Sunday, 30 March 2014

(90) March 31: Judges 1-2 & Luke 7:1-30

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read consider the reasons Israel begins to struggle.

To ponder:
After Joshua’s death Israel consult God via prophet (Deut 18v20) or priest (Num 27v21) as to who should go first to drive the remaining Canaanites out. God specifies Judah, fulfilling Jacob’s word that Judah will be pre-eminent in battle and leadership (Gen 49v8-12). One wonders however if they should have trusted God sufficiently not to ask the Simeonites for help. Nevertheless, as during Joshua’s lifetime, God “gives” the Canaanites and Perizzites into their hands. The amputation of Adoni-Bezek’s thumbs and big toes was a common punishment of enemies, preventing them from ever again wielding a weapon or running into battle. 1v7 stresses this is a just penalty for one who has done this to many himself, reminding us that these holy wars are God’s right judgement on the nations (Deut 9v5).
Having attacked Jerusalem previously (Jos 15v63), Judah now takes and burns the city (1v8). However, it seems Jebusites remained and couldn’t be later driven out by Benjamin (1v21). And this theme pervades. Judah defeat those they attack because the LORD is “with” them. And here we are told again of the inheritance given Caleb’s brother and daughter (Jos 15v16-19), and how the Gentile descendents of Moses’ father-in-law are given a share within Judah. But we are also told Judah couldn’t “drive out” those on the plains because they had “iron chariots.” Likewise, the LORD was “with” the house of Joseph against Bethel. However Joseph’s two half tribes couldn’t fully drive the peoples out, nor could Zebulun, Asher, Naphtali or Dan. Rather some Canaanites just continued to live amongst them, whilst others were pressed into “forced labour.”
We have already considered why this was serious and why this lack of rigour for purity within the church is too. This is affirmed in what follows: “The angel of the LORD” speaks as God. He recounts how he brought Israel out of Egypt, but rebukes her for disobeying his command not to make a covenant with the Canaanite nations. This may refer to their covenant with the Gibeonites (Jos 9v16) or their general readiness to have the peoples live amongst them. God is clear, quoting words from Joshua (Jos 23v13), he says the peoples will therefore become thorns and their gods snares. Israel are penitent, weeping and seeking atonement through sacrifice.
However things still worsen. 2v6 returns us to Joshua’s life (Jos 24v28), teaching that everything degenerated from then. Repeating Joshua 24v29-31 we hear again of the people’s faithfulness during his life and whilst the elders who had witnessed God’s acts lived. But after they all died, the next generation forsook God for false gods, provoking his anger so that they were plundered and enslaved by raiders. Indeed, rather than fighting for them, “the hand of the LORD was against them” just as he promised (Lev 26v17). But the reason for this tragedy is striking: This generation neither knew God or what he had done. In other words, the previous generation had failed to pass on God’s deeds and commands as he had repeatedly told them to (Deut 6v6-25). We must grasp that our children’s response to the Lord depends on this too (Eph 6v1-4, 2 Tim 1v5).
2v16-23 introduces the coming book. In “compassion” God would raise up judges to save Israel from these enemies. But the people wouldn’t listen to them, and would turn from the obedience of their fathers into idolatry, and especially so when the judge would die. God therefore determines not to drive out the remaining nations, but leave them to “test” Israel. Just as the temptations of the world test how faithful we are willing to be to Christ, so Israel’s future response to these Canaanites will be an indicator of their eagerness to “keep the way of the LORD.”

Praying it home:
Thank God for sending Christ out of compassion for us in our sin and idolatry. Pray that you and Christians today would be diligent in telling the next generation about the deeds and will of the Lord.

Thinking further:
To read the NIV Study Bible introduction to Judges, click here.

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