The yearly chronological bible reading plan now journeys through the book of Judges. For those unfamiliar with this book, it tells a transitional story between the conquest of the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua and the time of Samuel, King Saul, King David and the rest of the events outlined in the OT historical texts. The time discussed in the book of Judges was one of turmoil, a seemingly endless cycle of disobedience, a cry for help, help sent, and then disobedience. Despite the heroics of the judges and the message of grace woven throughout, the book of Judges truly is a sad tale to a large degree.
One reason I noticed almost immediately for this repeated cycle of disobedience, help, and disobedience is contained in the opening chapters of Judges, most notably in passages such as the following:
“But the children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who inhabited Jerusalem, so the Jebusites continued to live with the children of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this day.” (Judges 1:21)
“Manasseh, however, did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shean and its villages, or Taanach and its villages, or the inhabitants of Dor and its villages, or the inhabitants of Ibleam and its villages, or the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages. So the Canaanites resolved to dwell in that land.” (Judges 1:27)
“Nor did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites who were living in Gezer, so the Canaanites settled in Gezer among them. 30 Nor did Zebulun drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, or the inhabitants of Nahalol, so the Canaanites settled among them, but became subject to forced labor. Nor did Asher drive out the inhabitants of Acco or the inhabitants of Zidon, Achlab, Achzib, Helbah, Aphik or Rehob; so the Asherites lived among the Canaanites who were dwelling in the land, because they did not drive them out. Nor did Naphtali drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh, or the inhabitants of Beth-anath, but lived among the Canaanites dwelling in the land, though the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh and Beth-anath became forced labor for them. But the Amorites forced the children of Dan into the hill country, for they would not let them come down to the valley. Also the Amorites persisted in dwelling in Mount Heres, in Aijalon and in Shaalbim, but when the hand of the house of Joseph prevailed, they became forced labor for them.” (Judges 1:29-35)
The repeated theme is these tribes of Israel did not fully drive out the pagan peoples in their allotted portions of the Promised Land. Nor did they fully follow YHWH’s command to
“…tear down their altars, and smash their sacred pillars, and hew down their Asherim, and burn their graven images with fire.” (Deuteronomy 7:5)
Repeatedly in the book of Judges we find the below pattern:
“Then YHWH raised up judges who delivered them from the hand of those who plundered them. Yet they listened not to their judges, for they prostituted themselves after other elohim and bowed down to them. They quickly turned aside from the way in which their fathers walked in obeying the commandments of YHWH; they did not do so. Whenever YHWH raised judges up for them, YHWH was with the judge and delivered them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For YHWH was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed and crushed them. But when the judge died, they would keep turning back and acted more corruptly than their fathers, in following other gods, worshipping them, and bowing down to them. They abandoned none of their practices and stubborn ways.” (Judges 2:16-19)
If we were honest, we would have to admit that in our own lives, we fall prey to the same issues as the Israelites. The failure in question is the necessity to rid our lives of that which lures us to prostitute ourselves after other elohim (gods). Far too often, we prostrate ourselves before some idol, knowing full well YHWH’s command to tear down, smash, hew down, burn, and thus utterly rid ourselves of such things.
Perhaps we are like the Israelites who felt they could worship false elohim and when trouble came, YHWH would automatically deliver them from the despair that was promised by Him should they reject His commands to serve Him only.
The only true answer to breaking that cycle of rebellion is a life of obedience to YHWH rooted in service to Him only in all areas of life. This will involve what will be a lifelong process of tearing down and removing false elohim in our lives.
We are a stubborn people, obstinate, hard-headed, and stiff-necked. As a result, we are akin to abandoning the ways of the Father. If we say we love YHWH, then we are to be a people who show that love by being obedient to His commands. That loving relationship must start with the reading and meditating upon Scripture and the Ruach rooting out that which is not pleasing to the Father.
Do you love YHWH? Then abandon the false elohim in your life. Repent, root them out, and set them aflame.