The book of Judges reminds me a lot of a yo-yo – up and down and up and down. Once again, I catch myself wondering ‘how on earth…’! Why oh why are the people of Israel so stiff-necked and are they so quick to follow other gods after all that they’ve just been through in the first six books of the Bible? You would think that they would finally get it! Joshua 2:10 explains the reason for the yo-yo effect very clearly, though:
10 That whole generation was also gathered to their ancestors. After them another generation rose up who did not know the Lord or the works He had done for Israel.
For me, it is easy to read through the Torah, browse through Joshua, and read about all the great works God has done. As I’ve done so often over the past few weeks, I look back from this side of the Cross and declare what a bunch of idiots those Israelites were for not having more faith in God, for not being more faithful. What I forget, however, is that the generation after Joshua had not seen all the great things that God had done for their forefathers. They had not experienced the Red Sea, the manna, the walls of Jericho coming down, and the nation of Israel claiming its inheritance through the power of the Lord. This was a generation that did not know the Lord.
This generation needed its own encounter with God. They needed to see the power of God for themselves. To expect the next generation to ride on the faith of Joshua, Caleb, and the elders is both unrealistic and unfair. The knowledge of God is not something stories can convey nor information can establish; those only cause us to know about God. No, knowing God can only come from experiencing Him. The common pattern in the book of Judges is that God intervenes once His people begin to cry out to Him. See? They had heard of Him, they knew the stories, but only when their world came crashing down did they actually begin to call on His Name. After He delivers them, that generation serves God – because they had come to know Him for themselves.
Even in our day, every generation still needs an encounter of its own. I cannot ride on my father’s faith in God; I need an encounter with Him myself. God will let my world crumble if that means He gets me on my knees, at His feet, calling on His Name. God’s interest is not so much in my prosperity as in my devotion. He wants every person, every generation, to know Him personally for the greatness of Who He is. That doesn’t mean that we are destined to slip and fall before God reveals Himself to us. It does mean, however, that we need to know God for ourselves, in this generation, in our time.
All of a sudden, the Israelites in Judges are not so crazy after all. I would do well to not judge them so quickly but put myself in their shoes. My shoes are not all that different.