At the beginning of the book of Judges in the Old Testament, Joshua, the man who actually led the Israelites into the promised land after Moses died, has himself died. So the first chapter of Judges tells of the different tribes of Israel continuing to battle the inhabitants of their promised land in an effort to drive them out. This was at first for me this morning part of that old testament reading where you can’t begin to pronounce the names of the people or places so you just kind of read along…until the light comes on…
Judges 1:21 (msg)
But the people of Benjamin couldn’t get rid of the Jebusites living in Jerusalem. Benjaminites and Jebusites live side by side in Jerusalem to this day.
Judges 1:28 (msg)
When Israel became stronger they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but they never got rid of them.
Judges 1:29 (msg)
Neither did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer. The Canaanites stuck it out and lived there with them.
Judges 1:32 (msg)
Asher went ahead and settled down with the Canaanites since they could not get rid of them.
Judges 1: 33 (msg)
Naphtali fared no better. They couldn’t drive out the people of Beth Shemesh or Beth Anath so they just moved in and lived with them…
Do you see the pattern? After their leaders died it was time for the tribes (Peoples) of Israel to finish the work…to drive out the inhabitants of their promised land. They served the same God who had miraculously delivered them from Egyptian oppression. The same God who appeared to Moses in a burning Bush. Same God who split the Red Sea for their passage. Same God who rained down manna, this super natural wafer like food, from heaven when they were in the desert. Same God who had water gush from a rock to quench their thirst. Same God who went before them in battle…who gave them courageous leaders who would listen to and obey God. It was time for them to now walk in this same courageous faith that their leaders had shown.
As I have said before, I am not a Bible Scholar! But it seems to me that although the Israelites put forth an effort and in some instances took the land, they could not completely drive out the enemy. So they “went ahead and settled down” with them. As I kept reading about how the Israelites could not drive out the enemy and chose to live with them my heart and mind started ticking…why? Why were their efforts a flop and why were they okay with that? And what would God have to say about it?
Judges 2: 1-3 (the message)
God’s angel went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, “I brought you out of Egypt; I led you to the land that I promised to your fathers; and I said, I’ll never break my covenant with you–never! And you’re never to make a covenant with the people who live in this land. Tear down their altars! But you haven’t obeyed me! What’s this that you’re doing? So now I’m telling you that I won’t drive them out before you. They’ll trip you up and their gods will become a trap.”
God led them to the land He had promised their fathers. The people of Israel wandered in the desert for 40 years and many of the ones who had seen with their own eyes the sea part or Moses’ face aglow with God’s glory as he came off the mountain were dead. The men now inheriting the promise were the sons. So, did they really “get it?” Did they have the kind of faith born of experiencing God’s deliverance from oppression or was their faith in the men God had used to lead them? Had they left the spiritual battle to Joshua with a willingness to follow him but never grow a tenacious belief and trust in God for themselves? Because to me, as I read this first short chapter, it seems like they were going through the motions but lacked the grit and determination to see God honored in victory.
Maybe that is the clincher, even for us today. Where does the honor belong? Are we in the battle and if so for who? What about our inhabitants? What are the things, habits or people in our lives that hinder us from living in the promise of abundant life God makes to us in His word? If we are honest with ourselves we all have them. The question is are we determined to drive them out or are we okay with settling down and living with them? Do we say, ‘well this is just how I am. This is how my family has always been.’ Do we say, ‘this could never change or I could never live without that person or that thing.’ Whatever it is, if you sense it coming to your heart as you read this…if you know in your heart it hinders you from the life Jesus died to give you…then it’s an inhabitant that needs driving out. But I believe the “make it or break it” factor in this whole idea is the state of our heart and our deepest motives. Have we experienced God’s delivering power in our lives or do we just believe it because a leader in our family or church told us about it? Because the kind of accepting belief that comes from the mouth of others is not the kind that will spur you to press on. That may be the very kind that says…well, I am not a Moses or a Joshua so I guess this will do…I can’t expect God to part the sea for me so I’ll just be thankful I made it across the Jordan into the promise land at all…I can accept living with the hindrances I could not drive out.
What happens if we take a chance? What happens if we are desperate enough for deliverance and abundant living that we walk into a place of faith where only God can bring victory? See, being between a rock and a hard place, a seemingly impossible place, can be a life-changing thing if you turn your eyes to Jesus. Having God part the sea in the hard place will build your faith and gratitude. As God becomes your deliverer then you will not only persevere in driving out the inhabitants for your own sake, but to honor Him. He is the God of the impossible! He is the God of miracles and second chances! He is the Great I-Am! There is nothing He can’t do! He leads us to a place of promise and provision and then waits to see if we believe Him, if we are determined to honor Him or if we will “settle down” with the hindrances in our lives. Perhaps the inhabitants seem harmless or we think we can “handle” living along side them. But God says they will trip us up and become a trap. God is telling us to tear down their altars!
You know what? Moses was just a man. Joshua was just a man. I am just an ordinary woman and chances are you are an ordinary person, too. But God loves to work in and through ordinary men and women! We don’t drive out the inhabitants and hindrances in our lives by our own efforts or power…perhaps that is what the tribes of Israel were doing. The hindrances are broken and driven out as we put our faith in God, as our faith leads us to yielding and obedience…and as the strongest desire of our heart becomes honoring Him. He is not a “settling” God. He wants much more for us than “good enough.” He wants us to live in the Promise.