Mark R Lindsey

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God’s Promises Unleash My Obedience (Judges 1-2)

In Bible Study, Life Without a King on August 12, 2018 at 5:24 pm

The first section of the book of Judges — Judges 1:1 – 2:5 — makes me ask myself: Am I like these people at all? After all, the nation of Israel, attempting to conquer the land of Canaan. I have no land to claim — but I do have promises, and God’s enablement.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10, ESV)

God’s Actions, Israel’s Work

The job given to Israel was difficult. But God would do it, and God would enable them to do it! A few years before Judges 1, God spoke to Joshua:

Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:6-7,9 ESV)

God would be with them. God would drive out the people. They would drive out the people. How could it be both — that God would drive them out, and the Israelites would drive them out?

Promises to Israel

In Judges 1-2, we see a people who had received great promises, and were commanded and enabled to live and obey in those promises:

  • God promised to be with them & to make them his people (Exodus 6:7, Leviticus 26:12)
  • God promised to give them a land, and to drive out the inhabitants ahead of them (Deuteronomy 6:10-12, 7:20)
  • God had given them his Word, & made them a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6, 24:12)
  • God had given them amazing memories of deliverance (Deuteronomy 8:1-2)
  • God had warned what would happen if they disown him (Deuteronomy 28:15)

Partial Obedience & God’s Assessment

Following God’s command, Judah leads. Caleb’s family shows courage and takes full possession. But Judah fails to obediently conquer, eventually reasoning that the iron chariots were too strong for God’s people.

Judges 2:1–3: [1] Now the angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, [2] and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done? [3] So now I say, I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.”  (ESV)

The Background: God’s Reminders

  1. He brought them from Egypt. (Verse 1)
  2. He had made a pledge to their ancestors to give this people the land. (Verse 1)
  3. He had said, in the past, that: (Verse 1-2) ?
    — He will never break his covenant with the people of Israel,
    — And the people of Israel must not make any covenant with the inhabitants of the land
    — And the people of Israel must break down the altars for worship of false Gods.

God’s Assessment.

  1. The people of Israel have been disobedient.
  1. He will not drive the Canaanites out before the Israelites.
  2. The Canaanites will become thorns in their sides.
  3. The gods of the Canaanites will be a snare, a trap, to the Israelites.

God’s original command: God is referring to his words in Exodus 23:28-33.

As soon as the angel of the LORD spoke these words to all the people of Israel, the people lifted up their voices and wept. And they called the name of that place Bochim. And they sacrificed there to the LORD. (Judges 2:4,5 ESV)

What did the Israelites want? The Israelites wanted the land of the Canaanites — without having to actually fight for it. We know this because, until this promise, God had promised to drive out the Canaanites. And we know they had not driven out the Canaanites — they had enslaved them, forming agreements with them, and leaving Canaanite worship intact.

“It’s a good things wants don’t hurt.”

A good friend of mine says, “It’s a good things wants don’t hurt.” I can have all the wants in the world, but they’re meaningless — neither helpful nor hurtful — if I don’t do what’s necessary to get them, or if I want things I shouldn’t have. Wants can be merely thought-stuff.

But in a dangerous way, wants can hurt. If the wants I have are out of order or contradictory, I can desire the impossible or harmful things more than the best things.

Israel’s Mixed Motives for Comfort and Wealth

Comfort & Avoiding Conflict. While some tribes take possession, the many other tribes seem to avoid conflict — leaving the Canaanites rather than driving them out and killing those who fight. We see an empowered people who wanted comfort more than they wanted God’s nearness and his land.

Seeking Wealth. Some tribes enslave the remaining Canaanites — but still don’t drive them out.

Love of Comfort led them to stop fighting, to make alliances rather than drive out the people. Love of Wealth led them to enslave the Canaanites.

In a sense, God gave the Israelites what they wanted. They had stopped obeying, and started living with the Canaanites. God said, “OK, if you want them for neighbors, then you’ve got them.”

The same God enables my obedience

Christians are not the nation of Israel, but God makes promises to us, including these:

Jonathan Edwards wrote:

In efficacious grace we are not merely passive, nor yet does God do some, and we do the rest. But God does all and we do all. God produces all, and we act all. For that is what he produces, viz. our own acts. God is the only proper author and fountain; we only are the proper actors. We are, in different respects, wholly passive and wholly active.

Salvation in Jesus is a free gift, and I contribute nothing to it. Nothing I do makes me more acceptable to God (Ephesians 2:8-9), because, by trusting God’s gift and Jesus’s accomplishment, he has already made God happy with me (Romans 5:1). And nothing I can do can make me unacceptable to God (Romans 8:1).

And God works, and equips and enables me to be obedient.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13, ESV)

God has promised me no physical land on earth, but God has promised me a salvation I can work out, with his enablement. He’s made good things for me to do, and gives me power to live them out.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10, ESV)

What could stop me from obeying in God’s power?

The Israelites of Judges 1-2 had promises, God’s power, and a job to do — but they failed to do it. Would we ever be tempted to shrink back, and fail to obey?

  • We might not want the persecution promised to everyone who wants to live a godly life. (2 Timothy 3:12)
  • We might fall in love with this present world, like Demas. (2 Timothy 4:10)
  • We might not want to be hated. (1 John 3:12-13)
  • We might enjoy the fun things the world has to offer (Romans 13:13, 1 Peter 4:3)
  • We might be distracted by busyness and stress. (Luke 21:34)
  • In short — Yes, it’s easy to imagine not wanting to be hated, persecuted, called names. But God has promised to my holiness, and he expects my obedience to arrive at that holiness.

  • Mark Lindsey is an Elder at North Wake Church, Wake Forest, North Carolina, and a Computer Scientist at ECG. This material was originally developed for the “Life Without a King” LifeChange Fellowship class at North Wake Church.
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