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Reading Through the Bible – Judges 1-2

I have a confession to make: Judges has never been near the top of my favorite books of the bible. Each time I read a portion, I come away confused or depressed or both. That is not terribly surprising because this book records some of the most horrendous and sinful acts in the bible and overwhelms us with the repeated disobedience of Israel to their God. And perhaps that’s the point: Judges shows us that God will continue to build his kingdom in spite of the sin and rebellion of people, even his own people. Let’s take a look at just a few snapshots in the first two chapters to start our journey through Judges.

Judges 1:19 – And the Lord was with Judah, and he took possession of the hill country, but he could not drive out the inhabitants of the plain because they had chariots of iron. Our first reaction to this statement should be incredulity (You’ve got to be kidding me!). God had led this nation of slaves out of bondage to the greatest international military power of their day in Egypt. But now, they can’t drive out some Canaanite tribe that has a few chariots? The author of this book gives us no indication of their failed attempts to oust these people. Nothing is recorded about the prayers of Israel beseeching God to give them victory in the face of superior military strength. The failure to drive out these Canaanites appears less related to the presence of chariots and more to the absence of faith. We have much we can learn from this. Circumstances may be overwhelming and cause us to forget God’s past faithfulness, if we aren’t careful. As we have seen several times in Joshua, remembering is the key to trusting.

Judges 2:4 – As soon as the angel of the Lord spoke these words to all the people of Israel, the people lifted up their voices and wept. God chastised the nation for failing to drive out the pagan nations and now declared that he would not drive them out and that they would be thorns and snares to Israel. Israel likely slowly slid into this condition, first dwelling together with the pagans and then beginning to indulge in the practices of these idol worshipers. Spurgeon notes, They did live with them and fell into their ways. Tolerance led to imitation, and Israel became as vile as the heathen the Lord had condemned. This is certainly a lesson for us, a warning not to capitulate to the practices of the God-denying culture in order to seek acceptance. We must stand for God’s ways and not compromise for fear of becoming just like those who blatantly oppose God.

Judges 2:10 – After them another generation rose up who did not know the Lord or the works he had done for Israel. I think this is one of the saddest statements in Israel’s history. After Joshua and the last of his fellow elders died, another generation arose without personal and intimate knowledge of God. Forgetting what God had done, failing to pass the faith onto the next generation, and not being diligent in worship and in teaching truth will all quickly lead to generational apostasy (falling away and denying the faith). The Hebrew word here for “know” is yada, which has elements of intimacy, experience, and recognition. It wasn’t that the next generation didn’t know about God,; they just didn’t know him and trust him personally. Such knowledge requires a commitment to sharing the past and holding onto the same values and priorities. We must be a generation that remembers and we must be especially intentional to pass on our faith to the next generation.

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