The Ups and Downs of Israel in Judges

March 13, 2018 at 12:02 PM

After Joshua passed from this life to the next, things got dicey for the nation of Israel. It is not easy to read about their history from Joshua’s death forward because so much of what was inflicted on Israel was due to their constant wavering where God was concerned and into the realm of idolatry.

God warned the Israelites through Moses that they needed to “cleanse” the Land God was giving them from the heathen nations. Many of these nations, though certainly not all, were in some way related to the people of Israel through Abraham’s son Ishmael. Others were more directly connected through Isaac, as in the case of Edom. The warring that went on was due to one group wanting to maintain their control over a particular area within the Promised Land.

Israel tried to go on without a leader after Joshua. They started off on the right foot, seemingly.

1 After Joshua died, the Israelites prayed to the Lord, “Which of our tribes should be the first to go and fight for us against the Canaanites?”

2 The Lord said to the Israelites, “The tribe of Judah will go. I will let them take this land.” (Judges 1:1-2 ESV)

Here, the people as one prayed to God for direction. They received His guidance. The entire first chapter of Judges highlights the ongoing struggle that Israel had with the Canaanites. However, we note that numerous cultures were not destroyed or completely expelled from the Land that God gave to the Israelites. In a few cases, Israel allowed other cultures to remain in the Land, though they often made them slaves to Israel. This was how the Israelites dealt with the Canaanites. In another example, the Amorites would not be uprooted, so the Tribe of Dan, which was to take that area of Land, simply gave up, let them remain, and tried to avoid them. It was not until later, were the Amorites made slaves for Israel (Judges 1:35-36).

So we get to Judges 2 and the Lord has a word for the people of Israel. He basically reminds the people of His covenant with them that their forefathers agreed to uphold. It meant that when God brought them into the Land, the Israelites would either destroy completely or rid the Land of the people that were already there. By the way, this line of thinking is what causes many in the world today to hate Israel. They tend to believe that this narrative is something made up to excuse Israel from their excessive “warmongering.” In fact, if we are to believe the Bible, it was God’s explicit command and why was this? Because the people who lived in that Land prior to Israel were major idolaters with violence and blood on their hands. They routinely sacrificed their children to false gods. It was deplorable to God and He wanted to use Israel as the arm of His judgment against these nations. Today, we call this child sacrifice abortion and we are told it’s politically correct and expedient to kill unborn children. Of course, even though these children are not being sacrificed to idols per se, the truth is that they are being killed because of the supreme selfishness of those involved, as well as the tremendous amount of money that is made in the abortion industry.

The Angel of the Lord in Judges 2 reminds the people of the covenant – God’s part and Israel’s part. They were supposed to rid the Land but because they were failing to do that, God had a new word for them.

3 “Now I will tell you this, ‘I will not force the other people to leave this land any longer. These people will become a problem for you. They will be like a trap to you. Their false gods will become like a net to trap you.’” (Judges 1:4 ESV)

Because the people continued to fail to trust God for victory over the original inhabitants of the Land that He swore to give Israel, God would no longer force those people to get out of the Land. If Israel was going to fail to trust God for total deliverance, those other people would remain and notice, the “false gods” they worshiped “will become like a net to trap you.” For this to occur, it didn’t really take long at all.

Joshua’s death is recorded in Judges 2. His life and his guidance of Israel has now come to an end. The people are without a true leader. Even though Joshua was not as highly prized as Moses, he was, nonetheless, a great leader and very effective for Israel.

What is interesting is that the Bible tells us that after Joshua died and that entire generation, another generation came up (v. 10). Sadly, read this next part of verse 10 very carefully.

This new generation did not know about the Lord or what he had done for the Israelites.

Whose fault is this? Why did this new generation of Israelites grow up without knowing about God Himself or the things that He had done for Israel?! It is solely because parents did not instruct their children in this. If parents did not pass this wonderful information onto their children, how would the children have known? They couldn’t possibly know. This also tells us how lax the nation of Israel had become regarding the Law of God and the sacrifices. It appears there was a large vacuum where God was concerned in the very nation He created.

As God had said, the false gods of the people in the Promised Land who had not been destroyed or kicked out became a terrible snare to the Israelites. That should not surprise because this new generation of people had no real working knowledge of God or the miracles He had performed in the past. They became like the people they were supposed to have excised from the Land. They became idolaters.

