“And so all of that generation were gathered to their fathers, but following them arose another generation which did not know Yahweh and also the works which he had done in Israel.”
The Historian, Will Durant, is famously quoted as saying, “From barbarism to civilization takes a century; from civilization to barbarism needs but a day.” In principle, with many things, it takes a lot longer to build than to tear down, and when the fathers do not think it significant enough to pass down their faith and the knowledge of God to their children; society will crumble.
This verse marks the end of the summary overlap between the end of Joshua and the beginning of Judges. Joshua and the generation that remembers the mighty works of God based on firsthand experience passes away. And in passing away, their witness is lost because their children have not been instructed in the things of God. Remember, that while the written word is available at this point in history (Moses penned the Torah), it is not widely distributed as every scroll must be copied by hand still, and thus people would have only had access to parts themselves and only to the whole through the Levites in their midst.
One might be tempted to think that such access to the scriptures would be enough to preserve the history of God’s work in Israel, but if we use our own nation as an example, it is not hard to see how the people would fall away and forget the things of God. In today’s world, we have access to information and writings that is unprecedented in history. There are more books in print and out-of-print books can be acquired in electronic format from free libraries. We know what our American founding fathers thought about and wrote about. But as accessible as these documents are, we do not read them. We tend to be content to learn only as much as we need to get by. In fact, as much access as we have to the written word today, fewer and fewer Americans read, or if they do, they read only short snippets and not whole works.
Further, the riches of the Word of God, as expounded by the saints of the past, is more accessible than ever, yet a broad swath of the church is spiritually and intellectually illiterate, satisfying itself with a feel-good theology that has froth and foam, but no depth of substance. One of the effects of the Fall of Adam is that the things we most need to know, we struggle the most to dig into. Yet, when we fail to dig, when we fail to study the Scriptures deeply, that which has been built and established crumbles because the people walk and wander astray. And if you seek a testimony about the truth of that statement, look at America today…look at the errors that are being taught about history today…look at the errors that are being taught about God today. Look at the foolishness that passes as Christian orthodoxy today. And then we will see the truth of this statement in Judges as well as Durant’s observation.
We will also see the importance of correcting that error…a task that is as pressing today as it was back in the days following Joshua’s death.
It has disturbed me to see the attitude taken by many toward the creation account as rendered by Genesis One. Even within my own denomination, one which finds its theological moorings in the Westminster Confession of Faith, there are many who have accepted “alternate explanations” of the account. Some have gone as far as to say that those who hold to a literal, six 24-hour day reading of Genesis One are “trouble-makers” in the grand scheme of the theological conversation. Ultimately, people are choosing to interpret their Bibles on the basis of their science and not to interpret their science in light of the plain teaching of the Bible.
As we look at the life of Jesus, we find that he often told parables to communicate spiritual truths. These parables are not simply “earthly stories with heavenly meanings,” as my old Sunday School teacher used to say, but these parables were used, according to Jesus, to blind the eyes of the unbeliever while enlightening the believer at the same time (Matthew 13:11-15). While the parables themselves were not actual accounts of events that happened, the events taking place within the parable were certainly realistic enough that they could have been either true events or based therein.
Yet, Jesus, being the best of teachers, also taught truth through the events that took place around him. One day Jesus and his disciples were in the temple observing the line of people giving their gifts to the temple treasury and amidst the wealthy people who were there to offer great wealth there was a poor widow who gave her last two copper coins and thus Jesus used that historical event to teach the truth about what it really meant to give to God (Mark 12:41-44). Similarly, when Jesus goes to visit two sisters in their home, one is busily working to prepare the meal while the other simply sits at Jesus’ feet to learn from him (Luke 10:38-42). Again, Jesus uses this historical event to teach us the truth about what it looks like when we truly love God with our entire being and submit ourselves to His priority for our life. The fact that these events are recorded to teach us a spiritual lesson does not make them any less historical. In fact, since God has ordered all history (Ephesians 1:11), we should not be surprised to see such illustrations popping up regularly all around us.
And such brings us back to the creation account. There are a variety of objections to the literal ordering of the creation account, but these objections seem to be able to be broken down into two categories: those who reject a literal reading of Genesis 1 due to its conflicts with science and those who reject the literal reading of Genesis 1 due to a belief that its purpose is to teach spiritual truths and not historical truth. Yet, as with these “lived out parables,” the very fact that spiritual truth can be drawn from the account does not take away from its historicity. By teaching that Genesis one tells us of the divine origin of all things (which it does) does not mean that Genesis one is not telling us the manner and the timetable in which all things were created. Just as we should expect that the widow in Mark 12:41-44 really was a widow and that the details around her giving of the last two coins she had were historically reliable and accurate, there is no reason not to expect the same of Genesis one.
To those who complain that it is scientifically possible for the widow to give of her last two coins but not scientifically possible for the creation event to take place in the order or timetable as recorded in Genesis one, I think that the problem lies not with their faith in science (an ever changing field) but with their lack of faith in the miraculous. God does not present the creation as a result of natural events taking place, but as a supernatural work of creation without respect to contemporary scientific explanations. And if the miraculous is going to be rejected at the creation event, on what basis would the person accept other miraculous works: the parting of the Red Sea, the raising of the widow of Zarephath’s son, the Incarnation, or the Resurrection of Christ? If you would deny a miraculous creation, why would you accept the possibility of a miraculous re-creation at the return of Christ? The Bible affirms both without compromise.
I suppose that to be fair, there is a third group that would seek to interpret Genesis one as a non-literal account, and that is a group that fears being mocked and scoffed at by the world’s scientific community. They find themselves frustrated that holding to a literal reading of Genesis one causes them to be catalogued with fundamentalists and fundamentalists carry with them a stigma of being anti-intellectual (and to be fair, sometimes this is true). Yet, in compromising the natural reading of the Genesis one text, they undermine the intellectual integrity of their own scholarship. More importantly, by their compromise they fail to understand Paul’s words:
“But God chose the foolishness of the world in order the disgrace the wise, and God chose the weak things of the world to disgrace the mighty. God chose what is ignoble in the world and despised, that which is not, in order to invalidate that which is, in order that all flesh might not boast before God. From him you are in Christ Jesus, who has become wisdom for us from God—and righteousness and holiness and deliverance—so that, just as it is written, ‘The one who glories, let him glory in the Lord.’”
(1 Corinthians 1:27-31)
In a very real sense, the creation of this world (and all things) is a lived out or historical parable told by God not to give us spiritual fiction, but to teach the believer spiritual reality within a historical event and at the same time, blinding the eyes of those who would seek to explain all things apart from God’s almighty hand. Thus, God has told us the historical reality, but has created in such a way to leave the eyes of the unbeliever perpetually closed largely as a judgment for their unbelief. It is not the praise of the world that we ought to be seeking, but the words, “Well done my good and faithful servant,” spoken by our God—remembering that a faithful servant believes and submits to the words of his master.
Here is a visual history of English Bibles and their historical/philosophical family trees. Note that these studies are works in progress as they were begun a number of years ago and as new translations of the Bible are always being developed.