What are some of the things that have been passed down in your family? Families pass down all kinds of stuff. We pass down our genetics; you might have your grandfather’s hair or your grandmother’s eyes. We pass down possessions; my grandmother handmade quilts and each of the grandkids have one now. We have traditions. We are Auburn football fans. I’m an Auburn football fan because my dad was an Auburn football fan. He’s one because his dad was an Auburn football fan. It goes back generations in my family.
Your family probably looks different, but there are things that are being passed down. It may be something like a desire to serving your country through military service, or it may be a watch from your grandfather, or it may just be your dimples, but you have something that has been passed down to you.
Sometimes what we inherit isn’t always good. My grandfather was an alcoholic. Fortunately, my dad decided he wanted his life to be different and so he avoided alcohol. I on the other hand found out at an early age just how easy it was to become an alcoholic when it’s in your family tree
But what happens if something really important doesn’t get handed down? What happens when something vital never crosses the generational divide? What happens when parents love God, but their children never develop a real relationship with Him? We are forced to look back and ask…Why? What went wrong?
We see exactly that scenario unfold in the book of Judges. The people of Joshua’s generation loved God. It was Joshua who stood up and made a decree to the people of the Land, “choose you this day whom you will serve…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). It really seemed like Joshua had long term plans for serving God to be a part of his family’s heritage for generations to come. The book of Judges even tells us that even while there were elders living after Joshua that all the land served the Lord (Judges 2:7). When the people were taking over the land it was men like Caleb who went through some means to ensure that his daughter would marry a God serving and brave young man (Judges 1:12-13).
Read Judges chapter 2
It’s hard to imagine how there would come a generation that didn’t love and serve the Lord like their parents did. We have plenty of evidence that this was something that was designed to be left in the family legacy. Certainly each person has to make their own decisions to follow the Lord, but it’s not like the parents were negligent about teaching their kids about God.
So let’s break down this passage and look for how things might have gone wrong. The first thing we see is that there is a generation that loves the Lord. It’s Joshua’s generation. The defining characteristic of Joshua’s generation is that they, “had seen all the great work that the LORD had done for Israel” (Judges 2:7b).
The generation that was following hard after God simply remembered what God had done. It’s not that they had all their Bible Drill verses memorized, it’s not that they attended church every time the doors were open… It’s that they had real life experiences where they had to put their faith in God and they saw him deliver!
Like the time that they came to the edge of the Promise Land, but the current was too strong and just like when God parted the waters of the Red Sea, he did it for the Jordan River too! Or when they came to the city/ fortress of Jericho and instead of sharpening their swords and spears God gave them victory by simply marching around the city. They remembered what God had done because they had seen it with their own eyes
My parents answered the call of God to plant churches in rural Montana. A place where there were no real churches. I remember growing up thinking that we might be the only Christians in town. They did it during a time before church planting was cool. My dad would pastor a small existing church, work a manual labor job for little pay (there weren’t a lot of options) and lead a bible study that would begin another church sometimes up to 90 miles away! I remember there being times where they didn’t have enough money for food or the bills and my dad would always say, “God will provide.” And he would! A check from a friend sent a week earlier would come in the mail, a grain elevator would waste 500lbs of pinto beans and allow my dad to take home a garbage bag full, a friend would bring by some goat’s milk… I’ve seen God provide further than my eyes could see at the time.
Then there were times in my own life where I’ve trusted God further than I could see. There were mission trips that He provided for through the generous surprise gifts of others. Most recently the decision to sell our house and move to another town! Before that it was a vision to organize and get first priority going in our area. It is a venture bigger than my capacity. We couldn’t see how to do it, but God does.
So in my own faith experience I not only have heard the truth about God from the Bible, but I’ve seen it lived out in the faith of my parents and I’ve lived it out. The danger though is that at some point I could coast. I could choose not to trust God further than I could see anymore. I could choose to display weak faith. I can go through the motions, but not let it cost me anything. I could come to the edge of something God has called me to and not proceed because it is uncomfortable. It could be something as big as a radical faith step or as small as harboring sin in my life.
That is what happened here in the book of Judges. One generation remembered, the next generation didn’t even see it! They weren’t alive to view it! They didn’t know! They knew the commands of God. They knew that they should serve God. They knew what their parents wished of them, but something was different in their generation than the previous one. They had no real experience of faith in God and seeing Him deliver
The question is then, did God stop working to save the nation of Israel? Was He somehow different? He brought them into that land, but is that as far as he went? Why did the children not remember? Why did they not see God in action?
The answer is scary. It was as simple as the word, “Compromise.” You see the previous generation that had seen God do all of these things began to compromise. They began to settle the land and even though they had seen military victory against great odds before and even thought they had God’s word to guide them, they started doing the math in the old way. They started conducting battle just like everyone else. Instead of trusting God, they trusted in what they could see. So if they had more people, they would go to war because they were likely to win, but when they had less people or less sophisticated weapons they backed off.
They did well on their own in the mountains, but when it came to the valleys they got scared. In the valley the enemy had a strong weapon they had never really faced before, the iron chariot. We remember that God had actually told them ahead of time that when they encounter this situation they should trust Him.
