Today’s reading was Judges 2:1-4
2 The angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land I swore to give to your ancestors. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, 2 and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.’ Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? 3 And I have also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; they will become traps for you, and their gods will become snares to you.’”
4 When the angel of the Lord had spoken these things to all the Israelites, the people wept aloud, 5 and they called that place Bokim. There they offered sacrifices to the Lord.
God had given them strict instructions to remove the people from the land they would inherit, but they disobeyed, and instead made accommodation with them. As the generation that had experienced deliverance passed away, the next generation easily slid into the practices and idolatry of their “host” nation.
Some lessons from this:
First, see how important it is that the deeds and the reputation of God be passed on from one generation to the next. When we forget what God has done for us, we stray. When we stop telling stories of God to our children, they will never know the reason why they should be loyal to him. Gratitude is generational. It must be passed on. Deuteronomy 6 makes this clear:
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
We need to be intentional about passing the stories of God (both historical and personal) to our children, so that their knowledge of God becomes all-pervasive and touches every area of life.
Second, we cannot make accommodation with those whose beliefs are in direct contradiction to God. I am not advocating judgmentalism or rejection, but warning against compromise. When God issues his commands, it is not the opening bid in a negotiation, which you then counter, and you happily compromise somewhere in the middle. The only movement needs to be you towards God. His decrees are pure and wholly good, and anything less than them, by definition, strays towards the impure and less than good.
Just as the Israelites faced a challenge to compromise and turn away from their God in this new land, so we face the same challenges in today’s society, the “gods of this age,” the gods of Silicon Valley. That which is legal, is not necessarily godly. We have moved from a situation where the legal framework of this country was based around the 10 commandments to a place now where what is legal is in direct contravention to the commands of God. Gay marriage may be legal in many states and countries, but homosexual practice is forbidden throughout the Bible, and the only marriage the Bible sees as legitimate is that between one man and one woman. The consumption of cannabis may be legal at the state level (though not the federal) but God’s word warns against drunkenness (and by logical extension, being stoned), as dangerous to the type of sober and clear-minded living that should be characteristic of Christians.
Another “god of this age” is tolerance, where we are called to adopt a “live and let live” attitude towards those who lifestyles or behavior is different to our own. I rather think, to misquote the Bond movie song, that God’s approach is more “Live and let die.” Live as people of God. Let die those attitudes and behaviors that are condemned by him.
Another god of Silicon Valley is technological progress, and I confess, I’m generally in favor of this. I’m writing this blog on my MacBook Air in a coffee shop using free Wifi. If I were doing this 600 years ago, the speed of dissemination would be much slower. But, technological advances come at a price, and we need to know what we are paying. How many families have lost a sense of interpersonal connectedness and the art of conversation because everyone is looking at a screen? How many of us in public places do not engage the world, or the people around us, because we are connected elsewhere? At the extreme, how many people “attend” church online, because it’s convenient, and yet miss out on the blessing of genuine community and life groups. To the extent that technology hinders genuine community, I have to believe that God is against it. Very few of the biblical “one another’s” can be effectively lived out through technology. A virtual hug does not compare to a real one. These “gods” are by no means unique to Silicon Valley, but they are certainly prevalent here.
In modern terms, God is incredibly politically incorrect. He is not tolerant, he is jealous, and he does not compromise. Which would be unattractive in a sinful, flawed human being who makes mistakes and has skewed perspectives, but is perfectly justifiable in the Almighty, whose vision is perfect, and whose judgments are true.
Perhaps, in light of this, and in the language of Judges, there are some altars we need to tear down.