Saturday, September 25, 2021

Mining the Minors: Amos (34)

It was 1966 when Pete Townshend wrote yet another generational anthem for The Who, this one intended as a tribute to the trendy, rebellious Mod movement in Britain. But its lyrics could just as easily have been applied to the hippies the band played to at Woodstock three years later, or indeed to any generation in history whose lifestyle choices made their parents shake their heads in dismay and speculate that society was just about to come down around their ears.

Townshend’s point was that while they might look a little rough around the edges, ultimately these young ruffians would do just fine for themselves. “The kids are alright” became part of the British vernacular, a euphemism for impending success.

Twice as Much Children of Hell

Teen rebellion is often only a phase; a way of declaring necessary independence from one’s parents before settling down, trudging off to work and becoming just like them. In that respect, Townshend’s optimism doesn’t seem out of line. But sometimes the kids are not alright. When the prophet Amos addressed the nation of Israel, the kids were all wrong. Unlike the Mods, the coming generation had bought into their idolatrous parents’ values hook, line and sinker.

Like the proselytes of first century Pharisees, the kids in Israel were twice as much children of hell as their parents. They were fully indoctrinated into a syncretistic hybrid religion, using the name of the Lord while worshiping in the manner of pagans.

Amos 8:13-14 — The Kids are All Wrong

“In that day the lovely virgins and the young men shall faint for thirst. Those who swear by the Guilt of Samaria, and say, ‘As your god lives, O Dan,’ and, ‘As the Way of Beersheba lives,’ they shall fall, and never rise again.”

In last week’s post we discussed Amos’s prophecy of a coming famine for the word of the Lord. The parents had rejected it; now the children would reap the bitter harvest: God would stop speaking. In the absence of sane direction an entire generation would faint from spiritual thirst. In their desperation, the only place they could turn would be the false gods their parents worshiped: the calf idol of Dan; the “guilt of Samaria”, which Keil and Delitzsch identify with the second calf idol in Bethel; and the way of Beersheba, presumably a reference to the pilgrimage of Amos 5:5, which was as futile an exercise as might be contemplated. God was no longer speaking in Beersheba or anywhere else.

Children in Declining Societies

Here’s the thing: when a corrupted society begins the process of declining and falling apart, the first few generations have some idea what their options are. They know what things used to be like, how their parents used to behave, and what they used to believe. If their rebellious choices bring on hard times, they can always return the way they came. They walked it, and they can walk it in reverse.

Their children, on the other hand, often have no idea how things came to be as they are, and know no other options. How can they go back to something they have never been taught? They are like the sons and daughters of the Jewish men who had intermarried with Philistines, Ammonites and Moabites. Half could not speak the language of Judah. How could they love and worship Jehovah when they lacked the most basic tools necessary to learn about him? The foundations of society had been torn out from under them by the self-indulgence of their parents. There was nothing for it but to put them away.

Actions and Consequences

Here we come to one of those hard-to-process realities about which scripture is unstintingly clear: our actions have consequences. Bad parenting produces bad offspring. Divorce hurts children. Parents who cannot be bothered to teach their kids about the good, the beautiful and the true will find their children gravitating towards evil, ugly lies.

How else could we learn? What else would drive us to repent?

“Train up a child in the way he should go,” wrote Solomon. “Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” I suspect the reverse may also be true: leave a child to absorb the worst of your values by osmosis, and getting him out of those patterns of behavior later in life will be next to impossible.

The Ancient Paths

An unsaved friend once boasted that he was going to let his daughter determine her values for herself, and wasn’t going to impose his views on her. Thankfully, her devout grandmother intervened and hauled the child off to church. She seems to have turned out alright, no thanks to her father.

When parents refuse to lead by example, to “stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it,” the biggest losers are always their children.

Mod photo courtesy Sergio Calleja [CC BY 2.0]

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