But they put God to the test and rebelled against the Most High. Psalm 78:56
The nation of Israel had endured four-hundred years of slavery in Egypt, a dangerous escape, and forty years of wilderness wandering; but now, they were finally setting foot in the Promised Land, the place the Lord had promised to Abraham for his descendants so long ago. This was “a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex 3:8). It was everything God had promised.
So why then, by Judges 2, do we find the Israelites caught up in the first of many cycles of sin and bondage? Why did the nation’s spiritual temperature grow cold? There are many reasons, but two stand out most vividly in the first chapter of Judges.
• The people didn’t listen to and obey the Lord’s word. God had instructed Israel to drive out the evil, pagan Canaanites from the land He was giving them, but they did not completely obey. Many communities inhabited by the Canaanites were allowed to remain. From the text in Joshua 1, it appeared that some of the tribes of Israel simply gave up on claiming the land that God had given to them. A few settled in with the pagan Canaanites, and one tribe of Israel abandoned their God-given territory altogether and sought property elsewhere.
• They compromised with the sinfulness around them. Since they were unable (or unwilling?) to drive out the Canaanites, they instead “pressed [them] into forced labor, but did not drive them out completely” (Jud 1:28). God had warned, “If you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live” (Numbers 33:55). And this is exactly what happened, as men were drawn into pagan worship by the seduction of the Canaanite women. The book of Judges is a continual story of the Israelites being led into sin by a godless people who should not have remained in the Promised Land.
What is our application here? I think it is pretty obvious.
• Read and obey God’s Word. Though the Bible is the best-selling book of all time, and there are multiple Bible apps and websites available, this generation is largely Bible-illiterate. How can you obey what you do not know? How can I know it unless I read it? It’s not brain surgery, it is picking up the book and letting the Word of God teach us the ways of God, and obeying what we read. James put it very plainly: “Do not merely listen to (or read) the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (Jas 1:22-emphasis added). Where God has said “do…” go and do. Where He has said “don’t…” stop doing it.
• Do not allow the sin of the world to invade your life. We cannot live a monastic life, tucked away on a mountain far from the evil of this world, (although, that’s looking pretty good these days), but we can chose to intentionally separate ourselves from the world’s sinful influences. What T.V. shows and movies am I watching? What websites are you viewing? What magazines and books are we reading? What trash have you grown comfortable with? Maybe it’s time for some spiritual – and literal – house-cleaning.
The Israelites left a legacy of disobedience and idolatry, but they also left us a primer on “what not to do” to live a lift that pleases God. There are many more lessons from the Book of Judges, and we will investigate them over the coming weeks in these devotional posts. Today, make the decision to be a student of God’s Word, to be obedient to Him, and to examine your life and “take out the trash. Let’s be the people who know and obey the Word of the Lord and live purposefully for Him.
Holy Father, I have a choice: to know and obey You or to become comfortable with the world’s sin. “Earth has nothing I desire besides You” (Ps 73:25). Help me Lord to walk faithfully before You. Amen.