And so it begins. Judges started out with a little transitional section between Joshua and Judges, and then we get into the tales of what each of them did.
Chapter three, though, begins with a few verses that I find really interesting.
These are the nations the LORD left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience). ~ Judges 3:1-2
So why’s that interesting?
I don’t think anyone would deny that we endure trials and tests throughout our lives. It’s just part of going through it, but the thing that stuck out to me here was verse two – that there was a purpose behind the test.
I’d imagine that almost all of us have uttered the words, “Why me?” At some stage in our lives when dealing with a struggle that just didn’t seem to be fair. I can absolutely assure you that I’ve wondered that more times than I care to count.
I can’t help feeling, though, that one thing we can take from these two verses alone, is that there’s always something to learn. The Israelites had other nations and other kings to deal with for a reason, so that they’d learn and remember the requirements for warfare.
The thing is that they always had God on their side, but they still needed to be able to go into battle. God doesn’t baby us, he doesn’t sit there and wrap us in cotton wool so that we can never scratch ourselves. He doesn’t do everything for us. He won’t make us face something we can’t handle without his strength, definitely, but he will let us take a wander into a challenge that might look a bit daunting to us from the outside, because he knows that we can do it.
Why? Because how else do we grow? How else do we live? How else do we have a genuine relationship with him?
God is our father; our dad. He’s there to have a relationship with us. He wants to watch us grow up, he wants to watch us learn, experience, grow and develop.
Have you ever thought of God that way? We use the statements of God being a father all the time, but have you ever really stopped and thought about him as your dad?
Picture yourself as a child riding a bike without training wheels for the first time. You might fall and scratch yourself – God’s there as your dad, picking you up, kissing the wounded knee or elbow better, and then encouraging you to try again. Then when you actually succeed, he’s the one standing there, smiling proudly at you. He’s got his arms open as you get off the bike and run to him, proudly declaring, “I did it, Dad! I did it!”
But before then, you might fall off that bike a dozen times. And each time, he’s there, picking you up, helping you out, and encouraging you to try again.
The Israelites lived among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. They took their daughters in marriage and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their Gods. ~ Judges 3:5-6
The Israelites fell off the bike – and more than once. In the rest of Chapter 3, we get told the stories of Othniel, Ehud and Shamgar – three judges who God chose to rescue the Israelites after they fell into sin. God didn’t abandon them, he didn’t turn his back when they fell and scraped their knee, he gave them someone to help them get back on the bike, and encouraged them, “It’s okay. Try again.”
So, before we get into the actual division of the land amongs the Israelites, there was one more side note to be brought into play.
Back when the Israelites were first scouting out the Promised Land, there were 12 men sent out to look it over. Of those 12 men, ten of them came back carrying a message of fear. They said that the Israelites couldn’t conquer the giants who lived in the land, they said that it was too difficult; the rest of Israel believed every word these men said. Then there was Joshua and Caleb, who both came back raving about how amazing the Promised Land was, how it flowed with milk and honey, with giant berries and all sorts of luscious food. These two men said that the Israelites could take the land, after all, they had God on their side!
Unfortunately, they were brushed aside. Fear won, and that was why the Israelites ended up wandering in the wilderness for another forty years. Of those ten men, only Joshua and Caleb managed to make their way across the Jordan and into the Promised Land.
And as part of that, Caleb was promised the hill country. He’s now 85 years old – and yet as he says, is still as fit and vigorous as he was back when he was forty, and examining the land of Canaan the first time.
“Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” ~ Joshua 14:12
What I would give to be a man like Caleb when I’m 85 years old, fresh, fit, vigorous, and still maintaining such faith in God that I’m going to go up into the hill country and take the land – not because of my strength, but because I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that God is with me and will help me.
So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the LORD, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly. ~ Joshua 14:14
I wonder: What’s your Hebron? What’s that place in your future that you’re looking forward to as a fulfilment of God’s promise? Have you been tested like Caleb was? It would have been very easy for Caleb to just shrug, stand aside and join with the common thought that Canaan was too difficult to conquer, but he and Joshua stood in faith when they were young and said no, Israel can take the Promised Land; and because they did, they were rewarded for their faith.
But here’s one thing: Caleb was rewarded for his faith, but he still had to go and get it. It didn’t just come to him.
Nor did he expect it to be given to him. Caleb probably could well have said to Joshua, “Hey, this is the reward God promised me – bring the Israelite army to back me up while I go up and conquer these lands.”
He didn’t, though. He led his own men, and took that land with the help of God.
I don’t like the statement, ‘Good things come to those who wait’. Personally, I’m not convinced that it’s true – frankly, I’m more a believer in the idea that good things come to those who go and get them. You can’t expect the world to come and lay a silver platter at your feet, you have to work for it, and you have to go out and get it. Caleb, a righteous man alongside Joshua, who – according to scripture – ‘served the LORD wholeheartedly’ still went out and got his reward, with God’s help.