Joshua and his generation had died, and with him vanished the knowledge of God, too. Somehow, in all of Israel’s God-led conquests, the parents failed to recount God’s faithfulness with their children. As scripture revealed, “another generation grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.”
So what happens when people forget who God is and fail to remember His history of love and kindness? Rampant idolatry. Reckless behavior. Endless pursuit of pleasure in all the wrong places. And this is what happened to Israel, too, a nation that once flourished under God’s watchful care and direction. Now, each person did what was right in his own eyes. No one could see God’s light because they had never learned how to look for it.
Except the judges. By God’s grace and compassion, He raised up individuals throughout this aimless period of Israel’s history to turn their roving gaze back to the One God who could lead them. Othniel, Caleb’s younger brother, rose first, with Ehud and Shamgar following behind. Deborah and Gideon, Tola and Jair, Jephthah, Samson and others led, too, some with more God-centered motivations than others. But just as God had parented non-compliant Israel through the wilderness wanderings, so He stayed with His people through the spiritual desert they had made through neglect and disobedience.
The great backward leap of faith from Joshua to Judges should jar our senses. Since Satan always seeks to destroy the ones who separate themselves from truth, we must fight hard to stay in it. When we forget to follow God, fail to acknowledge His presence or hand in our lives, and live according to our own wisdom instead of His, we slide down the same track of disloyalty and rebellion that sapped Israel of her divine strength. Not only do we need to see God’s goodness, we must be diligent to direct our children to the One hope we all have, the One constant beacon in a world of shifting shadows. Without His light, what hope do we have in the darkness?