“That the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born,
that they may arise and declare them to their children,” Psalm 78:6
For most of us, at least those whose lives are impacted by the schedules of children, the beginning of a new school year has sent shock waves into what was, for a season, a peaceful lifestyle. With the end of July came the beginning of school. For some, this hit like a tsunami as the milestone years of kindergarten, middle school, high school, or college crashed upon them. For others, it was yet another wave whose push and pull reminded them that, like the ocean, change is relentless. Whether you are a parent, a grandparent, or a teacher, the beginning of another school year may find you revisiting the shoreline of time and noticing, with the passage of another year, the increased change in the landscape.
It’s understandable that we would use events in life to mark and measure the passage of time, and the beginning of a new school year is definitely an occasion worthy of such a mark. But whatever the occasion, events in life can cause us to revisit the shores of change and, when we do, we are apt to notice that some things just aren’t the way they used to be. Oh, the changes are subtle; much still appears to be the same, but at the same time, we notice that something is different…something seems to be missing, or present, or smaller than it used to be, or bigger than we remembered…but it’s different. The new normal isn’t quite like the old normal. And then, when we try to put our finger on it, it slips away and we leave the shore wondering what it was that had changed and, too soon, we forget the tug that whispered, “Remember!”
Recently, I was reminded of how easily… and quickly…changes in our cultural and spiritual environment can occur when I revisited the story of King Josiah as recorded in 2 Kings 22. As I read about what this young king did, I realized how much had changed between his generation and the generation of his great-grandfather, Hezekiah. Within the span of 93 years, Israel had turned the temple of God into a temple of ill repute. And the shocking thing is that, for the most part, the people didn’t even realize this had happened! How could that be? After all, these were the children of Abraham; these were the descendants of the children of Israel whom God had delivered from Egypt and led through the Red Sea. How could the nation of Israel, fashioned and founded by the Word of God, allow such changes to occur during their lifetime? Didn’t they notice they were drifting further out with the passage of each year…didn’t they realize their “new normal” was fathoms away from the “old normal”?
In 640 B.C., Josiah became the king in Judah. He was a mere eight years old when his toy sword was replaced with a royal scepter, and for 31 years he reigned over the southern kingdom. Midway into his reign, something interesting happened; the wave of an old normal crashed upon the shores of a new normal, and the impact changed a nation…for a time. The old normal presented itself as the Book of the Law was uncovered in the temple and, upon Josiah’s request, was read aloud. Those ancient words penned more than 700 years earlier, were crisp in their newness as they pierced Josiah’s ears and pricked Josiah’s heart. As he learned of the way God had decreed things to be, of the way God had designed things to be, Josiah’s normal collapsed under the wave of God’s truth. And, as God cleaned a heart, Josiah cleaned a house. In the process, he removed idols from the temple, threw out the priests who served these idols in the temple, tore down “houses of ill repute” that were in the temple, removed objects of worship from the entrance of the temple, and demolished the place where child sacrifices were offered.
The awareness of how such atrocities could have taken place hit me when I thought about what it must have been like growing up in Josiah’s day. In his day, it wouldn’t have seemed odd to worship Baal in the temple because for generations this had been done. It wouldn’t have occurred to the people that perversion performed in the temple was still perversion, because it was merely a part of their temple experience. Sacrificing children, though surely not taken lightly, would have been condoned because, after all, their fathers and grandfathers had done so. It was their world; it was their normal. No one questioned the changes that had led to such practices because they had happened so incrementally. When the people in Josiah’s day walked the shoreline of change, they failed to notice what the waters had carried away…and what they had washed ashore. They didn’t look back far enough; they didn’t look back to the days of Solomon…of David…of Moses…of Joseph…of Abraham…of Noah…of Adam. They forgot their lineage, they forgot their heritage, and they forgot the God of both. And the old normal was replaced with a new normal…and the Book of the Law was lost in the house of the LORD.
As I thought about how the generations of people in Josiah’s day grew up unaware of the wickedness of their times, and of how far they had drifted from God’s truths, I realized how the current generations are subject to the same undoing. Think about the changes you have seen in your lifetime; think about those different events in your life…like past school years… that take you back to the water’s edge and compare the landscape of then with the landscape of now. Will the present generation know what is right and what is wrong by looking around them? Will they define truth by what they see in today’s society? Do the norms of today align with the norms of the previous generation…and of the generation before them…and before them…and before them? From whom will our children learn about their cultural heritage and their spiritual heritage? Will we allow them to be shaped by the ebb and flow of today’s current or will we refuse to give them up to the pull of this tide? When they are grown, what heritage will they pass on to their own children? Are we, as a nation comprised of families, allowing our country and our homes to take on a new normal, or will we fight to uphold the old normal…the godly normal?
It’s food for thought. It’s a mental walk along the shores of change. It’s an examination of today’s normal which will not only affect our generation, but the generations to come. May we make sure the Book of the Law remains uncovered so that “we will not hide [the sayings of old] from our children, telling to the generation to come the praises of the LORD…which He commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children; that the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children, that they may set their hope in God and not forget the works of God but keep His commandments.” (Psalm 78:4,6-7)