When God called the children of Israel to enter the Promised Land under Joshua’s leadership he called upon him and the people to be courageous and strong. They were not to be dismayed or frightened of the enemies aligned against them. They were to remember that God would never abandon them or forsake them because of His promise to Abraham that his descendants would possess the land.
When we come to chapter two of Judges the people have lost their courage and faith in the conquering hand of God. As we read through the chapter it is one continuous litany of Israel’s failure to follow the directions of God and to carry out His directives to them concerning how they were to deal with the culture, people, and idols that surrounded them.
Chapter two opens up with God through His messenger addressing the people. “And an angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I swore unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you.
2 And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars: but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this?
3 Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you.
4 And it came to pass, when the angel of the Lord spoke these words unto all the children of Israel, that the people lifted up their voice, and wept.
5 And they called the name of that place Bochim: and they sacrificed there unto the Lord.” Judges 2:1-5
The key to these verses is the little passage found in verse 2, “you have not obeyed my voice; why have you done this?” That is a question we often need to ask ourselves when we, like Israel, refuse to break down the idols in our lives. The whole point of Israel driving out the people was to distance themselves from the religions and idols of this pagan culture.
By allowing the people to stay in the land and settling down amongst the people, Israel was saying they were willing to compromise their faith in God and could live with the pagan idols. As Judges plays out we discover that they couldn’t or wouldn’t live amongst the people without accepting their gods and idols.
So, how do we respond when faced with idols that keep bouncing towards us every day whether from the television set, the workplace, or in the lifestyle of family and friends? When the guy down the street has just bought a new boat and spends every Sunday out on the bay it is hard to get in your car and drive to church. It is hard to concentrate on worship instead of worshipping the idea of your having a boat so you can spend those warm Sunday’s out boating.
I’m just being honest here. When we look around at others success, forms of relaxation, leisure, goals and accomplishments it is difficult to not idolize and covet those things for ourselves. Now here is the problem with idols. All the things I’ve just mentioned, success, leisure time, etc., are not bad in themselves. It is only when we allow them to become more important than our relationship with God that we begin to run into trouble and make them gods.
Did you notice in the above verses from chapter two of Judges that God says, “I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I swore unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you.”
God tells the people of Israel that He would never break His covenant with them. This is the famous Abrahamic covenant mentioned in Genesis 12, 15, and 17. This is the crux of the situation for God. He is always faithful but we are not. How does He fulfill all His covenant promises and bestow His blessing upon a people who are rebellious, compromise when they should stand firm, and are more intrigued with the pagan gods than God Himself?
The answer is found not in the petty deliverers (judges) found in the book of Judges but in the ultimate deliverer Jesus. Scripture tells us that while we were still sinners Jesus died for us. I honestly, don’t think we Christians appreciate that thought the way that we should. Jesus died for the children of Israel even when they were messing up their calling and compromising with the culture of the day. Regardless of their rebellion He still loved them unconditionally. Now here is the interesting thought, we are no different from the Israelites and God loves us unconditionally.
Now here is the difficult part of the above texts, “Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you.” (v. 3) When we turn our back on the guidance of God and don’t pay attention to His directives we make life hard on ourselves. When we don’t allow God to drive out the idols we worship they become thorns in the flesh, and they become a snare to us.
It is important for us to remember that the problems we face when we chase idols are of our own making. When we ignore God and put our trust in our own understanding, with everyone doing what is right in his own eyes, we have only ourselves to blame for the situations we find ourselves in.
It takes fortitude, courage, faith, trust and a longing to have a deep and meaningful relationship with God to crush our idols. He understands we can’t do anything on our own so He sends us the Holy Spirit to encourage, strengthen and guide us in our spiritual growth. He sent His Son to die on Calvary’s cross so that our guilt, shame, sin and lack of perfection could be lifted off our shoulders and in their place, assurance and peace could reign in our hearts.
* Many people around the globe are experiencing persecution for their faith in God, and many even unto death. They need our support and continuous prayers. Please take the time to read some of their stories at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet but you have to search for it