By Stuart Powell
The book of Judges begins with the hope that Israel will complete the unfinished work Joshua left them by transforming the land into the dwelling of God’s people. Yet the generations after Joshua learned that living as holy people is not easy. It created conflict between Israel and the people around them.
As the Israelites settled into their inherited houses and began gathering the harvests from the adopted gardens, something terrible happened. Judges 3:7 summarizes the tragedy: “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord; they forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs” (emphasis mine).
Why did the generation after Joshua forget? How did they let the God who provided them with everything slip their minds?
We don’t know exactly, but it likely was similar to the same struggles we all face. Israel forgot because they:
Focused on other things
Overlooked God’s presence
Relegated God’s actions to history
Grew confident in self
Objected to God’s exclusivity
Tired of not fitting in
Israel’s journey away from God didn’t start out as a rebellion. They just forgot to talk about what he was doing in every part of their lives. They didn’t remind each other of all the things God was doing at home, in their fields, among their flocks, or against the pagans who surrounded them. We might wonder if they even forgot God’s Passover meal, a feast he created to help them remember.
We, too, will forget unless we set aside time to recall everything Jesus did and does for us. If we don’t focus on Jesus, we too will serve idols. This time of Communion will not keep us from occasionally crowding Jesus out of our minds or chasing lies, but it is an opportunity to remember the greatest victory of all time. Whenever we gather around this table, God helps us remember Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. When we eat the bread and drink the cup—when we walk in faith—God draws our attention to his everyday power.
Stuart Powell lives outside of Terre Haute, Indiana, where he serves with the North Side Christian Church.