Let’s start with this verse. This is probably one of the darkest time periods in the Bible.
In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes. NLT Judges 21:25
Doesn’t that sound like our culture today? Everyone is doing whatever seems right in their own eyes. Wow. It’s what Sam talks about. It’s time travel. It’s like the writers of the Bible jumped into a time machine to visit us today and write about our culture. If you think about it, we are only reliving everything that we have already seen play out in scripture thousands of years ago.
That verse was in Judges. In Romans 1:18-25 Paul explains how that happens — how a culture recklessly spirals downward into rot and decay and chaos. Are you ready? We take our eyes off of God. We don’t treat Him like God. We don’t worship God. We don’t put Him in first place in our lives. Because of that, our minds become blinded to the things of God. And in the absence of God, we are flooded with our own selfish desires to live out.
That is what our story is about today. What happens when we fail to put God in first place of our lives?
We have been loving our Old School series. We have been walking through the Old Testament and realizing, the stories are about us. We talked about Abraham. Moses. The Children of Israel being freed from slavery. The Children of Israel facing certain death. The two-year journey that should have taken only two weeks. After being freed from slavery, every time the Children of Israel faced a hard time, they wanted to go back into slavery. As God was providing and protecting them, how did they respond? They consistently embraced complaints. They embraced fear. They embraced rebellion against God and their leader. Right before they inherited every good promise God gave them, what do they do? They rebelled. How? They didn’t trust God and follow Him into the battle to inherit the promised land.
Last week, Sam explained that the next generation walked into the promised land and took on the city of Jericho and Ai. This generation Sam talked about would have been the middle schoolers and high schoolers when they were freed from slavery in Egypt. My favorite part was when Sam shared out of Joshua 1. God commanded them to be strong and courageous a couple of times. Sam pointed out, if following God into the promised land would have been easy, there would be no need for the warning to be strong and courageous.
I want you to see this. These stories are about us. Being freed from Egypt is a story of our salvation from sin. Israel facing certain death is a story of how we respond when we face intense times of struggle. The two-year journey in the desert, that was supposed to be two weeks, is about us and how we respond to God when we face hard times. Crossing the river and facing the battle required to inherit the promised land is a story about us facing our spiritual battles to find spiritual freedom. Taking on Jericho and Ai is a story about our trust in God.
Today we continue with the story. Moses dies and Joshua becomes the leader. God asked Joshua to destroy everything in the new land, why? Because the people living in the promised land were so immoral and demonic, they were offering up their babies in idol worship. The story of Joshua destroying all the people in the promised land is a story about us destroying all of our sin.
Here is what happened. Joshua lead the Children of Israel into the promised land. Remember, this is the second generation. They were all 18 years old or younger when they left Egypt, middle schoolers and high schoolers. When they entered the promised land, it was 40 years later. They were 58 years old and younger. They were supposed to go into battle and overtake the land. And they did go to war and they had several victories under Joshua. But years passed. They slowly grew disinterested in fighting. They got tired. They lost their passion and courage. They started compromising.
Instead of being focused and disciplined about the mission, they started to relax. They started living near their enemies. They didn’t follow God’s command to destroy all the evil. They allowed their daughters to marry their enemy and allowed their sons to marry their enemy. Why? It was just easier.
They even started worshipping their enemy’s idols and it wasn’t long until they were offering their children to idols. Why would they worship idols? The idol of Baal was supposed to be the god over weather and nature. As a farming community, to worship Baal basically meant you want success. They worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of love and sex. To worship her basically meant… well there are kids here, I think you can figure out why they enjoyed worshipping that idol.
Now to them, they probably didn’t see idol worship as all that bad. They probably thought, ‘We worship the God who freed us from Egypt and just added a few more to cover our basis.’ Over time, their focus on God lessoned and their worship for the idols grew. What they didn’t fully understand was that God and God only, was their savior. The idols they made were simple pieces of wood.
God views His relationship with us like a marriage relationship. If we turn to other things that seem more attractive or maybe even the answer to our problems, that hurts God’s heart. If we don’t trust God and run to Him when we are in trouble, that hurts God’s heart. When we spend years ignoring Him because life is too busy to be with Him, that hurts God’s heart. To God, us turning to anything else or ignoring Him is like us having an affair on Him. That’s why God wants to be in first place of our lives.
I want to read for you what God said about the second and third generation of Israel. To do this, we will jump into the book of Judges. The book of Judges records a really sad time period for the Children of Israel. It was probably their darkest time-period in their history. What happened? Their culture recklessly spiraled downward into rot and decay and chaos. They took their eyes off of God. They didn’t treat Him like God. They didn’t worship God. They never put God in first place in their lives. And because of that, their minds become blinded to the things of God. And in the absence of God, they were flooded with their own selfish desires to live out.
God sends them a message in Judges 2.
1 The angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said to the Israelites, “I brought you out of Egypt into this land that I swore to give your ancestors, and I said I would never break my covenant with you. 2 For your part, you were not to make any covenants with the people living in this land; instead, you were to destroy their altars. But you disobeyed my command. Why did you do this? 3 So now I declare that I will no longer drive out the people living in your land. They will be thorns in your sides, and their gods will be a constant temptation to you.”
