Judges 1

Judges 1:

The book of Judges starts with this ominous note recording the death of their last leader appointed by God : “ After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the Lord,” Who will be the first to go up and fight for us against the Canaanites? “ Last week we looked back to  Joshua 1 to discover the secret to Joshua’s success. Remember Joshua and Caleb were the two spies of the 12 who believed they could take the land of Canaan and defeat the giants because God had promised the land to them.

If we look at the original territory that God gave them as stated in Joshua 1, we see it extended from: ‘ the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river Euphrates – all the Hittite country to the Great Sea on the west.’  If we could overlay this territory on today’s map in the 21st century we would see, Israel possesses a very small part of what God gave to them.

What we must realize is there is always going to be a battle and always a struggle to take possession of what the Lord has given us. Why? Because we have an adversary who wants to destroy us in his ongoing battle with Almighty God. But we remember we also have an advocate who is the Lord Jesus. And greater is He who is in us than our adversary in this world. Even the great Apostle Paul said: “ Not that I have already obtained all this or have already been made perfect- but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do : Forgetting what is past and straining toward what is ahead, I press on  toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. “ ( Phillipians 3)

So we see even Joshua had not been able to  take hold of all the land given to Israel. In Joshua 13, God speaks to Joshua:  “ Now Joshua was old and stricken in years; and the Lord said unto him, Thou art old and stricken in years, and there remains yet very much land to be possessed.”  Israel owned all the land, but even then they did not possess all the land. Therefore they could not enjoy all the land.

Do you possess all that has been given to you? Are you enjoying all the  ‘ land’, all of your God- given possessions?

When we realize what was the key to Joshua’s success we will be able to identify what is the downfall of Israel in the days after Joshua’s death. As we explore these historical events- we will realize our beloved country, America is facing the same dangers Israel did, and we will see the reasons these events occurred.

Joshua was promised by God, just as we are promised by God:  “ I will be with you; I will never leave you or forsake you.”  God told Joshua the key to his success would be his complete obedience to God’s commandments.  “ Be strong and courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn to the right or to the left, that you might be successful wherever you go. Do not let the Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” Joshua was a man who trusted the Lord with all his heart and the result was complete obedience. Joshua did not lean to his own understanding.

Why did those who followed after Joshua fail?    THEY NEGLECTED THE WORD OF GOD! And when you neglect the Word of God- you come to lean to your own understanding. Self reliance. Self confidence.  Throughout the history of Israel we will see this cycle repeated. Get away from God’s Word and letting it direct your daily lives and teaching it to the next generation and they would find themselves in bondage.  Crying out again and again to the Lord to save them. So we see the cycle of spiritual decline followed by bondage, crying out to the Lord and revival and return to the Lord and His Word.

We will look ahead in Judges for just a minute to see what had happened to Israel after Joshua dies. In Judges 2: 7 & 10 we read:  “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.” Then verse 10 tells us : “After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord or what He had done for Israel.”   What was true in Israel is becoming and perhaps already had become true in America. History has been revised.  Israel forgot the Lord and what he had done and I wonder if we have done the same thing in America.   Paul told Timothy: “ For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” ( 2 Timothy 4)

When we receive and obey the Word of God- when it is the light from above that guides us through the night the result will be faith and the courage that faith provides.  When we neglect the Word of God there will be defeat and slavery. This is what Israel has experienced in their history. Here is the cycle we see repeated throughout the Bible in the nation of Israel and individuals.

Commitment is replaced by complacency. And complacency leads to compromise.

Here is what one will see when they look at the history of Israel.

  1. They forget their history and what the Lord has done.
  2. Next they forsake the Lord.
  3. They forfeit what God has promised them.
  4. Fail to learn .

Have we in America forgotten our history and what the Lord has done?

How did America come to be? It was settled by the Puritans and Pilgrims seeking a land where God would be their king. And they would be His people, one nation under God. What happened to us?  The same thing that happened to Israel 3000 years ago. The society of Canaan – the land God had promised to give his people was a mixture of pagans who worshipped the god of Baal. Baal was the god of rainfall and fertility.  Baal’s spouse was Ashtoreth. If you wanted to have fruitful vineyards and orchards, flourishing crops, increasing flocks and herds, you worshipped Baal by visiting a temple prostitute. It was a combination of idolatry, immorality, sex, and material success which was difficult for men to resist. No wonder God told them the Canaanites and their altars must be destroyed and driven out of the land. This was not racial genocide- this was God at war against sin- judging it just like He did in the days of Noah and Sodom and Gomorrah.

We have neglected the Word of God in America. And in doing so- It has been removed from the schools, from our courts and government, from the public arena and workplace. In fact today our duly elected leaders are making laws that are against the laws of God.

