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Monday, August 31, 2020

Things Fall Apart, Episode 3 - A New Generation


Introduction

A long time ago, in a land far away…

Two years passed with Joseph rotting in Pharaoh's dungeon.

Pharaoh had a strange and disturbing  dream.

No one could tell its meaning.

Then, Pharaoh's chief cup-bearer remembered Joseph:

the young man he met in prison with the God-inspired power to interpret dreams.

Pharaoh summoned Joseph from the dungeon and told him the dream.

Joseph explained the meaning.

Egypt would have seven years of great bounty followed by seven years of severe famine.

God, through Joseph, shared a plan to save everyone from the famine.

Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of the nation’s famine relief program.

Joseph stored up Egypt’s extra food during the seven good years 

so they had enough to survive the seven bad years..

God’s provision, through Joseph, rescued Egypt.

It also saved the people from surrounding middle eastern lands throughout the region 

who came to buy food from Egypt during the famine.  

Among those to come were Joseph’s own Hebrew brothers who once sold him into slavery.

Amazingly, Joseph forgave his treacherous brothers, 

because Joseph’s God is a God of grace and forgiveness.

Joseph’s father, Jacob, and all his brothers and their families moved to Egypt.

In Joseph’s day, his Hebrews people were welcomed by Pharoah

 and highly regarded by the empire.

They survived the Great Seven Years Famine

and multiplied and flourished and filled the land.

But soon Joseph and Pharaoh grew old and their lives came to an end.

A new Pharaoh came to power.  

The political landscape changed.

The Egyptian respect and gratitude for Joseph and his God were overshadowed

by Egypt’s own nationalistic dreams of glory.

And then,

Things Fall Apart...



Exodus 1:8-22

8 Eventually, a new king came to power in Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph or what he had done. 9 He said to his people, “Look, the people of Israel now outnumber us and are stronger than we are. 10 We must make a plan to keep them from growing even more. If we don’t, and if war breaks out, they will join our enemies and fight against us. Then they will escape from the country.”


11 So the Egyptians made the Israelites their slaves. They appointed brutal slave drivers over them, hoping to wear them down with crushing labor. They forced them to build the cities of Pithom and Rameses as supply centers for the king. 12 But the more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more the Israelites multiplied and spread, and the more alarmed the Egyptians became. 13 So the Egyptians worked the people of Israel without mercy. 14 They made their lives bitter, forcing them to mix mortar and make bricks and do all the work in the fields. They were ruthless in all their demands.


15 Then Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, gave this order to the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah: 16 “When you help the Hebrew women as they give birth, watch as they deliver. If the baby is a boy, kill him; if it is a girl, let her live.” 17 But because the midwives feared God, they refused to obey the king’s orders. They allowed the boys to live, too.


18 So the king of Egypt called for the midwives. “Why have you done this?” he demanded. “Why have you allowed the boys to live?”


19 “The Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women,” the midwives replied. “They are more vigorous and have their babies so quickly that we cannot get there in time.”


20 So God was good to the midwives, and the Israelites continued to multiply, growing more and more powerful. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.


22 Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Throw every newborn Hebrew boy into the Nile River. But you may let the girls live.”


Generational Change

We’ve been learning how plans fall apart.  I experienced that first hand this week.  I planned to be in church for on-sight worship with you today, but I was exposed to someone with COVID-19.  My test results are negative and I don’t have any symptoms.  However, out of an abundance of caution and on the advice of my doctor, I am in quarantine until Thursday evening.  That’s why I pre-recorded this message for you.  We make our plans and then often things fall apart!  Hopefully this video will play and that won’t fall apart! Haha.


