Israel Stops Worshiping
6-9 Joshua had been faithful to the Lord. And after Joshua sent the Israelites to take the land they had been promised, they remained faithful to the Lord until Joshua died at the age of 110. He was buried on his land in Timnath-Heres, in the hill country of Ephraim north of Mount Gaash. Even though Joshua was gone, the Israelites were faithful to the Lord during the lifetime of those men who had been leaders with Joshua and who had seen the wonderful things the Lord had done for Israel.
10After a while the people of Joshua's generation died, and the next generation did not know the Lord or any of the things he had done for Israel. 11-13The Lord had brought their ancestors out of Egypt, and they had worshiped him. But now the Israelites stopped worshiping the Lord and worshiped the idols of Baal and Astarte, as well as the idols of other gods from nearby nations.
The Lord was so angry 14-15with the Israelites that he let other nations raid Israel and steal their crops and other possessions. Enemies were everywhere, and the Lord always let them defeat Israel in battle. The Lord had warned Israel he would do this, and now the Israelites were miserable.
The Lord Chooses Leaders
16From time to time, the Lord would choose special leaders known as judges. These judges would lead the Israelites into battle and defeat the enemies that made raids on them. 17In years gone by, the Israelites had been faithful to the Lord, but now they were quick to be unfaithful and to refuse even to listen to these judges. The Israelites disobeyed the Lord, and instead of worshiping him, they worshiped other gods.
18When enemies made life miserable for the Israelites, the Lord felt sorry for them. He would choose a judge and help that judge rescue Israel from its enemies. The Lord was kind to Israel as long as that judge lived. 19But afterwards, the Israelites would become even more sinful than their ancestors had been. The Israelites were stubborn—they simply would not stop worshiping other gods or following their teachings.
The Lord Lets Enemies
20The Lord was angry with Israel and said:
The Israelites have broken the agreement I made with their ancestors. They won't obey me, 21so I'll stop helping them defeat their enemies. Israel still had a lot of enemies when Joshua died, 22and I'm going to let those enemies stay. I'll use them to test Israel, because then I can find out if Israel will worship and obey me as their ancestors did.
23That's why the Lord had not let Joshua get rid of those enemy nations all at once.
This is a sad time in Israel’s history. God has done great things for them and still wants to care for them as his chosen people. But when the people do not have a strong leader to shepherd them, they start chasing after other gods and only call on the Lord when they have problems. No one likes friends that only call when they have problems! God does not give up on his people, though. He gives them good leaders when they get desperate. He earnestly desires his people to follow him so that he can bless them.
For each of us, when we first committed our lives to God through Christ, we were excited and enthusiastic. We could not wait to read the Bible and prayer was easy, like talking to a dear friend. But over time, our enthusiasm wanes. We put off reading the Bible. Sometimes it feels like our prayers just bounce off the ceiling and God seems distant. How can we keep our relationship with God fresh and real? The answer to this question is the same as to the question how we keep any relationship strong – we have to spend time on it. When we spend time daily in relationship with God, talking to him through prayer and reading about him in the Bible, our relationship stays strong.
The rewards of a strong relationship with God are great. He desires to bless us in the same ways that he wanted to bless the nation of Israel. This does not mean that we will get what we want in life, but that God will guide and direct us and he will be with us always.
Dear Father God,
Thank you that you love me and want me to follow you. Thank you for the Bible, that I can spend time reading about you. Please speak to me through the Bible and when I pray. I pray in the name of Jesus, who taught us how to be close to you by spending time with you. Amen.