By definition, the phrase “generation gap” has a negative connotation. It means that something is lost in translation from one generation to the next. Differences in values, beliefs and perspectives result in a parting of minds and/or hearts.
Chapter 3 in the Book of Judges tells the story of a ‘faith generation gap’ within the nation of Israel, who was, at the time, residing in the Land of Canaan. Residing alongside them in the land was a list of non-Hebrew people groups. This is an important detail, because part of God’s promise to Abraham to give them the Land of Canaan, was to drive out the heathen nations already living there.
Israel was comprised at that time of two distinct generations. The distance between them was probably akin to the “gap” between the youth of the 1960’s and their 1940’s parents — HUGE!
In this case, one of the biggest differences between them was that the older generation were well-seasoned veterans of war. The younger generation had not seen war in their lifetime. The chapter begins this way:
These are the nations which the Lord left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan… They were left to test the Israelites to see whether they would obey the Lord’s commands, which he had given their ancestors through Moses. Judges 3:1, 4
Why was it important for the children of Israel, the generation after Joshua and the elders, to experience war? War tests loyalty. Through the hardship of war, the faithfulness and obedience of earlier generations had been tried and tested.
Conversely, peace is often the result of compromise – in this case compromise with evil kings and pagan cultures.
Young Israel had not yet been forced to choose between their heathen neighbors and the Lord. The faith of the next generation remained to be tested. To this end, God left a remnant of Israel’s enemies, along with their sinful cultures, in the Land of Canaan.
This is more than an historical truth. It is a principle that applies to all who claim to be of the household of faith. Eventually, the generation of faith will no longer be leading. It will no longer be their responsibility to establish godly boundaries on behalf of their children and grandchildren. They will no longer establish the way, keep watch, or fight the battles. Leadership eventually falls to the next generation, and that generation’s faith will have to be tested.
Will we pass the test? What will be required?
No slacking. No getting comfortable. Only in taking ownership of our responsibility to walk faithfully and rightly before the Lord, to raise-up the following generation in the “fear and admonition” of the Lord and to “train them up in the way they should go“, will we prevent a faith generation gap.
But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children—with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts. Psalm 103:17-18