Another Generation Grew UpSermon passage: (Judges 2:6-3:6) Spoken on: January 19, 2009
More sermons from this speaker 更多该讲员的讲道: Elder Lui Yook Cing For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: Judges
Sermon on Judges 2:6-3:6
This morning’s message talks about a new generation that replaces the old guards. They left a certain “legacy” to future generations.
Every year, Sunday School holds a simple graduation ceremony. The 12-year-olds leave to go to youth ministry. There are thirteen of them this year. From now on they remain in auditorium to worship God with the adult community. What may happen when a new generation arises?
Let’s turn to Judges 2:6-3:6. This passage is introduction to the rest of book of Judges. Actually, it’s more like a report card about this chaotic era – from God’s point of view. Sadly, the assessment is disappointing. 400-500 years down history lane, what would be God’s evaluation about us the Jubilee community?
The first part vv6-10 talks about a man called Joshua. With God’s help Joshua led the people into the promised land and take possession of it. Before, they were slaves, wanderers. Now, each family has its own promise of inheritance. God has a wonderful purpose for them. But the challenge is not over.
A certain kind of liberation and conquest is happening all over the world, all the time. I’m talking about the battles that rage within our souls. It is not coincidental that the Savior is named Jesus. Matthew 1:21: at the birth of Christ, God purposefully direct his parents “.. give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua (Yeshua). It means “God saves” or “God delivers”.
“Judges” in this part of the Bible more accurately means “deliverers” and “saviors”. They refer to men and women that God raise up to rescue his people from the enemy strongholds. Jesus is our ultimate deliverer. He frees us from the shackles of our past sins; he gives us a new beginning in the Kingdom of God. How we continue to live out this identity has implications and consequences. Whether we remain as losers or as God’s victorious people.
(II) The new generation
Let’s continue from v10. After Yeshua departed, a new generation grew up.
v10: They knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for them.
v11: They did evil in the eyes of the Lord
v13: They forsook God and served Baal and Ashtoreth
v17: They quickly turned form the way in which their fathers had walked – the way of obedience to the Lord’s commands.
In line of these readings, we may ask ourselves some questions.
1. Do I really know God?
Do you know this man? Obama. I mean, do you know him the way Mrs Obama know him? The crux of the matter is not how many facts I know about God. The big problem of Joshua’s new generation was they did not have a relationship with God. For Yahweh – God of Israel and our God – worship is not about performing some prescribed rituals mindlessly. It’s about living a close relationship with Him. This relationship may be described as “walk with God”. It’s action and continuous.
Go back and read the covenant made with Abraham, the spiritual father of us all. Genesis 17:1 “I am God Almighty, walk before me and be holy.” To walk before God is to live with a deep awareness God’s presence. We live with certainty that we are ultimately accountable to God for our every move.
The relationship involves knowing God’s ways and doing things his way. The aspect of seeking God’s will for our lives and fulfilling it. Not out of resignation, but with absolute trust that God’s will is best. Not out of obligation but out of love, the way a wife delightfully serves her husband. Without such willing submission to God, our so-called worship is essentially meaningless in God’s eyes. God would later reprimand the people. Read Amos 5:21-22.
I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me… offerings, I will have no regard for them.. (because they forsake God’s command to uphold justice and practice mercy kindness.)
Regardless of the faithfulness of their righteous forefathers, God holds every generation and individual responsible for his “walk”. Do I have a relationship with God? What kind of walk? How earnestly do I seek and stick to Jesus’ ways? Regardless that our parents are pastors, elders, faithful believers, each of us remain personally accountable to God.
2. Am I involved in idolatry?
The second question is: what may be some idols that I am unwittingly serving? Joshua’s new generation forsake Yahweh to run after Baal and Ashteroth. Both these gods were related to fertility cults. People worship them for the purpose of handsome reproductions – have large families, herds, flocks and abundant crops. These represent possessions, idolatry of prosperity. To appease these gods, their worshipers engaged in cultic rites that were abominable to God. Often these involve perverse orgies and cruel sacrifices. With little regard for the status of humans as the glorious image of the holy God.
Today, idolatry still exists. But the idols have put on new clothes and are less readily identified. Many idols are “formless”. They reside in our minds and hearts. They continue to exert a powerful grip on our motives, passions and behaviors.
Anything tha takes the place of the one true God is an idol, whether or not we realize we are worshiping it. We give them our undivided attention and commitment. Some of our idolatries begin with genuine care for things that are good and important. But we let that devotion get out of hand. A woman may substitute her family for God. A very driven person may substitute his aspirations and accomplishments for God. Others may replace the pursuit of God with the pursuit of popularity, knowledge, health and wealth. When the Israelites repented and sought to purge from sin from their midst, they went the extreme and invented a rigid merciless religion. It was zeal after certain man-made ideals and culture. Idolatry, not true worship. Jesus calls Pharisees hypocrites.
Ultimately, idols are not gods. Created, not Creator. Idols deceive. Counterfeit gods, they claim to provide meaning and well-being to life, but don’t. Only God does that. They may be in the form of goals and achievements that don’t satisfy. The more we pursue, the greater their hold over us. Instead of fulfillment and rest, the demands become oppressive. Eventually these destroy us. If you’ve ever been addicted to anything, you’ll know the irony and tyranny of bondage. Behind all counterfeit gods stands Satan, deceiver of the world. People ultimately reflect the nature of the “gods” they worship. We fall prey to evil if we remain in idolatry.
