For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2000 James Melough

2:1.  “And an angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you.”

It is generally agreed that the angel is the Lord Himself, for it was He, not an angel, Who brought Israel out of Egypt and into Canaan.  It was He Who said, “I will never break my covenant with you.”

Gilgal means rolling: a wheel.  It was the place where circumcision was renewed when Israel entered the land.  It represents Calvary where the Lord Jesus Christ was “cut off,” the place where we were crucified with Him; and as such, it speaks of the “cutting off” of the flesh.  It was to Gilgal that a victorious Israel continually returned in the days of Joshua, reminding us of the need to return often to Calvary if we would live victoriously in this hostile world.  We are reminded of this in Col 2:10-11, “And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: in whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision (cutting off) of Christ.”

This is undoubtedly one reason why God has commanded us to eat the Lord’s supper (remember His death, return to “Gilgal”) on the first day of each week.  Those who protest that such a frequent observance will cause the ordinance to lose its significance, know nothing of the meaning of the Lord’s supper.  Admittedly it can become a mere routine, but where it is kept in the spirit which God intends, it is the very foundation of victorious Christian living.

(That the Lord’s Supper is to be eaten on the first day of each week is made clear, not only in the literal, but also in the symbolic language of Scripture, see Ac 20:7, “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread....” where the breaking of bread is clearly the eating of the Lord’s Supper; and Lk 24:30, “And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.”  This was the first recorded Lord’s Supper after His death and resurrection, and it was on the first day of the week.  See also Le 24:5-9, for it is recognized by every competent student of Biblical typology that the placing of the new shewbread and the eating of the old each sabbath (a seven day interval) is an OT type of the Lord’s Supper).

Bochim, meaning the weepers, has a very different association.  As Israel’s coming to Gilgal was followed by, and continually associated with, the conquest of Canaan under Joshua, their coming to Bochim was followed by failure and ever increasing apostasy.  Stated briefly, Gilgal is associated with victory; Bochim, with failure.

There was pain at Gilgal, as there is invariably when we “cut off” the things of the flesh from our lives, but it was brief, and quickly forgotten in the victories and enrichment secured by that obedient cutting off of the flesh.  The pain at Bochim was of a very different character.  It was occasioned by learning that in their failure to cut off the flesh, they had cut themselves off from blessing.  The pain at Gilgal was fleeting; that which began at Bochim was permanent, and of increasing intensity.

We don’t read of tears in connection with Gilgal.  Obedience to God never brings that kind of pain.  It is our disobedience that breaks the heart, and causes weeping; nor should we fail to note that theirs wasn’t the weeping of repentance: they wept, not because of their sin, but because of the chastening it brought.  How often our tears are for the same cause!  Such weeping will neither remove nor mitigate God’s chastisement, for His chastening of His own is designed to produce tears of repentance, so that He can bestow blessing, (see Heb 12).

God had waited patiently for them to return to Him at Gilgal, and when they didn’t, He went to them at Bochim, not to bestow blessing, but to bring needed admonition.  It can never be otherwise.  We can be blessed only as we abide close to God, that is, when we walk in obedience.  When He has to come to us in the place of departure to which our rebellious hearts have led us, it must be to admonish and chasten.  To bless us in the place of disobedience would be to contradict His own holy nature, for it would be to condone sin, something God will not do.

After reminding them of their deliverance from Egypt’s bondage, and of His faithfulness in bringing them into the land which He had promised Abraham; and of His faithfulness in keeping His part of the covenant, He proceeded to remind them of their unfaithfulness.

2:2.  “And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars: but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this?”

The league made unwittingly with the Gibeonites (through failure to ask direction from God) was not by any means the only time Israel had been guilty of making leagues with the enemy.  We have read of the many instances in which they put the Canaanites to tribute.  Every such arrangement was a league or agreement, and therefore an act of disobedience.  And a disobedient Israel was also soon found bowing down before the very pagan altars they had been commanded to destroy.

Well might God declare, “Ye have not obeyed my voice.”  Well might He ask, “Why have ye done this?”

