My women's group meets weekly from September until May and then we take the summer off. I long ago learned that to feel God's presence in my life I must continue reading and studying God's word on my own. If I don't, then I begin to screw up and make a mess of things and start to become depressed. I need God's Word to guide me in my daily living. To keep me on the right path.
This summer I have decided to spend time studying the Minor Prophets. These books are the last 12 books of the Old Testament. The last 17 books of the Old Testament are called the Prophetical Books and are divided into Major Prophets and Minor Prophets. "Major" and "Minor" does not indicate the level of importance of these books. It only denotes the length of these books. Major prophetical books are long. Minor prophetical books are short.
I am starting with Hosea. I know the history of the time period of Hosea so I had a clear understanding of who was who and what they were talking about. For the prophetical books, it is a good idea to get some background information before reading them.
In the historical book of 1 Samuel in chapter 8, the Jewish people ask for a king. God allows it although that wasn't His plan. First they have Saul, and then David, and then Solomon. Each ruled 40 years. This time period is called the United Kingdom. Under Solomon's son, Rehoboam, the kingdom erupts into war around 930 B.C. (I put the date so you realize these are real historical events.) This is called the Divided Kingdom.
Ten tribes break off and form the Northern Kingdom of Israel. (Prior to this the United Kingdom was referred to as Israel. So it can get confusing in the Bible when they say Israel.) All of the kings of the Northern Kingdom, Israel, were bad kings - they did evil in the sight of the LORD. God sent them the prophets Hosea and Amos to speak to them and warn them. They would not change their evil ways and God finally judged them with the world power Assyria in 722 B.C. The Bible just plainly says the Assyrians came in and conquered them. You don't get a sense of the reality of this. The actual history is horrific. The Assyrians were brutal - skinning people alive and putting their skin on the walls of the cities; chopping their heads off and putting them on spears and lining the roads to the cities. The few people of the Northern Kingdom who survived this brutality were left and Assyria brought people of other faiths in and they intermarried. The result was a group of people called Samaritans. The ten northern Jewish tribes were wiped off of world history from that point forward. The Northern Kingdom of Israel no longer existed.
The Southern Kingdom was composed of 2 tribes, Benjamin and Judah, and were called Judah. The Messiah was to come from Judah. And He did. Judah had some bad kings and then God would lift up a good king and revival would occur. When the people obeyed God, then things went well. God blessed them. When the next generation would turn from God, prophets would be sent. Sometimes the people would listen and more often than not, they wouldn't. Finally when generation after generation of people did evil in the sight of God, He quit sending prophets and judged Judah with the Babylonians in 586 B.C. Again we just matter of factly read this in the Bible without getting a sense of how horrible it was. People were slaughtered. The Babylonians laid siege to Jerusalem and starved the people. Then they entered Jerusalem and killed more. Those that survived were carried off to Babylonia. Oh how God's people had fallen.
Before you get all up in arms saying, "How could a loving God do this to His people?," look at it from a different angle. We know God is slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. But He is holy and just. He warned and warned and warned the people some more before He passed judgment on them. That shows His great mercy. It is the people who made the choice to reject God and therefore had to live with the consequences of that choice. Put the blame where it lies.
2 Kings 17:13
Yet the Lord warned Israel and Judah through all His prophets and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep My commandments, My statutes according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you through My servants the prophets.”
In reading and studying Hosea this time, something really stuck out to me. When I first began to read Scripture, I didn't have an understanding of the entirety of it. However, the more you read the more you understand. The deeper you go. God may have something entirely different that He wants to reveal to me this go around. I love this! First I had to learn A, B, and C before I could understand D. God is constantly growing me and changing my thinking and my heart as I continue to study His word. Reading the Bible is a life-long adventure. It is living and breathing. It's transformative.
Anyways, this time when I read Hosea one of the things which jumped out at me were the verses that talked about the knowledge of God. More accurately the lack of knowledge of God.
The reason this impacted me was I have been thinking a lot lately about generational faith. Why does one generation seem to follow God and obey Him and the next generation reject Him? That is a million dollar question. It occurs throughout the Bible. It occurred throughout time. It is going on today.
In my own personal experience I was not trained by the generation preceding me. I grew up in a home where the Christian faith was not talked about. I learned some going to church. I knew the Gospel message. I had accepted Jesus as my Savior. But I did not know what it meant to live life as a Christian. I didn't really surrender to Jesus as my Lord. Lots of us want a Savior, but often we resist the Lord thing. I had faith as long as everything was going along just dandy. The first major storm that hit I turned my back on my faith. The wasted years of my life can be partially blamed on lack of training. I had little knowledge of God - who He was and what He expected of me.
But how often do you know of people who were raised by godly parents who trained them and yet they still turned their back on their faith? What makes them do that? What makes a child who was raised in a truly Christian home, one who seemed to know God, abandon the faith of their fathers? I don't know why. I ponder it. A lot. I suspect what we often think as spiritual training (taking our kids to church and dropping them off at youth group); it turns out it really isn't. And I suspect they really didn't know God at all. Knowing God requires we spend time with Him.
Sadly, just because one generation has faith doesn't guarantee the next one will.
A generation turning from God is what happened in Judges.
The people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who survived Joshua,
...; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD,...
Why didn't they know the LORD? They were raised by a generation who did know Him.
Because they did not know Him they did evil.
Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals, and they forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers,...
And God's response:
... thus they provoked the LORD to anger.
The anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and He gave them into the hands of plunderers who plundered them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies around them, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies. Wherever they went, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil,...
(Note, "Israel" in this verse is referring to the entire nation.)
We see this happen over and over in the Kingdom Books.
Hosea is a prophet to Israel. In chapter 4 listen to what Hosea is telling Israel. God has a case against them.
Listen to the word of the LORD, O sons of Israel, for the LORD has a case against the inhabitants of the land, because there is no faithfulness or kindness or knowledge of God in the land.
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.
Because they have stopped giving heed to the LORD.
The people wouldn't listen. Hosea continues to make a case against Israel.
And they do not know the LORD.
And what happens to Israel because they will not listen? Because they have no knowledge of God? God judged them. Their nation was utterly destroyed by the Assyrians in a terrifying brutal way.
What makes one generation know God and the next generation not know Him?
I cannot answer that. But I DO KNOW how to acquire knowledge of God.
The number one way God is going to speak into your life is through His word.
By reading the Bible you learn who He is, how much He loves us, how He expects us to love Him back and to love others, we are convicted of the sin in our lives, we come to repentance, we come to saving grace, we take hold of God's promises, and we learn how we are to live our lives pleasing to God.
AND we become equipped to pass on what we know to others - specifically that next generation.
The more you read, the more He speaks to you.
Let's be a generation that has knowledge of God.
You may find these other posts about faith from generation to generation interesting.
Teaching the Generations dated April 11, 2017.
Generational Faith dated May 28, 2018