1 “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 book of Judges is interesting in that instead of God driving the Canaanites out of the land it is a book about how God allows raiders and enemies of Israel to oppress them. The real tension of the book is whether or not Israel will remain true to God or will they allow themselves through compromise and temptation to be drawn into the world of the Canaanites?
But as Daniel Block points out in his excellent commentary on Judges and Ruth, “the text reveals the tension within Yahweh’s own heart. He who swore never to break His covenant now announces that His past warning is about to be fulfilled: He will stop driving out the Canaanites before Israel. Instead of delivering the Canaanites into the hands of the Israel, repeatedly this book will describe Yahweh selling the Israelites into the hands of their hunters.” Block, Judges and Ruth p. 117
The dilemma was how was God to keep His covenant promise with Israel when they would not follow the covenant relationship? We see in the book of Judges the concept of Gospel. God loves His people and longs to save them, give them victory and give them the Promised Land. In order to do that He would fight for them, and all they had to do was be strong and courageous to trust in God’s ability to give them victory over their enemies. The problem was the people never accepted that grace from God.
Instead they longed to be more like the culture around them. When they looked at God’s directives upon their lives and contrasted that with the sexual, anything goes, attitudes of the people around them they chose the Canaanite culture over God. “But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.” Judges 2:19-20
If the truth were told, we are not much different from the Israelites during the time of the Judges (Deliverers). We do what we want, we fall into trouble and when things don’t work out the way we wanted we turn to God and call out to Him. When He answers we are relieved and put our trust in Him for a little while and then turn back to our old ways at the first possible chance.
The book of Judges is dark and foreboding and there are not many “hurrah” moments throughout it. However, it is a book about amazing grace, patience and love on the part of God towards a people who at best are indifferent and at their worse are at war with Him. It is a book that gives us wonderful, healing hope and assurance about the love of God.
There is a message here for us. God desires to lead us and guide us and when we turn away from Him we have to face life in our own strength and under our own direction. God will never force His presence or give us direction without our asking. Yet, even when we fail to accomplish what we thought we could without God, He is always there to help.
Throughout the book of Judges God brings judgment upon the people of Israel to wake them up to their spiritual failures. The people usually respond for a short period of time because God rises up a leader (Judge) to lead them, but as soon as the crisis is over they go back to their old familiar ways.
Why did this happen to the Israelites? They didn’t drive the Canaanites along with their idols out of the land. Instead they permitted the people to remain and they settled amongst them. By rubbing elbows with these pagan people it wasn’t long until the Israelites were worshipping the gods of the Canaanites. The reason for God’s demand to drive the locals out of the land wasn’t because of the locals but because of the gods they served and the influence they would have upon the Israelites.
What gods “shall be a snare unto you” is the question each of us has to answer. Anything, regardless of how good it is that becomes more important to us than God, is an idol. Think about that for a minute or two. The reason we don’t have a deeper relationship with God isn’t because He is not willing, but because we have idols in our lives that we spend more time feeding than building a relationship with Him.
We don’t want to be like the Israelites who refused to give up their evil ways (2:20) and who cling to idols. Instead we need to come to God with open hearts and willing hearts. It may take time and real faith to tear down some of the altars we have built into our lives but God has the power and strength to break us free.
Be courageous and strong. God has not forsaken or abandoned us. Be faithful.
* 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