Text: Judges 1-3
Joshua, Israel’s strong and courageous leader is gone and now in chapter 1 of Judges, we read of the conquests of the tribes after his death, beginning with Judah and Simeon. At first, Israel is largely successful in taking more Canaanite territory, but not completely. Many of the tribes fail to complete their commission to totally destroy and conquer all. Inhabitants of the land are only partially conquered and are instead made into forced labour.
The angel of the Lord reprimands Israel for breaking the covenant they made with Him by making covenants with the Canaanites. Consequently, the Lord says Israel will not be able to take all the land and the people of the land will ensnare them. Sure enough, Israel begins to intermarry with the people and serve their foreign gods.
This generation, the ones who came after those who personally saw all the great things the Lord had done in Joshua’s time, fell into idol worship, igniting the anger of the Lord, causing Him to stop fighting for them. Enemies came against Israel and plundered them, and in military pursuits, Israel began losing until they were oppressed by other nations.
So began the cycle of the Judges: every so often in His compassion, God would raise up a judge to regain some lost territory, but after their victories, the people soon returned to their former ways, becoming increasingly corrupt. So God would become angry again and allow their enemies to triumph over them. In their misery, the people would call out to God. Then, in His compassion, God would bring another judge. Rinse, repeat: Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar.
We read several times in these chapters that “the Lord was with” the tribes as they made conquest, and yet the tribes doubt the presence of God Almighty is enough. Judah recruits Simeon to help them fight, and Simeon agrees because Judah will in turn help them fight. When the tribes of Joseph attack Bethel, they bribe a city-dweller to show them a way in and in turn they let him and his family live (and create a new city elsewhere!) These people did not fully believe God when He told them He was with them and they would be victorious. Instead of being strong and courageous in battle as modelled to them by their deceased leader, Israel turns to their own resourceful thinking to go about the continued conquest of the Promised Land.
So where did Israel first begin to go wrong? We are told in Ch 2, vs 10: a generation after Joshua’s grew up, “who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel”.
Uh oh. Why didn’t these people know God? God had given Israel the strategy to keep them faithful to Him:
Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the door-frames of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the Lord swore to give your ancestors… (Deuteronomy 11:18-21)
In short, the instruction was: “Don’t forget to remember”. Cues to remember and talk about the Lord and His ways were not put in place or, if they were, they went ignored. The stories of the miraculous hand of God moving on behalf of their nation, the demonstrations of God’s power and might making possible the impossible…all these stories that should have been celebrated and taught to them as children simply were not! The result was a new generation of Israelites who could not wrap their heads around the character of their God. They didn’t know His heart to give them the land, bless them and make them a light, a blessing to all other nations. The previous generation was successful under the leadership of Joshua to take the land, but it seems in the midst of all their battles, they forgot to do one of the most important things: they did not remember to teach their children about the nature and character of their God.
There is a direct correlation between knowing God and trusting Him, and also in trusting him and being obedient to His ways. If there is one thing we take away from today’s reading, it really ought to be the importance of teaching our children and young people about the nature and character of the God we serve. As Steve Rabey says, “Christianity [itself] is never more than one generation away from extinction.” This truth is so applicable for us parents, but also in the broader sense: we are a community of people who serve the Lord together. As such, we as a church, also have a shared responsibility to pass on the knowledge of God to the generations that come after us.
How might you personally contribute to this passing on the knowledge of God to the upcoming generation? What opportunities might you pursue to become more active in this regard? (Read Romans 10:13-14 and Proverbs 22:6)
Lord, thank you for the many ways that you have personally moved in my life to bring me into the knowledge of yourself. Help me to remember and not forget the good things you have done for me. And help me to pass on what I know about you to those around me, especially to those in the upcoming generations. Show me how I can contribute to the faith of the next generation.
Song: Don’t Forget to Remember (Ellie Holcomb)
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.