I had the privilege of teaching the first lesson from the study on Judges to our EFNL teachers yesterday. In fact, we made a lesson plan together based on the first lesson. I would like to share what we learned here with you. The context of the book of Judges is a period of ups and downs as a nation struggled with the cycle of sin. For a period of 450 years (about) the people were unstable, going through periods of obedience and disobedience. There was no king in Israel and everyone did what was right in his own eyes. Their times are very similar to our times today. Relativism was popular then as it is now. My truth is mine and yours is yours. I just want to point out what was happening then and see if we can draw any conclusions for today.
There was a period of strong leadership leading the people to walk in obedience before the Lord.
Moses was called by God to deliver the children of Israel from Egypt. As they were traveling to the Promised Land of Canaan, God gave specific instructions to the people on how to live once they enter the land. Here is what God had to share with them.
I will see that your borders reach from the Red Sea to the Euphrates River and from the Mediterranean Sea to the desert. I will let you defeat the people who live there, and you will force them out of the land. But you must not make any covenants with them or with their gods. Don’t let them stay in your land. They will trap you into sinning against Me and worshiping their gods. (Exodus 23:31-33)
“When the LORD your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than yourselves, and when the LORD your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them. (Deuteronomy 7:1-2)
And you shall consume all the peoples that the LORD your God will give over to you. Your eye shall not pity them, neither shall you serve their gods, for that would be a snare to you.
The LORD your God will clear away these nations before you little by little. You may not make an end of them at once, lest the wild beasts grow too numerous for you.
Moses delivered this teaching to the children of Israel. He lived out obedience before them and encouraged them to walk in obedience to the Lord. He raised up a new generation of leaders to take his place once he died. He invested in Joshua and Caleb (his disciples) and chose Joshua to led the people. Moses kept a generation faithful to the Lord and he prepared a leader for the next generation. The people had the warnings of God and presence of good leaders so they were prepared for the future. Moses died and Joshua took over. Joshua was a great leader as well. He kept the people obedient to God. Just before he died, he shared the following with all the nation.
A long time afterward, when the LORD had given rest to Israel from all their surrounding enemies, and Joshua was old and well advanced in years, Joshua summoned all Israel, its elders and heads, its judges and officers, and said to them, “I am now old and well advanced in years. And you have seen all that the LORD your God has done to all these nations for your sake, for it is the LORD your God who has fought for you. Behold, I have allotted to you as an inheritance for your tribes those nations that remain, along with all the nations that I have already cut off, from the Jordan to the Great Sea in the west. The LORD your God will push them back before you and drive them out of your sight. And you shall possess their land, just as the LORD your God promised you. Therefore, be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left, that you may not mix with these nations remaining among you or make mention of the names of their gods or swear by them or serve them or bow down to them, but you shall cling to the LORD your God just as you have done to this day. For the LORD has driven out before you great and strong nations. And as for you, no man has been able to stand before you to this day. One man of you puts to flight a thousand, since it is the LORD your God who fights for you, just as he promised you. Be very careful, therefore, to love the LORD your God. For if you turn back and cling to the remnant of these nations remaining among you and make marriages with them, so that you associate with them and they with you, know for certain that the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations before you, but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good ground that the LORD your God has given you. (Joshua 23:1-13)
Joshua reminds the people about what they have been taught and challenges them to walk in obedience. He does a great job as a leader and he prepares the people for his departure but there is a problem. Unlike Moses, Joshua, for whatever reason, did not raise up a new leader. He did not make a disciple to continue on. He just turned over the leadership role to the people. This was a bad mistake because as it has been said, “everything rises and falls on leadership”. The people developed a superficial relationship with God once Joshua was gone. They began to walk in partial obedience, performing some of what God told them but not all. What is the partial obedience? Let me give you a list based on the previous passages and then we will look at Judges chapter 1. When they entered the land they were told:
- You must not make any covenants with them
- You must not make any covenants with their gods
- Don’t let them stay in your land
- they will trap you into sinning against Me and
- they will trap you into worshiping their gods
- You shall show no mercy to them
- Your eye shall not pity them
- Do not serve their gods, for that would be a snare to you
- God will drive them out little by little
- Walk in the ways of the Word of God (if you do not follow God then your will follow something else)
Lack of leadership leads to superficial obedience and the cycle of sin
The people kept their religious dressings as the people of God but their hearts were no longer with God. They kept up the form but the substance was dust in the wind. If you read Judges 1, you will see that the people did not fully obey God. They did not drive out the inhabitants. They kept them around as servants. They were more interested in financial gain than in obedience to God. This generation is much different from the previous one and they will give rise to a new generation who does not know God at all and will not longer cling to the ways of their ancestors. They will be given over to idolatry (anything that takes the place of God) which will lead to greed, murder, sexual immorality etc. Judges 2 shows the turning away of the next generation. Then in Judges 17-20, you see the nation enslaved to idolatry, greed, aggression, sexual immorality, and ultimately civil war. The priests are up for hire. They no longer lead people into a personal relationship with God. In fact, the priests are cohabitating and the parents of the children cohabitating do not say anything about it. Violence is rampant. Murder is second nature. Homosexuality is promoted and practiced openly. This ultimately leads the people to civil war, fighting against each other instead of fighting against their enemies.
Now, do we see any connections today?
- Relativism is in style today (everyone does what is right in his own eyes)
- The leadership is up for hire
- Idolatry is rampant
- Sexual immorality is accepted
- Violence is everywhere from video games to classrooms
- Life is cheap (abortion)
- Murder is second nature (we rename it but it is still murder)
What is the solution? We need to educate the people in the Word of God. We have a generation(s) which have grown up not knowing about God and His ways and they are living out what they have seen. They are given over to idolatry, violence and aggression, greed, and sexual immorality. We need to get people into the Word of God so that the Word of God can get into the people. This is the solution. We must not live in partial obedience but in total obedience and raise up leaders who will also fully obey the Word of God. Sexual immorality, idolatry, violence, and aggression are not the root of the problem. They are just the manifestation of the real problem, people who do not know God. May the Lord help us be obedient and raise up a new generation who walk in obedience.