Reading through the book of Judges, and one can quickly see how the depravity of humanity can surface so quickly in the absence of a true connection with our God’s holy influence. It is disappointing to know that our human condition has not advanced any in the rough 3400-year history since that time.
The people of that day, had such a rich history of leaving Egypt under the hand of God, watching incredible supernatural devastation, as God brought about the various plagues. Then a first hand encounter with the amazing presence of God, brought such fear in the people that they begged Moses to be a go-between, so they would not have to hear the frightful voice of God. In the forty years that followed those events, they learned to follow God’s words explicitly. When God moved, they moved. When God gave food or water, they learned to accept it on His terms. After their great wanderings, this was said: “Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell” (Deuteronomy 8:4); this in reference to God’s constant care for them. After entering the Promised Land, in an amazing display of power, and continued expectation that they, the people of God, would follow His explicit directions, the nation found no foe that they could not conquer, as long as they obeyed. This is the immediately preceding setting of the book of Judges.
But when we begin to read, we find a phrase repeated several times “every man did that which was right in his own eyes”, or some variation of these words. Why? How is it that a people so closely connected to God, walking in His Way, would so easily forsake Him with such a casual dismissal?
The answer comes in a simple series of short phrases tucked neatly into the storyline of Judges. The first comes early on, “there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel” Judges 2:10, and another shortly after, “they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the Lord; but they did not so” Judges 2:17. This people literally turned away from God. How? By just letting Him slip out of their minds, by not being attentive to His Way. The Song of Deborah in Judges 5 highlights a contrasting point, “there shall they rehearse the righteous acts of the Lord.”
What could we, or should we, observe and learn from this book telling of the complete depravity of Israel after entering the Promised Land? First, let’s be completely honest. We are most likely to repeat this same behavior if we don’t make specific choices in our lives. The Israelites root cause of failure was not a specifically rebellious spirit, just a willingness to lazily forget all that they had experienced and knew. We too can forget all that we have been saved from, and turn away from God if we do not make intentional choices about the quality of our relationship with God. Second, there are actual action steps that can shore up our hearts against forgetting His great grace. Deborah’s words, specifically the word “rehearse”, is a key to our memory. Our culture, in so many ways, has shifted away from this very beneficial action. We must take the time, in church, in our homes, in every possible setting, to talk about what God has done. “Count your blessings” may be somewhat cliche, but it really does work. We need to rehearse where we come from. How we were saved. And, the things we have learned along our journey with Him. There are stories we need to tell for us, and others we need to tell for others. This form of verbal, corporate, sharing is as vital as a healthy Bible reading and prayer time.
Don’t risk wandering away from God. Take the time and effort to preserve your relationship with Him. And, you may be saving someone else at the same time.