Read Judges 2:6–23
6 After Joshua had dismissed the Israelites, they went to take possession of the land, each to their own inheritance. 7 The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel.
8 Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten. 9 And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.
10 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. 11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the Lord’s anger 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. 14 In his anger against Israel the Lord gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. 15 Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the Lord was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress.
16 Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. 17 Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the Lord’s commands. 18 Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. 19 But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.
20 Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and said, “Because this nation has violated the covenant I ordained for their ancestors and has not listened to me, 21 I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. 22 I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the Lord and walk in it as their ancestors did.” 23 The Lord had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua.
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“The cynic may claim with some truth that history teaches us nothing, but that is hardly history’s fault. Those who do not learn its lessons usually find themselves compelled to relive them” (David Jackman). Wise words!
With Joshua’s death, Israel entered a dangerous chapter of its history. We’re tempted to read it as a record of human folly, but Judges is really about the living God who won’t give up on his people, as today’s introductory passage illustrates.
Israel’s existence was a testimony to “all the great things” God had done for them (7) in delivering them from Egypt, providing great leaders and giving them the land. Tragically, the generation after Joshua forgot their history, “forsook the LORD” and served local, lifeless deities instead (10–12). Never has Edmund Burke’s dictum, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it,” been truer. Spiritual amnesia, as they were warned (Deut. 8), would prove catastrophic. Cultivating spiritual memory leads to spiritual health. In forgetting God, they weren’t just ungrateful, but they were also undermining their own identity and survival. They went against the covenant (Deut. 28), so God became angry (12b). His anger was both justly deserved and painfully experienced in their crops being raided, their freedom lost and their armies defeated. No wonder “they were in great distress” (15).
Yet in his patient grace, God “raised up judges” (better understood as deliverers) who would regain their liberty and re-establish them on the right path (16). It never lasted, however. They “would not listen” (17). Typically, human, they went stubbornly off to worship the very idols that were the cause of their problems (17–19). How foolish! So God let them stew in their own juice and, rather than removing their enemies at a stroke, decided to use them to test the integrity of their commitment to him (20–23). God is always “compassionate and gracious… slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness… yet…” his patience has limits (Exod. 34:6,7).
Look back to the early days of your Christian life. What, and whom, have you forgotten? In what ways are you still faithfully listening to God and growing obediently in the Lord?