I remember thinking that Joshua was the only person in the Bible besides Jesus who didn’t seem to have a character flaw revealed the first time I read the book of Joshua. But the reality of his shortcomings is subtly noted in Judges 2:7-10: “7 The people worshiped the Lord throughout Joshua’s lifetime and during the lifetimes of the elders who outlived Joshua. They had seen all the Lord’s great works he had done for Israel.
8 Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of 110. 9 They buried him in the territory of his inheritance, in Timnath-heres, in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash. 10 That whole generation was also gathered to their ancestors. After them another generation rose up who did not know the Lord or the works he had done for Israel.”
Regardless of how devoutly we serve the Lord throughout our lives, if we fail to teach the next generation about the great things He has done for us, about His love and sacrifice for them, we have failed. We become like King Hezekiah, who upon hearing that Babylon would carry off everything in the temple, take the Israelites captive, and even carry off some of this own sons, replied, “The Word of the Lord which you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “There will be peace and truth in my days.”
What a weighty responsibility it is to try to pass on all that God teaches us to our children! What a challenge in light of our own mistakes and shortcomings. Yet, our failures are the very thing that God uses to illustrate that His salvation is not about our works, our righteousness, or even our sincere efforts. His salvation is an unmerited gift.
If we fail to ever let our children see that we struggle and fail, that we repent and ask forgiveness, and that God forgives, restores, and heals, we are failing to pass on to the next generation the truth of the gospel, even if we live a life before our children that seems “righteous.” A “perfect” life teaches our children that they can and should be perfect. That they can achieve righteousness. Essentially, it teaches them they don’t need Jesus.