Forgetting the Unforgettable

 

46638940.cached.jpgIn our Foundation’s Bible Study, we have been going through the a chronological study of the Old Testament.  This past week found us covering the book of Judges.  Let me give a quick synopsis of the book for those unfamiliar.  The book takes place after the conquest of the Promised Land, after the nation of Israel escaped Egypt by God’s power and travail their way through the Wilderness.

It was in this time in the Wilderness that God took a rag tag group of people roughly the population of the state of New Hampshire and made them into a nation for His Name.  He gave them the law, went to great measures to teach them to depend on Him, and taught them how to worship Him.  He knew that they would be going into a land where they would not surround the Tabernacle on a nightly basis and would not behold his glory on a daily basis.  They would not have daily reminders of His faithfulness in the form of food found on the ground.  And more significantly, they would not have the direct leadership of Moses or Joshua leading them and directing them.  They would be dispersed amongst their tribes throughout the land, with the Levites spread out to represent them before God.

By the time the book of Judges starts, the generation of the conquest has died along with Joshua (Judges 2:10).  This generation that had been born in the Wilderness, saw God’s faithfulness first hand, and saw God power through the conquest has passed and handed the baton to the next generation.  Unfortunately, the next generation would fail to regard Yahweh God as holy.

The book of Judges is full of a continuing cycle of the people falling into sin, given over to servitude, crying out for deliverance, seeing a deliverer raised, achieving freedom from oppression, then experiencing some measure of peace until starting the whole cycle over again.  It can be nerve-wracking to see this cycle play itself out over and over and over again!

But the book of Judges starts with some of the most shocking words that you could imagine for a nation at this point in their history.

“And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers.  And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that He had done for Israel.”   Judges 2:10

How can this be?!  How can one generation pass and the next be so ignorant to the truth and reality of their LORD?  How can they not know of the work that God had done for them?  How does such knowledge melt away after just one generation?

The reality is, that God knew this was a possibility.  That’s why he instructed Moses in Deuteronomy 6: 20-25:

“When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt.  And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.  And the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes.  And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers.  And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as we are this day.  And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as He has commanded us.”

The people were to be talking about the greatness of God and His works in their families.  They were not just to recite law to their kids, but the goodness of God as well.  The goodness of God and His law was to be a central feature in their lives.  Observe Deuteronomy 11:18-23:

“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.  For if you will be careful to all this commandment that I command you to do, loving the LORD your God, walking in all His ways, and holding fast to Him, then the LORD will drive out all these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourselves.”

This is what Israel failed to do.  They failed to regard God as holy and teach the law to their children.  They did not make God’s Word a central part of their lives.  The consequences that came were quicker and more severe than anything they could have imagined.

How does a nation so quickly forfeit such responsibilities?  I imagine there were probably many nights where conversations went something like this: “It’s been a long day.  I’ve been building this new home, breaking ground for planting, tending to the flocks, nevermind the work on the front to drive out the tribes around us.  I’m too tired to open up God’s Word.  Let’s just watch TV.”

Ok, maybe they don’t say that last part, but I can see the same temptations in my own life.  It was a long day at work.  I didn’t get much sleep last night and I’m too tired.  It would be much more relaxing just to eat in peace.  This wasn’t an “Israel problem”.  It is a “humanity problem”.  We are so quick to relegate God’s Word to a lower priority.

We must not make the same mistake that Israel did.  These things were recorded so that we might read them and learn.  The mistakes have already been made and recorded so we don’t make the same mistake.  The priority in our homes MUST be to teach God’s greatness and goodness, and the eternal value of loving the LORD our God.  May it not be said of children that they did not know God or what He has done for us.

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The Thread of God’s Goodness

One of the greatest privileges in my life right now is teaching Foundation’s Bible Study twice a month.  Presently, we are going through a chronological study through the Old Testament.  The main purpose is twofold.  One is to give us a sense of how one event leads to another.  These are not a series of flannel-graph stories, but a line of God’s grace that weaves through lives and events.  That leads to our second purpose: to see God’s continuing faithfulness and love.  These stories are given to us so that we can learn of God’s goodness and His fierce standard of holiness.

It seems that every time I read through the Old Testament, I see new themes, new threads woven throughout the narrative.  One thing that I have noticed this time around is the process that God takes His people through before leading them into Promised Land.  Certainly, God could have marched them straight out of the Red Sea and around Jericho.  But this was a people that went from the hundreds when the sons of Jacob were driven by drought to the storehouses of God’s provision in Egypt, to a population over 1 million, roughly equivalent to the population of New Hampshire.

When God brought His people out of slavery, He had to make them into a new people.  He needed to teach them who He was and how He wanted to be worshiped.  When they would enter the land of Canaan, the people of the land would be in awe of a nation that had a God that communicated to them.  Those nations were left to guess as to what they had done wrong to not have it rain, leaving their crops dry.  When it did rain, they were left to analyze what they had done that had brought such good fortune from their gods.

God would also show His people that they must depend upon Him for everything.  Things that we take for granted today, food and water, were hard to find in quantities enough to feed a nation wandering through the arid wilderness.  God took those hardships as exercises to increase their muscle of faith.  When they needed food, God would send enough for what they needed that day.  When they needed water, He made it come out of a rock.  God gave them enough for that day because He knew the temptation of the human heart is to grab for security and provision outside of God.

The path through the wilderness was certainly not the easiest road.  God’s endless power shows us it could have been ‘easier’.  But it would not have been better.  They would not have learned to depend on Him for their daily bread.  They would not have had a functional knowledge of God’s provision and goodness.

We want to learn things the easy way, but that is often not the best way.  My wife and I have a saying, “Hard is not bad.”  Hard times and trials are not chapters in our lives that we would choose to write for ourselves, but they are integral to our growth.  In those chapters, we learn of God’s provision, goodness, grace, mercy, steadfast love, and unwavering faithfulness.  That is exactly what God was teaching His people as He brought them through the wilderness.