I want to show you something from the book, Judges. In the tenth chapter, we can see the general condition of of Israel. We are not talking about one or two tribes, but rather, all 12 tribes. It is a time of national apostasy and their swearing allegiance to other gods.
The “ten dollar” word we could use, is syncretism. It is melding Canaanite pagan beliefs with the religion of the Hebrews (some scholars refer to this as the Canaanization of Israel, which is certainly an appropriate description).
Sometimes it is so easy to forget exactly how we reach a certain destination especially when you never intended to reach it. And sadly, this is what happened in Israel‘s situation. Almost immediately after Joshua died, Israel started to water down God‘s instructions to remove all of the Canaan pagans and their gods from the land.
You see, the Lord had explicitly told Israel to drive out or kill everyone who was dedicated to their false-pagan gods. Did they do that? Nope. Israel decided that peace and brotherly love was a better course of action and that meant they needed to find ways to get along with these pagans, and to “break bread” with them. And of course, this meant they had to show respect and tolerance for the gods and customs of these gentiles.
What I find interesting is how the Bible describes these periods of rebellion and apostasy. It always says: “The people of Israel did what was evil” from God‘s perspective. Hmm. from “God‘s perspective?” Those seem to be the operative words.
There was quite a disconnect between how the people of Israel viewed their moral and spiritual condition from how Yahweh viewed it. Come to think of it, I wonder if anyone ever views their own actions as evil? Look throughout history and see if you can find any. I wonder if Israel ever thought that what they were doing was ungodly? Hmm. I bet not. From their perspective they were doing right and good; but all too often from God‘s perspective they were doing wrong. Humanity has an amazing capacity to deny and rationalize our bad behavior, or to even attribute some things that we do, to our God. Even though He specifically prohibits them! We see this continually in our Churches.
But here’s the thing. This doesn’t happen automatically and without effort. No, it happens by slowly replacing or mixing God‘s Word with our own thoughts and opinions. If a lie is told often enough and loud enough, eventually it is taken as truth and very few ever challenge it.
Look around your own world and you can see this happening all the time. How about the idea of Global Warming — despite the scientific facts against it? Then in the Church we see what once a tradition (Christian, Jewish, or secular) is practiced long enough, we either forget or ignore how it came into being and what it actually symbolized, and more importantly, whether it is in harmony with God‘s will. Then, anyone who has the cahonies to challenge established doctrines and customs are seen as troublemakers, creating disunity, even heretics. So there is always a tremendous amount of peer pressure in communities and congregations of people to keep quiet, put your brain in neutral, and just go along with the flow.
Now, in the book of Judges, if we look at it from Yahweh‘s perspective (which is how we must always consider things) the main evil Israel was committing was worshipping other gods; and we get a list of the names of the other gods they were worshipping. First, the people of Israel served the two main gods of Canaan, Ba‘al and Ashtoreth. Second, they served the gods of neighboring nations including Hadoth, Ba‘al, Moath and Anath (Syrian gods), the gods of Tzidon (Sidon), the gods of the Moabites (their main god being Chemosh), the gods of Ammon (Molech who was their highest deity), and the gods of the Philistines (Dagon and Ba‘al). The main point is that “They abandoned YHWH and did not serve Him” (Judges 10:6)
One thing that is important is all of this, the Hebrews never quit worshiping Yehoveh, the God of Israel. No. In fact, if you had accused them of such a thing they would have vehemently denied it. But unfortunately, in their misguided minds they believed they had never abandoned YHWH. In fact, most of them still celebrated Sabbath, observed the Feasts, went to the Wilderness Tabernacle at the specified times, offered up Burnt Offerings and all kinds of righteous deeds. However, their error was in worshipping the the God of Israel and the gods of the local pagans! To their way of thinking, it made perfect sense to them.
The problem is that God makes it very plain and simple that we cannot worship Him and something else. In His eyes, any kind of mixing of our worship amounts to abandoning Him! And frankly, His perspective is all that matters! The consequence of this disobedience, this flagrant abandoning and violating His Laws was that God‘s anger blazed up and He turned the Hebrews who lived on the west side of the Jordan (in Canaan) over to the Philistines to be oppressed, and the Hebrews on the east side of the Jordan (in the Trans-Jordan) were put under the oppression of the Ammonites. Then, the Ammonites crossed over the Jordan and fought against the southern Israelite tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and the northern Israelite tribe of Ephraim. In other words, this cycle of sin and apostasy of Israel led to the most widespread simultaneous oppression at the hands of gentile nations. You see this in Judges 10:9:
Ammon also crossed the Jordan River to fight the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Ephraim. So Israel suffered a great deal” (Judges 10:9)
As I was explaining, Yahweh had used Ammon in His attempt to correct Israel’s sins (see Judges 10:6-9). But wouldn’t you know it, as the armies were marching toward toward them, the people became all upset and frantic, and get this, they repented and began to confess their sins! “We have sinned. Do to us whatever you think is right. But please rescue us today!” (Judges 10:15).
The people were so burdened by their sin, all they could think of was for their God to rescue them: “Lord, deliver us just this one time! Oh pretty please; please, please please! With sugar on top and we promise that we will never do it again! Just please, don’t let us be defeated or overrun by our enemy!”
Now really, what would you have done if you were Yahweh? Slapped them in the heads and say, “You foolish bafoons! How dare you ask me to help you when you have done such stupid things.” Well, at least that is how I would have reacted. But no, I don’t understand it, but thankfully for them, Yahweh’s heart is much bigger than mine. Here they were praying for a single victory but their God had something more in mind and He over-answered their prayer! Not only did Israel receive their protection, they obtained the upper hand! They totally knocked the Ammonites on their butts!
“Then Jephthah was off to fight the Ammonites. And God gave them to him. He beat them soundly, all the way from Aroer to the area around Minnith as far as Abel Keramim—twenty cities! A massacre! Ammonites were brought to their knees by the People of Israel (Judges 11:32-33)
As I said, it is a good thing I was not their God, but not only did Yahweh deliver Israel, He gave them the courage and direction to defeat the Ammonites! To the point that they were never troubled by them again! They had total victory!
My friends, I don’t know why He does it, but this is just how our dear Beloved Father wants to over-answer His people today — that is you and me! If you actually listen, most Christians pray, “Lord, of please, just give me victory in this one battle.” It might be for healing. Or possibly a financial need that they have, whatever it is, they don’t want to be too greedy, they just need this one thing. But, Hallelujah! our Lord responds to our prayers, saying, “Yes, I will give you that, yet I have much more in store for you. I will subdue your enemy but not just one victory at a time. I want you to have total victory!”
Oh friends, not only does He wants to give you power to overcome, but to subdue, conquer and stomp on the head of every enemy in your life! He wants you to not just to conquer sin but to be more than a conqueror. Not just to have life but life more abundantly. Oh, don’t start dancing yet! He doesn’t want you to just have joy but His joy unspeakable and full of glory! Not to be free of fear just for a day, a week or a month—but all the days of your life! Oh, Glory to God! NOW you can start dancing!
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