As soon as Joshua died, the next generation completely rebelled against God. How is that possible? Read further to understand God's modern-day lesson for us from ancient Israel.
Judges 2:10-13 NIV - "After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers [after Joshua's death], another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the Lord to anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths."
As soon as Joshua died, the next generation completely rebelled against God. How is that possible? Under Joshua's direction, the Promised Land was cleared of wickedness and enemy nations. God showed himself with great power to the Israelites. They had obeyed God's commands to completely rid the land of idolatry and all evil contamination. Joshua left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses Joshua 11:15, 23. So why the complete and utter apostasy of the next generation?
After Joshua had defeated the main kings and nations of the Promised Land, the new territory was divided up between the tribes. Notice God's continued faithfulness to the Israelites. He finally did bring them back to their inheritance and gave each tribe huge pieces of land for their future generations. God always keeps his promises. See Joshua 13:8-19:51 for the division of the Promised Land according to the Israelite tribes. Now it was each tribe's turn to clear the land of any remaining enemies and idolatry. The main war had been won. But, there were still some personal (tribal) battles that needed to happen.
Judges 1:27-36 tells a sad tale of these battles that never happened or were never won…
"But Manasseh did not drive out the people of Beth Shan or Taanach or Dor or Ibleam or Megiddo and their surrounding settlements, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that land. When Israel became strong, they pressed the Canaanites into forced labor but never drove them out completely. Nor did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites living in Gezer, but the Canaanites continued to live there among them. Neither did Zebulun drive out the Canaanites living in Kitron or Nahalol, who remained among them; but they did subject them to forced labor. Nor did Asher drive out those living in Acco or Sidon or Ahlab or Aczib or Helbah or Aphek or Rehob, and because of this the people of Asher lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land. Neither did Naphtali drive out those living in Beth Shemesh or Beth Anath; but the Naphtalites too lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land, and those living in Beth Shemesh and Beth Anath became forced laborers for them. The Amorites confined the Danites to the hill country, not allowing them to come down into the plain. And the Amorites were determined also to hold out in Mount Heres, Aijalon and Shaalbim, but when the power of the house of Joseph increased, they too were pressed into forced labor. The boundary of the Amorites was from Scorpion Pass to Sela and beyond."
Joshua brought the Israelites as far as he could. But, many of the Israelites never did their part in completely clearing their own tribal land of the wicked idolatry. This is how God felt about their disobedience…
“I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land that I swore to give to your forefathers. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.’ Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? Now therefore I tell you that I will not drive them out before you; they will be [thorns] in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you.” Judges 2:1-3 NIV
God told Israel that he would not do what they could do, but did not do. The Israelites were instructed to fully evict the enemy from the land. But, they failed to do this. As God said, these pagan nations became a thorn in Israel's side, and even worse, their gods became a snare for Israel.
Why did the next generation after Joshua turn their backs on God? Their forefathers never completely obeyed God in ridding the land of wickedness. Their disobedience and casual approach to idolatry was the undoing of the next generation. But there's more…
Judges 2:10 says that a generation of Israelites grew up "who neither knew the Lord nor what he had done for Israel." In other words, the parents did not pass down the ways and wonders of God to the next generation. Somehow, the younger ones were not told the stories of the Red Sea parting, manna falling from the sky, water shooting out of a rock and the walls of a city imploding. They were not reminded of God's power and unfailing love toward the Israelites. Therefore, they quickly turned their backs on God.
1 Corinthians 10:6-7 says, "Now these things occurred as examples [the Israelite's rebellion] to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were." We need to learn from the lost generation of Israelites. They quickly turned against the one true God because of their parents' decisions to allow idolatry in the land and not remind their children of God's ways and wonders. Will we learn from the disaster of their disobedience?
Our decisions today to take an apathetic stance on idolatry (witchcraft, demonic games, the occult and sexual immorality) will bring the enemy to our children's doorsteps. Of course, they always have their own choice for or against God. But, how easy will it be for our children to choose the false comforts of idolatry when they have grown up with it.
Likewise, when we fail to speak with our children about the ways of God, we are dooming them to a life without him. When we fail to remind them of all the miracles we have witnessed, God will become to them a lucky charm at best and an enemy at worst.
May the words of Psalm 78:4-7 fill our mouths as we consider the wonders that God has done.
"We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands."
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