Judges Sermon # 2 May 14, 2017
Judges 1:1-2:5 “Till Sin’s Fierce War Shall Cease”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
Who wants to go to war? Who wants to be a foot soldier in a battle that doesn’t end till you die? Who wants to continually be fighting against enemies who seem to never give up? Anyone want to enlist? Well, guess what. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then you are that soldier in that war that has been going on since Adam and Eve rebelled against the Lord God. It’s a war where you are doing battle against your own sinful flesh, against the corruption of the world, and against the master foe, Satan himself. But it is also a war that has already been won; for King Jesus has dealt a fatal blow, at the cross, to all His enemies, and now he calls us to be part of the occupying forces. It’s a war in which we cry out, “Lead on, O King eternal, till sin’s fierce war shall cease, and holiness shall whisper the sweet amen of peace.” Let’s see how this all plays out in Judges 1:1-2:5, as we learn lessons from Israel’s battles that foreshadow our battles.
The Facts (of Israel’s Battles vs. the Canaanites)
Some 500 years before Israel entered the promised land of Canaan under the leadership of General Joshua, God had promised Abraham that He would give this land to Abraham’s descendants. We read in Genesis 15:16 that the Lord tells Abraham that in the fourth generation his descendants will come back here… instead of giving it to them right then, for “the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure (or “is not yet complete.”) God in His mercy was giving the Amorites/Canaanites 400 years to repent, while He was rescuing His people out of slavery in Egypt, but now that generous time was over; the idolatry and immorality of the Canaanites stunk to high heaven in God’s nostrils, and He was sending in His people, under General Joshua, to rid the place of these wicked and unrepentant people groups. This is the background to the fighting we read about in Judges 1.
We read in the book of Joshua that under his leadership, Israel was given by God the initial victories over the Canaanites, but now the land needed to be occupied, and the enemy driven out. (It was similar to the 2003 second war with Iraq, when the Allied forces quickly conquered the Iraqi army, – Remember the banner, “Mission Accomplished”? – but the task of occupying each city, town and village took much, much longer.)
Here in chapter one of Judges we are told of the success of the tribe of Judah in driving out the Canaanites and Perizzities, but we also read of the increasing failures of the other tribes to occupy the land and drive out its wicked inhabitants. The southern campaign under Judah’s leadership was a success, but the Northern campaign under Benjamin, Manasseh, Ephraim and the other tribes was a failure. We read in verses 27 and 35 that the Canaanites and the Amorites were determined to stay in the land; that they persisted in living there, and would not be driven out by the lukewarm efforts of the various Israelite tribes.
So by the end of Judges chapter one, if you had a satellite’s view on the land, you would see some areas under Israel’s domination, while in other sections of the promised land, the tribes of Israel were bottled up in small patches, surrounded by the enemy. It’s a pretty sad and disappointing result, given that God had promised them the land and that God was supposed to be with them, fighting for them. What happened?
Well, the Lord tells us what went wrong. [We always need to loom to the Lord and His Word to provide the interpretation or explanation of the “facts” before us, otherwise we will be in the dark, no matter how many facts we have.] He comes to them in the form of the angel of the Lord (which is God the Son appearing before He comes as a man, Jesus Christ) and gives them a mini-sermon, in 2:1-3. Look at it.
The angel of the Lord… said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land 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? [Note that the Lord asks questions in the Bible not because He doesn’t know the answer, but because He wants us to ponder our actions and our motives, which is what questions will do.] 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.’”
Here we see how the Lord God is dealing with His people according to the covenant He made with them at Sinai, after He redeemed them from Egypt. Despite God’s covenant faithfulness to Israel, they were unfaithful to Him. They failed to drive out the Canaanites, as he commanded them to; and they did not break down their altars, but instead began to worship at them!
As a result of their disobedience and unfaithfulness, the pagan nations would remain in the land, as thorns in their sides, and their idols would be snares to them. Their evil choices resulted in hard consequences.
What was their response to this terrible news? See vv. 4-5:
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. Here they offered sacrifices to the Lord.”
“Bokim” means weepers; sometimes a place name was associated with the main event that happened there, and Israel certainly wept when they heard this bad news. But here’s a question: Were these tears of true repentance, or were the people crying because life was now going to be hard for them? What do you think? We’ll explore the answer in our application.
So, those are the facts about Israel’s military campaigns; now let us consider…
The Meaning and Applications
How are we to understand and apply the lessons of Judges 1:1-2:5 to ourselves? Let me suggest a few ways, using 1 Corinthians 10:6, 11 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17 as my license for doing so. [This is the principle which you should use as you read and study the Old Testament narrative sections; looking to understand them in light of Christ and as being warnings and instructions for believers today.]
The First Lesson: Israel’s military failure to drive out the Canaanites from the Promised Land is a picture of our failure to drive out the sins, idols, and addictions from our hearts.
Why did some tribes make progress in driving out the pagans, while some tribes went on the defensive? In the same way, why does one believer make progress in Christ-like maturity, while another stagnates or loses ground? The reasons are the same, and they boil down to faith (trust in God) vs. unbelief (trust in self); and submitting to God’s will (obedience) vs. doing what you want to do (disobedience/ rebellion). Tribes such as Judah who trusted that God was with them and who obeyed His command to take the land were the ones who prospered, and God gave them their inheritance. Tribes such as Dan who failed to rely on God and failed to do what He told them suffered disgrace. God’s people had not carried through on God’s clear commands to destroy the enemy, and instead had entered into various arrangements with the enemy… even as we sometimes enter into a mental or emotional agreement with our idols and sinful addictions.
