Today’s reading: Judges 1-2.
There is nothing new under the sun. Though Solomon made that line famous when he penned it for the book of Ecclesiastes, he could just as well have been writing about the time of the Judges. The young nation of Israel abandoned God and began a long series of ups and downs, repeating the same mistakes over and over. They did not follow a circle of life, only a cycle of loss.
Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them. But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways. Judges 2:18-19
The circle went like this:
- Israel abandoned God for false gods such as Baal.
- Israel’s enemies oppressed them.
- Israel cried out to God for deliverance.
- God raised up a judge (meaning deliverer) who rescued the people from oppression.
- The judge died, and the people abandoned God once more.
You’ve probably experienced something similar in your own life. Under extreme pressure of some circumstance you cry out to God for help. Perhaps you even bargain with God, making promises of devotion if he answers you. When he does answer you, you follow him more closely – for a time. Then, as the trial fades, so does your devotion.
There may be many explanations for the repeated backsliding of the Israelites, but Judges gives us a clue about the main reason:
After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. Judges 2:10
The people did not know the LORD. They didn’t know him personally. They didn’t relate to him, pray to him, think about him, or depend on him. He wasn’t part of their life. Judges says the people forsook the LORD, meaning they left him behind and deserted him. It was their choice to abandon him.
The people also didn’t know the history of all that God had done for Israel. They didn’t know the account of the deliverance from Egypt, of the miracles in the wilderness, or God’s hand in their victories over the Canaanites. They didn’t know because they hadn’t been told. That speaks to the failure of their parents and grandparents rather than their own choice.
We, and our children, need to know the LORD personally, and we need to know the story of what God has done for Israel and all believers since then. To know the LORD means to enter into a relationship with him that involves faith in Jesus Christ, knowledge of his words in the Bible, ongoing communication with him through prayer, and dependence upon him in our daily living. Our children need to hear the story of what God has done beginning in their earliest years. Teach them the Bible stories, but also tell them what God has done for you. Then your family will avoid the circle of loss and become part of that great company of pilgrims who go from strength to strength (Psalm 84).
Image by Au Kirk on Flickr, CC by 2.0