2/12/12 The Lord Raised Up Judges For The People

2/12/12 The Lord Raised Up Judges For The People

Lesson 3                                       Kevin Jesmer NIU UBF 2-12-12
Judges 2:6-23                       Key Verse 2:16

“Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders.”

As long as Joshua and his generation lived, the people served the Lord. But then Joshua died. They had suddenly had no national shepherd who could lead them in faith and in the word of God. The seed of the Canaanite culture and religion was planted in the life of the people. A whole generation grew up who did not know the Lord or what he had done. As a nation, they suffered. Idolatry and moral corruption grew and a pattern of punishment and oppression became a fact of life. Eventually they cried out to the Lord. When they did God raised up a judge to deliver them. For a time, they had peace, but this lasted only for the lifetime of the judge. Then, the people again begin worshiping Canaanite gods and following their evil practices once again. All this happened because ancient Israel violated their covenant with God and did not listen. God left the Canaanites in the land to test and train his people and this worked to bring his people back to their senses. Through this passage, may we decide to give our whole hearts to the Lord and may God grant us “steady” and unwavering faith. May we recognize God’s helping us and also recognize the servants of God he has placed in our lives. Most of all may our Gospel faith be passed onto the next generation of young people.

Part l: Failure To Pass The Faith On To The Next Generation (2:6-10)

Ancient Israel’s great leader, Joshua died. Look at verses 2:6-9, “After Joshua had dismissed the Israelites, they went to take possession of the land, each to their own inheritance. 7 The people served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the LORD had done for Israel. 8 Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of a hundred and ten. 9 And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.” This is a summary of Joshua’s. (Refer to the end of the book of Joshua for more details (24:29)) Joshua was a great leader, in every way, spiritually, administratively and militarily. He led his people in faith and guided them with great courage and the word of God. Through Joshua God led his people into many victories and into the Promised Land.

But there is one thing that Joshua could not do. He could not help the next generation follow God wholeheartedly. Look at verse 10, “After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.” One generation died, and the next did not follow God. Each generation failed to teach the next generation to love and follow God. This is a serious matter.

Passing on the faith to the next generation is of utmost importance to every community of faith. It was part of God’s law. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 reads, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” Joshua tried his best. He even set the example in his own family. Joshua 24:14 reads, “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Passing on the faith the next generation is never easy. In our family, we try to do it by setting the example. We have 1:1 Bible study with our kids. We have family daily devotions and involve the kids in all aspects of ministry. But whether or not the faith is being passed onto the next generation is God’s doing. I can not move my kids’ knowledge of Jesus from their heads to their hearts. I can not make them decide to share in this mission with Julie and myself on the campus mission field. This is beyond me. All I can do is make an environment, pray and depend on God.

I also can not reveal to them the grace of God deeply. Look at verse 7, “7 The people served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the LORD had done for Israel.” These leaders saw all the great things that the Lord has done personally, with their own eyes. Julie and I have experienced the grace of Jesus personally. But have my kids? Can I make them experience the grace of God? That is beyond me. I pray for God to reveal his grace to them and they may be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. At this month’s UBF staff conference we are reading and discussing the book, “We’re In This Boat Together.” Written by Camille F. Bishop, it is a book concerning leadership succession between the generations. I pray that God may grant us all wisdom in passing on the faith to the next generation.

Part ll: They Forsook The Lord (2:11-15)

Despite the best efforts of Joshua and the elders of his generation, the ancient Israelites forsook the Lord. Verses 11-13 read, “Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the LORD, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the LORD’s anger 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.” “Forsook” means to give up something that was formerly held dear. God was so full of grace to his people by entering into covenant relationship with them. He was with through their wanderings in the desert. But they turned their backs on him. The new generation of Israelites abandoned the faith of their parents and began to worship the gods of their neighbors.

One of the popular idols was Baal. Baal was the god of the storm and rains who was thought to control vegetation and agriculture. Ashtoreth was the mother goddess of love and war and fertility. She was also called Astarte or Ishtar. Temple prostitution and child sacrifice were a part of these Canaanite idols. They forsook the Lord fort these idols. They not only turned their hearts to the idols, but they served other idols.

God consistently sets himself up against idol worship. Why were idols so bad in God’s sight? To worship an idol violated the first of the two of the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 20:3-6) which read, “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 ‘You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” The Canaanite idols represented sensual, carnal aspects of human nature. To them, the Lord was just another god to add to their collection of gods. Ancient Israel, by contrast, was to worship only the Lord. One could not possibly believe that God was the one true God and at the same time bow down to an idol. God’s nature is spiritual and moral. Adding the worship of idols to the worship of God could not be tolerated by God or any of his followers. But the reasons go much deeper than that.

It has to do with our relationship with the Lord. God really wants the best for his people. But the best comes when we give our whole hearts to God. We only have one heart to give. If we had two or more hearts, like earthworms, then maybe we could justify giving one heart to God and the others to an idol. But we have one heart to give and we must place it in the right place. God is really upset with idol worship because it creates a rift… a wall between him and the people whom he loves. He knows how much his people suffer when they do not have the right relationship with him and so he loves us with a jealous love. That is why verses 12b-13 reads, “…They aroused the LORD’s anger 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.” We don’t have these idols today, in our popular culture, but there are many things that can tempt us to forsake the Lord and abandon things that we know is right. For example, the desire to be accepted by our others and enjoy the things of this world can lead us to behavior that is unacceptable to God, breaking our relationship with him and sap us of the full life and eternal life that Jesus gives.

