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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/baldivis/
 
Title:Know that the LORD is your faithful covenant God
Text:Judges 2:10 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Parenting
 
Preached:2013-08-18
Added:2013-10-13
Updated:2014-05-15
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Songs from 2010 APV Book of Praise
Bible translation: NKJV
(Note: Sermon the second in a series on Christian parenting, but can be used on its own)

Psalm 115:1,5

Psalm 119:39,40

Psalm 106:1,2,3 (Collection)

Psalm 106:22,23

Hymn 3:5

Read:  Judges 2:7-23; Psalm 106

Text:  Judges 2:10

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

What was wrong with the people of Israel?  How could it be that they so quickly forgot the LORD their God?  How could it happen that so soon after Joshua and his generation died there arose after them another generation who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel? 

  We need to know!  We need to know what went wrong so that we won’t make the same mistake!  We need to know if we can do anything different so that this does not happen in the generation that is to come after us.  And as we read and reflect on both Judges 2 and Psalm 106, our concern grows even more when we realize that this was not a once-off isolated event!  In fact it happened over and over again that a generation arose who did not know the LORD.

 

Who then is the LORD?  What does it mean to know Him?  And what then must we teach our children and the generation to come after us?

 

This [morning] I preach to you the Word of the Lord as we have read it from Judges 2 and Psalm 106 under the following theme:

 

Know that the LORD is your faithful covenant God.

1.    The tragedy when a generation does not know this.

2.    The miracle that the LORD does remain this.

 

1. The tragedy when a generation does not know this.

When it says in Judges 2:10 that a generation arose that did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel, this does not mean that every last understanding of the LORD had been lost.  The people of Israel in the days of the Judges did not know the LORD, but they did, of course, know of Him, know about Him.  That is clear from Judges 6, when the Angel of the LORD said to Gideon,

“The LORD is with you!”

and Gideon asked in response,

“. . . if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us?  And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’”

Gideon knew his history.  Gideon knew that the LORD had brought them out of Egypt, through the wilderness and into the Promised Land.  And along with Gideon, we can be confident that many others also at least knew about the LORD.  But while Israel knew of Him, they did not know Him!  That is, they did not know Him as their faithful covenant God, and so they did not serve Him as such.  They did not have a relationship with Him.  When it came down to it, these stories that their fathers told them, these stories that the LORD had redeemed them from slavery in the land of Egypt and brought them to this land of milk and honey so that they might serve Him there, they did not matter to them.  And the fact that the LORD had established a covenant with His people, saying to them, “I am the LORD your God who has brought you out of Egypt, has redeemed you out of the house of slavery to be My treasured possession, to make you My covenant people” this did not seem to make an impact on them.  They lived for themselves, for their own pleasures, their own comfort. And therefore they did not know the LORD. 

 

This was what the LORD had warned His people of so strongly in Deuteronomy chapter 6.  This was what the LORD had warned His people of in Deuteronomy 6:10-12.

“So it shall be, when the Lord your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, 11 houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant— when you have eaten and are full— 12 then beware, lest you forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

 

But doesn’t this happen so quickly, so easily even today?  When Christianity becomes a way of life rather than the way of faith, doesn’t it still so quickly happen today that life in the covenant can be discarded in a generation?  And the way that it seems to happen the most is that even though a generation might know of the LORD, they do not know Him as their faithful covenant God!  He makes no difference to them!  All this talk about a Saviour, all this talk about the Son of God dying on a cross, all this talk about an empty tomb and now the Son of God seated in heavenly glory at the Father’s right hand, it makes no impression on them, it seems to have no relevance to how they live nor who they live for! 

 

And that is a tragedy.

 

But how did it all come to this?  What went wrong?  How could it be that so soon after Joshua had said in Joshua 24:15 “as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” and all the people said, “We will do likewise” how could it be that a generation arose after them that did not know the LORD?  To go back to the questions at the beginning of this sermon, Who then is the LORD?  What does it mean to know Him?  And what then must we teach our children and the generation to come after us?

 

As parents we can become quite possessive of our children.  As parents we want the best for our children in every possible way.  And that is good!  Parents, it is right that you love your children and enjoy the blessing of having them in your home and around your table.  But we must be careful, however, that in all of this we bring them up well, that we bring them up in the fear of the LORD, as His covenant children.  We must be careful to see to it that we place the LORD first, that we love Him with our whole heart, soul and strength and not make our children, our family, the center of our universe.  We must be careful to see to it that this is evident both in what we teach our children and in the decisions that we make concerning them.

 

The people of Israel had to learn this too.  Most of you would know the story of what happened to the people of Israel when they were in the wilderness.  In Numbers 13 Moses sent twelve men to spy out the Promised Land, the land of Canaan, but when they came back they told the people that even though it was a good land, it would be too hard to conquer.  They said to the people in Numbers 13,

“We went to the land where you sent us.  It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.  Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; . . . [it is] a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature.”  (Numbers 13:27,28,32)

And so the people of Israel rebelled against the LORD and against Moses and refused to go on, deciding instead to turn back and return to Egypt.  But do you know why they made that decision?  Do you know what made them turn back from obeying the LORD, from trusting in Him, and going in to take possession of the land?  It was because of their children!  Listen to what they said to Moses in Numbers 14:3 –

“Why has the LORD brought us to this land to fall by the sword that our wives and children should become victims?”