One of the ways things fall apart is as newer generations forget the important values held by the generations before them.  Progress is good.  Newer generations have a lot to offer in the way of new ideas, new energy, and helpful innovations.  And we must all humbly admit that our generation is not perfect.  Sometimes newer generations improve upon our mistakes.  Some examples are the way the founding fathers of America fought for individual liberty.  They improved upon their ancestors who submitted to a monarch. Another example is the generation who fought for civil rights in the 1960s; they rejected the previous generation’s unjust discremination and fought for equality in America.  Unfortunately, newer generations can also get it wrong when they reject the godly values of those who’ve gone before them.  We can certainly see this in the eroding moral values of 21st century America.


This problem of eroding values through the generation is nothing new.  It has always been a problem.  Egypt was one of the oldest, longest lived empires of the ancient world.  To put it in perspective, America is relatively young--244-years-old.  Egypt unified into a world empire in 3100 BC and was one of the most powerful empires in the world for over 2,700 years (over 10X as long as the USA). During those 2,700 years, many dynasties rose and fell apart in Egypt as the attitudes and politics and behaviors of the many generations changed.


Secular historians teach that around 1650 BC a line of foreign rulers known in Egyptian as “Hyksos” dominated northern Egypt.  This would have been around the time the Bible claims Joseph, his Hebrew brothers, and their descendents sojourned in Egypt. Could the Hyksos have been the Hebrews?  Secular historians claim the Egyptians launched a war against the Hyksos and subdued them.  This seems to support the biblical narrative in Exodus 1 where the Egyptian Pharaoh forgets what the God the Hebrews have done for Egypt and subjects them to oppression, slavery, and even genocide.  


The new generations of Egyptians after Joseph clearly did not have the same values as the older generations.  They forgot how God, through Joseph’s people, saved Egypt from starvation.  The new generation of Egyptians were worried there were too many “disgusting” foreigners with too much power and the Egyptians wanted to make Egypt great again.  So they forgot about all Joseph had done for them and they forgot about Joseph’s God and they delved back into their traditional Egyptian cult religion that was unholy and rejected the One True God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.  And we see where that kind of thinking leads--the moral decay of Egyptian society from godly gratitude to ingratitude and from there to arrogance, oppression, enslavement, and ultimately to drowning newborn Hebrew babies in the Nile River.


It’s a problem with which all societies have struggled throughout the ages.  Egypt, Greece, Persia, Rome, Great Britain have all declined as their core values and morals eroded through successive generations.  How do you ensure the next generation will uphold the same essential values you hold dear?  


The older generation cannot hang on to power forever.  In the beginning, you can make your kids do the right thing.  They will soon grow up, though, and you can’t control them forever.  You will have to let go and it can be hard to let go. Harder still is letting go when you feel like your values are being forgotten and trampled upon.


Jesus and the Disciples

Imagine how Jesus felt.  After an amazing three years of ministry on earth, He was crucified.  Of course, we know he miraculously rose from the grave. But then, Jesus ascended to heaven leaving His great salvation mission in the hands of His very human, very fallible disciples.  He said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to follow all of my commands.”  We talk a lot in church about our need to have faith in Jesus.  But have you ever stopped to think how Jesus has incredible faith in us to do the right thing for His Kingdom?  Such an idea ought to get you moving and working to do everything you can to build His Kingdom on earth.


Thoughts on Passing the Baton to the Next Generation

I want to share some thoughts from Scriptures about equipping and trusting the next generation to carry on your core values and continue to work on God’s salvation plan, even if it seems like things will fall apart.


Respect Your Parents.  This first word comes Exodus 20:12, “Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”  This is a command from God to you.  And how you obey or disobey this command will be a tremendous influence on how the next generation will honor you.  Your kids learn how to treat you by watching how you treat your own parents (and elders).  If you want the generations that follow you to honor your values, you should honor the values of the generations that came before you.


Lead Your Family to Serve the Lord.  Joshua 24:15 says, “...choose today whom you will serve… But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”  You must firmly ground your own household on the core value of serving God through Jesus Christ.  It is not enough to say it or claim the label “Christian”.  You must actively devote your life to serving the Lord.  Your kids (the next generation) will not continue this value unless they’ve seen you actively living it. So choose today whom you will serve.


