Israel’s Dark Age (3-25-18)

After the fall of the Roman Empire, Western Europe spiraled into a turbulent period where knowledge had been swallowed by ignorance and superstitious fanaticism.  During this period, literacy and education were in a great decline and hence the coined phrase “The Dark Ages” was given birth.  According to historians, this label was extremely popular in the eighteenth century known today as the “Age of Enlightenment.”  Sadly, the critical thinkers of the Enlightenment era placed the blame for this age of ignorance upon the shoulders of religion.  This tragic consequence was due to the abuse exercised by the Holy Roman Empire, ruled by its popes.  Indeed, to speak of the Dark Ages is to bring to memory a time where wars, such as the Crusades, were waged by the popes in the name of God seeking to conquer Palestine for their own ambitious agendas.  An era when events such as the Spanish Inquisition unfolded due to a deadly combination of religious fanaticism and the premeditated misinterpretation of God’s Holy Word.  A period where learning to read and write were a privilege enjoyed exclusively by members of the clergy.  Because of this, the rise of the Holy Roman Empire came to be and religion was forged into an assassin’s blade by men with an insatiable thirst for power.  These unnerving levels of illiteracy and educational ignorance plunged most of western Europe backward from the advancements that Rome had previously achieved.  However, this deplorable abuse of God’s Word also ignited society’s deviation from the foundation set by the apostles and the church of Christ during the first century.  Lamentably, once again God had to declare “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.  Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; because you have forgotten the law of God, I also will forget your children” (Hosea 4:6, emphasis added).  These words commanded to the prophet to speak to Israel reveal that the lack of spiritual understanding had ultimately been a product of their own choosing since they were the ones who “rejected knowledge” and as a result had “forgotten the law of God.”  God’s Word never left Israel; Israel left God’s Word.  Yet, long before the prophet Hosea reprimanded his people for their negligence, Israel had already experienced a “Dark Age” of its own.  A dispensation when “there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6 & 21:25, emphasis added).  There are some that claim that the book of Judges (in theory) should have never existed.  It is important to realize that this statement is not meant to deny the inspiration of the book, denigrate its importance among the other books of the Bible, nor to derogatorily criticize its inclusion into the Bible.  Rather, the focal point of this comment stems from the central theme of the book itself; Israel’s apostasy from God.  The book of Judges details the events that transpired in the promised land after Joshua and other faithful leaders of Israel die.  Remember that at this point in their history, Jehovah God had already renewed His covenant with the people of Israel in the land of Moab through Moses (Deuteronomy 29).  Also, prior to his death, Joshua had exhorted them to “fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt.  Serve the Lord!  And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of 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).  Holy Scripture confirms that the children of Israel acknowledged to Joshua that it was Jehovah God who delivered them from Egypt and it was He whom they would serve (Joshua 24:16-17).  Thus one must wonder: how did Israel fall back into sin?  The inspired scribe of Judges explains, “When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel.  Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals; and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers” (Judges 2:10-12a, emphasis added).  The last portion of our selected passage coincides with the words of the prophet Hosea.  Israel chose to disobey God’s commandments and returned their hearts to idolatry.  This path of spiritual infidelity began when Israel failed in eradicating the land of the inhabitants of Canaan and instead chose to allow them to dwell among them, contrary to what the Lord had commanded them (Judges 1:27-2:2).  Although we are told that it was “another generation” whose hearts bowed to Baal and Ashtoreth (Judges 2:11-13), this was the fruit that sprouted from the seed sowed by their fathers’ disobedience.  God had previously warned them that if they did not fully eliminate all the inhabitants of Canaan then “they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the anger of the Lord will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly” (Deuteronomy 7:4, emphasis added).  Thus, Israel’s alliance with the enemies of God laid the groundwork for an undeniable dark age in their history.  An age where Divine truths became elusive to their understanding and their unholy alliance became “irritants in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land where you dwell.  Moreover it shall be that I will do to you as I thought to do to them” (Numbers 33:55-56).  It is amazing to observe the parallels between these two historical “Dark Ages” and to know that the catalyst of both was the voluntary abandonment of God’s commandments.  However, we must also recognize that despite the infidelity of Israel, God did not forsake His people for “if we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself (2nd Timothy 2:13, emphasis added).  Yet, we must beware not to confuse His longsuffering with tolerance of our sin, for He has promised that “He pays those who hate Him to their face, to destroy them.  He will not be slack with him who hates Him; He will repay him to his face” (Deuteronomy 7:10, emphasis added).  Thus, let us learn from Israel’s fatal error and instead heed Wisdom’s call to avoid a darkened understanding (Proverbs 1:20-33).

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