By Kelly Carr
A number of years ago in a Sunday school class we studied the book of Judges, and I really enjoyed it. I liked the examples of God using unexpected people to lead and guide Israel. It had been a while since I’d given Judges a close inspection. Digging back into the book for this issue brought some new insights my way.
Dreams Become Reality
I’m trying to picture the transition for the Israelites from striving to get to the promised land to actually inhabiting it. Think of all those years they were anticipating this actuality—a longing passed down from generation to generation, dreams of what it would be like to live in the special land promised by God. Then when it came to fruition, was it everything they imagined it would be?
Likely some things were amazing, but some things may have been disappointing. Even with the excitement, the newness wore off after a while. It likely became commonplace. The thrills of victory were distant memories.
I wonder these things because something happened within one generation of living in the promised land. Judges 2:7 says that the whole generation who lived during Joshua’s reign and during the lifetime of the elders after him served the Lord. But then verse 10 states, “After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.”
What was the problem? Did the generation “who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel” (v. 7) neglect to pass this respect for the Lord along to their children? Or did the younger set refuse to heed their parents’ teachings? How were their hearts so far from God?
This Sounds Familiar
Whatever the case, this new group “did evil in the eyes of the Lord.” Thus God allowed enemies to overtake his people. But when they cried out in distress, God sent judges to lead and save them.
To watch Israel circle back around from obedience to disobedience over the years must have been frustrating to God. Did his rescuing efforts feel futile? Why go through the process of raising up a judge to help if the people were going to go astray again after that judge was gone?
Yet this history lesson has to sound familiar. In some form haven’t all people on earth experienced similar ebbs and flows? One generation serves the Lord faithfully while the sons and daughters decide to rebel against biblical truth. Then a revival occurs years later but follows up with rejection again.
This even happens in our own lives. Some years, months, weeks, days our passion for the gospel is high and we are exuberant about our relationship with God. During other periods, apathy sets in. The familiar isn’t exciting, and we slack off or give in to temptation.
Yes, we are like Israel more than we’d like to admit. Yet the Father still hears our cries of distress. He still offers hope and redemption. Even though he’s seen it all before. He must have some belief in our potential. He must somehow think we are worth it.