Judges 1.2-2.6 Convenant {Un}Faithfulness

March 18, 2012 Series: Judges | {Un}Faithful (Part 1 of 2)

Topic: Old Testament Passage: Judges 1:2–2:6

Intro: Judges
Last week, we learned about the history that led up to Judges. At the close of Joshua, the old general gives a final speech detailing all that God has done to keep His promise to Abraham. By grace, he freed them from slavery, he defeated all of their enemies, and He brought them into a land flowing with milk and honey. Having conquered the land, God’s people are to fully possess their inheritance and live in it faithfully. Possessing their land fully will require driving out the remaining pockets of resistance—which God has promised to do if they will commit to fight in the land that is ALREADY THEIRS. Specifically, they must obey God’s command in Deut. 7 to annihilate the enemies, to make no covenants with them, to not intermarry with them, and to destroy their religious altars. Judges is the history of that failure.

As a purely historical narrative, Judges would make a lot more sense if it started in chapter 2. The first chapter is strange, containing three seemingly unrelated vignettes including an assassination, a romance, and an operation of Israel’s Seal Team 6. The author recorded actual history so his Jewish readers would know what happened THAT DAY without a king, in order to understand what is happening THIS DAY with the monarch in conflict—at or before David’s reign. At the same time, God intended Judges as a redemptive history for Christians to point us to King David’s heir Jesus, as well as show us a picture of our own salvation by grace, and our own continuing fight in that grace today.

With the death of Joshua, Israel’s future goes from certainty to confusion. This is the one time in Judges where they respond faithfully together as a nation, asking the LORD what to do? This is the most faithful Israel will be. The rest of the book story is a slow progression from partial obedience to full on rebellion. What starts as ONE inquire to God about what HE would have them do, quickly turns into cry after cry about having done what they wanted. What results is a book flooded with unfulfilled commitments, partial obedience, and sinful compromise. Instead of reshaping the world they are shaped by the world and, eventually, overcome by it.

“GO UP” Conquest (1.1-8)
In one of a handful of times God speaks, he answers their initial prayer and commands the tribe of Judah to “GO UP” north and dispose the Perizites and the Canaanites. Judah is not selected, not because it has the most people or the largest allotment of land; Judah is special because it is the tribe through whom the king would come and remain forever. Before he died, Jacob prophesized over Judah in Genesis 49.8-10: “Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you. 9 Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? 10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

Judah responds and GOES NORTH to fight in land that he already possesses, and the LORD drives out his enemies. He brings along Simeon whose allotment rests inside of Judah’s. There is clearly a sense of unity that exists among the tribes, which is important considering the near civil war that comes in the end of Judges. Together, they defeat a 10,000 man army and capture the King who has apparently tried to hide. He is punished brutally. The punishment is consistent with what many would do to those conquered—it incapacitated their ability to fight (hold bow or sword). By his own words, the king recognizes that his punishment is DIVINE and DESERVED. The King himself states that it is “God” who has repaid him. The number 70 is a number that has always been consistent with perfection, in this case, a complete justice. Setting the example then, Judah proves faithful to obey and to actively fight while God proves faithful to conquer and fight for him.

“GO DOWN” Conquest (1.9-19a)
The faith of the tribe of Judah continues in verse 9. Judah now GOES DOWN SOUTH to take Jerusalem, Hebron, and other cities in the “Hill Country”. All of these cities were already a part of Judah’s inheritance; they are simply possessing what is theirs. An 85 year old warrior named Caleb is the primary focus of the hill country conquest. He was not a natural born Israelite but had become a part of Judah. And, because of his faithful service, he had received an inheritance within Judah’s land. In Caleb we see what the author wants to set up as an example of a faithful Israelite man—faith in daily life. Wanting to take the city of Debir, Caleb offers his daughters hand in marriage to anyone who could conquer it. Othneil, a future deliverer for Israel, proves himself a worthy warrior, man, and husband. Then, we see a brief exchange with Caleb and his daughter who, having received desert land as a wedding gift, asks for springs to water her gift. He is a faithful covenant keeping Israelite. He is a strong leader who takes on the hardest tasks. He is a brave warrior committed to conquering the land. He is a loving father committed to his family. He is a teacher with a daughter committed to living fully in the land.

