Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he saved them from 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 afflicted and oppressed them. But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways. Judges 2:18-19
During this period in Israel, God raised up judges. They were military leaders appointed and equipped by God to fight their enemies, unifying the people, and drawing them back to God.
And it would work, but only so long as the judge was alive. Once the judge died and the people were left to themselves, they slipped back into their old ways again. Even the character flaws of the judges grew worse over time.
The Israelites are in a repetitive cycle of disobedience, raising up a judge, turning back to God, times of peace, slipping back into disobedience, raising up a judge, turning back to God, times of peace…you get the picture. Over and over again. This goes on for a period of nearly 400 years and it is a dark and disturbing time for God’s people.
This period of history reminds us that left on our own, we will fall short of right living. We will muster enough faith and self-control for a time, but it will never last; we will turn back to sinful ways without help. But these stories are also a picture of God’s patience with us. He continues to send help. He desires for us to always come back to Him.
The Bible, with all of its preserved history and people, are all part of God’s plan to show us the right way to live, why we can’t do it on our own, why we need a Savior, and what that Savior will look like.
Challenge: Take time today to thank God for always forgiving you and always desiring you to come back to Him. Thank Him for Jesus and for always sending help when we ask Him for it.
Reference: Timeline of Judges
And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger. Judges 2:11-12
Joshua dies, the people settle into their new land, and it doesn’t take Israel long to forget all that God had saved them from and done for them.
When we are desperate, we will cry out to God and promise to do anything He says. But as time passes and things get better and we start to feel a little more in control, we forget.
We begin to push the boundaries a little. Nothing happens immediately, so we push a little further. Sometimes we don’t even know we are doing it; we are simply following along with what everyone else around us is doing.
It is so easy to slowly start worshiping other things over God…friends, family, popularity, material things, success in school or sports or work, other people’s opinions. Before we know it, we become a slave to these things, trying with all our power to keep a grip on them. We fit in too comfortably to the world around us as we climb that ladder toward whatever the next pleasure or goal might be.
A continuous theme in Judges is, “In those days Israel had no king and everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” God wanted to be their king, but they rebelled against Him.
Why is the lure for things that are not in our ultimate best interest often so much stronger than the lure for God? The Israelites move into this new land and they become just like the evil people who live there. Instead of displaying the character of God, they forget God and adopt all of the corrupt cultural and religious practices of the Canaanites. A time will come when God will not stand for it any longer.
Questions: In your circle of friends do you see that the lure for what isn’t of God is stronger than God? Why do you think this is the case? How can we stay firmly planted in God’s will and not allow this to happen to us?
…and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done? So now I say, I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you. Judges 2:2-3
As instructed, and with God by their side, the Israelites begin their conquest of the promised land. The walls come crashing down just as God had told them. They defeat and drive out MANY of the inhabitants who were evil in the eyes of the Lord and worshiped many false idols and gods, but NOT ALL of them.
God had instructed them to destroy everything; to leave no remnant of future temptation. God knows that the temptation to follow the way of the people over His ways will be strong. He is seeking to eliminate this burden on them. But they don’t fully obey God and it is going to cost them.
God tells the Israelites these things they left behind and didn’t destroy will become thorns in their side and snares to them. They will make their lives much more difficult than they needed to be.
Why do we always feel like we know what is best over what God tells us to do? We try to compromise with God…a little obedience with a side of, “I can handle this little thing.” Ebenezer Erskine says, “So often we give God a partial obedience. We do not dare to disobey, but we do not care to obey fully. So we compromise. We do some of what we should, thus removing the stigma of disobedience. But we refrain from the most difficult or objectionable or uncomfortable part, and thus try to get the best of both worlds.” The obedience is for our own good. Partial obedience is disobedience that will only get us in trouble.
When we feel God is telling us to let something go or to get rid of something, we should listen to Him. He is always looking out for us. He wants us to succeed and to enjoy a relationship with Him. He wants to help us remove things that will keep us from loving, seeking, and serving Him, and in return enjoying His peace, provision, and joy.
Question: How often do you partially obey God, rather than entering into full obedience to what He is calling you to do?