Thursday, October 22, 2009

Judges series - Judges 2

The way to read this article is that the orange underlined texts are the verses of the Bible (NIV, unless otherwise stated). The black texts following the Bible verses (and enclosed by square brackets) are my commentaries. At the end of these Bible texts and commentaries, I have inserted a section on "Points to take note".
{For full listing of all articles in this series, click here}

Judges 2

1 The angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, "I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land that I swore to give to your forefathers. I said, 'I will never break my covenant with you, 2 and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.' Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? 3 Now therefore I tell you that I will not drive them out before you; they will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you." [God, as the angel of the Lord came to the Israelites. God was upset with the disobedience of the Israelites. As can be seen in Judges 1, after Joshua’s death, in the subsequent sub-dues of the remaining territories in the Canaanite Land, some of the tribes of Israelites did not completely destroy the enemies. In fact they lived amongst the Canaanite inhabitants, only in certain cases, pressed the Canaanites into forced labor. They did what the Lord had forbidden them to do – inter-marry with the locals with the consequent serving of their gods (You can read of this in Judges 3:5). This was clearly not acceptable to the Lord because God, in His covenant with the forefathers of the Israelites, gave very strict instruction to the Israelites not to make treaties with the people of the land and that the altars of the heathens must be completely destroyed. Because of this disobedience, God said that He would no longer drive out the enemies from before the Israelites. The heathens would be thorns in the Israelites’ sides, and their gods would be a snare to the Israelites.]
4 When the angel of the LORD had spoken these things to all the Israelites, the people wept aloud, 5 and they called that place Bokim. There they offered sacrifices to the LORD. [On hearing what God had spoken the Israelites wept aloud, and they offered sacrifices to the Lord]
6 After Joshua had dismissed the Israelites, they went to take possession of the land, each to his own inheritance. 7 The people served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the LORD had done for Israel. [Before Joshua died, he allotted the territories of the Canaanite land consistent with the Lord’s desire. (Please note that an allotted territory did not necessarily had been secured) For a time, the Israelites served the Lord]
8 Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of a hundred and ten. 9 And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash. [Joshua, one of the 2 courageous spies that spied the Promised Land when the Israelites first came to the edge of the Promised Land, and who had led the Israelites into the Promised Land, died at the age of 110.]
10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. 11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the LORD to anger 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. [This is the important lesson that we must learn, that we must pass on our heritage in the faith to our children, including all the testimonies of God, the signs and wonders and miracles God did in our generation so that this type of history does not keep repeating itself. The previous generation of the Israelites, comprised almost entirely of the children of the Moses generation, who still knew some of the heritage of the faith, wept and offered sacrifices to God when God told them at Bokim (verse 4) that because of their disobedience, God was not going to be fighting for them anymore, in the Promised Land that they were in. We read here the children of that generation, as predicted by God, got influenced and got drawn away by the local inhabitants to worship the local gods. The practices of the local worshippers towards the local gods like Baals and Ashtoreths were hideous and were abominations to God. That was the reason for God to ask the Israelites to completely destroy the enemies and all their altars. The Israelites of that generation did evil in the eyes of God. We have to do our part so that the generation after us do not fall away from the Lord and do evil in the eyes of our God.]
14 In his anger against Israel the LORD handed them over to raiders who plundered them. He sold them to their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. 15 Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the LORD was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress. [Let it be understood that God is firstly holiness, God is first God (then comes all the rest - Love, Creator, Father, etc). God cannot allow violation of Himself, holiness. Evil and wickedness are abominations to God. God will never allow violation of his very nature, holiness. God is the source of life, if God is violated, the very source of life is violated, and life will cease. The story of the Great Flood comes to mind, and in that episode of human history, the meditations of the hearts of men were continually evil, right even from childhood; God had no choice but to wipe out the entire human race except Noah and his family, from which we all are descendants. For this time in the history of Israel, the Israelites sinned greatly in the sight of God, and so God left the Israelites to fend for themselves, as He had said at Bokim (verse 3). It must be said that compared to the Great Flood, God had already been more merciful to the Israelites as a whole. It must be understood that God is not evil, God does not plot evil against man. God is absolute holiness, there cannot be any wickedness in absolute holiness. To even insinuate that God is in any way wicked, is a great sin. Do you know that the great Moses did not enter the Promised Land because of this sin? (You can read the article, here) I tell you, to say that God is evil or equate God with evil, is the unpardonable sin, it is blasphemy. When we read of God handling over people (his people) to an enemy, it really means that God takes his hands of protection/blessing off the people. It is the workings of the fallen world that bring the harm to the people, not God. That is why it should be frightening for us to live our lives without the covering of the Lord. Such was the case here.]
16 Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. [You remember I said compared to the Great Flood, God was already more merciful. After the Great Flood when Noah built the first altar and made a burnt offering to God, and God came to speak with Noah, God was greatly grieved by the death of men in the flood and vowed not to have such annihilation, and a rainbow is ever over the throne of God as a reminder God made for Himself. So, in His mercy, God raised up people who were called judges, to help the Israelites. The condition was that they had to listen to the judges.]
17 Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. Unlike their fathers, they quickly turned from the way in which their fathers had walked, the way of obedience to the LORD's commands. 18 Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them. 19 But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways. [We read here that despite God’s mercy and compassion, the Israelites refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways. The judges only managed to function like policemen, when they were around, people behaved, when they were not, evil returned.]
20 Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel and said, "Because this nation has violated the covenant that I laid down for their forefathers and has not listened to me, 21 I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. 22 I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the LORD and walk in it as their forefathers did." 23 The LORD had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua. [The writer repeated again what he wrote at the start of this chapter of Judges. I believe it is for stressing that it was the Israelites who broke the covenant God made with the Israelites, and so what happened following that (the care of God) was once again all by the grace, mercy and compassion of God, not bound by covenant. And we saw that God was still trying to help the Israelites despite the lapse of the covenant.]

Points to note:
This chapter recorded the breaking of the covenant (Promised Land Covenant) God made with the forefathers of the Israelites. I consider the covenant broken, and the party who broke it first was the Israelites not God. At Bokim, God merely said that since the fundamental term of the covenant was breached by the Israelites, He would longer be bound by the covenant as well. God was no longer covenant bound to fight for the Israelites in the Promised Land. Yet, in his mercy and compassion, upon the outcries of the Israelites, God raised up judges, from time to time, to help the Israelites. Still the Israelites returned to the evil that God detested every time a raised judge died.

The fundamental term that the Israelites had to comply with was that they were not to make treaties with the enemies and to completely destroy their altars. The demand of God was that the Israelites must completely destroy the enemy when they took a place. What that meant was that the standard things to do were to kill everyone, men, women and children, burn the place, and destroy all altars and high places. That was what the Israelites did when Moses was still alive, when they took the territories on eastern side of Jordan, i.e. before the crossing of the Jordan. I believe they continued to do likewise under the leadership of Joshua, but when Joshua died, the Israelites slackened, leading eventually the total disregard of this demand of God, as we have read in Judges 1. Some may say this was cruel of God, demanding utter destruction. The rationale was simple – God did not want the Israelites to mix with the locals or heathens who would lead to them to be influenced by their practices of following other gods, and engagements in worship practices which were evil and were abominations to the Lord.

From this chapter, we also learnt that, part of the problem was due to the lack of passing on of the faith heritage down the generations. In short, we have to teach the future generation the ways of the Lord.

Anthony Chia - God is holy. God is also compassionate; He still heed cries of desperation.

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