The Fourth in a Series of Sermons on the Book of Judges
That generation which entered Canaan under the leadership of Joshua has now died off and has been gathered to their fathers. Their children–the first generation born in Canaan–have now risen to prominence. The difference between these two generations could not be greater. The generation of Joshua and the elders who led Israel into Canaan saw first hand the mighty deeds which YHWH performed to redeem his people. Joshua’s generation obeyed the LORD and enjoyed the covenant blessings of victory over the Canaanites as well as material prosperity. But most of that first generation born in Canaan had not heard about these things. Somehow the faith of Joshua’s generation was not handed down to that first generation born in Canaan. This is why we read of the sad state of this generation in Judges 2:10–“there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.” And this is why we should not be surprised that in the first 15 verses of Judges 2, the author recounts how the people of Israel had abandoned the LORD and then worshiped and served Baal and Ashtaroth, the pagan “gods” of the Canaanites. As a consequence of their actions, God brought down the covenant curses upon the people of Israel and they soon found themselves “in terrible distress.” Despite Israel’s distress–the direct result of the people’s sin and apostasy–God took pity on Israel. Time and time again he will rescue them from their dire predicament.
We continue our series on the Book of Judges, which is one of the most remarkable and difficult books in all the Bible. The Book of Judges recounts those tumultuous days in Israel’s history between the time of the death of Joshua until David becomes Israel’s king. No doubt, the reason why the Book of Judges is so difficult and why so many avoid preaching through this book has to do with the fact that the behavior of God’s people during this period of redemptive history is rather shocking. We will also see proof of the old adage that the Lord works in mysterious ways as we will witness God rescue his people from one disaster after another in the most remarkable of ways. In the Book of Judges we see the stark reality and ugliness of human sin in both God’s people (Israel) as well as in the practices of the pagans who surround them and who dwell in their midst (the Canaanites).
The behavior of the Canaanites depicted throughout the Old Testament is gross and disgusting to those of us with Christian sensitivities. We will also find it shocking that God’s people are so easily and strongly attracted to Canaanite practices. In this, we see that the Jews of that era are just like we are. There is nothing new under the sun. As we lament the plague of pornography, celebrity worship, the sexualizing and coarsening of our own culture, we will see much of the same thing in Judges. We are not the first to face such temptations springing from the lusts of the flesh. While technology has improved beyond all measure, none of the things which trouble us today are really new. We will see that people of Israel faced very similar challenges and temptations to those with which we are all too familiar.
That being said, we must not miss the fact that throughout this graphic display of human sinfulness, we will also see God’s faithfulness and grace. God will preserve his people despite their attraction to paganism and he will deliver them from their enemies despite their sin and their struggle to remain faithful to him. God sent judges to Israel. Therefore, while Judges graphically describes Israel’s sin and its consequences, the Book of Judges is, ultimately, the story of God’s grace. Although Israel as a nation has broken that covenant God established with Israel at Mount Sinai, and therefore will come under the covenant curses, don’t forget that God’s grace will triumph for those who, like Abraham, believe that God will provide some means to deal with their sin and who believe that somehow God will save his people apart from their works or their merit.
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