“We will not do what the LORD says” they said, “because it would not be good for our families, for our children!  We need to put them first!  We need to protect the little ones!  We need to take care of them . . . and the best place to do that is not in this wilderness, nor in Canaan, but back in the land Egypt, back in the land of slavery!”

 

And in fact, the LORD reminded the Israelites of this in Deuteronomy 1:39 when He said,

“Moreover your little ones and your children, who you say will be victims . . . they shall go in there; to them I will give [the Promised Land], and they shall possess it.”

 

“Your little ones and your children, who you say will be the victims.”  We need to be careful that we do not think too badly of the Israelites and too well of ourselves.  As a parent I can understand this.  As a parent, on hearing that there were giants in the land, that the cities were large and well fortified, as a parent I can understand the decision not to proceed but to turn back to Egypt.  For when we put our children first, doesn’t that sound like the responsible thing to do?  But it is not the responsible thing to do because your children do not, in the first place, belong to you, but they belong to God!  And it is as God’s children, as children of His covenant, that you are to raise your children and make your decisions for them.  We live in a child-focused age, where the child is king, where the child is queen.  We are tempted to make decisions for our children that we think are best for them, that is, for their temporal life here on earth.  But we so easily make those decisions apart from the clear understanding that our children belong to God!  It is not child-centered parenting that is asked of you, but God-centered parenting!  The children of this church have been baptized as a sign and seal that they belong to God, that they are members of His covenant.  Through the sacrament of baptism, the LORD declares, “I am your God and you are My child.  You belong to me.”  And it is this covenant relationship between the LORD God and our children that must influence every decision we make concerning them. 

  To give one obvious example, Christian schooling.  We are blessed to have Christian schools that are actually very good.  They are well resourced, they have well trained teachers, and in general the students do very well.  But the reason why we send our children to a Christian school is not because it is necessarily the place where our children will be the happiest or where they will get the best subject choices and the best education but the reason why we send them there is because they must be taught in the fear of the LORD!  By baptism, as sign of the covenant, your children have been grafted into the Christian church and are distinguished from the children of unbelievers.  (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 27.)  They must, therefore, be taught what it means to be a covenant child of the LORD, they must be taught to know that the LORD is their faithful covenant God and as parents you have the duty to instruct them in these things and to have them instructed to the utmost of your power. 

  Christian schooling, of course, is only one example.  The question for you as parents is “Do you raise your child as one who belongs to God and to His covenant?”  Do you teach your children and make decisions for them in the conscious awareness that they belong to God?  Do you place the LORD first, yes, even above the wants and worldly needs of your child?

 

But that starts, of course,   not with your children but with you.  Who is first in your life?  Do you know that the LORD is your faithful covenant God? 

 

We read together from Psalm 106.  Psalm 106 describes the covenant faithfulness of the LORD and of all the mighty things that He had done for His people.  But over and over again, the people forgot the LORD, they did not know Him as their faithful covenant God.  And so, after being delivered from Pharaoh of Egypt at the Red Sea, verse 12 says,

12         Then they believed His words;

            They sang His praise.

But then listen to what it says in the very next verse, verse 13.

13         They soon forgot His works;

            They did not wait for His counsel.

 

Did the people of Israel not know about the LORD?  Had they not seen His mighty power, His ability to save?  Yes of course they had!  But over and over again the people forgot the LORD, they did not know Him, they did not trust Him, as their faithful covenant God.  As it says in Psalm 106:21,

“They forgot God their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt, wondrous works in the land of Ham, awesome things by the Red Sea.”

They forgot, that is, they did not live out of the knowledge that the LORD was their God.  And so that generation all died in the wilderness, they did not enter the Promised Land.

 

But the next generation did know the LORD.  The generation who went with Joshua into the Promised Land had not only witnessed the unbelief of their fathers and the consequence of a 40 year journey through the wilderness, but they had also seen how the LORD had saved them.  They knew what it meant to be His covenant children and they lived out of the fact that they were God’s covenant children.  Please turn we me back to Judges 2 where we will read this and a number of other verses. 

  First of all then Judges 2:7-

“So the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LORD which He had done for Israel.”

 

But then comes our text, Judges 2:10.

“When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel.”

And the consequence of this is explained further in verse 17,

“They turned quickly from the way in which their fathers walked, in obeying the commandments of the LORD; they did not do so.”

And verse 20,

“. . . this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers, and has not heeded My voice.”

 

And the result was that in a generation the people of Israel forsook the LORD and they turned to the gods of the land.   Judges 2:11-13

Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals; 12 and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; and they followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them, and they bowed down to them; and they provoked the Lord to anger. 13 They forsook the Lord and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.