4 When the angel of the Lord finished speaking to all the Israelites, the people wept loudly. 5 So they called the place Bokim (which means “weeping”), and they offered sacrifices there to the Lord.
NLT Judges 2:1-5
10 After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord or remember the mighty things he had done for Israel. 11 The Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight and served the images of Baal. 12 They abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They went after other gods, worshiping the gods of the people around them. And they angered the Lord. 13 They abandoned the Lord to serve Baal and the images of Ashtoreth. 14 This made the Lord burn with anger against Israel, so he handed them over to raiders who stole their possessions. He turned them over to their enemies all around, and they were no longer able to resist them. 15 Every time Israel went out to battle, the Lord fought against them, causing them to be defeated, just as he had warned. And the people were in great distress.
NLT Judges 2:10-15
20 So the Lord burned with anger against Israel. He said, “Because these people have violated my covenant, which I made with their ancestors, and have ignored my commands, 21 I will no longer drive out the nations that Joshua left unconquered when he died. 22 I did this to test Israel – to see whether or not they would follow the ways of the Lord as their ancestors did.” 23 That is why the Lord left those nations in place. He did not quickly drive them out or allow Joshua to conquer them all.
NLT Judges 2:20-23
Let’s pull back and see the big picture. The first-generation were freed from slavery. They experienced God but rebelled against God and didn’t follow Him into the promised land. The second-generation also experienced God as kids and 40 years later, they walked into the promised land. They fought and had some victories but over time they grew tired and comprised and worshipped idols. Now the third-generation, they were born in the promised land, they didn’t even acknowledge God as God. There was no awareness of who God was and what He had done for them. There was no awareness of what it meant to put God in first place in their lives. There was no awareness of the mission God gave them to remove the evil and demonic cultures. They become complacent and lived in evil. As a result, every enemy nation they did not remove, came back to torment the Children of Israel.
Remember, these stories are about us. When we don’t aggressively put God in first place of our lives, we will become spiritually complacent and it will torment us. Even if we go to church, if we don’t aggressively turn to God, our hearts can turn hard. We think, I am spiritually okay because of how many years I have as a Christian. No. Or, I am spiritually okay because of the knowledge I have about Christianity. No. We need to put God first, no compromising.
When we don’t aggressively remove sin from our lives, it always comes back to torment us. We must aggressively deal with hurts, wounds, and negative emotions. We must deal with complaints, negativity, fear and rebellion. Do you see what I am trying to say?
Back the story in Judges. The third generation doesn’t even know about God and His power. This leads the Children of Israel into the darkest days of their history. It lasted about 300 plus years. In Judges 3 to 16, you read about those enemy nations tormenting the Children of Israel, the third generation. God then raised temporary leaders called Judges to preserve Israel. Through these chapters, you read about how their culture continued on a spiritual downward spiral. The judges become more and more godless and violent and prideful ending with Samson. Ultimately, in chapters 17-21, you see how their culture degenerated into moral rot and decay and chaos. It is a really barbaric time. It ends with violence, sexual abuse and a civil war. It’s disturbing. And that’s the point. When you take your eyes off of God and fail to treat Him like God, your spiritual life will spiral downward.
I really hope you read the book of Judges. Judges is a story. A story about us. A story about our country. If you want to discover what it looks like to be become spiritually complacent and how a culture or a person recklessly spirals downward into rot and decay and chaos, read Judges. Paul explained it in Romans. Please read Romans 1:18 on. We take our eyes off of God. We don’t treat Him like God. We don’t worship God. We don’t put Him in first place in our lives. Because of that, our minds become blinded to the things of God. And in the absence of God, we are flooded with our own selfish desires to live out.
What is the result? “…all the people do whatever seems right in their own eyes.”
What is interesting about the Children of Israel is how quickly they spiraled downward into spiritual chaos. The first generation rebelled by embracing complaints and fear and always wanting to turn back. The second generation became complacent, they lost their passion and courage to follow after God. The third generation didn’t even know about God or anything God had done for them.
Can I ask you something? How are you at following God? If God views your relationship with Him like a marriage, how is your marriage going? Is it healthy? Have you been waking up, spending time with God and talking with God? Have you been telling God about life? What you are happy about, what you are angry about? Have you been asking Him questions? When challenges hit, do you run to Him first before you run to your friends?
Are you having an affair on God? That means, are you running to anything but God to feel good? Maybe you are expecting things from your spouse and friends that only God can give you. Maybe you are thinking success or what you achieve will be what makes you feel whole. Maybe you are thinking that if you feed your addictions, they will satisfy you. Maybe staying a victim will allow you to not deal with the wounds in your heart.
Has your marriage to God gone cold? That means, you have no time for God. You see yourself as so busy. By the way, church doesn’t count. Church can help. It can’t replace your relationship with God. Maybe you have lost your passion and courage to be with God.
When God entered earth as Jesus, He said this.
Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life – to God! – is vigorous and requires total attention. MSG Matthew 7:13-15
Let’s close with this. This story of Judges is about us, our country. We take our eyes off of God. We don’t treat Him like God. We don’t worship God. We don’t put Him in first place in our lives. Because of that, our minds become blinded to the things of God. And in the absence of God, we are flooded with our own selfish desires to live out. And when that happens, we spiral into spiritual chaos.
The story of Judges teaches us to be aggressive in putting God in first place of our lives.