How Quickly We Forget

The first five books of the Bible are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These five books together are often referred to as “the books of the Law,” “the Law of Moses,” “the Pentateuch,” or “the Torah.” Together, they lay out God’s laws for the people of Israel to carefully follow as they enter the promised land of Canaan.

Immediately following Deuteronomy is the book of Joshua. It records the efforts of Joshua to bring the people into the promised land, to divide it among the tribes of Israel, and to encourage them to be strong and courageous as they take what God has given to them.

Joshua must have been a remarkable man. He is one of the very few great leaders in the Bible for whom no serious or tragic personal mistakes are recorded. He seems to have exhibited tremendous faith throughout his days, and scripture even informs us that the people of Israel remained faithful to the LORD all the days of Joshua, and even for all of the days of the elders who had known Joshua.

But once Joshua and the other elders were gone, all of that changed.

After the book of Joshua is the book of Judges, and to put it bluntly, Judges paints a picture of an Israel that is seriously messed up. There are many examples in Judges of how rapidly and how seriously Israel fell away from God. Consider one of them, found in Joshua 17. A man has stolen his mother’s silver, and when he confesses to the theft, she celebrates by using some the silver to make idols. But what is especially disturbing, is that apparently she thought this would please the LORD!

“He then returned the eleven hundred pieces of silver to his mother, and his mother said, ‘I wholly dedicate the silver from my hand to the LORD for my son to make a graven image and a molten image; now therefore, I will return them to you.’ So when he returned the silver to his mother, his mother took two hundred pieces of silver and gave them to the silversmith who made them into a graven image and a molten image, and they were in the house of Micah. And the man Micah had a shrine and he made an ephod and household idols and consecrated one of his sons, that he might become his priest.” (Joshua 17:3-5)

But the story gets worse… Micah, in whose house are these graven images that were “dedicated to the LORD,” meets a Levite who agrees to become his personal priest.

“So Micah consecrated the Levite, and the young man became his priest and lived in the house of Micah. Then Micah said, ‘Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, seeing I have a Levite as priest.’” (Judges 17:12-13)

How could Micah possibly think that the LORD would bless him for having household idols and a personal priest for those idols in his home? How could a Levite, who ought to have known the law, not realized that this was a breach of the second of the ten commandments, among other things?

As the story continues in chapter 18, six hundred men from Dan steal the household gods and the priest for their own. “The sons of Dan set up for themselves the graven image; and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity of the land. So they set up for themselves Micah’s graven image which he had made, all the time that the house of God was at Shiloh.” (Judges 18:30-31)

The Israelites so quickly turned aside to foreign God’s after entering Canaan. But what may be worse, is that they seemed to think that the LORD would be fine with this. If only they had been careful to familiarize themselves with God’s word, who knows how much better and easier life might have been for them? Let us take this as a warning. We must be careful to constantly familiarize ourselves with the teachings of scripture, lest we quickly fall away and suffer the consequences.

The Spiritual Realities of Day to Day Life

The prophecy of Malachi is presented as a conversation between God and His people. In this conversation, God makes several statements and several accusations that the people are skeptical of, leading them to ask the following questions in their unbelief:

  • How have you loved us?
  • How have we despised your name?
  • How have we polluted you?
  • Why does He not regard our offering?
  • How have we wearied Him?
  • How shall we return?
  • How have we robbed you?
  • What have we spoken against you?

These questions are spoken in an incredulous tone, as though the people have no idea what God is talking about. God’s responses to their resentful questions revealed that all kinds of circumstances in their daily lives had a spiritual significance that they have not considered.

  • Though they were unaware of it, their prosperity and their invitation to be God’s special people was a manifestation of His love for them.
  • Though they do not think of it in such a way, their casual practice of giving God their leftovers rather than their best was really an insult on their part towards God.
  • Their sinful lifestyles and selfish decisions were separating them from God with consequences that they would not have imagined.
  • Their attitude of envying the wicked and considering righteous living as burdensome was a wearying accusation that they were bringing to God.

And yet the people saw none of this in their daily lives: God’s love, their disrespect, the spiritual damage that resulted from their foolishness, etc. The spiritual realities of life were lost on them.

Do we recognize the spiritual significance of the happenings in out lives? Do we consider every good thing to be a gift from Him, or is it merely “good luck” when we prosper? Are our sins perceived as private matters with no long term consequences, or do we recognize the damaging ripple effects they can have on our lives and the lives of those around us?

2 Kings 6:17 says “Then Elisha prayed and said, ‘O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ And the LORD opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

Could it be that our lives are full of “horses and chariots of fire” and many other wonders that are only recognized by those who are spiritual?

God conveys both His love and His discipline to us day by day, whether we take the time to listen or not, and we convey either insults or gratitude to Him in return, whether we do so intentionally or without a second thought. God would have us to open our eyes to those realities.