“When you go out to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them, for the LORD your God is with you, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 20:1 ESV)
But they didn’t trust him at this point.
And the LORD was with Judah, and he took possession of the hill country, but he could not drive out the inhabitants of the plain because they had chariots of iron. (Judges 1:19 ESV)
In the valley their faith had waned. They became content with allowing the Canaanites to remain in the land and as a result their children, who were watching, saw something. They saw that God was not big enough to wipe out the Canaanites and they deduced that the Canaanites god’s were just as powerful or even more powerful than the one true God.
The lesson that they had intended to teach their kids was to serve the LORD. What really got communicated was, “The LORD isn’t big enough.” The disconnect wasn’t that they didn’t know God’s word, or they didn’t know how to worship him, or they didn’t hear about him in family devotions. They never saw Him in their parent’s lives… at least not when it mattered.
This is a real tragedy because Deuteronomy 6 talks all about how to instruct your children and it’s got less to do with church and more to do with as you are doing life, you speak to your kids about how the Lord moves. You see children need you to help interpret things for them. They need you to help filter.
In that day and age the people around them, the Canaanites had their beliefs, they believed that it rained when their god Baal was in the bedroom with the goddess Ashtorath. When it didn’t rain, they could prompt it to rain by doing certain practices. That is how they interpreted life… If you don’t live life and train your children to understand things biblically they will plug in their own model or someone else’s model to understand the world.
In our day, the culture around us worships different gods. They are difficult to see from inside your own culture, but let me try and help you. We worship money when we think that money will solve our problems. It will either erase our debt or allow us to buy the stuff that we don’t need but really want. Stuff is another god that we worship. We go into debt to get it, we make payments. We want a nicer car, nicer phone, nicer tablet, nicer clothes, nicer… you fill in the blank. Our culture seems to think that stuff will make you happy. When it’s not stuff, it might be grades, being popular, or even something else.
The Canaanites saw no problem with worshiping a multitude of deities. So they would add God to the mix with Baal and so forth. This would then influence the Israelites to add Baal to their God worship. The problem was that they were diametrically opposed.
We try to do the same thing in our culture. We try and worship money and God. We try and hold the two in unison, but what did Jesus say about this?
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Matthew 6:24 ESV)
It’s that way for any false god. You can’t serve both. You will serve one or the other. It’s not like money is bad, but it’s a matter of how you treat money. Do you look to it to answer your problems? Do you think that a little more will make you content? Do you imagine the stuff you would/ could buy with it? Then it might be a sign that you are worshipping money rather than God. Here is a key phrase to help you know how to handle money. You can have money, but money can’t have you.
You can’t really play with fire and not expect to get burned at some point. When the people left off worshiping God and started to worship Baal it rightfully angered God. So he turned them over to the nations whose god’s they were seeking.
Imagine that I take my son to the park and I let him play with the other kids. There is a mean kid there that pushes him down. He cries. I run over and scold the bigger kid and he runs away.
Now imagine it differently. When we get to the park my son says, “You are no longer my dad, I don’t like your rules and stuff, this bronze statue is now my dad.” So imagine instead of packing my son up and going to a mental health specialist that we stay and play at the park. I decide that if he wants the statue to be his dad, then the statue can buy him chicken nuggets from McDonalds. The statue can ward off bullies. The statue can love him and tell him that it’s all going to be ok… Well actually, no. The statue can’t really do any of that, can it? Statues can’t really do anything besides collect dust.
So a bully comes and pushes my kid down. He cries out to the statue for help, but there is no help because the statue is incapable of helping him. My son get’s hungry and he cries out for chicken nuggets from McDonalds, but the statue doesn’t move. It can’t move, much less even hear him crying and begging for food.
Finally, when I’ve had enough of the charade, my heart is broken. I step in and have pity on him and run the bully off and buy him nuggets. You would think that he would Love me for that, but as soon as we ever get back to the park he goes back to the statue. He begs it to hear him. He begs it to meet his needs. He even hurts himself and others thinking that this will get the statues attention. He sets his hope up on a delusion that if he could just __________ then the statue would meet his needs. Finally when he is broken, I come in and pick up the pieces again.
This is the sad story of the book of Judges. The nation of Israel leaves God in favor of worshiping these false gods. These false gods have no real power and so as part of their punishment God allows the nation to serve these false gods and see where it gets them. So they serve a false god and God strengthens or allows a neighboring people to oppress them. When trouble comes they pray to their false gods, but there is no help and so they suffer. Then God has pity on them. They groan under the weight of their own sin and God who is merciful sends a judge to deliver them and all the days of the judge they serve God. But when the judge dies they go back.
The word Judge can also mean savior. The people needed a real and better savior. One that wouldn’t just deliver them from the bullies in their life, but one who would give them a new heart. They needed a savior who would change them from the inside out so that they would no longer want to run from God, but that they would run to him. Jesus is that true and better savior. When you repent of your sins and invite him into your life he not only provides the forgiveness of your sins and restores your relationship with God but he puts the Holy Spirit in your life as a guarantee of his work and you heart begins to transform from a heat of stone to a heart of flesh.