Summary: The book of Judges reveals the spiritual roller coaster that Israel rode through 300 years of history. We can repeat their mistakes if we are not careful.
Riding the Spiritual Roller Coaster
Essential 100 Series
February 10, 2008
Have you ever ridden a roller coaster? There are some that I love and some that I hate. I loved the Batman Knight Flight at Six Flags and I hated the Tomb Raider at King’s Island. My absolute favorite coaster was not really a roller coaster but an indoor hang glider at Disney World called Soarin’. The ride used a partial wrap around screen that displayed images of a flight combined with corresponding movements to give the sensation of flight. The ride was so authentic that it created wind to blow in your face and even had the scent of oranges as you flew over an orange grove. The experience was amazing.
Roller coasters can be fun when we are at amusement parks but having a roller coaster experience in other areas of life is anything but fun. It is an experience of peaks and valleys, ups and downs and highs and lows. Some people seem to ride roller coasters when it comes to their spiritual walk with God. They experience extreme highs and bottom out with severe lows. Their relationship with God just seems to go up and down, up and down. I am not saying that there are times when we all go through this kind of thing. The problem is that when people have their entire spiritual life like this, they lack stability and consistency.
The book of Judges seems to be a spiritual roller coaster ride for the nation of Israel, highs and lows.
The Cycle of Israel’s History
From bondage to spiritual faith From spiritual faith to great courage
From great courage to liberty From liberty to abundance
From abundance to leisure From leisure to selfishness
From selfishness to complacency From complacency to apathy
From apathy to dependency From dependency to weakness
From weakness back to bondage
From the overview of Judges in Living Insights Bible p 234
Over and over again we see Israel ride the peaks with God on their side and the dive in to valleys of pagan worship. The sad cycle presents itself in vivid fashion in the book of Judges.
Notice the massive contrast between Joshua and Judges
Joy and success Sorrow and suffering
Unity – Mission Disunity – Meaninglessness
Following God Running from God
6 After Joshua had dismissed the Israelites, they went to take possession of the land, each to his own inheritance. 7 The people served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the LORD had done for Israel. 8 Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of a hundred and ten. 9 And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.
Just as they had buried Moses, so they buried Joshua after a life well lived. Look at the legacy of Joshua. The people served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua. When Joshua led the nation, not only were they prosperous, they were faithful to God. What an amazing statement of spiritual leadership. Joshua led the people in a living and amazing faith in God. Joshua raised up leaders who also followed God and God blessed Israel through them.
When the people of Israel had strong spiritual leadership, they thrived in their relationship with God. The truth of life is simple, when we have a thriving relationship with God, the rest of life comes together for us.
10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, 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 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 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. 14 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. 15 Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the LORD was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress.
As I read these words I want to weep. Somewhere along the way, these great spiritual leaders failed Israel. Let me be clear here: while they lived the people followed God. Let me ask you an important question: do you want your children to only follow God while you are living? Of course not! At some point the need to raise up spiritual leaders was taken for granted.