The people served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the LORD had done for Israel. Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the ager of a hundred and ten. And they buried him in the land of his inheritance at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of mount Gaash. After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. Then the people of Israel did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals.
In the space of just three verses, spanning a generation, we are taken from mountain top to the valley of the shadow of death and there is much for us to learn from such a sad decline in spiritual understanding and commitment.
This morning we will start on the mountain top.
Joshua had led the people into the promised land. The land had been allocated to the 12 tribes under God’s direction. Joshua had been able to say to the people before he died ‘You know with all your heart and soul that not one of the good promises the LORD your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed’ Joshua 23.14
This self-evident truth came however with a warning ‘If you violate the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them, the LORD’s anger will burn against you and you will quickly perish from the good land he has given you.’ Joshua 23.16
Tragically this warning was ignored and within a generation or two the consequences of the violation of the covenant were only too apparent as the people did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals.
There is a joy in mountain top experiences but there is also a grave danger. For from such an elevated position the possibility of a fall is ever present and made more likely if we lose sight of the one who took us to the mountain top and attribute our blessings to ourselves.
Our country has thousands of places of worship, many built during the great outpourings of God’s blessings in times of revival (Mountain tops) but as we all know so well, very many are now empty or sold for other uses (the Valley of the shadow of death). Why is this so? Clearly it is possible to attribute this to a multitude of issues but in the end it boils down to the fact that the warnings God has given are ignored and we assimilate the culture around us.
Thus we go through times of spiritual decline, drought and emptiness because we lose sight of God. But from a low point the only way is upwards and the glorious message of the gospel is that in Jesus Christ that is possible. So
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith