The chickens come home to roost.
Learning, living, losing: From Egypt to the Judges
That is how I would craft the period of Israel from Egypt to the time of the judges. Those who escaped Egypt had to learn that God was faithful. Many did not but many did. They learned alongside Moses and Joshua and Caleb. Those who escaped the desert continued to learn, but the learning transitioned into a period of national living that continued on through a generation or two. The lessons learned and the living done gradually slipped, atrophied, and was slowly, steadily, inevitably converted to a losing. The book of judges recounts a bad-good-bad cycle. The nation sputtered along, but never developed the multi-generational consistency which would be called living.
“10 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. 11 And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals. 12 And they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the LORD to anger. 13 They abandoned the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. 14 So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. 15 Whenever they marched out, the hand of the LORD was against them for harm, as the LORD had warned, and as the LORD had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress.” (Judges 2:10-15–ESV)
Why did they atrophy?
Why did Israel fail to go on in their excellence? Why did it not last longer than it did? Why did the good leadership dwindle? Was it not good enough? The answer is that there was dry rot in Israel and despite God’s faithfulness that dry rot came home to roost. See this entry on Joshua 24 which shows the origins of the dry rot.
Was the dry rot merely parental failings? Was it merely a failure to indoctrinate their children in the words of God or something more? Were their Sunday schools or catechism classes inadequate? Maybe. Maybe it was partly that. In a greater manner, though, it was parents giving but lip service to Jehovah. Deeds and doings did the most to indoctrinate.
We see the the dry rot in the deeds and doings of all those generations.
- Idolatry: Some had retained Egyptian idols and others obtained desert and Canaanite idols.
- Incompletely obedience (disobedience): They did not thoroughly drive out the nations of Canaan.
These deeds were the seeds
From these dependence upon God slipped and the generation that grew up had their eyes drawn away. Parental choices and national choices led to an eventual loss of their national faith and a period of terrible decline.
The people did not give themselves wholeheartedly to God. From there the trouble brewed and eventually that strong drink poured out its consequences upon the nation. Those consequences would be the most unpleasant bad-good-bad cycle.
Godly knowledge and knowledge of God’s great deeds.
They did not know God’s character
They did not know his great deeds
That is the summary that verse 11 gives us. There was an atrophy in knowing God.
What atrophy yielded.
This is in verses 12 and 13. It results in an abandonment of God. The innate drive to worship was no longer directed to the God who made them, but to his antithesis. It became directed to idols who had done nothing for them.
What God did and did not do.
This set of things is found in verses 14 and 15. God did not abandon his people. They may have abandoned him, but he was not so quickly put away. The manner in which he engaged his people though still motivated by love shifted 180 degrees. While he previously bolstered and improved, protected and provided he now began to actively dismantle the blessings that had made them great.
Key points from this passage:
- Teach with words and deeds
- Be vigilant to remember God’s character and what God has done on one’s behalf
- Share these things as an antidote to atrophy
- Be vigilant against hypocrisy for saying one thing and doing another is like gasoline on the fire of atrophy
- Hypocrisy accelerates atrophy
- If you are already in the bad-good-bad cycle seek God with all your heart to stay in his graces
- What generation do we belong to?
- A generation is growing up knowing little to nothing of the Lord, but others do.
- God is not a phenomenon of this or that generation, but remains throughout and beyond them all.