The teaching of this section will be missed, however, if we fail to remember that Israel’s history is but the prewritten history of the Church.  As noted already, Joshua’s conquest of the whole land portrays the victory won by the Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary, and the obedience of the people “all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua” (v.7), represent the Church in the days of the Apostles (the “elders” who “outlived” the true Joshua).  But even before the Apostolic age closed, apostasy had already set in, and as there was nothing but deepening declension ending in utter ruin after the death of Joshua and the elders of his day, so have there been the same declension and apostasy in the professing church.  In spite of the uninformed euphoria that looks for improvement, the Word of God assures us that as there was no hope for Israel apart from the coming of God’s anointed king, David, neither is there hope for the Church until the coming of the true David to take her home, and then return with her to establish His millennial kingdom, pictured in the glory of the kingdom ruled by Solomon.  Those who look for improvement in the condition of the Church are guilty of failure to rightly divide the Word of truth.

Israel, dwelling in the midst of the Canaanites, intermarrying, adopting their customs, bowing down to their gods, is an all too accurate portrait of the professing church today.  The customs and gods of the “Canaanites (traffickers)” have long ago replaced the Divine order in the assemblies of God’s people.  And with the same consequences.  There is weeping over the results, but there is no true repentance, which alone would see chastening exchanged for blessing.

2:3.  “Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you: but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you.”

The assurance of victory was withdrawn, for victory is contingent on obedience; and they were reminded that it was God Who had given the successes under the hand of Joshua, because he, and the people under his leadership, had been obedient.  The disobedience of the new generation cut them off from that power.  There would be no more victories, except for the brief ones given from time to time by means of one of the judges raised up to deliver them when their bondage led them to cry out to God.  But there was no permanent recovery.  The dreary cycle continually repeated itself.  There was disobedience, bondage, a crying out to God, the raising up of a deliverer, victory, and disobedience, the path always downward, the departure always greater, until we come to the end of the era of the judges to find it written, “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (21:25).

Only the spiritually blind will fail to see that this is the present condition of the professing church, now also near the end of her time on earth.

“... they shall be as thorns in your sides.”  Disobedience bears bitter fruit.  Had Israel exterminated the enemy, they could have lived in the enjoyment of what God had given them, but that enemy spared, seized what God intended Israel to have, and became also a source of sorrow.  Saul, sparing an Amalekite whom God had commanded him to destroy, lost the kingdom through that disobedience, and finally died by the hand of an Amalekite.

“... their gods shall be a snare unto you.”  Unbelievable as it seems, that same Israel who had seen the mighty hand of God put forth to deliver them from Egyptian bondage, and who surely should never have forgotten that deliverance, were all too soon found bowing down at the very altars God had commanded them to destroy.  A greater wonder is that believers should so quickly forget the greater deliverance secured for them at Calvary, and should be so soon found worshiping the gods of the unbelieving world from which God says the cross of Christ has separated them.

Well might God begin by declaring, “I made you go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers....”  There would be less disobedience amongst us if we remembered more often just what we have been delivered from by the death of the Lord Jesus Christ.

2:4.  “And it came to pass, when the angel of the Lord spake these words unto all the children of Israel, that the people lifted up their voice, and wept.”

As noted already, this was not the weeping of repentance, but of sorrow for blessings lost, and chastisement incurred.  True repentance results in reformation - a forsaking of the sin that has brought the chastening.  There was no such repentance on the part of Israel.  They continued more and more to live like the evil Canaanites in their midst.  The professing church lives more and more like the unbelievers whom she also not only tolerates, but welcomes in her midst.

2:5.  “And they called the name of that place Bochim: and they sacrificed there unto the Lord.”

There is nothing to indicate that the offering of those sacrifices was anything more than a religious ritual, for there is no sign that the people were any more ready to obey God than they had been before.  God is not impressed by outward ritual.  He looks on the heart, and as we read in Ps 51:17, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart....”  And we read again in Joel 2:12-13, “Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: and rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God....”

2:6.  “And when Joshua had let the people go, the children of Israel went every man unto his inheritance to possess the land.”

This takes us back to the completion of Joshua’s conquest that had left the land potentially in the hand of Israel.  All they had to do was expel the defeated Canaanites, and take possession of the land, having the assurance from God, “Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you....” (Jos 1:3).