God told Joshua to be careful to obey all the law. Deut. 6:  “ Hear O Israel: The Lord Our God the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments I give you today are to be upon your heart. Impress them upon your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along road and when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on our hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and gates.”   Do you want to know why Joshua was successful and why Israel enjoyed victory – because they did not neglect the Word of God. They obeyed Him. They taught it to the next generation.

In Deuteronomy 7 God commands them: “Drive out before you many nations- …. Destroy them completely. Make no treaty with them. Do not intermarry. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Ashereth poles.”

So God’s Word clearly tells them what to do.  It seems harsh and borders on genocide to see such violence. In our flesh we question God’s actions- is this really necessary?  We are almost tempted to say- why can’t we just all get along?  Isn’t that the same pressure we see today in America?  Because God knows we must be separate.  First of all know this:  God can execute judgment on the condemned whenever He chooses to do so. He is just. These nations had been warned.  Rahab was a Canaanite and a prostitute but she had heard, as had all of the nation of Canaan heard about the God of Israel and what God had done to Egypt.  God will save anyone, as HE did Rahab , who turn to Him. And the citizens of Canaan had received a flood of light regarding the truth of God and so they were without excuse.

Israel knew what God ‘s law was and in the book of Judges we will see how the neglect of His word has the same disastrous effect- generation after generation.  So here we are in America, three thousand years later- facing spiritual pluralism and political correctness like it was something new and revolutionary- when it is simply a pattern of history the Bible reveals in the generations of Israel.

Paul defines the very time we live in today in 2 Timothy 3:  “ But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God- having a form of godliness but denying the power. HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THEM.”

Israel rejected God as their King and they stopped fighting God’s battles.  Is America still fighting God’s battles against God’s enemies and sin and its damaging effect? If we are- it appears we are losing- and if we are losing- it means we are not using the weapons God has given us.” For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” (2 Cor. 10)

When Israel stopped fighting God’s battles- they were in essence rejecting the kingship of the Lord. This meant they had to make covenants, peace treaties with the enemy, and what followed was what God knew would happen, they began to accept the gods of Canaan, of their society and culture  to secure the blessings of family, flocks and fields  and abandoned God’s laws for daily living.  It only takes one generation and we can become a pagan culture and society.  Are we there yet in America?

Let us study this Book of Judges with all of its implications for what it means to America and what we can now do as we are fast moving toward being the next oldest generation who must pass on the truths to the next generation.

We know from the Scripture in Joshua that the Canaanites had not been driven out completely as God had ordered them to do.  It was a process that had not been completed under Joshua and now after the death of Joshua , the Israelites ask God:  “ Who will be the first to go up and fight for us against the Canaanites?”  “ The Lord answered Judah.

And in verse 2, the Lord adds: “ I have given the land into their hands.”

What we are about to witness is something that is the beginning phases of what can best be described as ‘half-hearted discipleship” – partial obedience.  You know why it is half-hearted and partial obedience? Because men rely on their own strength and cleverness rather than wholly lean on God’s strength. The result is partial victory- which is temporary and does not deal with the root of the problem. “ Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding – in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths. “ ( Proverbs 3)._ Whole heartedness is a requirement for obedience-trust the Lord with all your heart or you will only have half-hearted faith- and half hearted discipline and your victories will be a result of your own strength- which the enemy knows will lead you to be less dependence on the Lord and the enemy will have the advantage.

Watch for the signs of self- reliance, partial obedience and half-hearted discipleship.

First -Judah will go up and convince the tribe of Simeon to go up with them to fight the Canaanites. Judah and Simeon were blood brothers-being the sons of Jacob by Leah. Did God command them to take the Simeonites with them?  No. This was their way of saying to God- even though you told us to go up there and fight- we felt we needed greater numbers.  God will continually shows Israel – it was not by power or might- but by God’s Spirit.   Think about how Joshua and his army took Jericho and the walls came tumbling down.

They are victorious at Bezek and capture their king- Adoni-Bezek.  They cut off his thumbs and big toes. This barbaric act was common and it kept the enemy from picking up and using a weapon and made running difficult.  This was a punishment Adoni-Bezek  had ministered to other captured kings and now he has reaped what he has sown.

We read in the next few verses of other victories and then in verse 11 the story turns aside for a moment to focus on one family. It is the family of Caleb.  Remember who Caleb is- he and Joshua were the only two of the 12 spies who said we can defeat these giants and take Canaan for the Lord has promised it to us.

Now Caleb reappears with an offer:  “ to give my daughter Acsah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher. Caleb and his family represent what all of Israel should be like. Caleb wanted for his daughter the life he had chosen- a life of covenant faithfulness and obedience in response to God’s obedience.  The Book of Deuteronomy records over and over- how God promised to bless Israel if they obeyed Him and how they would be cursed for disobedience. How did describe God’s promises:  His very great and precious promises.

