Psalm 78:8 and that they should not be like their ancestors, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.
It is reasonable to look back and remember the "good ole days" and when we do our memory is selective, there are some things worth remembering, and there are some things of which we can say they just dont make it like that any more. It is also reasonable to hold up good models and encourage people to be like them. After all, a good example, is always a good example.
But tonight its important that we talk about the bad examples as well, and so our text calls us to not be like our ancestors, the bad examples. And there is a proverb Luke 12:48 "From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded."
It all begins with Joseph, the son of Jacob, the one who is sold into slavery by his brothers, and ends up being in charge of all Egypt. Joseph wasnt the oldest, but he got a great blessing, and not only did he get a blessing, so did his sons Mannaseh and Ephraim. The 2 sons of Joseph each receive a blessing right along with Josephs brothers. They seem to do well in Egypt, and they are strong at the time of the Exodus, and receive good lands when they arrive in Israel. They have been greatly blessed by God and then they turn their back.
Its one thing to forget, because it was a story that was told its another thing to forget a story that was your life. How do you forget God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, if you walked through the Red Sea, if you saw the Egyptians perish if you saw all that God had done in your life how do you forget about God? But it happened not long after the Exodus, not once, not twice, but time after time and while God forgave them, none of them were permitted into the promised land that is part of the reason why they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. There are consequences for sin.
Now, that you have seen that sin has its consequences are you going to be so quick to abandon God? Ephraim and Mannaseh were among the first to get their land, it was the first part of the promised land to be conquered, but after they got their land, they did not want to help the rest of the tribes conquer and take possession of the rest of the land so something that should have taken a short while, ended up taking hundreds of years the whole period of the Judges, the land remains in the hands of others not until David is all the promised land conquered.
Its a question of loyalty are you loyal to God, or to something else? Before you even think about that first consider what God has done and how God has shown his loyalty to us year after year generation after generation God hasnt gone and found another people God hasnt abandoned us even though we often abandon him God remains faithful. God delivered them from Egypt, God brought them to the promised land God blessed them greatly God remained faithful.
And now about Ephraim, somewhere along the line, somewhere after countless warnings, somewhere after hearing for the 1000th time a call to repent all of a sudden they are gone. We are not certain when it happened part of it happened, in 733 when Tiglath-pileser III conquered much of their territory and made it one of his provinces, part of it happened in 721 when at the fall of Samaria, the rest of it seems to be gone by 609 and after that you just dont hear about them any more except, for how they had once been great, but turned away from God.
You see, when things are tough, and times are hard, you turn to God because you know you need him. You know you are weak, you know you cant save yourself. But when you are blessed, when you have plenty, it is not hard to begin to take the credit for yourself, and its not hard to tell yourself you deserve all this, and after a while you actually believe you have earned all that you have. And once you have done it all for yourself, there is no room for God, because you have made yourself your own God, and you worship yourself and the work of your hands. And that is what happened to Ephraim they are the biblical bad example, models of unfaithfulness.
We remember them, and we pray that we will not follow their example, but receive all the blessings from God with gratitude, and thankfulness we will remember that we are stewards, God entrusts things to our care for a time. And we remember Gods faithfulness and forgiveness.