Judges ~ Chapter Two
Read: Judges 2:1-23
"Then the Angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said:
"I have led you up from Egypt and brought you to the land of which I
swore to your fathers; and I said, 'I will never break My covenant with you.
And you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land;
you shall tear down their altars.' But you have not obeyed My voice.
Why have you done this?"
(Judges 2:1, 2)
The first two chapters of the Book of Judges provide a prologue to Israel's sin cycle during the more than three centuries that span the history of the government of the judges who ruled Israel before the nation had a king. Under the faithful leadership of Joshua, the people had conquered and settled in the land of Canaan. However, now that he was gone and a new generation was coming into power, many of the cities still remained under the influence of the Canaanites. Israel was under divine command to purge the promised land of all paganism. The Lord had forbidden His chosen nation to make treaties with pagan nations. Instead, they were to destroy those nations and tear down their idols and altars, lest they be corrupted by their perverse customs. "You shall make no covenant with them, nor with their gods. They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against Me. For if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you" (Exodus 23:32). Because of their special relationship with God, Israel was to become holy - distinct and separate from all other nations. "For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the earth" (Deuteronomy 7:6). Their separation would be the means by which the other nations would learn of the living God. Tragically, Israel was a stubborn nation who rejected the laws of the covenant and were persistently disobedient to the voice of the LORD. "They did not destroy the peoples, concerning whom the LORD had commanded them, but they mingled with the Gentiles and learned their works" (Psalm 106:34). Their toleration of the corrupt religious practices of the pagan nations led to their imitating them and their becoming as vile as the heathens whom the Lord had condemned. Instead of wielding their swords and destroying the people, they made treaties with them. Instead of cutting down their wooden pillars and pagan altars, they admired their false worship systems and participated in the worst aspects of their religion. And so, began a sad cycle of disobedience and idolatry that led to oppression and defeat. If the Canaanites had been driven out of the land, Israel might never have fallen into the pattern of spiritual adultery that persisted for hundreds of years. Israel's failure to obey the Lord's command to rid the land of Canaanite's wicked presence and evil influence led to their ruin. The Lord predicted that if the people did not completely remove the pagan influence from their land, they would eventually serve pagan gods. "And the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, you will rest with your fathers; and this people will rise and play the harlot with the gods of the foreigners of the land, where they go to be among them, and they will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. Then My anger shall be aroused against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide My face from them, and they shall be devoured..." (Deuteronomy 31:16). Yet, even in the midst of His wrath, God's merciful nature is evident. He remains faithful to His covenant with His people even during their rebellion and sends them champions to throw off the yoke of bondage and to restore the nation to pure worship. God is merciful and gracious, and willing to restore us when we fall. "For You are God, ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness" (Nehemiah 9:17). May we, the "royal priesthood," wield the powerful sword of the Spirit daily, and allow the Word of God to do its' necessary piercing and cutting to purify and perfect us, so that we will not live under the influence of sin and the self-life, but rather walk in obedience to the Lord's commands as we listen to the voice of our good Shepherd calling us to greater separation form the world so that we may remain set apart for His own special use to "proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).
"So you shall say to them,
"This is a nation that does not obey the voice of the LORD their God
nor receive correction. Truth has perished and has been cut off from their mouth."
"Nevertheless, the LORD raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand
of those who plundered them. Yet they would not listen to their judges,
but they played the harlot with other gods, and bowed down to them.
They turned quickly from the way in which their fathers walked,
in obeying the commandments of the LORD; they did not do so.
And when the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge
and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge;
for the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who
oppressed them and harassed them."
God put Israel under the yoke of those nations which they should have utterly destroyed. It was an act of mercy that they were punished for their transgressions, but before He did, He sent a messenger to rebuke them and remind them of His covenant faithfulness. "I led you up from Egypt and brought you to the land of which I swore to your fathers; and I said, 'I will never break My covenant with you" (v. 1b). The Angel of the Lord came with a word of discipline for His disobedient people. He questioned their covenant loyalty. How could they possibly reject the hands of omnipotent faithfulness, when He had drawn them with cords of love and engraved them on the palms of His hands? (Isaiah 49:16) "Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you" (Jeremiah 31:3). The Lord had declared He would never break with His people, so why were they so determined to turn away from everlasting love? The Angel of the Lord showed them their sin, He put His finger on their failure, and made them see the utter blindness of their disobedience. "Shall the thing made say of him who made it, "He did not make me"? Or shall the thing formed say of him who formed it, "He has no understanding"? (Isaiah 29:16b). Why have you done this? How could they forsake the hands that cared so tenderly for them? Their response was unnatural and unreasonable, and so they would feel the constant prick of their rebellion as thorns in their sides. "He delivered them into the hands of plunderers who despoiled them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around" (v. 14). The hand of the Lord was against them, and the people were greatly distressed. They "lifted up their voices and wept." The place of their "weeping" was at Bochim, yet they were not true penitents - for they went from weeping before the Lord to worshiping at the altar of Baal. "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, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; and they followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them; and they provoked the LORD to anger" (vv. 11, 12). They never turned from their sin but returned as a dog to his own vomit (2 Peter 2:22). They went from bad to worse. Instead of training up their children in the ways of the Lord, they excused their sin and did not restrain them from doing evil. Israel knew what the Lord had commanded was right, but the people deliberately chose to do wrong - and the results were disastrous. Yet, as we will discover in the coming days of our journey through the Book of Judges, the Lord was merciful to His people in their distress; He sent deliverers (judges) to save them from oppression. "Many times He delivered them; but they rebelled in their counsel, and were brought low for their iniquity. Nevertheless He regarded their affliction, when He heard their cry; and for their sake He remembered His covenant, and relented according to the multitude of His mercies" (Psalm 106:43-45). God longs to be gracious to His wayward people. He gives opportunity for repentance before He executes vengeance. May we receive His gracious instruction and learn this important lesson at the beginning of our journey: Obedience brings God's blessing, but disobedience brings His discipline. May the sight of our sin grieve our hearts, as it does the Lord, and so lead us to true repentance that we may be free to run in the paths of the Lord's commands and live in close communion with Him, never to be entangled again with a yoke of bondage (Galatians 5:1). "Stand fast in the Lord, beloved!" (Philippians 4:1)
"If you do not carefully observe all the words of this law that are written in this book,
that you may fear this glorious and awesome name,
THE LORD YOUR GOD,
then the LORD will bring upon you and your descendants extraordinary plagues -
great and prolonged plagues - and serious and prolonged sicknesses."