with trouble, just read the book of Numbers.
What those young Israelites needed was a greater commitment to Yahweh’s instruction than their forefathers. Genuine “love” for the LORD was to be expressed by devotion to His “torah,” or law.1 God’s Word was to be their treasure, stored in their heart. They were called to study it meticulously. Unlike those who walked before them, they were not to “forget.”2
The most familiar passage calling for such rededication is the “shema.” In Deuteronomy 6:4 and following, God called Israel to renewed consecration—to love Yahweh their God with all their heart, all their soul, and all their might. The nation was to commit themselves to His words.
Israel’s entire lifestyle was to be consumed with the instruction of Yahweh. And, in large part, this wholistic dedication to Yahweh would only occur through diligently teaching the children: “You shall teach them diligently to your sons 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 up.” Sadly, such parenting was greatly neglected.
In the book of Judges, the devastating consequences of failing to teach the children fell upon Israel. Judges 2:10–12 reads:
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. Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals, they forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them; thus they provoked the LORD to anger.
The spiritual endurance of a people, whether that’s a family, a community, a nation, or a church, depends greatly on the effort spent teaching children the Word of God.
If churches today want to see fruit that extends beyond this generation, they must become devoted to teaching children diligently. This is a call to give greater attention to parental instruction and the church’s children’s ministry. As a father of three boys and a Pastoral Assistant in our children’s ministry, this is an exhortation I feel heavily upon myself. We can’t allow the Word of God to be forgotten by our kids.
Teach Them God’s Word Diligently
Children need the Word of God. They are born sinfully depraved (Ps. 51:5; cf. Eph. 2:1–3). They are prone to foolishness (Prov. 22:15), easily tossed about by every wind of doctrine (Eph. 4:14). Yet they are sponges for truth. Obviously, no child is made a Christian by their parents’ or Sunday School teachers’ Bible teaching. Children, like all of us, come to believe through a work of sovereign grace. But God has ordained instruction to be a primary means of directing children onto the path of righteousness and wisdom (Prov. 1:1–7). The sacred writings are able to impart the wisdom that leads to salvation (2 Tim. 3:14–15). It is the Word of Christ that produces faith (Rom. 10:17).