Teach Your Children the Scriptures.  Deuteronomy 11:19 says, “Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.”  And Proverbs 22:6 says, “Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.”  I think the Word of God is pretty clear and doesn’t need any explanation, does it?


Don’t Aggravate Your Kids.  Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.”  There are ways parents can nag, pester, be over-controlling, or too demanding that can actually drive their kids to reject their parents’ values.  Ironically, in an overzealous effort to force their kids toward God’s truth, parents sometimes force them away.  Don’t do that.  Pray for wisdom and patience and grace and love to parent well.


Trust God to Work it Out.  Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” You have to trust that God is working alongside you.  He is actually doing the bulk of the work.  If you think it’s all on you, you are going to drive yourself crazy--and crazy people aren’t very good parents.  So stay calm.  Trust God.  And do your part and know God will do His part.


Remember, God Has a Plan You Can’t See.  Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  People like to quote that verse, because it sounds so nice.  Most people don’t realize the context in which Jeremiah prophesied those words.  You see, he wrote those words in a letter to a group of God’s people who had been sent into exile in Babylon as punishment for their nation’s rejection of God.  Their entire way of life had been destroyed.  People they new and loved had been executed--men, women, and children--or died of starvation and exposure.  Their plans had completely and utterly fallen apart.  Can you imagine what that was like?  And God basically  said, “I know it’s bad now, but I have some good plans for you.  It’s gonna take a couple of generations to work it all out and the future’s gonna look a lot different than what you’re used to, but it’s My plan and it’s a Good Plan.  So trust me and be faithful.”  


Conclusion

Can you trust God like that?  You’ve got to.  Because you are not in charge.  You have about 13 years to be the most important influence in your child’s life.  From that point on, your influence starts to quickly wane and they start making up their own mind.  You will always be important to the younger generation and you will be able to shape them to a degree, but ultimately, you will be letting go more and more and trusting God and the future generations with  the plans you started.  And so, we must pray for future generations.


The Great Evangelist, Billy Graham, wrote these words about praying for younger generations.  “No one except God knows the future, of course, but almost certainly it will be different from today. That means those who follow us will have their own challenges and temptations, including some we can’t even imagine.  No, it isn’t silly to pray for those who will follow us—even those who haven’t been born yet. Repeatedly over the years, I’ve met men and women who had a godly grandmother or saintly great-grandfather whom they never met, but who prayed for them and for others who weren’t yet born. These men and women were convinced that their own commitment to Christ was a result of those prayers, and I can’t help but agree. This may have been what the Psalmist meant when he prayed, “I will perpetuate your memory through all generations; therefore the nations will praise you for ever and ever” (Psalm 45:17).”


A Prayer for Future Generations

God Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  God of Joseph and Moses.  God of the New Testament Apostles and of our grandparents and parents.  We humble ourselves before You, knowing we are most certainly not in control.  And so, we pray for future generations, trusting You will work out Your perfect plans for them and through them.


We pray that they will delight in the Word of God like King David.  Help our children love the Word of God, read it, memorize it, meditate on it, and “soak” in it.


We pray that they will be born again.  Guide them to accept by their own choice Christ as Lord so they can live the new, holy life You want for them.


We pray that they are shaped and influenced by Your Word.  May their hopes, dreams, opinions, decisions, and actions be founded upon Your Word to them in the Holy Bible.


We pray they will be effective and fruitful in ministry to others.  Just as Christ came to serve in compassion, let future generations be filled with Christ’s love for others and so dedicate their lives to loving You and loving their neighbors.


We pray the knowledge of the Lord will spread to generations we will never know.  We pray for generations will never know, hoping that those who outlive us will diligently teach their children Your holy truths.


And finally, Eternal God, we pray the generations who come after us will never fall away from the faith.


We pray through the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.




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