President Ronald Reagan once remarked, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” His words serve as a reminder that freedom should never be assumed from one generation to the next—each successive generation must make a conscious effort to fight for freedom and the principles that uphold it.
Reagan, of course, was referring to the freedoms enjoyed as American citizens. Even though he was speaking of a temporary, earthly kingdom, the principle also applies to God’s Kingdom. Each generation must make a conscious decision to walk in obedience to the Lord and his commands. By implication, that means that each generation must also make it a priority to teach and train the generation behind them in the ways of the Lord.
In what is arguably one of the most heartbreaking passages in all of Scripture, as one generation passed away the generation that followed them ”did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10). As a result of their ignorance, Israel abandoned the Lord, beginning a long, troubling, and oftentimes violent history marked largely by disobedience and rebellion. Sure, there were moments of contrition and repentance, but they became increasingly fewer and further between as Israel spiraled toward devastation and destruction.
Today’s text serves as a warning to any of us that have been entrusted with raising the next generation (which, as God’s people, is all of us). Parents, grandparents, teachers, nursery workers, volunteers in the children and student ministries (which we need more of, by the way), let us be diligent to point the generation behind us, the generation entrusted to us, to the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:6-7; Ephesians 6:4). God forbid we be the generation that stands at a distance while shaking our heads at “kids these days”—let us be a people who get our hands dirty, sacrificing and serving to teach ”the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders he has done…so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (Psalm 78:4, 6-7).