The type was fulfilled when the Lord Jesus Christ cried, “It is finished” (Jn 19:30).  The foe has been vanquished.  All we have to do is lay hold of what His death has made available to us.  Like disobedient Israel, however, we have failed.  We have allowed the “Canaanites” to remain, to dwell amongst us, to come into our assemblies.  We have “intermarried” with them, we have worshiped their gods (money, pleasure, education, fame, ease, etc.), adopted their ways, and allowed them to replace God’s order with theirs, not only in our gatherings, but in our personal lives as well.  And the result is that we have been brought spiritually to “Bochim.”  We weep at the ruin of the professing church, at blessings forfeited; we “offer sacrifices” (maintain an outward form of worship and service), but there is no genuine repentance.

Nor will there be any recovery.  It is an unscriptural hope that looks for the conversion of the world through the Gospel.  As the age draws to a close, apostasy will deepen, and iniquity increase.  The next great event on God’s calendar is the coming of Christ to remove His Church, after which He will return in power and glory with her to inaugurate His millennial kingdom.  Until then the declension will deepen, and the Scripturally instructed will seek to “strengthen the things that remain” (Re 3:2), and to “hold fast” what they have (Re 3:11), as they await His return.

2:7.  “And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord, that he did for Israel.”

In this verse is summed up the experience of the Church in the early Apostolic age.  As already noted, Joshua is a type of Christ in resurrection, the Captain of their salvation, leading His people into the enjoyment of all that has been made available to them as a result of His “great work” at Calvary.  The elders who outlived Joshua are types of the Apostles and disciples who had been themselves witnesses of all that the Lord had done.  As it was in the days of the Judges, so also has it been in the Church.  In those first days of both eras there was an obedience that brought blessing.  Sadly, however, in both cases the period of obedience was brief.

2:8.  “And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being an hundred and ten years old.”

Its being said that Joshua was the sun of Nun perpetuity, simply reinforces the accuracy of the type, for this points to the eternal existence of Christ.  He is the true Son of Perpetuity.  We should note also that Joshua is described as “the servant of the Lord.”  His obedient service adumbrates the  perfect service of the One he typifies.

There is significance also connected with his age, for a hundred is simply the multiple of ten, the number of God in government.  His being “an hundred and ten years old” is to remind us, that like his great Antitype, his whole life was lived in submission to God’s government.

2:9.  “And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnath-heres, in the mount of Ephraim, on the north side of the hill Gaash.”

Jg 2:8-9 is a repetition of Jos 24:29-30, but with one significant change: in Jos 24:30 his burial place is spelled Timnath-Serah, meaning abundant portion; in Jg 2:9 it is Timnath-heres, meaning portion of the sun.  The two names describe the same place, of course, but as throughout Scripture, there is a reason for the change.  Appropriate to the book of Joshua, which is a record of obedience and victory, abundance is emphasized.  Judges, however, is the record of disobedience and defeat, and appropriately, the name chosen is one which points to mere human intelligence, for the sun, rising in the east, the direction of departure from God, is, as often in Scripture, a double symbol or type: it is a figure, not only of the Lord Jesus Christ, but also of mere natural light or wisdom.  This was what characterized the disastrous era of the Judges: they turned their backs on the light of the knowledge of God, choosing instead to walk in the darkness of mere human reason; and in doing so became the dramatic witness of the truth that, “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Pr 16:25).

Ephraim, double ash heap: I shall be doubly fruitful, is retained, however, no doubt to remind the people, and us, that obedience and fruitfulness cannot be separated.

Incidentally, though the two meanings of Ephraim appear to be contradictory, they are in fact, not only compatible, but the demonstration of a very practical truth.  The size of its ash heap indicated the size and wealth of the city, and so is it in the spiritual realm.  Our spiritual fruitfulness will be in direct proportion to the extent that we are willing to throw on the “ash heap” the worthless things that would hold us back in the heavenly race, and hinder our spiritual productivity.  Paul’s life was the demonstration of this principle, and we do well to ponder his words, “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.  Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ....” (Php 3:7-8).

“... on the north side of the hill,” continues to emphasize the thought of mere human intelligence, for that is what the north portrays.  In Joshua’s case his own intelligence had always been subject to God’s direction.  In the case of the disobedient generations who followed him, it was very different.  They walked, to their ruin, in the darkness of their own intelligence unilluminated by the light which is the concomitance of obedience.

Gaash means shaking, and the significance of this is disclosed in the fact that shaking is used frequently in Scripture as a figure of Divine judgment, e.g., Isa 2:19; 13:13; Hag 2:6-7. 

