Summary: Israel like America receiving wake up calls from God, repented and changed in the short term. Why do we follow this pattern and what can bring about permanent long term change?
I. THE PATTERN OF ISRAEL’S SHORT-LIVED CHANGE
A. Israel’s Forgetfulness
1. In verse 7 we see that Joshua and the Elders who had crossed Jordan, lead the people into and established Israel in the Promised Land maintained a strong national faith.
2. However, according to verse 10, after their deaths a new generation arose which did not know God and caused Israel abandoned the truth. They no longer knew or acknowledged God. They ignored and forgot His works.
3. Verse 11 through 13 tells us that they forsook God and followed the false religions and customs of the time, inviting the anger of the Lord to fall upon them
4. America’s foundations were built upon a strong national faith instilled by our founding fathers.
a. James Madison, the chief architect of the Constitution said, "We’ve staked the whole of our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God."
b. George Washington, our First President, wrote in his field notebook, "Direct my thoughts, words and work, wash my sins in the immaculate blood of the lamb, and purge my heart by thy Holy Spirit, Daily frame me more and more into the likeness of thy Son Jesus Christ."
5. But like Israel we have raised up new generations that no longer know or acknowledge God. We have a nation that has not only ignored God but has sought to stamp Him out of the very fabric of our lives. We have committed abominable sins. Just two examples are the slaughtering of over 30 million babies through abortion since 1970 and the condoning of homosexuality, teaching it as an alternate lifestyle in our schools. We too as a nation have invited God’s anger.
B. Israel’s Wakeup Call
1. Verse 15-16 tells us that God sent Israel a wake-up call by way of national distress and tragedy. Their land was terrorized, property was destroyed, wealth was diminished, and many were oppressed, assaulted and killed in attack after attack.
2. Deuteronomy 31:29 "For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days; because ye will do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger through the work of your hands."
3. Psalms 9:17 "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God."
4. Like Israel, I believe that God has sent America a number of wakeup calls – September 11, 2001 being one of them.
C. Israel’s Repentance
1. God used the distress of the Israelites to drive them to their knees. In their distress they cried out to God for deliverance and hearing their cry He delivered them through the judges he raised up in verse 16.
2. In the days immediately following 9-11, churches reported an increased attendance, people began to pray, to read their Bibles, to talk about a return to the Christian heritage and value system of our nation.
D. Israel’s Short-lived Change
1. Once Israel’s situation was changed by God, the enemy having been defeated, and relative peace and tranquility was restored, they became as spiritually indifferent and apathetic as they were before.
2. Verse 17 states "… they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the LORD; but they did not so."
3. Verse 19 "And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way."
4. Although nearly half the population says their faith was a critical resource in helping them respond to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a new Barna Research Group poll suggests that people’s religious beliefs and practices have not changed in the past year. George Barna of the California-based research organization. "For the most part, our response to the attacks has been to restore continuity and comfort as quickly as possible, without much energy devoted to moral, spiritual or emotional growth."
5. During the last year, there has been no lasting change in people’s religious practices, according to the Barna study. Immediately after the attacks, church attendance rose for several weeks and then fell back to normal levels by November. Research also showed virtually no change in levels of Bible reading, church attendance, prayer, adult Sunday School attendance and small-group involvement. "It appears that very few people radically changed their personal agenda and added church involvement to their schedule when previously there had been no such activity."