Judges ~ Chapter Ten
Read: Judges 10:1-18
"After Abimelech there arose to save Israel Tola the son of Puah...
He judged Israel twenty-three years...
After him arose Jair, a Gileadite; and he judged Israel twenty-two years...
Then the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD,
and served the Baals and the Ashtoreths...
and they forsook the LORD and did not serve Him.
So the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel..."
(Judges 10:1a, 2a, 3, 6a, 7a)
To heal the wounds of His people and to restore peace to the land, the Lord raised up Tola, and after him, Jair, to judge Israel. For forty-five years all seemed well for God's covenant people under the leadership of these two minor judges, but they soon returned to their idolatry. Seven times in the Book of Judges it is repeated: "Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD." The children of Israel sinned with God's eyes upon them; they sinned in the presence of extraordinary light. We are told that they not only worshiped and served the Baals and Ashtoreths of the Canaanites, but added to their idols, importing the false gods of all the nations around them. They multiplied their idolatry, bringing their sin to its fullness with the worship of seven gods; seven being the number of completion. The people of God were willing to worship just about anything except their own God; the one true, living God. "Has a nation changed its gods, which are not gods? But My people have changed their Glory for what does not profit. Be astonished, O heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid; be very desolate," says the LORD. "For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns - broken cisterns that can hold no water" (Jeremiah 2:11-13). The people of God wanted to serve other gods, so He gave them what they wanted. He sold them into the hands of the Philistines and the people of Ammon. They thought they would be blessed in their service to these false deities, but instead they were "harassed and oppressed...for eighteen years" (Judges 10:8). Sin makes us slaves to the very thing that we once foolishly thought would bring us pleasure and freedom. Israel cried out under the yoke of bondage, but only because they wanted to be free from the consequences of their sin, not because they were truly sick of their sin (v. 10). So the Lord reminded them of His repeated deliverances, and He rejected their appeal; He refused to rescue them, telling them to seek help from the other gods they had forsaken Him for. "Yet you have forsaken Me and served other gods. Therefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in your time of distress" (vv. 13, 14). The Lord allows our souls to suffer sorrow and distress to make us sick of the world, sick of sin. He lets us sink into the position of spiritual bondage, so that we will cry out in the place of our captivity with an intense longing to be free. He influences our misery, without violating our human will, so that when we can bear it no longer, we will cry out to be free. The Lord would have us come out of our bondage out of our own free will; He will not force us, nor drag us to freedom. He is merciful and gracious, and longsuffering (Exodus 34:6a), as He permits the pressure that will bring us to acknowledge our iniquity and confess that we have transgressed against the Lord our God. Let us pray for the perseverance of the Lord's people and the repentance of all, as the Lord allows the pressure which will make men feel their bitter bondage and long to be free. May we make the most of this season of consecration, leading the way with weeping and mourning and fasting over our sin and the sins of our nation (Joel 2:12), so that the ground will be so saturated with our tears that many will sink into the miry mud of their captivity and come to the realization of their helplessness and hopelessness and finally cry out to God for salvation! May the church awaken and be prepared to boldly lead men out of their captivity into the path of freedom. "He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied" (Isaiah 53:11a)!
"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen,
being understood by the things that are made,
even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,
because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful,
but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God
into an image made like corruptible man - birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts,
to dishonor their bodies among themselves,
who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served
the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
For this reason God gave them up to vile passions."
Judges 10:15, 16
"And the children of Israel said to the LORD, "We have sinned!
Do to us whatever seems best to You; only deliver us this day, we pray."
So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the LORD.
And His soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel...
And the children of Israel gathered together and encamped in Mizpah.
And the people, the leaders of Gilead, said to one another,
"Who is the man who will begin the fight against the people of Ammon?
He shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead."
Israel had finally come to the place of full surrender. Though it hurt the Lord to see His people in misery because of their sins, their affliction served them well and accomplished what the Lord had purposed. "In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the Angel of His Presence saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bore them and carried them all the days of old." (Isaiah 63:9). The Lord hated to see His people suffer, but it was necessary in order to bring about their repentance and reformation. The Lord has purposed that His people be separated from the world and be set apart to Himself. Though we live in the world, we are not to be of the world, nor love of the world and the things that are in it. He wants us to long for a better land, our true home with Him. "In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14:2, 3). When Israel dwelt in Egypt under the gracious reign of Joseph, who was second in command to Pharaoh, they lived in prosperity and peace. They were content in the land and thought themselves permanently settled; but it was not the land that Jehovah had promised them (Genesis 12:1; 15:7). They became mixed up with the Egyptians and began to lose their uniqueness as the chosen nation of God. They adopted the idolatrous worship practices of Egypt and were quickly losing their true identity. In order to break that wicked connection, the Lord worked His plan to make them weary of Egypt. He did this by setting up a new king. "Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, "Look, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we; come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and it happen, in the event of war, that they also join our enemies and fight against us, and so go up out of the land" (Exodus 1:8-10). Under the oppressive regime of Egypt's cruel tyrant, the people were put to hard labor. They were given no rest, and very little to eat. Soon, their bondage became intolerable. Pharaoh intended to thin their ranks and break their spirits, but the Lord purposed to break their miserable connection with Egypt. To do this all their prosperity was stripped from them, and then they came under harsh laws and regulations which made it impossible for them to move except at the hand of their slavedriver's. Sin is a cruel taskmaster, and many remain content in their bondage until they begin to be crushed under its burdensome load. Then the sighing and groaning begins with which we signal to God our utter hopelessness and helplessness. "And the LORD said: "I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey..." (Exodus 3:7, 8a). The Lord purposed to get His people moving, and now they were willing. He had a better land for them to occupy, and now they consented to the leader that the Lord would send them. When He delivered His people from Egypt, the Lord raised up Moses; then He appointed Joshua to lead them into the promised land; and in the period of the Judges, He raised up deliverers whenever they were oppressed; and once again, they were looking for someone to fight for them. "Who is the man who will begin the fight against the people of Ammon?" (Judges 10:18b). Sadly, it is a judgment of God when we find ourselves deprived of good and godly leaders. When we forsake the leadership of God's gracious government of the soul, our appetite for the world drives our desires, and soon we find ourselves contented with artificial substitutes which only feed our flesh and lead to our soul's impoverishment. "Help, LORD, for the godly man ceases! For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men" (Psalm 12:1). Israel had an army, but no general (v. 18). They had forsaken the leadership of God, so they got exactly what they deserved. Beloved, this world is not our home. We "are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people." (1 Peter 2:9). May we trust the Lord's merciful plan to wake up His Bride and stir us to make a break from this world and reaffirm our covenant commitment to our First Love. May we trust His wisdom as "He removes kings and raises up kings" (Daniel 2:21) to accomplish His Kingdom purposes in this world, knowing that the lower we are pressed, the louder our cry for deliverance and the greater our desire to seek higher ground! Praise God He has already given us the greatest leader who is rallying His people to confront the forces of evil in our day - Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior! "Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling - calling for you and for me; patiently Jesus is waiting and watching - watching for you and for me! Come home! Come home! Ye who are weary, come home! Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, calling, O sinner, come home!" (Softy and Tenderly, W.L. Thompson, 1880).
"Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off;
for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.
So truth fails, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.
Then the LORD saw it, and it displeased Him that there was no justice.
He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor.
Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him;
and His own righteousness, it sustained Him.
For He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head;
He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak.
According to their deeds, accordingly He will repay, fury to His adversaries,
recompense to His enemies; the coastlands He will fully repay.
So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west,
and His glory from the rising of the sun,
when the enemy comes in like a flood,
the Spirit of the LORD will lift up a standard against him."