Idolatry exists in church too. Briefly, some insightful Christians have pointed the following (see slide):
· Idolatry of achievements – “whatever successful is correct.”
· Idolatry of Ease and Comfort – “what feels good is right.” Reject sufferings in life, readily opt for easy-way-outs e.g. compromise, abortions, euthanasia, divorce. Whatever happens to discipline, cultivating character, long-suffering patience etc.?
· Idolatry of Efficiency – “short and sweet is always better.” E.g. Pastor, please cut short worship, sermons, communion, announcement times. For what? Lunch, table-tennis.
· Idolatry of Information Consumerism – we hope accumulating more knowledge can give us better choices and control over life. But information overload without grounding to some concrete context is meaningless. We receive lots of data, but without acting on that knowledge, we learn nothing. The information has no meaning. E.g. Jesus saves me, so what?
· Idolatry of Relativism – “whatever is not absolute is true.”
· Idolatry of Autonomy – “personal freedom is more important than common good.”
3. What legacy do I leave behind?
The final state of the new generation was: assimilation. The Israelites came into existence with a unique identity and high calling. God intended them to be a distinctive people amid their neighbors. In the way they worship, the way they live individually and communally. They were supposed to be God’s witnesses to transform their neighbors. Instead, they conform to ways of enemies and became totally indistinguishable. They were no different in how they settle domestic affairs, manage disputes, they way they treat fellowmen and enemies.
I like the ugly duckling story. He was created a glorious swan. Because he wasn’t aware of his true identity, he thought he was a misfit. Longing for acceptance he pushed himself to conform. He quacked, walked clumsily. But he was created to glide beautifully in waters! We are God’s image bearers, created to reflect his glory. Don’t foolishly discard God’s higher ways for the patterns of the evil one.
God however doesn’t back down from his covenant. He disciplines those he loves.
V12: And they provoked the Lord to anger
V14: So God gave them over.. to their surrounding enemies..
V15: .. and they were in terrible distress
V16: Then Yahweh raised up judges who saved them out of the hand of their enemies.
V18: For Yahweh was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them.
God allowed wicked enemies to overcome His children and torment them – but only for a limited period. Because God would subsequently and repeatedly raise up peculiar men and women to rescue his children. I say “peculiar” because many of these were of dubious moral and spiritual character, as we soon discover. It goes to show that each time God acted out of his mercy, not due to any inherent goodness or genuine repentance of the people. There would then be a period of relief and rest. But only for a limited period!
v19: Whenever their deliverers died, they returned to the ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers.. they refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.
Sadly, subsequent new generations never learned their lessons. They keep repeating the same mistakes that provoked God’s condemnation. Why does the economic crisis repeat its cycle every decade? Probably it reflects something amiss in the way our world educates aspiring economists.
Judges present a grim scenario. Each successive generation degenerates greater in relating to God. This is reflected in the downhill integrity and spirituality of the respective judges for each era. From Joshua who trust God completely to Gideon who doubts. From the Joshua teaching the people to serve God, to the people serving Gideon. From Jephthah who keeps a difficult vow to God, to Samson who readily breaks his vow due to lust. From upholding Yahweh as king, to Abimelech blatantly setting himself up as king. The overall account is not merely cycles that repeat themselves, but one of spiral decay. The most tragic verse is vv21-22. God sees the stubbornness of the people and declares:
I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep my ways and walk in it as their forefathers did.
When we find ourselves perpetually stuck in same dire situations, we should ask ourselves: What is God trying to tell me? Am I listening? What lessons have I yet to master? Is there vicious cycle I need to break? Whenever we tolerate evil practices, lifestyles that are blatantly opposing God’s will, He will permit these to “become permanent thorns to our sides, a constant snare to us” v2:3.
Let us conclude. Judges is an engaging book to read – action packed, filled with vivid descriptions about human passions. We laugh and weep with the characters. As we reflect through their life encounters with God, allow the Holy Spirit to shape our emotions, attitudes and behaviors. Ultimately, it is God’s purpose to challenge and motivate to love and serve him with all our hearts, souls, minds and strengths. May God give us grace, may each successive generation excel the previous.
Ministry Time: For confession, intercession, dedication
Now take some time to be still in God’s presence. Let the Holy Spirit speak, convict you.
What uphill battles are you facing? Is there someone you know/love who needs deliverance? I invite you to bring that situation or person to Yeshua our deliverer.
Does anyone need wisdom? To discern what idols are in his/her life? Or need a breakthrough, to break free completely from whatever is holding you captive, addictive, vulnerable.
This morning you want to renew your covenant with Jesus. You desire to rekindle / deepen your relationship with God. Commit to walk more closely in his ways. That your relationship may be more authentic, obedient, faithful.
I invite you to “do” something concrete as a response. Come forward here and light a candle unto the Lord. You may return to your seat after that. At the end of this time, we will offer all our needs and prayers, represented by these lights, together unto God.
Let this be personal time between you and God. You don’t need to tell me or other people later why you came forward. You don’t need to share if not willing. Whether you are young or old, pastor, elder, leader or lay believer. Even if you don’t think you are a Christian, or you’re here the first time. You sense a need to know God more, to draw closer to God. You may do so.
Let us pray: God our heavenly Father, we offer our responses to you. Let our prayers ascend to your throne like incense of fragrance. Thank you, most holy and mighty God. We know you hear our prayers. For we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.