DISOBEYING GOD will lead us to DEFEAT & DESTRUCTION: Then the Angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said: “I led you up from Egypt and brought you to the land of which I swore to your fathers; and I said, 'I will never break My covenant with you. And you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars.' But you have not obeyed My voice. Why have you done this? Therefore I also said, 'I will not drive them out before you; but they shall be thorns in your side, and their gods shall be a snare to you.'” (Judges 2:1-3)
The Israelites had departed from Egypt with high hopes of settling in a land flowing with ‘milk and honey’ that was promised long ago to their patriarch Abraham. During the process of relocating the Israelites, God had earlier told them to dispossess the Canaanites by taking over their cities, destroying their idols and altars, and refusing to enter into any covenants or agreements with them (2:2; see Josh. 23:13). Yet by the end of Joshua’s life, major portions of the Promised Land remained unconquered, and many of the Canaanite and Amorite inhabitants whom Israel was supposed to displace still remained lodged within the cities (1:27–36). This failure to obey God completely meant that Israel would go through several generations of civil, political, and spiritual unrest in the future (2:11–23).
The book of Judges began with the death of Joshua (1:1) and the writer narrates what happened primarily to some of the tribes of Israel following that event. The confusion and incomplete victories that ends the first chapter serves as a general introduction to the events of the second chapter. The great victories of the past under the leadership of Joshua and the elders who served with him were nullified by subsequent periods of compromise, in which the Israelites neglected their covenant with God, tolerated idolatry as an alternative style of worship, and aligned themselves with the Canaanites through intermarriage. Joshua’s life was over (2:8), and a new generation was coming into power going adrift away from God’s plan and purpose (2:10).
It is under these circumstances that the Angel of the Lord (sometimes described as God Himself – see 6:11-18; Exodus 3:2-6) had come down to warn the people of Bochim for failing to keep their covenant with God by engaging in idol worship (see Exodus 23:20–33; 34:10–17). Since they had compromised their loyalty to Jehovah God through their idolatry, they had forfeited the privileges of the original covenant promises that God had promised them. Upon hearing this dire warning from God, the people of Bochim wept so loudly at their dismal future that the place became known as ‘weeping’ (Hebrew, bôkîm). Apparently, these people tearfully repented of their wrongdoings and, in the presence of their leader Joshua had even offered a sacrifice to atone for their sins (2:5–6). But the pattern of disobedience through spiritual adultery was already now established in Israel that would lead to their defeat and destruction later!
Let us always remember that disobeying God will always lead us to defeat and destruction. Sin presents a constant struggle for us every day, and we must always resist it through our faith in God and through His Word. When we do not deal with sin ruthlessly, it ultimately weakens us and eventually causes our downfall. However, when we resist sin, we often feel that the battle is over only to be tempted by the same sin again and again. Sin never goes away, and so we must constantly be on guard against it. However, even when we are overcome with sin, we have hope. God always gives another chance to turn from sin and back to Him!
Today, let us turn away from sin, and purpose in our hearts to obey God completely. We should allow nothing to distract us from our unswerving allegiance to God. Otherwise, like the Israelites, God will leave us alone to deal with thorny issues and a legacy of tears all through our lives.