Resurrection, however, is connected with judgment, but as the Lord Himself declared in Jn 5:29, there is a resurrection of life and another of damnation.  At the “shaking” of the nations at the end of the Tribulation, the graves of Joshua, and the other OT saints, together with those of the saints of the Tribulation age, will open for the third and final stage of the resurrection of life.  It will be very different, however, for all who die in unbelief.  At the “shaking” which brings the destruction of the present heavens and earth at the end of time, their graves will open for the resurrection of damnation, and the final consignment of body, soul, and spirit into the eternal torment of the lake of fire.

2:10.  “And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.”

Transience is stamped upon everything earthly.  There is permanence only in eternity: permanence of life, or of death.

“... which knew not the Lord.”  Why did they not know the Lord?  Had their fathers been negligent in obeying the command of God, “Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons ... that they may learn to fear me ... and that they may teach their children” (De 4:9-10)? or had the second generation rejected that teaching?

If we fail to teach, not only our literal children, but also our spiritual sons and daughters, the Word of God, we can be sure that they will follow in the footsteps of that disobedient generation of Israel, and with the same disastrous results.

2:11.  “And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim:”

Ignorance quickly produced evil, and it is the same today.  Where there is ignorance of God there will be first sins of ignorance, followed quickly by sins deliberately committed with a full knowledge of the evil involved.  What was written aforetime is for our learning, and in nothing is this truer than in connection with the history of the era of the judges.

The evil of the succeeding generations was that they worshiped the Baalim, the gods of the Canaanites (Baalim is the plural of Baal), and we are missing the lesson if we fail to note that the offenders were Israelites, i.e., those who professed to be God’s people.  Not that they abandoned the outward form of the worship of Jehovah.  They didn’t.  But He was reduced to being regarded as just another among many gods.  It is little different in the world today.  A godless professing Christendom that worships Mammon, sex, education, sport, pleasure, etc., gives also token acknowledgement of God by appearing “in church” occasionally.

2:12.  “And they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them and provoked the Lord to anger.”

Having disobeyed God by refusing to exterminate the Canaanites, and having instead settled down among them, Israel quickly learned Canaanitish ways.  The professing church has followed in Israel’s footsteps.  By refusing to “crucify the flesh,” (the Canaanites represent the lusts of the flesh), and by refusing to maintain a separated walk, she has adopted the ways of the world, so that the she not only worships the same gods as her unbelieving neighbors, but she has adopted the ways of the world in regard to what now passes for worship and service.  Note for example the extent to which the professing church has adopted the ways of the business and theatrical world, while rejecting those that are Scriptural.

God is no less provoked to anger today than He was then.

2:13.  “And they forsook the Lord, and served Baal and Ashtaroth.”

It is significant that Ashtaroth means thought searching: she points to an evil associated with the intellect.  Connected with the worship of Baal and Ashtaroth were some of the most abominable sexual practices imaginable, and he is blind who fails to see that there is in Christendom today the equivalent of that evil which so angered God against Israel in the time of the Judges.  As noted already, education is one of the gods worshiped today by multitudes of professing Christians, and it is scarcely necessary to even mention the disregard of ordinary morality amongst the educated classes.  What would have shocked even the unbelieving world a few years ago, doesn’t even raise an eyebrow in the professing church today.  Even as I write, a prominent denomination has decided that there is nothing wrong with “ordaining” homosexuals as “clergy!”

2:14.  “And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies.”

Spoiler is literally plunderer, one who ravages or pillages.  His activity goes beyond mere purloining: he seeks the destruction of his victim.  It is a fearful thing for a man or a nation to be abandoned by God, and delivered to the spoiler (Satan).  The prince of evil will be satisfied with nothing less than the utter destruction of his victim.  Judas was such a man, and surely his end should deter any other from repeating his folly.

Nor should we miss the significance of its being said that, “He sold them into the hands of their enemies.”  Connected with selling is the thought of exchange: money or goods are exchanged for something else.  Israel’s deliverance to the enemy was bought with their own disobedience.  So is ours!

“... so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies.”  This was the Israel before whom the walls of Jericho had fallen; the Israel whose very name inspired fear in the hearts of their enemies.  How are the mighty fallen!  Their disobedience had robbed them of God’s blessing and power, so that they who should have ruled were found grovelling as serfs.  The professing church is no less the slave of the world, dependent for her very existence, on its money, its methods, its membership, its music, its oratory, its education, its drama, its literature....  

