Daily Devotional (6/09/2012) – “Judges”: ‘Israel’s Incomplete Assignment’

June 9, 2012                                                   “Judges” Devotional #2

‘Israel’s Incomplete Assignment’     

Scripture –   Judges 1: 17-36

17 Then the men of Judah went with the Simeonites their brothers and attacked the Canaanites living in Zephath, and they totally destroyedthe city. Therefore it was called Hormah. 18 The men of Judah also tookGaza, Ashkelon and Ekron—each city with its territory.

19 The Lord was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had iron chariots. 20 As Moses had promised, Hebron was given to Caleb, who drove from it the three sons of Anak. 21 The Benjamites, however, failed to dislodge the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the Benjamites.

22 Now the house of Joseph attacked Bethel, and the Lord was with them. 23 When they sent men to spy out Bethel (formerly called Luz), 24 the spies saw a man coming out of the city and they said to him, “Show us how to get into the city and we will see that you are treated well.”  25 So he showed them, and they put the city to the sword but spared the man and his whole family. 26 He then went to the land of the Hittites, where he built a city and called it Luz, which is its name to this day.

27 But Manasseh did not drive out the people of Beth Shan or Taanach or Dor or Ibleam or Megiddo and their surrounding settlements, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that land. 28 When Israel became strong, they pressed the Canaanites into forced labor but never drove them out completely. 29 Nor did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites living in Gezer, but the Canaanites continued to live there among them. 30 Neither did Zebulun drive out the Canaanites living in Kitron or Nahalol, who remained among them; but they did subject them to forced labor. 31 Nor did Asher drive out those living in Acco or Sidon or Ahlab or Aczib or Helbah or Aphek or Rehob, 32 and because of this the people of Asher lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land. 33 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, and those living in Beth Shemesh and Beth Anath became forced laborers for them. 34 The Amorites confined the Danites to the hill country, not allowing them to come down into the plain. 35 And the Amorites were determined also to hold out in Mount Heres, Aijalon and Shaalbim, but when the power of the house of Joseph increased, they too were pressed into forced labor. 36 The boundary of the Amorites was from Scorpion Pass to Sela and beyond.

Today’s devotional continues looking at the first chapter of the Book of Judges.

The Israelites are in the midst of their “take-home test” given to them by God upon settling in the Promised Land.  They were to completely drive out all of the other nations that were residing within their borders; especially destroying all of those peoples’ idols and altars to their false gods.  God had warned them earlier in the time of Moses (Numbers 33:55) that if the Israelites did not follow God’s lead and help in completing this task; the temptations and negative influence of the other nations around them would be like traps and a constant source of difficulty for them.

God has especially set apart the tribe of Judah to lead up this task, with the other tribes of Israel to follow under their direction.  Judah was more concerned about clearing out its own borders and mostly left the other tribes to fend for themselves (Judges 1: 1-3).  Despite some victories being noted in verses 4-11, 17-18, and 22-26; this military campaign was marked by the fearful retreat and lack of faith by the tribes of Israel.  Only three of the twelve tribes (Issachar, Gad, and Reuben) escaped being incriminated in some way during this campaign.  Their various reasons and explanations for failing in these missions are worth exploring.

By the time we get to verse 19, the tribe of Judah (along with the tribe of Simeon) has had much success.  They have been mightily successful in their previous conquests (including the encounter with Adoni-Bezek from our first devotional) and look poised to steamroll over any opposition that they may encounter.  The troops leave the populated cities and began the difficult process of driving out enemy troops from the hill country of southern Israel.  This type of fighting was not as easy, especially when facing an enemy that has advance weaponry… iron chariots!  Now, to our modern ears, this may not seem like a big deal (especially when they have the power of the God of the universe on their side!).  Israel had yet to make use of this type of weaponry, not really doing so until hundreds of years later; during the time of King Saul and King David.  The tribes of Judah and Simeon had a mixture of fear, frustration and apathy towards this new threat…choosing to abandon the conquest and to leave the enemy to dwell within their borders.  They simply did not trust God to help them overcome this hurdle, despite always proving Himself faithful to do so in the past.

The tribe of Benjamin failed to fully remove the Jebusites from Jerusalem, despite the city already being conquered by the armies of Judah and Simeon (verse 9).  This would come back to become a major problem for future generations of Israelites when Jerusalem became the military and religious capital of the nation.  The seed of idolatry was left alone to grow within Jerusalem because of the failed courage of the Benjaminites.  Manasseh and Ephraim were originally children of Joseph, but were adopted by his father Jacob (Israel).  Manasseh had the biggest inheritance of land of all the tribes, which was due to the tribe’s large population.  It stretched from east to west across the country, but it was in the west that the problems arose.  Verse 27 speaks of five key cities that Manasseh could not fully conquer, demonstrating it was large in size but small in character.

Verses 31-34 illustrate very embarrassing situations involving the tribes of Asher, Naphtali, and Dan.  Asher and Naphtali did such a poor job of removing the other peoples from the land that they are referred to as living “amongst” those other nationalities; rather than those peoples living “amongst” them.  Until other tribes come to help them, the tribe of Dan was pinned in by the Amorites.  They were supposed to be on the offensive, and yet they had retreated so far as to be on the defensive!  Rather than eradicating the false religions in their lands, the people of God quickly became the minority; due to their lack of faith and trust in God to help them.

One last thing to note with this passage is the disturbing trend towards slavery that Israel shows.  This is a nation whose defining moments (Passover/ Exodus / Receiving the covenant on Mt. Sinai) all relate to how God saw their pain when they were slaves in Egypt; and rescued them out of that tyranny.  God’s people had been made free, but now are using their “freedom” in very apathetic and short-sighted ways.  May we always put our hands fully to the tasks that God appoints to us; and may we never lose the joyful trust we have in Jesus Christ who has saved us.

Blessings,

Pastor Josh Mackenstein

Published in: on June 9, 2012 at 12:00 PM  Leave a Comment  
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