After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up,
who neither knew the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.
Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Babals.
They forsook the Lord . . . They followed and worshiped various gods . . .
The children of the Israelites walked away from God because they never experienced his power or his glory themselves. All they had were stories of God's greatness, and the stories seemed distant and irrelevant. Why serve such a demanding God when other gods let them do as they pleased?
I read this story, and it is more than a commentary on the Israelites for me; it's personal.
With our kids, we like to think in terms of guarantees. If we take our children to church, pray with them, teach them about God's Word, discipline them appropriately, then they'll serve God, live productive lives, have happy marriages, etc.
I think I attended more than a few seminars and read more than a few books that claimed if I did all those things AND home schooled my kids, we would positively avoid the struggles that public schooled church kids experienced.
When my son rejected God and walked away from the church, I felt shortchanged. Had all those speakers and authors lied? They certainly seemed sincere.
No, I must have done something wrong. In fact, I'm sure I did so many things wrong. I could tell you what those things were if you wanted, but that's not the point.
The point is, if our children do not experience God and his glory and his power themselves, if all they have are distant stories of God's greatness, at some point they will wander away.
I know some people will disagree with me, but I don't believe we have any guarantees with our children. We introduce them to God's truths. We model our own spiritual growth and walk humbly before them. We pray for them.
But ultimately, it is God who works in their hearts. And they make their own choices to follow God or to walk away.
And then we continue praying as our hearts are breaking. And we trust God to continue working.