First Sign of Unfaithfulness (1.19b-21)
Judah is committed to annihilating the enemies, not making covenants, protecting families, and destroying their altars. But even with all the faithfulness of Judah, even though verse 19 says “the LORD was with Judah”, we see the first hint of unfaithfulness in verse 20. The Bible says that Judah COULD NOT drive out the inhabitants of the plain because of the chariots. And though it might be tempting to believe that this was just an issue of a hard battle, it wasn’t. God promised to drive out enemies, period. Joshua had earlier stated that the chariots would not be an obstacle, especially for a God had who used horns, giant hail stones and hornets as weapons This was an issue of unfaithfulness—partial obedience. Judah is the chosen tribe. Judah is the people through whom salvation will come. But it won’t be this Judah. Judah has a lot right but still falls short.

Deliberate Unfaithfulness (22-26)
Sadly, as goes the faith of the leaders, so goes the faith of followers. In verse 21, we read for the first time that the people of Benjamin DID NOT drive out the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem, so the Jebusites have lived with the people of Benjamin in Israel to this day. This is ‘could not” vs. “did not.” It was not that they fought and failed, they made a decision not to fight. Though both unfaithful, there appears to be a difference between unintentional sin and deliberate sin (Elevation of Judah over Benjamin, David over Saul, Joshua 15.63).

One decision leads to another, and the House of Joseph is the next to prove PARTIALLY FAITHFUL. Like some kind of Israelite Seal Team 6, Joseph sends in spies to attack Bethel. Similar to the fall of Jericho where Rahab helped the spies, they meet a citizen of Bethel who helps them get into the city. They obye God in wiping out the city. But they disobey God in letting their enemy live. Like the spies and Rahab, the spies promise to “deal kindly” with the man and his family. But unlike Rahab who confessed her own faith in God and joined Israel, this man and his family leaves to build another Canaanite city.

Progression of Unfaithfulness (1.27-36)
From Judah to Joseph, we see God’s people go from obedience, to partial obedience, to total disobedience. And historically, this sets the stage for how Israel tolerates false gods until they end up worshipping them—until God destroys them through various judges Redemptively, their relationship with their enemy the Canaanites reflects our own relationship with our enemy, sin. Disciples of Christ are those who are saved by grace, through faith in who Jesus is and what he Jesus did. They are blind ad made to see by God. They are chosen and adopted by God. They are freed from slavery to sin by God. They are made alive by God. They are transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light by God. And they are given an irrevocable inheritance by God.

And, by His Spirit, Christians are commanded to fight to possess that inheritance completely. There is not only an inheritance of eternal life to be experienced in the future, there is a life to be fully enjoyed right now. And like the Israelites, even knowing what God has done and commanded, we are tempted to stop fighting and in fact worship idols. For most of us it is not an overnight decision, and most of us don’t become heroin addicts. What begins as faithful, becomes partially faithful, until it is completely rebellious through subtle compromises with sin. A careful reading of verses 27-36 reveals how this happens. In verse 27, we read a phrase repeated SEVEN times (a complete number) in this chapter—Israel “DID NOT DRIVE” out the enemy. What that means is that they didn’t obey God’s command from Deut. 7 which called for the annihilation of the enemy and a refusal to be friends with the enemy.

In verse 28 we read when this started to occur, not when they were weak—when Israel grew strong. Comfort and prosperity are where the seeds of faithfulness are sown. We wrongly believe that our “strong times” fill us with a stronger devotion to God. Sadly, it is usually the times of success that are most dangerous for us. The Israelites have it all. But with every spiritual and earthly advantage possible, tribe after tribe decides NOT to drive out the remaining peoples and instead subject them to forced labor.

