Looking back through my journal, it’s been a reading that I’ve spent extra time “chewing on” seven of the past ten years. The opening chapters of Judges have repeatedly served as a fresh warning against the propensity to compromise. The Israelites failure to drive out the inhabitants of the land an ominous reminder of what happens when we get comfortable with the sin in our lives, or try to buddy up with the world around us.
They thought they were strong enough to live over their enemies and were confident that they would continue to submit them to forced labor–their arrogance blinding them to the real danger of their enemies’ gods gaining the upper hand and having dominion over them. Thorns that festered in their sides, snares that would eventually entrap them, that’s what they would become (Judges 2:1-3).
If for no other reason then the a regular reminder of these types of ageless warnings, having a plan to read repeatedly through the whole Bible on a regular basis has been of great value for me.
This morning, I’m rerunning some thoughts from 2013 that I remixed from some thoughts in 2008. The message unchanging, Drive Them Out!
“This town ain’t big enough for the both of us!” So goes the old western movie cliche. So sets up the confrontation at high noon. If one ain’t leavin’ peaceably-like, then the other’s gonna make him git! So what’s got me thinking of old western re-runs? (Or was it a Bugs Bunny cartoon? . . . whatever.) It’s the opening chapter of Judges and the ominous foreshadowing of a phrase repeated nine times. The land wasn’t big enough for the Israelites and the Canaanites . . . but the Israelites did not “drive them out.”
Through Moses, God had made the game plan clear. He was going to give them the land He had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They were to go up in the power of His might and possess the land. And they were to rid the land of its previous inhabitants . . . completely! The warning had been clear:
But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those of them whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell.
(Numbers 33:55 ESV)
Any Canaanite remnant would tempt the Israelites away from their God. Their worship would contaminate true worship. Their world-view would obscure heaven’s view. And so the charge was unambiguous, “Drive them out!”
Looking at the original word, it looks like it has the idea of possessing or inheriting by the means of dispossessing or impoverishing. Moving into the promised land of God was dependent on completely evicting the previous owners.
But they did not completely drive out the inhabitants of the land. They allowed them to live among them or they pressed them into forced labor. Bottom line is that God said they needed to be gone, and the people settled for “mostly gone” or “kinda’ gone”.
And Judges 2 says that within just a few decades the result was disastrous. Within a generation, “the people did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals” (Judges 2:11).
These pagan nations left to live among them became a snare to them in subsequent generations. In particular, their gods and pagan religions became an alluring trap. The people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, but, as the next generation grew up, those who didn’t have this first hand knowledge started being attracted to other gods. And our God, who is a jealous God and will not share His glory with another, dealt with this infidelity quickly and harshly.
Thus the vicious cycle of Judges: the people serve other gods . . . God judges them by allowing the nations around them to oppress them . . . the people cry out to God for deliverance . . . God raises up a judge to deliver the people . . . there’s a time of peace . . . and then the people slip back into serving other gods . . . and so it goes.
And so the warning is pretty clear to me . . . Drive them out!
By the abiding grace of God and the indwelling power of His Spirit, I need to put away that which is temptation and can become a snare. I need to renounce that which is of the world and would fester as a thorn. As much as lies in me, I need to leave no fuel to feed the old nature’s fire. I need to dispossess the things of the old man and the old way, that I might fully possess that which God has promised for the believer.
Drive them out!
By His grace . . . for His glory . . .
This town ain’t big enough for the both of us!