2:15.  “Whithersoever they went out, the hand of the Lord was against them for evil, as the Lord had said, and as the Lord had sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed.”

With the exception of a few rare individuals within her ranks, Israel never learned the folly of disobedience, but we who constitute the Church can’t criticize her, for we have followed all too faithfully her disobedient footsteps, and with the same unhappy results, the present state of the professing church bearing eloquent testimony to our folly.  Our madness, however, is compounded by virtue of the fact that we have her sorry history as a warning against repeating her sins.

Were it not that we have the testimony of the Divine record to assure us that it is so, it would be impossible to believe that any people could have been guilty of such long continued, and frequently repeated disobedience, for Israel had not only the example of the destruction of the antediluvians, she had also the more recent examples of the overthrow of Egypt, and the Canaanites; and with the passage of time, she had the testimony of her own recent history.

How much greater, then, is our guilt!  We have all the record of the past to warn us.  It is a fearful thing to so provoke God that His hand is turned against us for evil rather than good

2:16.  “Nevertheless the Lord raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them.”

Even in the midst of judgment, God remembered mercy, that mercy to Israel being but the foreshadowing of His greater mercy to a ruined creation whose rebellion had brought its own destruction, for we are reading Judges unintelligently if we fail to discern that every deliverer raised up during that era is but a type of the great Deliverer, the Lord Jesus Christ.  And as noted already, the deliverances wrought by those judges was local and temporary, but that secured at Calvary is universal and eternal.

2:17.  “And yet they would not hearken unto their judges, but they went a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves unto them: they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the Lord; but they did not so.”

Their disobedience of those local judges foreshadows, not only Israel’s disobedience of Christ, but the whole world’s rejection of Him.

With Israel in the era of the judges, their idolatry was literal, but with the Israel of Christ’s day, and with the professing church today, the gods worshiped are money, education, pleasure, to name but a few.  To bow before an idol, literal or figurative, is to tacitly acknowledge that it is the master; and the worshiper, the slave.  He who makes money, learning, pleasure, his god, makes himself the slave of what he worships.

The speed with which they abandoned obedience is emphasized, “they turned quickly out of the way.”  The first step of disobedience can become a lightning-fast slide to ruin.

The way from which they turned was that in which their fathers had walked.  The present generation of professing Christians is following their evil example.  A sophisticated generation mocks at, and calls for the abolition of the ways of their fathers, branding what is Scriptural as old fashioned.  They will inherit the same judgment as overtook disobedient Israel in the days of the judges.

2:18.  “And when the Lord raised them up judges, then the Lord was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented the Lord because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them.”

Here we see the tender compassion of God.  As He heard the groans which resulted from Israel’s disobedience, He hastened to deliver them.  He is no less compassionate today.  The groan of genuine repentance is all that is needed to end His chastisement, and secure His blessing.

While certainly we must see in each judge a figure of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is equally clear that each such deliverer is also a figure of those who have been raised up from time to time both in Israel and in the Church, to bring some measure of revival to God’s wayward people.  But inasmuch as those deliverances were local, and temporary, we are reminded that as there was no national recovery until David came, neither will there be universal recovery in the Church until the true David, the Lord Jesus Christ comes.  It is the euphoria of ignorance that looks for general revival in the professing church today.

As is made clear in the Scriptural record, many of these judges were obscure, and marked by weakness.  Rossier, for example, writes, “When things are morally in a low state, God uses instruments which in themselves are imperfect and bear the stamp of weakness, - Othniel sprang from a younger branch of the family.... Ehud was weak through his infirmity, Shamgar through his weapon, Deborah from her sex, Barak by his natural character, Gideon on account of his relations, Jephthah by his birth .... yet the very infirmity of these witnesses (characteristic of the period we are in) glorified the power of Him Who could use them.”

In their weakness and obscurity God would have us see the condescension of the Lord.  He too lived in obscurity in a humble home, despised by the nation He had come to save.

This is recorded for our encouragement.  There is none who may not, in some measure at least, be used of God to effect revival.  And the fact that the recoveries were local, should further encourage us to live so that we may be available to God as the instrument of revival in our own small sphere.  The victories won by the judges were not because of inherent power in the individual, but because the man was willing to be simply an instrument in the hand of God for the deliverance of His people.

