The Third in a Series of Sermons on the Book of Judges
As the old hymn puts it, “prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the Lord I love.” We see this sad but very real truth on display during the days of the judges when many in Israel, sadly, turned their backs upon YHWH, the true and living God. Instead of worshiping YHWH who had graciously made a covenant with them, the Israelites worshiped and served other gods, all the while indulging their own sinful appetites. The temptation to become like the Canaanites and to do what is right in their own eyes–even if that meant breaking the terms of the covenant–was simply too great. And yet, when the people of Israel discover that the grass is not greener on the Canaanite side, they are soon calling out for YHWH to come rescue them from one disaster of their own making after another. In all of this, we see that God is faithful when his people are not.
As we resume our series on the Book of Judges, we take up the first fifteen verses of Judges chapter two, a section which ties the era of the Conquest to that era in biblical history which follows and which is depicted in the rest of the book. Judges is a difficult and perplexing portion of Scripture–given its structure and the surprising depths of sin into which the people of God repeatedly fall. The reoccurring theme of Judges is that the people of Israel fall away from the Lord and then come under the covenant curse (usually in the form of an attack from one of the neighboring Canaanite tribes). In desperation, they cry out to YHWH seeking help, before YHWH graciously sends his people a deliverer in the form of the “judges”–men who are more like tribal chieftains than modern jurists presiding over a court of law. This is indeed a remarkable period in Israel’s history, extending from the death of Joshua until the time of the monarchy when David becomes Israel’s first king. Judges describes a time in Israel’s history when God’s people are constantly confronted by pagan influences, making this period of time very much like our own day and age.
As we saw last time, the people of Israel knew full that God had commanded them through Joshua to drive the remaining Canaanites from the land. While the Canaanite armies had been completely defeated and then Israel occupied the land of Canaan, there was still much mopping up to do. Not only were there isolated pockets of Canaanites to be driven out, but many Canaanites who had fled when Israel entered the land were now making their way back into Canaan and re-settling. Not only were the Israelites allowing them to remain in the land, but there were a number of Canaanite tribes still on the frontier of Canaan, occupying outlying areas of that land which God promised to Israel. This is why before Joshua died, Israel was commanded to finish-up the conquest of Canaan by casting out all the remaining Canaanites and pushing them off the frontier, providing a buffer of sorts, which would keep the influences of the Canaanites and their false religion away from the people of Israel.
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