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David Guzik :: Study Guide for Judges 2

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From Victory to Weeping

A. From Gilgal (a place of victory) to Bochim (a place of weeping).

1. (Jdg 2:1-3) The Angel of the LORD preaches to Israel.

Then the Angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said: "I led you up from Egypt and brought you to the land of which I swore to your fathers; and I said, 'I will never break My covenant with you. And you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars.' But you have not obeyed My voice. Why have you done this? Therefore I also said, 'I will not drive them out before you; but they shall be thorns in your side, and their gods shall be a snare to you.'"

a. The Angel of the LORD: This person here is clearly God Himself, appearing in a human form - Jesus Christ appearing to the people of Israel before His incarnation in Bethlehem.

i. We know this is Jesus for two reasons: first, because the Angel of the LORD here claims divinity by saying that He is the one who led Israel up from Egypt, made a covenant with Israel, and personally called Israel to obedience. Second, because this person, appearing in human form before Israel, cannot be the Father, because the Father is described as invisible (1 Timothy 1:17) and whom no man has seen or can see (1 Timothy 6:16).

ii. The idea of Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, appearing as a man before Bethlehem is provocative, but logical - we know that He existed before Bethlehem (Micah 5:2); why should He not, on isolated but important occasions, appear in bodily form? (see also passages like Genesis 18:16-33; 32:24-30; Judges 13:1-23).

iii. "Not in such a body as God had prepared for him when he took upon himself the form of a servant, but in such a form and fashion as seemed most congruous to his divine majesty, and to the circumstances of those he visited, this angel of the divine covenant whom we delight in came and spoke unto this people." (Spurgeon)

b. I led you up from Egypt and brought you to the land: The first thing Jesus does is remind Israel of His great love and faithfulness to them. He has delivered them from Egypt's bondage; He has given them an abundant land of promise; He has given them a covenant that He will never, ever, break.

i. Before God ever calls us to obedience or confronts our sin, He reminds us of His great love and faithfulness to us. We can only obey Him when we are walking in His love, and abiding in His covenant with us.

ii. Even though Israel never fully lived up to their end of the covenant, God promised that He would never forsake His end of the covenant.

c. You have not obeyed My voice. Why have you done this? Jesus confronts Israel in love. The question is stinging in its simplicity; there is never a good reason for our disobedience.

i. Israel's real problem was not one of military power or technology; it was a spiritual problem. "The deplorable spiritual condition of the Israelites, not their lack of chariots, lay behind their failure to dispossess the Canaanites." (Wolf)

d. I will not drive them out before you; but they shall be thorns in your side: Jesus announces that He will allow the work of possessing the land to go unfinished, as a means of correction to a disobedient Israel. If they had thought that God would do it all for them anyway, they were wrong.

i. God is forever finished judging the Christian. All the punishment you or I ever deserved was put upon Jesus at Calvary. Yet, we punish ourselves by settling for less than what God has for us, and God will allow us to experience the bitter harvest of settling for less than His best.

ii. We often wish that God would do the work of Christian maturity for us; that we would wake up one morning and a certain besetting sin will just be gone. Sometimes God grants such a miraculous deliverance, and we praise Him for it. But more commonly, He requires our partnership with Him in the process of Christian growth. Our partnership is important to God because it shows that our heart is where His heart is; that we are truly growing close to God.

e. They shall be thorns in your side, and their gods shall be a snare to you: The announcement that these people would remain as problems to the nation was promised beforehand to Israel if they would not faithfully drive out the Canaanites.

i. But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall be that those whom you let remain shall be irritants in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land where you dwell. (Numbers 33:55)

2. (Jdg 2:4-6) The people respond with weeping and sorrow.

So it was, when the Angel of the LORD spoke these words to all the children of Israel, that the people lifted up their voices and wept. Then they called the name of that place Bochim; and they sacrificed there to the LORD. And when Joshua had dismissed the people, the children of Israel went each to his own inheritance to possess the land.

a. The people lifted up their voices and wept: The response of the people, with all its emotion, was very hopeful. With all the weeping and wailing, there was reason to believe that God's word had really struck them, and they were on their way to a wonderful revival of God's work in their midst. But it was not the case.

i. Real repentance shows itself in action, not in necessarily in weeping. We can be sorry about the consequences of our sin without being sorry about the sin itself.

ii. You can weep and outwardly show repentance without ever inwardly repenting. This is why the LORD challenges Israel in Joel 2:13: So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, and of great kindness.

iii. It is wonderful indeed to see people truly weeping over their sin, and Christians should never discourage that. However, "the tear is the natural drop of moisture, and soon evaporates; the better thing is the inward torrent of grief within the soul, which leaves the indelible mark within. . . . One grain of faith is better than a gallon of tears. A drop of genuine repentance is more precious than a torrent of weeping." (Spurgeon)

b. They sacrificed there to the LORD: They did the right thing; any awareness of sin should drive us to God's appointed sacrifice. In their day, that meant sin offerings of bulls and rams; in our day, it means remembering God's sacrifice for us on the cross.

