The Fifth in a Series of Sermons on the Book of Judges
Within one generation of the death of Joshua, the nation of Israel is already well-down the road toward full-blown apostasy. That first generation of Israelites born in the land of Canaan did not know YHWH or the great things he had done for Israel. They had not been instructed (catechized) in the great truths of the covenant and therefore were left defenseless against the whiles of their pagan neighbors. And as the Canaanites, who had once been booted from the land, began to return, the people of Israel became more and more like the Canaanites–worshiping Canaanite gods–Baal and Ashtoreth and engaging in all kinds of pagan practices. It was not long before the people of Israel began to do what was right in their own eyes–which meant they no longer regarded the law of God as their teacher of sin and rule of gratitude. And so as a direct consequence of Israel’s unbelief and disobedience, God will bring down the covenant curses upon his disobedient people. When he does, the people of Israel will cry out to him for deliverance.
We return to our series on the Book of Judges, which is part of a larger series “I Will Be Your God and You Will Be My People.” We have been working our way through the unfolding drama of redemption–especially focusing upon the history of the covenants. As we have seen in our study of the opening section of Judges (1:1-3:6), this book describes Israel’s history from the time the death of Joshua (and Israel’s failure to drive out the remaining Canaanites from land and off the frontier), until the time of the monarchy (Saul and David). This period of Israel’s increasing unbelief and disobedience stands in sharp contrast to Israel’s high-water mark in redemptive history, when the people entered Canaan under Joshua and lived well under the blessings of the covenant God had made with them at Mount Sinai. As Israel’s sin increases, the need for a Messiah becomes that much clearer.
The era of the judges is especially important to us in terms of practical application. Having settled in the promised land, the people of Israel were surrounded by various pagan peoples and were continuously tempted to intermarry with pagans and adopt their religious practices in direct and willful violation of the law of God. We too live at a time when we are surrounded by pagans and false religion. Many of our young people feel the same pull away from Christ and his church. Thus Israel’s struggle to remain faithful to the covenant along with the nation facing the consequences for their disobedience to the law of God, becomes a graphic object lesson to us when we seek to do what is right in our own eyes. God’s ways are always best, even when we can’t see that to be true.
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