Othniel, who was Caleb’s nephew took the city and Caleb gave him his daughter in marriage. She urges her husband to ask for a field and then asks her father to give her also springs of water. Why did she asks for these?  She was planning to settle in the land that had been promised by God. We read of other victories including names we recognize  such as Gaza. Caleb’s family was in miniature what Israel should be.*  They were examples of whole hearted faith- who trusted the Lord with all their heart and He directed their path.

The victories continue as we read in verse 19:  “  the Lord was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plain ( KJV- could not **drive out), because they had iron chariots.”  What happened?   Interesting later on, David would write a prayer, a psalm to be prayed before going into battle. Verse 7 says:  “ Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of our Lord God.”

Now we see the flaw in their faith. Judah does not trust in God’s strength or promises, so they measure their own strength against the enemy and fail to push the chariot –owning plain dwellers out of the land.  Do you see what happened here?  Common sense prevailed. Faith ended where common sense told them- the army they faced was better supplied.

Judah does not trust God’s strength and as a result they do not secure their inheritance so they can worship God without compromise.  The remaining Canaanites will be a thorn in Israel’s sides for centuries to come.

How about us? Do we rely on ourselves? Do we calculate what can be done with our resources and leave God out of the formula? Halfway discipleship, halfway obedience leads to compromise and finally to no discipleship at all. The warning to us is clear.

Watch what happens-a domino effect. The Benjamites filed to dislodge the Jebusites from Jerusalem. And as the first chapter of our story comes to an end we see a trend that takes the nation of Israel on a slippery downward slope. Manasseh fails to drive out the Canaanites, as did Ephraim, Zebulon, Asher, Naphtali, and Dan.   In some situations, where they were strong enough they forced the Canaanites into labor- believing instead of destroying them and driving them out it made economic sense to use them as slave labor.

In other words- convenience trumps obedience. Common sense replaces faith.

When God has commanded us to do something and we do not do it. Guess what?  It is not a COULD NOT DO IT IT; it is instead a WOULD NOT DO IT.

Let me give you some examples of  ‘ could not versus would not”:

“ I can’t forgive this , or forgive him or her.’  God commands us to forgive doesn’t He? But sometimes we hold on to our anger or bitterness and God is unable to accomplish what He wants to accomplish through us. ( Matthew 6 & Matthew 18:35)

“ I can’t resist the temptation’.  I Corinthians 10:13

What we are witnessing here is the first ‘post Joshua generation.’ They are not fully turned away from the Lord, though they have failed to obey Him fully. They are half-hearted disciples. And we will see they are leaving themselves and their children and generations to come in a compromised situation surrounded by thorns and snares and constant temptation and pressures to compromise .  Look at Israel’s situation today- all these centuries later and realize how surrounded they are by thorns and snares for their failure to fully obey God. The pressure to compromise grows each day as we watch a 3000 year old story continue to unfold before our very eyes on the nightly news.

We shake our heads and wonder what will it take for them to open their eyes- while we are unaware it seems of the beam in our own eyes.

God told Joshua to be careful to obey all the law- not to turn from it to the right or left- that you might be successful. Do not let the Book of the Law depart from your mouth, meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Faith and courage go together. And where does faith come from? Romans 10: 17. Faith comes from hearing and hearing from the Word of God.

Joshua grew strong and courageous as he stayed in the Word, meditating on it day and night and obeying God. As his faith grew- so did his courage.

We are going to see in this study- the process that comes from half-hearted discipleship.  We will see in judges the process that takes place.

First they become desensitized to sin.  We are certainly there today in America. We allow language in our house through the television that was never allowed to be spoken in our homes a generation ago.

Second, we then through desensitizing to sin and sins- become friends of the world.

Last we come to love the things of the World.

The sin in our lives we fail to conquer- will eventually conquer us. The sin in our life we say we ‘ cannot resist’ is  as deadly as the Canaanites the Israelites did not drive out.

Israel was on the verge of slipping down the slippery road of half-hearted obedience- which is really disobedience- because they neglected the Word of God. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Faith declines as the Word of God is neglected.

Their decline will be – morally, spiritually and philosophically.

Apart from the Word of God we can have no sure philosophy.

Apart from Jesus Christ we can have no true knowledge of God.

Apart from the indwelling Holy Spirit we have no ability to live lives that are morally pleasing to God.

Half-heartedness- leads to dependence upon self. Self-confidence leads to self-reliance upon our own abilities to solve problems with our resources. Yet the Scripture warns us to – deny self.

When we fail to fight the enemy with God’s weapons and according to God’s direction and commandments – we will see we end up sparing the enemy. And as we study the book of Judges we see once we spare the enemy – we end up imitating the enemy- and finally obeying the enemy.

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14