This is not humanitarian, this is disobedience. They chose their own wisdom over God’s Word. They chose comfort over conflict. They choose the easier wrong over the harder right. They choose to manage their sin over fighting to destroy it completely. How could this happen to a people who knew the right thing to do? How does it happen for any of us? We stop fearing sin and stop fearing God. Look at the small compromises Israel made:

# 1 Toleration of Sin (V. 30)
30 Zebulun did not drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, or the inhabitants of Nahalol, so the Canaanites lived among them, but became subject to forced labor. In verse 30 we see that the “Cannanites lived among Israel.” THIS IS TOLERATION. We make a decision to ignore or avoid dealing with sin, either in ourselves, or those we love. Instead of fighting, we subject ourselves a state of constant temptation. Even if we don’t pursue sin, we stand still and do not pursue God.

# 2 Accomodation of Sin (V. 31-32)
31 Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of Acco, or the inhabitants of Sidon or of Ahlab or of Achzib or of Helbah or of Aphik or of Rehob, 32 so the Asherites lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land, for they did not drive them out. In verse 32, we read that the “Israelites lived among the Canaanites.” THIS IS ACCOMODATION. And constant temptation can’t help but lead to idolatry. Rarely is this overnight denial of all things Biblical. Instead, we slowly begin to allow some impurities into our faith. A few harmless lies there, a couple good experiences with sin there, and suddenly your faith is Canaanized. The faithlessness of the Israelites was not so much an abandonment of God, but a mixing of gods.

#3 Oppression of Sin (V. 34)
34 The Amorites pressed the people of Dan back into the hill country, for they did not allow them to come down to the plain. And finally, in verse 34, we see that the “Amorites pressed the people of Israel back.” THIS IS OPPRESSION. It is only a matter of time before your innocent dabbling with sin, or an lazy pursuit of God, turns to enslavement and oppression. You look and feel defeated. God is distant. His word is doubtful. And life is meaningless. And people don’t believe this. Not only do they believe that sin doesn’t have this kind of power, they actually believe that their partial obedience is some form of faithfulness. God is not some cosmic kill joy trying to make life hard. His call for obedience to His ways is an invitation to enjoy Him and. Sin kills. That is what sin does.

2.1-5- Judgment for Covenant Unfaithfulness: Disobedience
In the end, God loves his people enough to confront them. Like Judah, he “GOES UP” to confront his own people. 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.”

“I said…”
Though God had proved faithful to his promise, Israel had not been faithful to theirs. THEY BROKE THE COVENANT. They rejected God’s all that God had done, and they rejected all that God had said to do. They had become God’s people but they had not lived as God’s people. The fight of faith had become uncomfortable and inconvenient and so they choose to tolerate just a little, accommodate just a little, until they are oppressed a lot. And God is patient. He is slow to speak. He is slow to anger. And instead of this kindness leading us to repentance, like Israel we start to believe God is okay with partial obedience—an every-now-and-then faith. He’s not.

“But you…”
The Angel of the Lord asks the same question that Adam was asked in the garden—what is this you have done? I kept my promise. But you have broken yours. I given you a new life. You have wasted it. I have told you that you must keep fighting. You choose not to and wonder why you feel defeated. I have told you what is right and how to have joy. And you do what you want and are miserable. The question is as rhetorical as it was for Adam because the answer is obvious—there is only one thing they could have done—rejected the words of God. And because your VERTICAL relationship is broken, the HORIZONTAL relationships will be too. This is total judgment. Total Judgment is what makes total grace possible.

Conclusion: Weeping & Judgment of God
4 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. 5 And they called the name of that place Bochim. And they sacrificed there to the Lord.

Weeping is the appropriate response to God’s judgment, to being confronted with the fact that you and I deserve death. For the non-believer, weeping is where it stops. But for the believer, for God’s people, we have more. No matter how much we have sinned or been sinned against, there is a sacrifice for us. There is forgiveness, there is hope, there is love, there is grace. WE BROKE COVENANT WITH GOD, BUT GOD DID NOT BREAK HIS COVENANT WITH US. Communion is a table of weeping and of worship.

More in Judges | {Un}Faithful (Part 1 of 2)

July 1, 2012

Judges 9:1-57 {Un}Faithful Rule

June 24, 2012

Judges 8.1-35 {Un}Faithful Zeal

June 17, 2012

Judges 7.1-24 Faithful Odds