Judges 2: Sleeping with the Enemy
The angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal begins chapter 2 of Judges. In the Old Testament, sometimes the angel of the Lord is believed by many theologians to be a visit of the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus, God the Son. One thing is for sure- the message is intended to be of the utmost importance and from God.
Lets look at this important message from God to the people: I said, ( quoting God) I will never break my covenant with you. We know from just the study of the first chapter, the people have not obeyed God. They said they could not drive out the enemy, when God told them the land is yours. Know this important truth: God will never put us in a position we cannot obey Him. When God has promised what He has promised and we disobey Him by saying we cannot- the cannot is an excuse. What we are really saying to God is I will not. Failure to obey God is failure to remember.
God is saying to the nation of Israel at this time in their history- I said I will never break my covenant with you. But I also said- if you compromise with these nations and do not drive them out and tear down their altars- I will not bless disobedient people.
God is saying to these disobedient people- why have you done this? Why have you done this and put me in this situation where I must punish you? God is holy and just and cannot tolerate, live with or bless evil. But thanks be to God, He is also loving and faithful and had a plan to resolve this impossible situation. It is only in the cross that we can understand how God resolved this problem to satisfy both His holiness and justice and His love and faithfulness.
Watch the cycle, for the next few verses ( 6-15) reveal a cycle we see Israel doomed to repeat over and over throughout their history. Yet even as we read this and shake our head in disgust at these hard-headed people who just dont get it- we realize we are as prone to wander as they were.
First, the reminders of what God has done: The angel of the Lord reminded them of how God had brought them up out of slavery in Egypt and gave them a land flowing with milk and honey. Stop for a minute and think what life must have been like for our grandparents: they grew up in the shadow of the Civil War in a time where transportation evolved from horse and buggy to automobiles to airplanes. Lived in a time when there was no electricity or indoor plumbing. Lived through a major depression that lasted almost 10 years and brought almost everyone to the same economic level. They witnessed the Second World War in their lifetime. Would they not be surprised to see what a promised land flowing with milk and honey we live in today? Joshua and the generation of elders remembered what it was like and from where they had come. How important it is for us to remember our history. To remember and appreciate what great men and women have done to build our nation and depend on God to guide us through the night with the light from above. More than likely the Israelites knew the stories or part of the stories of the Exodus and Moses and Joshua and the battle of Jericho. However, these memories were no longer precious or central to their being. It seemed the people dismissed their history as that was the way it was then- but now we live in different times which call for different beliefs and actions. As a result- Israel was moving into a dark time in their history. MISTAKE #1.ISRAEL FORGOT WHAT GOD HAD DONE. FORGOT THEIR HISTORY AS GODS PEOPLE. HAVE WE FORGOTTEN OUR HISTORY IN AMERICA?
Lets talk for a minute about remembering and forgetting. We sing a praise song where the chorus is remember your children, remember your promises, Oh Lord. The generation in verse 10 who grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what He had done for Israel. I believe they knew who God was and what He wanted- but those things were not real to them. There was some head knowledge but it was not real in their hearts. It is with the heart we believe. We can acknowledge intellectually that something is true, but if it does not grab our hearts it does not control us. That is why we are told thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you. Timothy Keller writes this description of our hearts: Our hearts are like a bucket of water on a very cold day, they will freeze over unless we smash the ice. Jeremiah said our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked. We are told to guard our hearts with all diligence- for out of it comes the issues of life. Though we know these truths about God we can easily lose the sense upon our hearts of their reality. This is where idols come in- for we want things we can see, taste, touch and feel.
How do we keep from forgetting and thus forsaking? It takes effort on our part. Peter told us what promises we had that enabled us to escape the corruption of the world caused by evil desires. 2 Peter 1: For this reason make every effort to add to your faith- goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind and has forgotten that He has cleansed us from his past sins. Peter goes on to say- So I will always remind you of these things even though you know them . I think it is right to refresh your memory. America used to know who God was and what He wanted and those things were real to them. We need to be reminded and our memories refreshed every day- we need to keep the ice from forming around the water of His Word. The Word of God has the ability to make our hearts burn within us.(Luke 24) Remember without faith it is impossible to please God ( Hebrews 11:6) and faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.( Romans 10:17) Get into the Word with the purpose of keeping ice from forming around your heart.