Part lll: The Lord Continued To Help His People (16-19)

God could have abandoned his people and left them to their own devices, but he did not. Look at verse 16 and 18, “ Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders…18Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them.” God remained faithful to his people and helped them by raising up servants of God called judges who proved to be very effective servants to God. Hebrews 11: 30-32 talks about the exploits of four of these judges, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, “…I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.” God showed great mercy by raising up these judge to save his people from their oppressors.

God shows us the same mercy in our generation. Our oppressors are not other people. The Bible teaches us that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Eph 6:12) Our oppressors are threefold, sin, self and the devil. But God has shown us his mercy by providing an escape from sin’s penalty through Jesus Christ, who alone saves us from the oppression of our sins. He is our savior. He is our mighty King who fights for us and along side of us. When we take a step of faith and trust in Christ’s saving work on our behalf, we can experience God’s deliverance and his mercy.

But there is a fact that can not be ignored, God does raise up people who can inspire and encourage the people of their generation with the faith and the word of God. The peoples’ walk with the Lord is linked to the spiritual maturity of their leaders. That is why a pastor’s life influences the life of the congregation. Nationally, in many ways, Billy Graham was such a spiritual man in the last half of the 20th century. I am not sure whom God is raising up for this generation of believers. It is not very clear. Could he be #Rick Warren#? What do you think? I am sure that God is working in someone’s heart to stand up as a “modern day judge” who can give the gospel to a lost generation of young people. Maybe you are that next person. Pray about it.

But despite of God’s abundant grace, the people turned from God. Look at verses 17 and 19, “Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the LORD’s commands…19 But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.” With these judges, God gave gracious revivals, but after each revival, the nation fell into greater sin and bondage. Actually, throughout this period of history, ancient Israel went through seven cycles of (1) rebelling against God (2) being overrun by enemy nations (3) being delivered by under the leadership of a judge (4) remaining loyal to God under the leadership of the judge and (5) again forgetting God once that judge died. How foolish they were to let go of the wonderful grace of God! How foolish they were to not entering into a stable, committed relationship with God that went beyond the presence of the judge!

What can explain this constant oscillation of their faith? The Canaanite religion appeared more attractive to the sensual nature and offered more short range benefits to the people. Attractive features of these religions dragged the people away for they could remain selfish and yet fulfill the requirements of some sort of religious life. They could do almost anything they wished and still be obeying at least one of the Canaanite gods. But faith in the God of the Bible, however, does not offer short term benefits that appeal to our sinful nature. The essence of God’s way of life is selflessness. Jesus tells his people to deny themselves and pick up their crosses and follow him daily. The constant tugging at their hearts proved to be too much for the nation to bear.
We tend to follow the same cycle in our walk with the Lord. We remain loyal to Jesus as long as we are near those who are devoted to him, as long as there is an inspiring leader. But when we are on our own, the pressure from the world, to be drawn away from God and worship and serve its idols increases. The integrity of our spiritual life rises and wanes in successive cycles. Basically, we are incorrigible sinners. But God is merciful and with each cycle God is right there to bring us back to himself. If we are faithless, he is faithful for he can not disown himself. (2 Timothy 2:13) We must recognize our tendency and seek Christ’s help to live God’s way, especially in times when we are separated from other believers. That is why going to university is such and tough time for many young people. They say that 50% of Christian young people, who go to university, graduate from university as non-believers.

Part lV: The Lord Did Not Give Up (20-23)

God still did not give up on his people. But he would employ some tough love. Verses 20-23 read, “Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel and said, ‘Because this nation has violated the covenant I ordained for their ancestors and has not listened to me, 21 I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. 22 I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the LORD and walk in it as their ancestors did.” 23 The LORD had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua.” God no longer drove out their enemies. He used the Canaanites aggression to test ancient Israel and help to come back to him and walk in the ancient faith of their ancestors. This is God’s tough love and his fatherly love on his people.

Jesus works in much the same way in our own lives. When we forsake the Lord and decide to walk in the ways of the world, we incur a lot of unnecessary suffering all by ourselves. These sufferings are not from God, but are a result of turning our backs on him and walking in the darkness. When we persistently do this God takes the hedge of protection from us and patiently waits for us to turn our hearts to him. (Romans 1:24) There are other times when God uses the hardships that we incur as training opportunities. They may be interpreted as God’s divine discipline. God is treating us as sons and daughters, so that we may share in God’s holiness. (Heb 12:7-11) Never doubt the love of God. Always respond with repentance and faith and draw near to God and he will raise you up.

In today’s lesson we learn that we must find a way to pass on the faith to the next generation of our young people. But in order to do this we must protect our hearts for the lure of this nation’s idols. We have only one heart to give. We must give it to the Lord…all of it…and never to any idol. We must open our eyes and recognize God’s grace in helping us, through his word, through his Spirit and also through other servants of God. God never gives up on us, but his helping at times my be his tough love. Accept it and grow through it. Experience God’s love and grace in your life. Pray that God may raise up a “judge”…an inspiring servant of the Lord, who can inspire and lead this generation of young people.

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