JUDGES 1 and 2
When your leader is not present, you find out how much you have really learned from him, and how much self-motivation you possess. We see today, in the first two chapters of Judges, that Joshua had been dead quite a while and it was now left to each individual tribe to organize the ‘clean-up’ operation in its own land area – driving out the remaining Canaanite inhabitants so as to fully occupy an ethnically and spiritually pure land. The same principle applies to each of us as individual believers: on days when our church leaders are not looking directly into our lives and speaking encouragement to us, how do we react? Do we redouble our efforts to build our relationship with God, to get to know his Word, to make disciples – or do we see it as a chance to slide into our comfort zones and ‘lift our foot off the gas’?
Israel made some initial gestures of enthusiasm, based on a ‘What Would Joshua Do’ principle, and commendably sought the Lord for his instructions. “Judah shall begin the fighting” came the response. Unfortunately, Judah failed to put their full trust in God’s power and provision; instead they asked their neighbours the Simeonites to help them out. As a result, despite the first few battles being very successful – including the temporary capture of Jerusalem and the killing of a local tyrant – the men of Judah failed to drive out the people of the plains (due to their superior armour) and the Jebusites from Jerusalem (due to the huge fortifications). Similarly, Joseph made a good start, but failed to wipe out certain pockets of resistance. The same part-failures were evident in the campaigns of every other Israelite tribe throughout the land.
Verses 11-15 of Chapter 1 and 6-9 of Chapter 2 are restatements of Joshua 15 and 24. They make Judges more complete as a stand-alone book and give a context to the other things described in the first two chapters.
A key passage that sums up the whole of the Book of Judges is 2:10-19. It is based upon a generation that did not know the Lord personally, and whose parents (who did) had not brought them up to fear him as they should have. It goes on to describe a ‘vicious circle’ of sin and rebellion that consists of the following:
- The Israelites get complacent, forsake the Lord, and serve the local Baal gods and idols
- God became angry and punished Israel by giving them into the hands of raiders from the surrounding nations
- The people realized their sin and cried out to the Lord for mercy
- God raised up a ‘Judge’ – a national leader – around whom the entire nation rallied and whose leadership in battle set Israel free
- Once the Judge died, the pattern started all over again.
We learn that every generation has to come to a personal experience and knowledge of the Lord. God has no ‘grandchildren’, only sons and daughters; there is no such thing as an indirect relationship with him. We need to learn that, as Christian parents, it is our prime duty to bring up our children to know the Lord, mainly by living consistently and faithfully in our home lives as much as in our ‘church’ or ‘community’ lives, since our kids see through any hypocrisy and double-talk so easily. As anyone knows, the way you conduct yourself in your own kitchen or living room is the way you really are – irrespective of how ‘spiritual’ a presence you put forward in public church meetings! The solution is for us to be consistently godly and faithful in all circumstances, and to repent of those times or situations when we fall short of that. We should get used to apologizing to our children regardless of how young or old they are. Just as the older Israelite generation were so busy fighting battles to capture the land that they may have neglected their own children’s upbringing, so we must avoid the great danger of being so busy ‘doing church’ that we neglect the most important disciples we will ever have.
The ‘next generation’ also means those Christians newer in the faith than us, who look to us for spiritual parenting. This kind of hands-on, doctrine-and-life-together lifestyle of discipleship is the only way to properly grow church. What is the point of us knowing God so well and the next generation just knowing about him?!
So, let’s learn the big lessons from Judges as we read it over the next weeks; it was written primarily for us today, as a matter of fact. How is the ‘conquest’ of Thurrock (or wherever you currently live) progressing? Who are you relying on for strength? How close are you to the Holy Spirit? Who are you discipling? Who is mentoring you? Food for thought, I think!