Editors Note: This is a new series on spiritual growth designed to help our readers understand how to grow in Christ.

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It is a common practice for individuals and groups to develop guidelines before embarking on a new endeavor. Whether it is an individual setting out to build a car or a group at work preparing for their next project, there are guidelines that need to be developed and followed in order to assure success. The Christian life is the same way. God has already provided the Christian with the guidelines necessary for their journey in – Scripture. Though Scripture is not merely a set of guidelines for the Christian life, it does contain many. This means Christians doesn’t have to develop their own set of guidelines for their walk with the Lord. The Lord has graciously revealed His will to man throughout history, ultimately in Christ, and then, through the work of the Holy Spirit, providentially preserved these words in Scripture for all Christians until Christ returns. We wisely apply Scripture to our lives.

In the book of Deuteronomy we see the phrase “in the land which the Lord your God is giving you” (15:4), or a variation of it, in almost every chapter of the book, and in many chapters it occurs more than once. Deuteronomy is about preparing Israel to enter the promised land of Canaan. So how is Israel to prepare for this entrance and ensure good success?

At the beginning of the book of Joshua the Lord speaks to Joshua before they begin to enter and take the Promised Land. The Lord outlines for Joshua what land He is giving Israel and reiterates that He will be with them to ensure they will take the land for their possession. In verse eight the Lord tells Joshua how to ensure his conquering of Canaan will be successful:

“This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success” (Joshua 1:8).

In this one verse the Lord tells Joshua the key to their success in both the conquering of Canaan and their living successfully in their new promised land. The key is to meditate on the Word, do what it says and not depart from it. It is that simple. God told them He would give them the land numerous times and all they have to do is known and do what was in the Law of Moses to ensure a prosperous and successful entry into Canaan.

Throughout the book of Joshua we are given an account of one military victory after another in the land. Israel is successfully conquering Canaan. God is giving them what He promised and they are moving in obedience to His Word. But mixed in with the successes are some glaring defeats. No sooner do they defeat the great city of Jericho (chapter 6) than do they experience their first defeat at Ai. What is the cause of the defeat? We are told in Joshua 7:1 that, “The sons of Israel acted unfaithfully in regards to the things under the ban.” The ban was given right before Israel conquered Jericho (6:17-19) and stated that the only thing to be kept alive was Rahab and her family and “all the silver and gold and articles of bronze and iron are holy to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord.” Once Israel is defeated at Ai and Joshua complains to the Lord we find that “Israel has sinned,” Achan had “taken some of the things under the ban and have both stolen and deceived,” and “put them among their own things” (7:11). The result is that “the sons of Israel cannot stand before their enemies” (7:12). Once the situation with Achan is taken care (7:16-26) Israel turns around and defeats Ai (8).

From the end of Joshua to the beginning of Judges there is a significant change in the life of Israel. Before Joshua dies he reiterates to Israel the promises God gave to him at the beginning of their conquest on Canaan (Joshua 23). At the beginning of Judges we see the Lord blessing Judah as Israel’s new leader to continue their conquest of Canaan (Judges 1:1-2). But Judah’s leadership does not last beyond one chapter and the second half of chapter two gives us an account of all of the places Israel did not conqueror (1:27-36). In chapter two Judah dies (2:8) and two verses later the turning point in Israel’s history occurs.

“All that generation [of Judah] also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel” (2:10).

This is in stark contrast to what we see at the end of the life of Joshua when we are told that “Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders who survived Joshua, and had known all the deeds of the Lord which He had done for Israel” (Joshua 24:31). Throughout the rest of Judges the writer says over and over again that “the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord” (2:11) and they forgot the Lord and served the gods of the people in the land that they did not conquer.

By now you can see how Israel went from their great conquest of the mighty city of Jericho to the Lord judging Israel for their disobedience such that “He gave them into the hands of plunderers who plundered them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies around them, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies” (2:14). The plunderers have become the plundered. Israel has hit rock bottom. The land that was supposed to be a blessing to them has become a curse. Instead of being prisoners in Egypt, a land not their own, they are now prisoners in the land they were promised. They have come so far and fallen so hard.

I think we can see by now that the key to Israel’s spiritual apostasy from the Lord is their forsaking of the Law of the Lord and failure to teach the next generation the works of the Lord. This boils down to a failure to follow the Word of the Lord. They failed to obey it and proclaim it. This resulted in the loss of attaining the possession of Canaan which the Lord had promised them.

The lesson Christians can learn from Israel’s mistake is to not forsake the Word of the Lord and be sure to proclaim it to the next generation. We need to speak the gospel into our own lives and into the lives of the next generation. The gospel is always within one generation of being lost. That is all it took for Israel and that is all it needs to be lost in our day.