Grace For The Journey
The Bible says in Judges 2:10, “And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.” It seems incredible that it could happen. Only a generation after Joshua, Israel no longer knew the Lord. The Lord instructs His people in Psalm 78:1–, “Give ear, O My people, to My law; incline your ears to the words of My mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, telling to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done.” God knew the tendency of fallen man, even those who were His people; He knew the danger of forgetting His way and word. Joshua is a book that God has given us to answer the question, “How is such a development and decline possible?”
This is a very important question, not just for the ancient Israelites, but for us. Churches, too, have seen declines from one generation to another. How can we understand and prevent this kind of calamity?
The book of Judges provides
A very clear answer
To our questions.
Its answer does not say everything that might be said in general, but it does say specific, crucial things that we must ponder to understand both Israel’s situation and our vulnerability.
To begin with . . .
Judges shows us that Israel
Descended into calamity
When it moved away from living
By faith and in the Word of God
To living by sight in the wisdom
And values of the world.
In Judges 2–3 the Bible records how Israel rapidly descended into great sin and disobedience, serving the idols and altars of the Baals and intermarrying with those who did not worship or walk with the Lord or live by His standards. Idolatry and intermarriage are the great sins against which Joshua warned Israel again and again (Joshua 23:6–13). And with good reason, for these two sins are interconnected. The one leads to and reinforces the other.
This descent into idolatry and intermarriage
Did not happen overnight, however.
These acts of sin were the end results
Of various compromises that Israel had made earlier.
Israel had served the Lord faithfully in the opening of the book of Judges, but that begins to change at Judges 1:19, where the Bible says, “So the Lord was with Judah. And they drove out the mountaineers, but they could not drive out the inhabitants of the lowland, because they had chariots of iron.”
It does not appear that the Israelites actually fought
Against the chariots of iron and were defeated;
Rather, it seems that they saw the chariots of iron
And decided not to fight.
That decision seems very reasonable and proper
. . . To a people living by sight.
Chariots of iron were the most powerful military weapon of that time.
Israel, however, was called to live by faith in,
And obedience to, the Word of God.
The Word of God had come to her through Joshua, who said, “… For you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have chariots of iron, and are strong” (Joshua 17:18). Later in the book of Judges, we are shown how God kept His promise because Deborah and Barak were able to defeat Jabin, a king of the Canaanites, even though he had nine hundred chariots of iron (Judges 4:3). The Word of God reminds God’s people that God “does not delight in the strength of the horse; He takes no pleasure in the legs of a man. The LORD takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy.”
We can see what went wrong –
The children of Israel were
Living by sight and not by faith –
But that does not show us why things went wrong. For that, we must turn again to the words of Joshua recorded in Joshua 24:19-20, 23 where the Bible says, “But Joshua said to the people, ‘You cannot serve the LORD, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good” … “’Now therefore’ he said, ‘put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD God of Israel.’”
Now, you may be asking, In what sense were they not able to serve or live for the Lord? “If Israel was not able, how were they accountable? What did Joshua mean when he said those words?” He did not mean that the people were individually unregenerate and so were unable. He did not mean that they would not be able to understand and live by God’s truth, and so would be unable.
The context of these verses suggests
That they would soon be leaderless –
Having neither Moses, nor Joshua,
Nor the elders who knew them –
And so would not be led and guarded
In faithfulness to the Word of God.
Joshua was recognizing that God would not give them another Moses or Joshua. He would give them judges who would be for “delivers” for them (Judges 2:16). But these judges would be only regional and temporary leaders.
The lesson that God was teaching Israel – and us –
In a variety of ways in the book of Judges
Is that the people needed a good and faithful king.
Israel’s problem was clear: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6).
Israel had to learn its need for a king and in turn to yearn and yield for a king – not a king like the nations as they would have in Saul, but a man after God’s own heart, namely, David. Yet even David could not protect and lead God’s people ultimately. He sinned, his house was divided, and he died.
Who, then, is the leader –
Perfect, faithful, and undying –
For God’s people?
Jesus is such a king!
What is the antidote, then, for the church and its problems? What will preserve a saving knowledge of God from generation to generation?
It is following our one and only
King and Lord, Jesus,
According to His Word.
Where the church fails to do so,
It will find itself, like Israel,
Unable to live by faith and obedience
Rather than sight.
But where the church turns to Jesus and follows ministers who faithfully preach His Word, it will live before Him. The book of Judges is a mirror held up to the church that forces us to ask ourselves, “Is Jesus our Lord and King and do we live by faith in, and obedience to, His Word?” If the answer is yes, the church from generation to generation will know the Lord.
This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”