3. (Jdg 2:7-10) The new generation in Israel.

So the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LORD which He had done for Israel. Now Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died when he was one hundred and ten years old. And they buried him within the border of his inheritance at Timnath Heres, in the mountains of Ephraim, on the north side of Mount Gaash. When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel.

a. So the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua: Joshua's legacy is seen in the godliness of Israel during his leadership; he is truly one of history's great men of God.

i. The servant of the LORD as a title for Joshua really means something; it is a title applied only to great men of God like Moses (Deuteronomy 34:5) and David (Psalm 18:1, title), and the courageous prophets (2 Kings 9:7).

b. And all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua: Israel was also faithful to God in the days of Joshua's immediate successors. But afterward, there arose a generation who had not seen all the great works of the LORD which He had done for Israel.

c. Another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel: The new generation had no personal relationship with God, and no personal awareness of His power. God was someone who their parents related to, and did things for their parent's generation.

i. True Christianity is not biologically transmitted; it must be caught by each new generation, by the new generation having their own personal relationship with God and seeing His works on their behalf.

B. A summary of Israel's history during the time of the Judges.

1. (Jdg 2:11-13) Israel falls into idolatry.

Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served the Baals; and they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; and they followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them, and they bowed down to them; and they provoked the LORD to anger. They forsook the LORD and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.

a. The children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: Even in the days of Joshua, Israel did not fully possess what they could have in the promised land. But they remained faithful to God, and they did not worship the idolatrous gods of the Canaanites. But after Joshua's passing, they fall into the worship of these grotesque gods.

i. Why would anyone want to trade a personal, real, living God for a false god that is the figment of man's imagination? Because there is something within us that is afraid of the exact God we need; we would rather serve a god of our own creating than a real, living God we can't control. The gods we create are the gods we want in our own flesh.

b. And served the Baals: What was the attraction of Baal worship? Baal was the god over the weather and nature for the Canaanites; he was essentially the agricultural god. In an agricultural society, people served Baal because they wanted good weather for abundant crops and flocks; the bottom line with Baal was the bottom line - personal wealth.

i. "There were also 'Baals' associated with particular places, like the Ball of Peor (Numbers 25:3) or Baal-Berith (Judges 9:4); and this may account for the plural form." (Wolf)

c. They forsook the LORD and served Baal and the Ashtoreths: What was the attraction of Ashtoreth worship? Ashtoreth was the Canaanite goddess of love, sex, and fertility; she was usually "worshipped" by having sex with a "priestess" who was a prostitute. The bottom line with Ashtoreth was sex, love, and romance.

d. They forsook the LORD: God makes it clear that Israel's going after these gods was nothing less than forsaking the LORD God of their fathers. Yet, in all likelihood, Israel did not see their idolatry as forsaking God, they probably just thought they were adding a few gods along side of the God of their fathers - but we serve a very jealous God, who demands exclusive worship.

i. God isn't just something we add to our lives; He wants to become our life. And He will not have us adding other gods to our lives.

ii. We are said to be in a marriage type relationship with God, and we are not allowed to say "Well, I love you, but let me also add this lover and that lover. I can love you all!" God wants one spouse to meet all our marital needs; and He is the one God who can meet all our needs.

e. In the sight of the LORD: This implies that the sin was even more offensive to God. To give an extreme example, it is bad enough for a married person to commit adultery - but to commit adultery before the very eyes of one's spouse would be especially offensive. It is awesome to consider that all of our sin is done right before the eyes of God.

f. They followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them: This shows another root cause for Israel's tragic idolatry. The influence of the Canaanites that they allowed to remain in their midst led them to idolatry. The result of not fully driving out the Canaanites was far worse than Israel imagined.

2. (Jdg 2:14-15) God's wrath upon their sin of idolatry.

And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel. So He delivered them into the hands of plunderers who despoiled them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies. Wherever they went out, the hand of the LORD was against them for calamity, as the LORD had said, and as the LORD had sworn to them. And they were greatly distressed.

a. And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel: God's response to Israel's forsaking of Him is no surprise; He specifically promised that He would do this in the covenant He made with Israel, which was characterized by blessings for obedience and cursing for disobedience (Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28).

i. We serve God under the terms of a different covenant, a better covenant (Hebrews 8:6). When we forsake God, and are not abiding in Jesus Christ, things may - and often do - go badly for us, but not because God has actively set His hand against us as He did to Israel under the Old Covenant. When we are not abiding in Jesus, and things go badly for us, it is simply because our actions have consequences, and we reap the bitter fruit of not keeping ourselves in the love of God (Jude 21). For us, God doesn't need to set His hand against us; we usually hurt ourselves badly enough.

