10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. 11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the LORD, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the LORD’s anger 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.
In this second chapter of Judges, a new generation of Israelites has grown up, and many members of the older generations, the “old-timers,” as it were, have passed on. The older folk were the ones who wandered in the desert for 40 years with Moses and followed Joshua (Moses’ successor) around in ancient Canaan to defeat the indigenous tribes; they had seen firsthand how God was with them and carried them in times of fear and trouble.
Without the older folk to guide them, the younger generation knows little of their tribe’s history or of its God. They grow up not knowing that God was truly with their forefathers, and as such, they begin to explore into other religions, including the ones followed by some of the surrounding tribes in the area. They start worshipping Baal, Asherah (possibly Ashtoreth as this translation reads), and many other gods, leaving behind the moral codes and worship practices that Moses had laid down decades before. If they were asked about God, they’d probably say the title of this blog post: “God? Who’s that?”
We Ask This Question, Too
Sadly, many of us today are quite like the younger generation of Israelites in the Book of Judges. We have not seen any miracles for ourselves, so our reasoning is that God must not exist. We have not felt God’s presence in our lives, so we think that he must be just a fairy tale. We have been hurt before by people calling themselves Christians, so we feel assured in saying that the Christian God must be just a fallacy.
From this reasoning, we begin to justify our forays into other religions, other practices and beliefs that may or may not be injurious to us, to try to find our “personal truth” amid the chaos of the world. I certainly did this during my 11 years outside the church–I dabbled in astrology, numerology, and Tarot cards, and I studied many different religions trying to find the truth. But I was somewhat disappointed to find that I never felt like I truly worshipped anywhere. I never really stopped believing in God as my church background had taught me, but He almost seemed too far away for me to grasp. He felt like a vague presence in the stratosphere somewhere, not personally real and relevant. (That has since changed, due to many startlingly real experiences with God, not the least of which was the spiritual healing which took place after my teaching career was flushed down the toilet.)
Much like our parents get annoyed with us when we go off and do our “own thing” rather than following their advice, God got justly angry with the Israelites for being unfaithful in their worship. He had guarded them and supported them, brought His people out of Egyptian slavery into His “Promised Land,” given them strong leaders to guide them, and THIS is how they act? As my mama used to say when I got sassy or rebellious, “We give you a lot of freedoms around this house–you just don’t appreciate them!” Though I don’t claim to know the mind of God, I figure His response went along the same lines. 😉
God Isn’t Called Heavenly Father for Nothing
For those who have never known God, this passage and its surrounding chapter might seem overly harsh–God seems bent on punishing His people! But this righteous anger is part of His role as Heavenly Father. Parents can’t just give their kids tons of privileges with no discipline; you end up with kids that don’t respect anything or anybody, and expect everything to be given to them. Likewise, parents can’t punish all the time and never spare their kids even a smile; you end up with kids that are terrified to make a mistake, terrified to disappoint, terrified to live.
God, as our Heavenly Father, gives us a perfect balance of discipline and support. Both types of treatment remind us that He is still in control, even when we think we control everything. Yes, He disciplines us when we forget Him, but He never stops loving us enough to help us.