by Mike McHugh
The Book of Judges in the Old Testament has long provided sensational material for sermons. The judges, particularly Samson, were sometimes colorful characters, and it is not difficult to hold a congregation’s attention with stories of their exploits.
I have been reading Joshua and Judges recently, and this time through I have seen a different perspective. Rather than the individual stories and personalities of the judges, I was struck by the whole sweep of that period.
In Judges, chapter two, verses 7–12, we read,
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. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being an hundred and ten years old. And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnathheres, in the mount of Ephraim, on the north side of the hill Gaash. And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim; and they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger.
This brief passage serves as a template for the judges that followed Joshua. While a judge was in place, the people served the Lord, doing all that the Lord had commanded them. As soon as that judge died, however, there would grow up a generation that did not know the Lord or what He had done for their fathers. That generation would go after other gods, and provoke God to anger. After a season of judgment, the people would cry out for mercy, and the Lord would raise up another judge to lead His people. This pattern is repeated throughout Judges.
Perhaps some of you already see the lesson I drew from my study. Why did the children of Israel remain on this roller-coaster ride throughout their generations? Why was one generation faithful to the Lord under a judge, and the next generation unfaithful? While the judge is the prominent figure in the up-side of each cycle, it is the missing element that explains the down-side.
The children of Israel who followed the judge and largely kept the commandments of the Lord, failed in one key area. They did not train up the next generation to do the same!
When a generation of children is not given a distinctively and exclusively Christian education, they will often go seeking after other gods and bring judgment on themselves. This phenomenon was not unique to the Israelites. It is happening in the public schools of America today, and, sadly, too many Christian parents still have not learned the lesson of Judges. Their children spend the majority of their day in the pagan public schools learning to serve Baal—and that exposure is not being—indeed cannot be—effectively canceled by a few minutes of “quality time” with their parents in the evening.
Let us learn this lesson from Judges. We must not only follow the Lord ourselves, but we must train up the next generation to follow Him as well, so that they might be equipped to train up their own children some day in a manner that is pleasing in God’s sight.
Copyright 2008 Mark Beuligmann
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