It was a common challenge, this prospect of raising up a new generation, and the people of Israel did it poorly. Joshua had led the nation into God’s promised land, conquering areas as God directed. But time marches on.
Joshua passed on as did the people of his generation. Now settled in a new land, a new generation grew up “who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.” (Judges 2:10)
If you’re familiar with the book of Judges at all, you know it overflows with accounts about weird doings: stealth stabbings in the outhouse, clubbing in a woman’s tent, a conqueror brought down by a woman’s rock. Samson is laid low by a haircut and Gideon, after leading a victorious mission against the Midianites, turned to idolatry.
The key to Judges is that “each man did what was right in his own eyes.” Surrounded by nations who were led by kings, Israel opted for a theocracy: God was their king.
Only they quickly forgot. God was no longer king; personal preference was.
But in the words of that famous theologian Bob Dylan, “you gotta serve someone.” We serve God or we serve Satan but we always serve that which we follow.
The lesson in Judges is that people need a king. Left to their own, they fall in the base vulgarities we see at the end of the book of Judges.
Yesterday I mentioned the Josephson Institute survey about our teenagers. Surveys deal with generalities and there are abundant exceptions. But are we so different than the generations in Judges? We worship relativity: each does what is right in his own eyes.
We need a king as surely as did the people named in Judges. There are no perfect parents except God and look what happened to his first children. They rebelled. This is no slam on parents who have wayward children.
But where do we go from here? Choose your king and follow him. Point the way for the next generation and sacrifice to give them a chance to find guidance.
We need more than honesty and character today. We need the absolute of God’s nature. Spread the word.