Wednesday, November 24, 2021

The Judges. Day 5, A Summary Of Disobedience

Today the author of Judges gives us a brief recap of the behavior of the nation during the days of Joshua and the days of the men of his generation who outlived him. Then we are given a summary of the behavior of the nation during the era of the judges.

You'll recall that Joshua made a speech not long before his death and urged the people to commit themselves to the Lord and remain faithful to Him. He stated his intention to serve the Lord and encouraged them to do the same. Then he dismissed the assembly and each tribe went to their own allotment to begin building new lives in the promised land. Our text today begins there. "After Joshua had dismissed the Israelites, they went to take possession of the land, each to their own inheritance. The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel. Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten. And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash." (Judges 2:6-9) 

When the generation died out that had witnessed the mighty works of God in the wilderness and in the conquest of the land, a new generation arose in the land of plenty. "After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what He had done for Israel." (Judges 2:10) It's not that the new generation didn't know about the things the Lord had done for Israel; it's that they had not been present when those miracles occurred. A new generation arose that had not eaten manna in the wilderness or drunk water from the rock. A new generation arose that had not seen the parting of the Jordan River or the miraculous fall of the wall of Jericho or the power the Lord gave Israel's army over the bigger and more powerful armies of the land of Canaan. I suppose we could say this generation was "soft" due to the abundant prosperity they were born into and, as we've pointed out before, prosperity can be more of a threat to faith than hardship. It doesn't have to be that way, not if we remain close to the Lord every day, but it's a human tendency to spend more time in prayer when we are in distress than when we are comfortable.

What did a number of the people do when they were feeling comfortable? "Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them." (Judges 2:10-12a) Some entirely rejected the Lord in favor of other gods but a bigger percentage were dabbling in idolatry while still performing the required religious rituals prescribed by God. Their hearts were not fully committed to Him. We could compare this to a marriage in which a person who is still married to and living with their spouse is also seeing someone else. There will be lots of times in the Old Testament where we'll find the Lord comparing His covenant relationship with Israel to the covenant relationship of marriage. He will compare Israel's idolatry to the behavior of an adulterous wife. 

Like a betrayed husband, the Lord is righteously indignant about the unfaithfulness of His wife. "They aroused the Lord's anger because they forsook Him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths." (Judges 2:12b-13a)

The Lord warned the people that hard times would come if they did not remain faithful to Him. He laid out the terms of the covenant very clearly and these terms included the blessings they would receive for faithfulness and the curses that would fall on them for unfaithfulness. "In His anger against Israel the Lord gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the Lord was against them to defeat them, just as He had sworn to them. They were in great distress." (Judges 2:14-15) There are consequences to our disobedience. The Lord is a good Father and good fathers don't reward disobedience. Sometimes we're so stubborn that the only way we learn our lesson is by experiencing the unpleasant consequences of our disobedience.

But the Lord, like a good Father, is loving and merciful. He provides us with good examples in the faith. "Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders." (Judges 2:16)

If we do not take the Lord's words to heart and if we do not take to heart the godly advice of those He sends to shepherd us onto the right paths, we have no one to blame but ourselves when we reap the consequences of our actions. "Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the Lord's commands. Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, He was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. 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 2:17-19) 

There are some mistakes I've only made once and there are other mistakes I've made more than once. When we continue making the same mistake over and over, we become more and more stubborn. Our hearts keep growing harder. We can even get so used to repeating the same sin that it doesn't seem like sin anymore. Not only that, but we can start thinking other sins don't look so bad either. That's how we can become "even more corrupt" (to quote from verse 19) as time goes on. 

"Therefore the Lord was angry with Israel and said, 'Because this nation has violated the covenant I ordained for their ancestors and has not listened to Me, I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the Lord and walk in it as their ancestors did.' The Lord had allowed those nations to remain; He did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua." (Judges 2:20-23) 

At the time of Joshua's death, the Israelites had cleared the promised land of enough of the heathen Canaanites to be able to settle there but each tribe's allotted territory still had settlements where idolaters dwelt. If the Israelites had been fully obedient to God, they would have had the power to take hold of every inch of the promised land. But since they weren't always completely faithful to Him, they had to live with the thorn in the flesh of these pagan tribes occupying portions of their land. This was a form of discipline. It was a consequence of their actions. We've all had to endure discipline and the consequences of our actions. If we respond properly we will repent and get back on the godly track and get back to enjoying the blessings the Lord longs to bestow on us. If we react with a stubborn attitude we can expect further discipline and further unpleasant consequences. But even these things are the evidence of God's love! For the Bible assures us that, although discipline is unpleasant, the Lord is treating us like His sons and daughters. (Hebrews 12:7-11) He's disciplining us out of love, not because He wants to beat us down for our mistakes and not because He wants to cast us aside and be done with us. He's trying to teach us valuable lessons so He can bless us for obedience.

My parents used to promise me treats for good behavior. They enjoyed giving me good things and they enjoyed watching me enjoy those good things. The Lord is the same way! He wants to give us good things to enjoy. It pleases Him to bless us and to watch us enjoying those blessings.

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