So the Israelites did something very evil before the Lord. They began serving the false god Baal. (v. 11 ESV)

This was the most reprehensible thing the Israelites could have done when they began serving false gods like Baal. Too often, these false gods required sacrifices of children to assuage their thirst. These false gods took precedence in the lives of Israelites. All that God had done for them, seemingly came to nothing, but God was not finished yet. He would not give up so easily because of His plan, which needed to unfold, in spite of the waywardness of the Israelites and their rebellion.

Starting in Judges 1:14, we see God’s anger pouring out on Israel. He did this by using Israel’s enemies to attack them. These were the people who again, were supposed to be driven out of the Land, but had been allowed to remain through faithlessness on the part of Israel. Now, God was going to use these nations as His arm of judgment against Israel for her sin.

But all was not completely lost. Starting in verse 16, we learn that God used people specifically called out of Israel to be judges for Israel. Israel needed someone to rally behind and they were having a very difficult time rallying behind God. I’m assuming it was due to the fact that God Himself was not necessarily seen as Moses, Joshua, and others were seen daily in the camp among Israel. If people don’t see God, it is easy to put God completely out of their mind. If people stop thinking about God then it becomes very easy to do what our natural proclivity guides us to do. It’s not just Israelites this happened to, but it can and does happen to Christians as well; Christians who do not spend enough time in God’s Word. If we do not read His Word, study it, meditate on it, pray to Him about it, then we will begin to think we are our highest authority on everything. We will live for ourselves, not God. It is the natural progression of fallen people, even those who are true Christians. If we are not careful, we will find ourselves moving away from God. This does not mean we will lose our salvation. It simply means we lose sight of the goal and start living for self. Like the Israelites, we will have put self on the throne and in essence, started worshiping self. In that way, we become idolaters just like the Israelites.

If God did nothing and let us go our way, we would have nothing to bring us back. However, God is rich in mercy and love. He knows our weaknesses far better than we ever can and knows what it takes to refocus our steps so that we once again, move along the proper road.

The job of the judges God provided was to save the Israelites from her enemies (Judges 2:16). Unfortunately, the Israelites never really learned the lesson so it was a constant up and down struggle for Israel. They would fail God. God would send in someone to attack Israel and/or enslave them. After a while, the Israelites would begin to cry out to God. God would send a judge who would lead and save them. It really became a vicious cycle.

The Lord was always with those judges. Each time the Israelites were saved from their enemies. 19 But when each judge died, the Israelites again sinned and started worshiping the false gods. They acted worse than their ancestors did. The Israelites were very stubborn and refused to change their evil ways. (Judges 18b-19 ESV)

That about summarizes things. Each judge sent by God saved the Israelites from something. But as soon as the judge died, Israel went back to their sinful ways by worshiping pagan deities. Because they had not been properly taught by parents and the community itself did not exert godly standards on the nation, they were acting terrible, much worse than their ancestors as difficult as that might be to believe.

Starting with Judges 3, we learn of the first of the judges of Israel, Othniel, one of Caleb’s nephews. Verse 10 tells us that God filled Othniel with His Spirit and God used him to save Israel.

The Lord helped Othniel defeat King Cushan Rishathaim of Aram. 11 So the land was at peace for 40 years, until Othniel son of Kenaz died. (Judges 3:10b-11 ESV).

So while Othniel lived, Israel remained at peace. The nation had a “leader” of sorts, a person they could look to for moral support and someone they could trust to help them conquer their enemies. It needs to be remembered that living during these times meant always being on guard for invaders. That was often the norm during that time. Israel was never truly safe from foreign invaders or from overthrow by those nations/cultures within Israel who had been allowed to remain. Had they done things correctly and destroyed or evicted everyone from the beginning, it is likely they would have still needed to be prepared for war at any time. Battle lines were always being drawn. To think that Israel would have had permanent rest from the constant flux and unrest of neighboring nations is not what God meant when He told them He would give them rest, but that’s another article.

In the meantime, it is enough to understand that the same type of attitude that repeatedly grabbed Israel’s heart can also overcome the Christian if we are not careful. We must be firmly committed to God and His ways. He rightfully expects that of His children. We need to trust Him even though we cannot see Him. His Word is enough for us. Read it. Study it. Meditate on it. Memorize it.

Entry filed under: Atheism and religion, christianity, Cultural Marxism, Emotional virtue, eternity, israel, Judaism, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation. Tags: , , , , , .

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