“And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LORD, that he did for Israel.” Judges 2:7
(Continued from Part 1)
Joshua, like Moses before him, was by his life, obedience to God and leadership, a powerful and sustaining influence among the people of Israel. While he and those of his generation, who with him, had experienced God’s deliverance and leading of Israel to the Promised Land still lived, the people were overall closer to God in their minds and hearts, and served the Lord in what He had commanded. This is not to say that there were no rebels or some who didn't choose otherwise during that time. The record shows, that both during the time of Moses and the time of Joshua’s leadership, some failed to obey God, incited rebellion against God’s authority, and paid dearly for their dissention and disobedience.
It does seem however, that the generation which grew under Joshua had overall a closer sense of God than the generation which followed - the latter being labelled in verse 10, as ‘not knowing the Lord or His works’! We read further that the net result of this ‘not knowing God’ as the previous generation did, was their abandonment of the God of their fathers. No doubt they had heard about the works of God which their ‘fathers’ had witnessed, and had received the instructions their leaders and parents had passed down faithfully to them, but they had no personal experience or reference point to the events that made Israel the nation it was, after being delivered from slavery in Egypt. They had not seen with their own eyes, the conquest of the land they were now blessed to live in, and God’s mighty hand in providing it for them. They may have continued in the ‘religious’ aspects and practices of their fathers, but they took for granted the things that the previous generation had cherished and considered precious. They lost sight of the history and foundations which made them what they were in the present. They lost the awe and respect for the separation and holiness which made Israel God’s people in the first place, and a chosen race to stand out as ‘different’ from the heathen world around it. They no longer held the vision of being the priests and kings God had intended them to be, influencing the people they came in contact with FOR God, and not being influenced by them AWAY FROM God.
Without those ‘anchors’ in place, and with a strong heathen influence at their doorstep, their spiritual stability suffered quickly. The verses that follow, describe how they did evil in the sight of the Lord, forsook the God of their fathers and chose the idolatry and ways of the world - the ungodly nations around them! The very thing God had carefully and painstakingly forbidden and commanded Israel to keep separate from. Such a loss from just one generation to the next! Interestingly we can spot the same arguments they used to justify their adoption of heathen practices, among Christians today. Some Israelites for instance, ‘copied’ the idols of the pagan nations, but called them by the name of the God of the Bible, or claimed them to represent Yahweh. This was such an abomination to God, that severe punishment followed their actions. Sadly and in spite of God’s constant reminders and reprimands, Israel continued on a downward spiralling pattern of spiritual disintegration, as one generation gave way to the next and more liberal and tolerant practices were adopted.
As we have noted, there is a similar pattern afflicting and disintegrating Christianity today, particularly in western nations, which in the past have been the bulwark and stronghold of the faith and the source of worldwide influence of the gospel. Each new generation although perhaps initially keeping to the main doctrines of the faith, seems to overall lose some of the faithfulness, closeness to God and separation from the world, which the previous generation exhibited and maintained.Exceptional individuals exist in every generation reflecting a closer and more perfect walk with God, and reminding us all of how we should serve the Lord, but in general there is a loss of faithfulness. The vision, fire, desire and obedience are dimmed down, so low in fact that in surveys taken in our Christian, western nations, there has not been found to be any statistically significant difference between evangelical Christians and unbelievers! This is not mere generational preference, it is spiritual degeneration!
Effective leadership helps, but there is however a sad human limitation in the influence we can exert on others, particularly those of the generation which follows our own. We can tell them, show them and teach them, but we cannot pass onto them our personal experiences - those they must desire and discover for themselves! Our love, fear and obedience of God and our efforts in serving Him in the present generation then, should be most excellent and of the highest quality, reflecting the greatest faithfulness and deepest conviction, so that the next generation may have the best possible example to view, remember and follow. Whenever we lessen or compromise our stand for God even a little, we should think that the damage we are doing is not merely to ourselves and those of our immediate family, that would be bad enough, but we should consider also how we will impact and further disadvantage the chances of spiritual survival for the next generation.
Let us be true soldiers of the Cross and followers of the Lamb, fighting to stem the flood of degeneration which threatens the very existence of true Christianity, remembering the question that Jesus put to us as His disciples, when He returns, will He find faith on the earth?
The only way we can possibly resist this tide of change and deterioration, and make a difference, is by individual personal determination to pray and stay close to God, relying on His strength not to abandon, compromise or lessen the values of the Word of God; to live each and every day as responsible, mature, Bible-instructed and informed believers, wholeheartedly upholding God’s truth; to teach them to our children and our children’s children; to hold on firmly and stay faithful in this endeavour until the end!