b. So He delivered them into the hands of plunderers who despoiled them: The purpose of all this, was so that when Israel was greatly distressed, they would turn their hearts back to LORD. God's goal wasn't punishment, but repentance.

i. Therefore, we can ask: is this a manifestation of God's love or hate for Israel? It is, of course, His love; the worst judgment God can bring upon a person is to leave them alone, to stop trying to bring them to repentance.

ii. We see the same principle in the relationship between parents and children; though children often wish their parents would just leave them alone, it is really their worst fear that no one would love them enough to correct them.

iii. Shannon Wilsey was a pornography star who went by the name Savannah. The 23 year old woman made a lot of movies and a lot of money, but she put a gun to her head and killed her self. Though a success by industry standards, the police detective investigating the case said, "I think her whole life caused this suicide." Shannon bragged about doing crazy things, yet she told a close friend that she wished her mother would have stopped her. The friend said, "She felt bad because her mother didn't say anything about her being in the business." After her suicide, an unmailed letter was found where she talked about what she wished her dad would have done. "Where were you when I was dating rock star Gregg Allman when he was twenty-five years older than me? Where were you when I was on heroin? Where were you when I stared doing porno movies?" The dad said her would have been there had she only asked.

3. (Jdg 2:16-19) The pattern of sin and bondage, deliverance, blessing, followed by sin and bondage again in the days of the Judges.

Nevertheless, the LORD raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand of those who plundered them. Yet they would not listen to their judges, but they played the harlot with other gods, and bowed down to them. They turned quickly from the way in which their fathers walked, in obeying the commandments of the LORD; they did not do so. And when the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed them and harassed them. And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they reverted and behaved more corruptly than their fathers, by following other gods, to serve them and bow down to them. They did not cease from their own doings nor from their stubborn way.

a. Nevertheless, the LORD raised up judges who delivered them: God, because of His great love for His people, would raise up a judge - a hero - to rescue them from their calamity. God did this nevertheless - not because Israel got to a place where they deserved such a deliverer from God, but in spite of the fact that they were undeserving.

b. The LORD was moved to pity by their groaning: During the time of the Judges, Israel would only cry out to God and really depend on Him in a time of emergency; this is why many people are in a constant state of crisis - God knows that is the only way they can be kept trusting in Him.

i. God's desire is that we be in a constant relationship of dependence on Him. The ultimate example of this is Jesus, who said: Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. (John 5:19)

c. When the judge was dead, that they reverted and behaved more corruptly than their fathers: The pattern of bondage, deliverance, and blessing, followed by sin and bondage again, may be as depressing as it is characteristic of many Christian lives today. However, we must remember that we live with the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, and under a new covenant, where we are made new creatures in Jesus - privileges that Israel, in the days of the Judges, knew nothing of.

d. They did not cease from their own doings: Their sin was their own doings; they couldn't blame it on anyone or anything else. In the same way, their sin was their own - they didn't learn it from God, but came from their own corrupt natures.

i. Sometimes when one of my children is doing something wrong, I will ask them: "Did you learn that from me? Do you see mommy or daddy doing that?" Of course, my children do learn some bad things from me; but other things they get from their own corrupt selves, or other influences. If we just stick to what the LORD teaches us, we'll always be on the right track.

e. Nor from their stubborn way: Stubborn (also translated as stiff-necked) is a word that was also applied to Israel many time during the Exodus (Exodus 32:9; 33:3, 5). A change of location - even coming into the Promised Land - didn't necessarily mean a change of heart for Israel. We should never count on sanctification by relocation; wherever you go, you take you with you. A new environment doesn't always mean a new attitude.

i. The ancient Hebrew word for stubborn (kawsheh) comes from the idea of being hard or severe. The way of stubbornness against the LORD is indeed a hard way to live.

4. (Jdg 2:20-23) God gives them over to their sinful compromise.

Then the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel; and He said, "Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers, and has not heeded My voice, I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died, so that through them I may test Israel, whether they will keep the ways of the LORD, to walk in them as their fathers kept them, or not." Therefore the LORD left those nations, without driving them out immediately; nor did He deliver them into the hand of Joshua.

a. Because this nation has transgressed My covenant: When God said, "this nation" instead of "My nation" it showed that Israel wasn't abiding in their relationship with God.

b. I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left: Israel wanted these Canaanite nations around, so God will give them the worst punishment He can think of: He will allow it.

c. Therefore the LORD left those nations: We must guard constantly against setting our hearts on sinful things; we may get to the point where God may allow us to have them - thus bringing sin, bondage, and pain into our lives.

© 2003 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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