Second, after the generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what He had done for Israel. At our age and usually with the passing of our parents and grandparents, we realize we wished we had asked more questions about our family history and about their lives. Here we see what happened to the generation who grew up and knew neither the Lord nor what He had done for their nation. They forgot their history- and their history got revised and minimized by their society and culture that did not worship their God. Watch what happened to them: They did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served Baal. They forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshipped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the Lord to anger because they forsook Him and served Baal and Ashtoreths. Notice they did evil in the Lords eyes- but it was not evil in the culture of Canaan. The Canaanites were more sophisticated and urbane than the Israelites and the Israelites began to adapt to the enemies way of life. They had forgotten what God had done and had forgotten what Joshua had done. His farewell speech was forgotten. Had they known those speeches, they would have known the law of Moses and the covenant God made with Israel. They would have also known the responsibility to keep the covenant as Gods people. MISTAKE #2: THEY FORGOT THE WORD OF GOD AND SOON FORSOOK THE GOD OF THE WORD. HAVE WE FORGOTTEN THE WORD OF GOD IN AMERICA? BANNING IT FROM OUR SOCIETY AND CULTURE AND THUS FORGETTING THE GOD OF THE WORD?
If we look back at Deuteronomy 28, God could not be any clearer in His instructions to Israel. If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all His commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come upon you if you obey the Lord your God. ( Deut. 28: 1,2)
Listen to a list of these blessings:
- Fruit of you womb will be blessed; also crops, livestock, calves of your herds and lambs of your flocks
- Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed.
- Defeat your enemies.
- Blessings on your barns and everything you put your hand to.
- All the people of the earth will fear you.
- Abundant prosperity.
- You will lend to nations and borrow from none.
Disobedience brings the following curses:
- Curses on crops, lands, flocks, basket and kneading trough.
- Confusion, ruin and rebuke.
- Plagues, diseases, a wasting disease- with fever, inflammation.
- Scorching heat and drought.
- Defeated by enemies.
- The Lord will drive you and the king you set over you to a nation unknown to you or your fathers.
- The alien who lives among you will rise above you.
- He will lend to you, but you will not lend to him. He will be your head , but you will be the tail.
As a result we read what happened: 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: 15)
Now we must be careful not to spiritualize everything- but it is obvious from the promises God had made to Israel in Deuteronomy 28 He was clearly warning them of the consequences of disobedience as well as encouraging them with His promises of blessings for obedience. But when a person or a nation forgets what God has done for them individually or as a nation- when they forget His word and their history with God and how He has guided them through the years- the result is sure: they will provoke God to righteous anger. MISTAKE #3: THEY FORFEIT WHAT THE LORD HAS PROMISED. ISRAELS ENEMIES WOULD BECOME THEIR MASTERS. WILL AMERICAS ENEMIES BECOME OUR MASTERS? IT IS WHAT THEY ARE PLANNING TO DO- AND AS ONE JIHADISTS STATED RECENTLY: THE FLAG OF ISLAM WILL FLY FROM THE WHITE HOUSE.
What we see over and over again in history of Israel is a cycle that keeps repeating itself. They forget that God had chosen them as a nation for a purpose- to tell the world the truth that there is but one true God. As a result everyone did what was right in their own eyes as they saw fit. This is the modern day equivalent of doing your own thing. In Gods eyes, they did evil. In punishment for their sins, God would deliver Israel into the hands of a different nation. Then under oppression, they would cry out to God for deliverance and He would hear them and send a judge to deliver them. So goes the book of Judges and the history of Israel, a cycle of rebellion, punishment, misery and deliverance. So here is MISTAKE # 4: THEY FAILED TO LEARN FROM WHAT THE LORD DID. HOW HAS AMERICA THE GREAT FARED IN THE WARS WE HAVE FOUGHT SINCE WWII? KOREA? VIETNAM? IRAQ AND THE WAR ON TERROR? In every test- we either fail or pass. However if a test does not force us to learn and study and become disciplined we will continue to fail.
Does history repeat itself? We have always heard that phrase and it has proven to be true throughout history. Why does this happen? Because human nature does not change. Remember what Jesus said when talking about the last days: As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be when the Son of man comes. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking marrying and giving in marriage up to the day Noah went into the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happened until the flood swept them all away. ( Matthew 24)
At a time when frightening trends in world conditions require awareness, alertness and sober contemplation like never before, millions are dozing in front of their 50 inch flat screen televisions. Blind to the telltale trends and events and says this is not going to happen to us. We are Americans.
The people paid no attention in Noahs day. They paid no attention in Lots day in Sodom and Gomorrah. People today are no different- they pay no attention to biblical warnings- because they pay no attention to Gods Word.
We are told to be alert and vigilant for our enemy goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. We are told to keep watch, to eagerly await the return of the Lord Jesus. We cannot, as Gods people, risk being apathetic in a time that demands awareness, alertness and commitment.