It’s the same with the Christian. If you trust Jesus with your life, and submit to Him as Lord and Savior, you will make progress; you will grow spiritually! But if you are wrapped up in yourself, and you don’t step out in faith on God’s promises, you’re going to be like a stagnant pool. Where are you? Moving forward, or shrinking back?
Don’t be a professing Christian who lives on only 10 % of the promises of God. Don’t be like the person who has been promised a beautiful house and yard, but instead chooses to live in a run-down studio apartment. Christ wants to give you fullness and abundance in Him!
Matthew Henry: It appears that the people of Israel were very careless of their duty (failing to obey the Lord’s commands) as they seemed to have little desire or passion to fully take the land.
Laziness? Fear/ cowardice? Disobedient? Too attracted by the sinful pleasures that the Canaanites offered? The same thing that kept their fathers out of Canaan for 40 years now kept them from fully possessing it, and that was unbelief. A failure to trust fully in the power and the promises of the Lord lost them their advantages, and ran them into a thousand problems.
The Second Lesson: The Canaanites are a two-fold picture of our sins: On one hand, they are alluring (we want what they have). On the other hand, they will enslave us. (We hate what they do to us.)
A. Sin seems alluring: It has what we want.
Why did the Israelites not wipe out the Canaanites, as the Lord commanded them to?
One reason was that the Canaanite culture was so appealing. Israel was attracted to their material prosperity, as their culture was more advanced than Israel’s. Israel was drawn to the superior military power and weapons of the Canaanites, with their iron chariots, their advanced metal working, and their fortified cities. God’s people were drawn in by Canaan’s bold sexuality. Almost everything in the Canaanite culture revolved around the worship of Baal and Astarte (Ashtoreth), the male and female deities of creation, fertility, sex, as well as the destroyers of all. It was a sensual religion, which included magic and music, and there was no separation of church and state. The yeast of Canaan permeated the people of Israel… as our secular and self-centered culture is permeating the church in America today.
Yes, it is proper to borrow technology and cultural advancements from the unbeliever, but it is harmful to believers when they absorb the culture and values of the surrounding pagan society. Be in the world, but not of it!
B. But sin is enslaving: we hate what it does to us.
Remember that Satan tempts us to sin by showing the bait but hiding the hook. The bait was the alluring culture of the Canaanites; the hook was the enslaving power of the Canaanites.
The Canaanites were determined to stay in the land (vv. 27 and 35), and they were not going to yield easily. Note that a pagan culture never surrenders easily; Satan does not want to yield an inch to believers. (Like land ownership in Muslim countries: once it is owned by Muslims, it almost never is sold back to a Christian.) The following chapters in Judges will tell us how bitter life was under the Canaanites… a hardship that could have been avoided if Israel had remembered God’s warnings, and not gone for the bait. How about you?
The Third Lesson: Israel’s weeping over the consequences of their sin may mirror the shallowness and self-centeredness of our man-centered sorrow for sin.
Were Israel’s tears a sign of true turning from sin and turning to the Lord? Did God’s words to them really move them to turn their lives around, smash the altars of the idols, and start following the Lord with their whole hearts? Or were they weeping because they were suffering the consequences of their unbelief and disobedience to the Lord?
You will find in the following chapters in Judges that their choices and actions do not show the fruit of true repentance. Matthew Henry comments that their weeping was a good sign, that God’s Word had made an impression on them. He writes that “It is a wonder that sinners can ever read their Bibles with dry eyes.” But this was not enough; they wept, but we do not find that they reformed, that they went home and destroyed all the remains of idolatry and idolaters among them. “Many are melted under the Word, who harden again, before they are cast into a new mold.”
“It is good to be moved to tears, but better to be brought to repentance.” (Dale Davis.) Lord, help us to weep over our sins. Help us to weep over sinners who are lost. Help us to read our Bibles with eyes brimming with sorrow for our sin and with tears of joy for such a great Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ!
The Fourth Lesson: As Israel had succeed in conquering under Joshua, we can only succeed under a new/ greater Joshua, the Lord Jesus.
The Lord had been faithful to keep his part of the covenant He made with His people, but they had been unfaithful and had broken the covenant they had entered into with the Lord… like a spouse who has broken his covenant marriage vows by committing adultery.
But God in His mercy did not bring the full weight of the sins of the people on their heads. He did not divorce them nor destroy them. Instead He raised up judges/ saviors/ deliverers… and eventually raised up His own Son to be their/ our ultimate Deliverer.
This is why God’s Own Son had to come, to fulfill both God’s part and our part of the covenant! This is the essence of the New Covenant. Jesus is the greater Joshua, the “Lord who saves.”
And as we are under the rule and power of our Risen Lord Jesus, then we can move forward. Remember that in our battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil, we are commanded to take by conflict what the Lord has given by grace… “Till sin’s fierce war (against us) shall cease.”
“We are more than conquerors through Christ who loved us” (Romans 8:37)