The Downward Spiral
Coleman Crocker told us in his History of Israel class at Freed-Hardeman that the most prominent character in all the Bible (besides the Lord) to never be accused of sinning was Joshua. (That title might rightly belong to Joseph, but our reading concerns Joshua and Judges today). Most other Bible characters display feet of clay, but Joshua was "careful to obey all the law" without turning from it "to the right or to the left" (Joshua 1:7). Today’s reading from Judges 2 confirms the godly leadership of Joshua, "The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him..." (Judges 2:7). The faithfulness of Joshua serves to highlight the failure of Judges--
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. In his anger against Israel the Lord handed them over to raiders who plundered them. He sold them to their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. (Judges 2:12-14)
This sets up a cycle in Judges of prosperity, rebellion, captivity, repentance and liberation that repeats itself over and over again in the book. Israel allowed their freedom to lead and success to lead them into sin. They never learned from this downward spiral of pride and rebellion and captivity. The statement that defines the book of Judges is "In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit" (Judges 17:6, 21:25).
Have we not all proven this same downward spiral true in our own lives? Oh, we've never worshiped Baal, and we wouldn't know Ashtoreth if we bumped into her in the check-out line at Wal-Mart! But have there not been times in our lives when we have insisted on going our own way, directing our own steps and doing as we see fit? Maybe our spiritual failures have not been as dramatic or as public as those of Israel during the time of the Judges... but the result is always the same. Whenwe leave God to direct our own steps, we fall. The downward spiral is inescapable. So are we going to to learn from Israel's mistake here?
How's this for coincidence? The Greek form of the Hebrew name "Joshua" is "Jesus." If we will keep looking to our Joshua and be careful not to turn to the left or the right, then we'll do better in our trek to the Promised Land.
This is a report from the blog back in 2008; I read somewhere that we should all practice recycling.