A bit of timelessness in this passage, I feel. In the sense of this being a collection of small anecdotes that just remind us of a few things that happened.
First, the Angel of the LORD turns up at a place called Bokim, and tells the Israelites that they weren’t supposed to make covenants with the people who already lived in Canaan; and now, because they have, things aren’t going to be as good as they could have been.
Then Joshua dies – again – just running through the tale in case we forgot it in the past month since I finished Joshua.
Then finally another generation grows up, and forgets God – and it gives a broad introduction about the Judges who had God on their side, and led the people of Israel through times of difficulty.
This is, though, just the reason why there was all the talk about cleaning things out.
“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.” ~ Judges 2:3
And it’s exactly what happened.
Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals. They forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the LORD to anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. ~ Judges 2:11-13
I think, sometimes, we tend to take God for granted. It’s so easy to think that we don’t need to worry too much, that we just need to do the minimal effort to keep him happy, that as long as we go to church on Sunday, maybe a bible study through the week, we’re all good – the rest of our lives aren’t really that much of a big deal, right? I can imagine this being a justification as the Israelites went through their lives, as those who had witnessed the events in the wilderness and conquering the promised land died out, others took over and for them, things were different.
It’s so easy to be committed to God when you first come to him. It’s a passionate, enthusiastic, exciting time. However, as time goes on, that passion wanes, the excitement wears off and the enthusiasm fades. That ‘honeymoon phase’ wears off…
And it’s like anything – once the ‘newness’ factor starts to wear off, then other things become shiny whilst that thing, no matter how much we loved it to begin with, starts to become something we take for granted.
And it’s a lot easier to walk away from the things that don’t excite us, and that we take for granted, than it is to walk away from something new, shiny and exciting.
When there’s other things around – Baals and Ashteroths, if you will – then it’s harder to maintain that close connection with God. We can’t afford to take God for granted – and I say that from real life experience of my own – we need to ensure that he’s always number one, because if he’s not, then he can tumble down that priority list pretty quickly, and soon he stops being even a blip on our radar… Is that really a risk worth taking?
Wow, so a whole month has almost managed to pass by. Time goes so quickly!
As I read this chapter, it felt like a revision of the latter half of Joshua, actually. We have Judah going out and conquering the land that was given to them, and as they go out, then the records continue for the rest of the nation of Israel until they’re all able to settle in their lands.
And that’s what they do: settle.
Back when I read through Joshua 15-21 I noticed how Judah, Ephraim and Manasseh all managed to get into the lands that they were promised and allotted, but they didn’t actually dislodge all of the Canaanites in those lands. In this chapter, this fact is reiterated, but it goes on to talk about the other tribes as well.
Nor did Asher drive ou tthose living in Acco or Sidon or Ahlab or Aczib or Helbah or Aphek or Rehob. ~ Judges 1:31
Neither did Naphtali drive out those living in Beth Shemesh or Beth Anath; but the Naphtalites too lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land. ~ Judges 1:33
And so it goes on.
At church this weekend, we had an amazing time where God moved powerfully through both services, it was an amazing time spent with family and father. One of the focal points, though, was breakthrough. Taking a step further into the things that God has for us.
As I read this, though, I can’t help but wonder – and probably reiterate some things that I’ve considered and written here before – about how deeply into God’s destiny we actually walk. Throughout this year, with the references to the Promised Land, God’s continually used that term in my heart as a metaphor for the destiny that he has for my life, and for others’ lives too. The thing is, though, that to really be able to walk in the freedom and destiny that he’s given us, then we need to destroy the corruption in our lives and in our hearts. We need to be free from the distractions that can come upon us.
I’ve heard people use the term ‘In the world, but not of the world’ in the past – and one of my favourite clothing brands, NOTW is founded on that entire message. However, I’ve noticed that some people seem to take that message to the extreme. They consider themselves living in the world as being a holding bay, somewhere that we just live out our lives until we die and can get to heaven.
I feel, as I’m writing this, that there’s more to it than that; and that this nation of Israel – and what was supposed to be for them – is the great example. I can imagine that Israel was meant to settle in their land, and then be the shining light of God’s love, of his faithfulness, of his truth and so much more to the entire world. They would, though, have to interact with the world. It’s not like they were put there to then be neutral and insular – they were put there to be the light on a hill that Jesus spoke about.
But therefore, at the same time, they weren’t meant to be in bed (so to speak) with everyone else. They needed a safe zone, a place where they could be protected and watched over by God.
Imagine this: A million candles, all lit and spread out over a field. The light would be intense, bright and radiant. Then imagine, though, that there are a bunch of people wandering through that field and blowing them out. If you’ve had experience with candles, it’s generally easier to blow them out than it can be to relight them.
This is why we all need our safe place, not so that we can hide there and wait for God to take us to heaven – but so we can have somewhere that we’re refreshed, where if we’re running short on fuel, we can be refilled, where we can have our light rekindled without it being blown out – so that when we DO go out into the world, we can shine God’s light, and reflect his love to everyone else.