 

And so they fell into sin.  And then the LORD did as He said He would, He let them fall into the hands of their enemies.  However when He heard the groaning of the people, the LORD was compassionate, and sent a judge to deliver them.  But then when the judge was dead, they went right back to their wicked ways and even behaved more corruptly than their fathers, by following other gods and serving them.  They did not cease from their own doings nor from their stubborn way.  They were indeed a generation that did not know the LORD.

 

The problem was that with each new judge there might have been a momentary turning to the LORD, but there was no change of heart.  And so when the judge died, the people fell back into their sinful ways.  For they did not know the LORD as their faithful covenant God.

 

And so the book of Judges cries out for relief – but not just for relief from the enemies who oppressed them.  The book of Judges cries out for the relief from sin!  For in the persistent falling away, falling into sin, we see the bondage of sin, how sin enslaves you, how it chains you.  And so we and our children need a Saviour – not just from individual sins, but from a heart of sin.  So that we might be changed from the inside out and so live not for ourselves but for Him.

 

2. The miracle that the LORD does remain this.

As we make our way through what the Bible tells us about how the people of Israel went through the wilderness for 40 years and as we read through the book of Judges, we are confronted not just with a sinful generation that did not know the LORD, but in them we see ourselves.  In the seemingly irreversible spiral downwards as described in the book of Judges, we become increasingly desperate for a way out, for salvation, for real and lasting and genuine salvation.  We cry out for the grace and the compassion of God.  And the amazing thing that we discover when we read the Old Testament is that the LORD is compassionate, that He does remain faithful to His covenant promises.  The book of Judges gives evidence of what Psalm 106:43-45 sings about,

“Many times He delivered them; but they rebelled in their counsel, and were brought low for their iniquity.  Nevertheless He regarded their affliction, when He heard their cry; and for their sake He remembered His covenant, and relented according to the multitude of His mercies.”

And there we see the miracle of God’s covenant faithfulness to His people!  When they were enslaved to sin, He saved them!  He did of course punish His people for their sin and Judges 2:14 says that the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel.  He sold them into the hands of their enemies and the suffering of Israel was great and very real.  But that was not the end of the matter!  Judges 2:16,

“Nevertheless, the LORD raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand of those who plundered them.”

In spite of their sin, in spite of the fact that a whole generation no longer knew the LORD as their faithful covenant God, the LORD did not forget His people, nor the promises that He had made.  And it is this grace, this compassion of your covenant LORD that caused the writer of Psalm 106 to sing for joy in verse 2,

“Who can utter the mighty acts of the LORD?”  Who can declare all His praise?”

Praised be the LORD who has not dealt with us according to our sins , nor punished us according to our iniquities!

 

The LORD is just and He punishes sin.  But He is also merciful.  And that is what we must tell the coming generation!  There is nothing in you, there is nothing in me, there is nothing in this present generation that makes us any better or any more faithful than the generation of Israelites who died in the wilderness or the generation who came after the death of Joshua and did not know the LORD.  The fact that the people of Israel consistently fell into the pattern of turning away from the LORD, of being chastised by the LORD, of being redeemed by Him only to fall away once more is a lesson to each and every one of us that we can not do it, that we can not live in faithfulness to God’s covenant in and of ourselves.  And nor can we compel our children, the next generation, to do this. We need a Saviour.  We need Jesus Christ!   Thanks be to God, therefore, for the miracle the LORD showed Himself faithful to His covenant promises and that He sent us His Son, our Saviour so that in Him we might be cleansed, might be made new.  In Christ, through the powerful working of the Holy Spirit, the LORD then takes our heart of stone and turns it into a heart of flesh, He takes that which was dead and makes it alive!  In Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit you are given a new life to live for Him. 

 

And now that is what you are called to teach your children.  Teach your children about the LORD and teach your children to obey Him, but do not teach them to obey Him outside of the covenant of grace!  Your salvation is in Christ alone.  He is the One “who gave Himself for our sins” (Galatians 1:4) and He is the One who can deliver us from this body of death.  And He is the One who not only promised to wash us in His blood, but He also promises to renew us by His Holy Spirit so that more and more we become dead to sin and lead a holy and blameless life.

 

And it is “in these things” that the form for holy baptism tells us to instruct our children.  Our children need to be changed, but the change that our children need is more than just a change of behavior; it is a change of the heart.  We can’t do that.  As parents we can – and should – work at changing their behavior.  We can – and should – teach them what it means to live in obedience to God and His Word.  But as parents we can not change the heart.  Only God can do that, through His Word and the Holy Spirit.  But we are called to be ambassadors of His grace.  Point your children, therefore, not just to their sin but also to the cross.  Teach them not just about the holiness and the justice of God, but also of His grace and of His mercy.  And teach them how His justice and His mercy can be seen in the sending of His Son, Jesus Christ.  And so teach them that the LORD is their faithful covenant God.  And then pray.  Pray that they may see what you see, pray that they might know what you know.  Pray that they and us might know that the LORD is our faithful covenant God.  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2013, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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