It must not be forgotten, however, that before we can be used to bring deliverance to others, we must have secured for ourselves victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil.

2:19.  “And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way.”

It is no different today.  In spite of local revivals - and there have been many - each generation of the professing church world-wide has lapsed quickly into even greater apostasy than its predecessor.

The word “corrupted” conveys the thought of decay, ruin, its association with death reminding us that for the saint, as well as the sinner, “the wages of sin is death.”  The time which believers spend in sin is time in which they might as well be dead, for it produces nothing worthy of reward at the judgment seat of Christ.

“... they ceased not from their own doings.”  This implies the refusal of God’s instruction, and their choice of a way dictated by the reasoning of their own darkened minds.  For saint, as for sinner, “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Pr 16:25).  The saint can never lose his eternal life, but time spent in sin is death to the reward that could have been won by the wise investment of that time in the service of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“... nor from their stubborn way.”  This points, not to sins of ignorance, but to the deliberate, determined choice of evil rather than good.

2:20.  “And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel; and he said, Because that this people hath transgressed my covenant which I commanded their fathers, and have not hearkened unto my voice;”

God’s anger was in proportion to the measure of their sin.  It was great.  They had sinned, not in ignorance, but against light given.  So have we, and our guilt is compounded by reason of having had, not only the light given them, but also the record of their folly, preserved for our instruction.

2:21.  “I also will not henceforth drive out any from before them of the nations which Joshua left when he died;”

This refutes any idea that they by their own power had won any victories against the Canaanites whose land God had given them.  It was by His hand the foe had been vanquished.  It is easy to forget that all we are, and have, are by God’s grace alone.

There is an ominous implication in that pronouncement of God.  Since it was He, and He alone, Who had given Israel her victories against the enemy, she was now to find herself, not the victor, but the van­quished; not the master, but the slave.  It is the same in regard to the spiritual foes who oppose us.  Our victory is secured only as we obey God.

2:22.  “That through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the Lord to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not.”

If the preceding verse contains a threat, this one presents the possibility of blessing.  What would be the means of bringing retribution upon rebellion, would be the very means of securing blessing to obedience.  The principle still operates.  The circumstances of life are not in themselves good or bad.  It is our response to them that endows them with those qualities.  For example, money itself is neither good nor bad.  As I love it, hoard it, use it for my own selfish pleasure, it is evil; but when I use it as a steward to whom God has entrusted it, and use it for His glory, then it becomes a vehicle of blessing.  Poverty or riches; sickness or health; prominence or obscurity ... are made good or evil by how I respond to them.  Acceptance of poverty, sickness, obscurity, etc., as being what my heavenly Father knows to be best, makes them good.  Complaint against them makes them evil.  Riches, health, prominence, used to pamper pride, are evil; used for God’s glory, they are good.  And so with every circumstance of life.  They are the means by which God tests our obedience; and are therefore the means by which we win or lose eternal riches.

2:23.  “Therefore the Lord left those nations, without driving them out hastily; neither delivered he them into the hand of Joshua.”

That word “hastily” conveys the oblique assurance that they could be driven out, Israel’s obedience being all that was required to assure the expulsion of the enemy.  It carries also the implication that one day the enemies would all be vanquished.  That will be the happy state of the believing remnant enjoying the milk and honey of millennial Canaan.  But for us there are better blessings.  The day is not far off when, our warfare ended, and the enemy vanquished, we shall stand in heaven, to reign with Christ.

“... neither delivered he them into the hand of Joshua.”  By his foreknowledge God knew the rebellion that would fill the hearts of those later generations of Israelites, and He acted accordingly.  What would be the means of chastening revolt, would be also the means of rewarding obedience.  The nation might apostatize, but there would be opportunity for the courageous exercise of individual faith. 

It remains the same today for the Church.  The professing mass may apostatize, but individual faith may conquer, and win for itself the overcomer’s crown, together with a glorious inheritance. 

Does the enemy hold time that God intends me to use for His glory, and my own eternal gain?  Expel the foe.  Seize that time.  Each Israelite’s portion in Canaan was available by unbelievably simple means, “Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you....” (Jos 1:3).  The extent of our eternal inheritance is governed by equally simple means.  The flick of a TV switch, the choice of a book, what we do with an evening hour, how we spend a dollar....  These, and a thousand other simple things, determine the extent of our eternal gain - or loss.

[Judges 3]



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough