Judges – He Never Left
Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals; and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; and they followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them, and they bowed down to them; and they provoked the Lord to anger. Judges 2:11-13
Joshua led Israel into the Promised Land and quickly established themselves as they moved through the region, conquering city after city. Joshua was pretty old, probably in his eighties, when they started the quest. He led the people into the land, ultimately dividing the territories between the twelve families (Jacob/Israels sons, the twelve tribes of Israel), till he died at the age of 110 (Joshua 24:30; Judges 2:8).
After Joshua and his generation died, the next generation failed to maintain the allegiance to God in obedience to the law, if fact the prophet Samuel, the probable author of Judges, writes that they forgot the Lord and all He had done for Israel (Judges 2:10).
And sadly, because the children of Israel had forgotten God, the recurring theme of Judges, a book that spans 300 years of history, is a continual cycle of the nations disobedience, defeat, discipline and deliverance. It was like smaller, local versions of the bondage in Egypt play out again and again as Israel cry’s out to God from oppression, and God sends a judge, Gideon or Samson or a number of others through the years, to deliver them. They are set free and they give Him thanks. Then, before you know it they disobey again, forsake Him again, and He allows them to reap the consequences of their sin, delivering them into the enemies hand till they can take no more and cry out to Him, and He sends a deliverer. And the cycle continues, like a dog chasing its tail.
How quickly we forget what God has done. God can do a great miracle of deliverance in my life, save me from injury or provide miraculously and I will be literally aglow with His praise. But then a little trouble comes, a late notice, a diagnosis, a layoff, and my arms drop and my shoulders slump and I lower my face and say “Woe is me.” And pretty soon we’re bowing down to another idol, putting our hope in something or someone other than God. And we walk away, trying to fix things in our own strength, only to make it worse. Eventually we reach the end of ourselves and cry out to Him and guess what? We find Him there waiting for us. We find He was right there all along. He never left. He is ever near, ever patient, mighty to save.
Why do we have such short memories when it comes to what God has done? Hasn’t He proven Himself faithful? Has He not embraced us with love like no other? Didn’t He pull us out of a pit of our own making and set our feet on a solid rock? Yes! Yes! Yes!
We must cultivate remembrance, review His blessing, recount with our children and grandchildren His goodness and the great things He has done – so we won’t forget, and so they won’t forget! When the pressure is on they can turn to Him and cry out knowing He will be there for them, as He was for their parents and grandparents.
For the children of Israel, their excuse comes in the last verse of Judges. Samuel inadvertently waits till the very end and reveals the core issue: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Judges 21:25
They had a King, God. Israel was a Theocracy. Only they didn’t honor Him as King, disregarding the laws and safeguards He had put in place for their lives. Today both nations and individuals do this very thing, basically playing by a set of unwritten rules that are based on a skewed perception of what would be best for ‘me’ personally, and what would be best for the country. But without an objective standard, a moral code of right and wrong, we are left to make it up as we go – and sinful hearts tend to walk away from God instead of towards Him.
Our country is a mess, not because the wrong side of the aisle is in power, but because we have forgotten God. Politics can’t fix that. The only cure for having left God is repentance, both individually and corporately, changing our direction, crying out to Him for deliverance, and you know what we would find?
He is there, He never left, He never will. He is God and He is love and He is mighty to save – put your hope in Him and Him alone.