Here is the ray of hope in this revealing story of Judges and the wayward people of Israel. Time after time they cried out for mercy and time after time – God would in His mercy deliver them out of their trouble. So we see God often delays His judgments in hope of true repentance. Peter told us: The Lord is not slow in keeping His promises as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance.: ( 2 Peter 3: 9)
For Israel in this time in their history we read Gods solution: God raised up judges who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshipped them.: (Judges 2: 16,17) KJV is even more blunt and direct in its language and says Israel went a whoring after other gods. These series of judges will be sent by God to save them out of the mess they get themselves in. After the judge dies, the people immediately return to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers. Here we see a truth- whatever sin we allow in our generation, the next generation will take it to a higher level. Sex, drugs and rock and roll were the mantra our generation chanted and the trio of sins we allowed in our generation. Look at where we are now- a nation that honors homosexual sin with marriage license, an institution started by God. Drugs are made legal that a generation ago were illegal. Gambling and prostitution are now legal. Pornography that was once only allowed in magazines is now on our televisions and the computer is like an open sewer spewing forth filth into our homes and minds of people who seem to take sin to deeper and deeper depths of depravity. Our nation, America, takes more prescription drugs than any other nation on the face of the earth. More drug problems arise from abuse of prescribed drugs than illegal drugs. We are fast becoming a nation of drug addicts, addicted to anything that takes away pain and responsibility for discipline. As a result we see an epidemic of obesity fueling the twins of high blood pressure and diabetes driving our health care costs through the roof.
America is sick in more ways than one.
Notice what it says about the people of Israel: They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways. From a generation ago who chanted : Hell no- we wont go. To a generation today that says there is no hell to go to.
Now you may be thinking this is Old Testament times and they do not apply to us today. Right? Wrong.
God said in Malachi 3: 6- I am the Lord, I CHANGE NOT. James described Him as the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning. And Jesus said, Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words shall not pass away. ( Luke 21:33)
In these restless and uncertain times two things remain unchanging for us who are believers: GOD AND HIS WORD. These are what anchor our souls in times of storms.
Paul tells us: The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned.: ( 2 Corinthians 2:14) Through the years the Bible has come under increasing scrutiny and skepticism. Some parts are rejected even though there were an abundance of eye witnesses, as in the Resurrection. But because natural man cannot accept or understand spiritual truths and thus the supernatural, he depends upon the natural explanations of science and common sense which tells him- dead is dead. And no one dead and buried for three days can come alive again. The Bible is now examined mostly as a literary work and historical points of view rather than its spiritual content and wisdom.
Modern man , natural man, no longer believes the teachings of the Bible are applicable for this present time of complexity we live in. The natural man is no longer ashamed to belittle the Scripture, and the God of the Scripture and to belittle those of us who believe it is the absolute truth. He ridicules the Word of God as outdated, superstitious and those who believe it as backwards and uneducated.
What we will see in the study of Judges, is what Israel did was not just worship different gods, but combine the worship of the Lord with idols. What was their purpose supposed to be according to God? To proclaim the One True God.
Here is the way it works if we look at the Canaanite culture of paganism. The gods they worshipped were gods of pleasure, agriculture, business, and other parts of ones life considered important. The Canaanite culture could accept the existence of Israels God, but not the exclusive sovereignty of the Lord.
Their God could be one of many gods. He could even be Israels first choice among the gods. However, they could not claim that HE WAS THE ONE AND ONLY TRUE GOD.
Israel was to be a place and land of worship of the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY ALONE.
Instead it became the land of the Lord God plus any other gods you wanted to worship.
The enemy realizes atheism is not an attractive alternative. The enemy realizes mans need to worship something. So he takes the proverbial strategy of give me an inch and I will take a foot. Let me co-exist with your God. And as a result Israel does not drive out the enemy from the land and their lives.
Now you will not like the two questions I am going to give you to consider. I do not like them myself. But they must be asked, for we cannot stick our heads in the sand and act as if there is no problem. Look honestly into each area of your life- allow the Holy Spirit access to search your heart and reveal any wicked ways in it.
*Look at your family, career, possessions, ambitions, time, and ask these two questions:
- Am I willing to do whatever God says about this area?
- Am I willing to accept whatever God sends in this area?
I told you- you would not like these questions. They reveal our hearts- and our hearts are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.
The enemy will want to accuse you in these areas you know are not what they should be.
However our advocate the Lord Jesus defends us and has already secured us and forgiven us. He wants to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. When you yield to Him and take His yoke upon you; you will find He is just as He says He is- gentle and humble. He wants to help you , not harm you.
These things were written for our example to teach us; so that through endurance and the encouragement of Scripture we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)
*Here is what we can take away from todays lesson: GOD IS ALWAYS FAITHFUL TO HIS WORD, WHETHER IN BLESSING US OR CHASTENING US, FOR IN BOTH HE DISPLAYS HIS INTEGRITY AND HIS LOVE.*Know this: GOD WOULD PREFER TO BESTOW BLESSINGS OF LIFE THAT BRING US ENJOYMENT, BUT HE DOES NOT HESITATE TO REMOVE THE BLESSINGS IF OUR SUFFERING WILL MOTIVATE US TO RETURN TO HIM IN REPENTANCE.
*The Lord wants us to learn dependence upon Him in every situation of life. For without faith it is impossible to please Him, and those who come to Him must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
But you cannot expect to learn dependence upon Him- if you are sleeping with the enemy.Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14