Know What the Lord has Done
By Alex Blackburn
“Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the work that the Lord did for Israel” (Joshua 24:31).
This statement has been regarded by Bible scholars as perhaps Israel’s most faithful season of obedience to their God. If you are familiar with Israel’s history, you know a statement like that is a big deal. Just a generation before this, Israel had a hard time being faithful to God; so much so that God did not allow them to enter the promised land. And so when we read that Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, we know that is something special.
Two things are true here that led to Israel’s historic faithfulness: One, the Lord did a mighty work in Israel. No doubt about it. God performed miracle after miracle, reached out His hand and plucked His people out of the oppressive state they were in. He rescued them out of slavery in Egypt, He rescued them from themselves in the wilderness wandering, and then He led them to their promised land where they would serve Him. God’s rescue led to this generation of faithfulness.
Secondly, God used faithful people to communicate this rescue to the people and lead them in faithful obedience. Joshua was one of those people. Forever written in scripture is the incredible statement that during all the days of Joshua’s leadership, the people he led served the Lord and they knew the works the Lord did for them; an entire generation of faithfulness to God, an entire generation who knew the works God did for them. As a result, they received more of God's blessing than any other generation, including military victories and taking possession of land. What more could a leader want?
But it wouldn't remain that way. The book of Judges picks up the story for us and tells us what happened only one generation after.
“And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10).
A generation of faithful servants come and go, and their children and grandchildren are now described as people who do not “know” the Lord or what he had done for them. The word “know” here is not mere ignorance, but unbelief; a rejecting of God’s grace and their responsibility to serve Him. It begs the question, how did this happen? How did God's people go from serving the Lord confidently and faithfully (Joshua 24:16-17) to doing what was evil in the sight of the Lord and returning to false gods (Judges 2:11)?
The entire answer is multifaceted - as complex as the sinful condition of the human heart. But for part of the answer, scholars believe that the leadership modeled by Joshua died with Joshua. All the work God did for Israel was no longer shared and talked about in the home. There was a failure to communicate that they were the rescued, and that God was their rescuer. When you do not know God is faithful, when His goodness is never talked about, when we stop reminding one another what He has done for us, there is no motive to serve Him. And when you do not serve God, you will serve something else.
Fathers and families today can repeat the success of Joshua and avoid the failures of the generation before and after his. How can this be done? By modeling what Joshua did so well: surround our “people” with the reminders that God has been good, and live a life of resolved obedience to God. Talk about His faithfulness. Connect every day life to His provisions. Respond to the truth that you have been rescued with a life of humble service back to Him. Don’t let the people around you not know the Lord or the work he has done.
We won’t get this perfect. We might stumble through our prayers or stutter through our stories. Matt Chandler once reminded us that we cannot light the fire of faith in our child’s hearts, only the Holy Spirit can do that. But, that does not mean we are passive in the process. In fact, as parents, we are responsible for the kindle that we build around our children’s hearts. We are responsible for teaching and modeling the foundations of a faith filled life as we pray for the Holy Spirit to spark individual faith inside them.
In the Old Testament this was a frequent mandate of God’s people: to build tangible reminders in their routines of the great things the Lord had done. Whether it was setting up pillars, lighting candles on certain days, having celebration feasts like the passover, or simply recounting God’s faithfulness at a gathering, these all acted as kindle to the fire. As Paul Tripp has said, “you will live in awe of what you believe has produced what you celebrate.” May we never forget that the things we celebrate come from God, and then help our families do the same.
Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:14-15)