This chapter opens by recording the visit of a “messenger of Jehovah,” in whom we can hardly hesitate to recognize the great Messenger of the Covenant – the Son of God Himself! His appearance itself would be an outstanding reminder to the people of the Divine promise, with its conditions, which had been made to the generation that was brought out of Egypt. This Messenger came up from Gilgal – probably to one of the annual gatherings of the Israelites at the Tabernacle in Shiloh. He spoke with Divine authority, reminding the people what He had done for them, and what He had promised; and then He called the people to account for their disobedience. The charges which were brought against them were “making leagues” with the Canaanites, and neglecting to “throw down” their altars – a breach of the Covenant, by which they had become liable to the heaviest judgments, and even to utter destruction. Those who throw off communion with God, and have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, must expect to suffer for their folly. Those who expect to derive advantages from friendship with God’s enemies are sadly deceiving themselves. The people were told that since they had refused to obey the Lord by destroying the Canaanites, those same Canaanites would now become their punishment. The Lord told them that He would not drive them out of the land that was to belong exclusively to His people; rather, the Canaanites would be left in the land to serve as thorns and snares to those who ought to have been their executioners.
This stern and solemn reproof struck home to the consciences of the unfaithful Israelites. With true impulsiveness, they broke out into unrestrained sobs and cries; and they offered sin-offerings in token of their repentance. If the people had kept close to their God and their duty, only the voice of singing would have been heard in their midst; but by their sin and folly, they made other work for themselves, and nothing was heard except the voice of weeping. It is good to see people weep for their sins. But sadly, in this case, these emotions were as short-lived as they were passionate; otherwise, the succeeding narratives of this Book would have presented a very different story.
In the rest of this chapter, the Divinely inspired historian briefly reviews the course of decline that the Israelites took after the death of Joshua, throughout the time period of the Judges. Verses 6-10 are a brief recap of the restraining influence that Joshua and the elders of his generation had over the people. But after they died, things went downhill speedily for the nation – within a time frame of only around 25 years! And the rest of the chapter is a summary of the terrible cycle that was repeated over and over again throughout this Book. The people would slide into a state of apostasy – forsaking the Lord, and beginning to worship the idols of the heathen nations that they were surrounded by. This would provoke the Lord to anger, and He would deliver His disobedient people into the hands of their enemies. Under the oppressive and rigorous rule of these enemies, the Israelites would cry out to the Lord in their trouble. He would mercifully hear their cries, and He would raise up a Judge to deliver them from their awful situation. The responsibilities of these Judges were threefold. Initially, they were to call the people to repentance; second, they were to deliver the people from the power of their enemies; and third, they were to shepherd the people in the ways of the Lord for the remainder of their life. Sadly, however, after the Judge had died, the people would return to the same sins that had brought them into the oppressive grasp of their enemies’ power in the first place. They would corrupt themselves even more than their fathers had done, and return to worshiping other gods – thus starting the terrible cycle all over again. They were not truly repentant and reformed, and so they were obstinately bent on backsliding.
Although the Lord might have justly abandoned His people forever, He had pity on them instead. He sent these Judges to deliver them, and these Judges became “saviors” to Israel – foreshadowing the true Savior Who was yet to come. So this chapter basically provides us with a summary of the two great leading-points of Gospel-doctrine: human depravity and Divine grace. Even today, people still cherish and indulge their corrupt lusts and passions; therefore, God justly leaves them to themselves, under the power of their sins – which will be their ultimate ruin. He has told us how deceitful and desperately wicked our hearts are; but too often, we are not willing to believe it until – by boldly playing with temptation – we find His words to be true by sad experience. We need to pray without ceasing, beseeching the Lord that we may be rooted and grounded in love, and that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith! Let us declare war against every sin, and pursue holiness all our days! With the prophet Micah, let us exclaim, “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage?” (Mic. 7:18) In Jesus and His promised salvation, Jehovah has manifested His pardoning love and mercy to His people! (Isa. 63:7-9)
Lord, we groan under the recollection of the many things in which we offend You and come short of Your glory. Although You have begun to magnify Your great name, by bringing us into the privileges of Your people; yet too many of the Canaanites of our sins are still in our hearts. We beseech You to exercise Your strength and power, and put Your feet upon the neck of our spiritual foes! In Your name, Lord, let us rejoice; and in Your righteousness, may we be exalted! Amen.
Join other families all around the globe! Receive the full-color, freely downloadable format of these thoughts in your email every day, and enjoy a FREE copy of my e-book A Call to Family Worship! It’s my prayer that you and your family will be equipped to receive abundant blessings from the hand of the Lord as you study His Word and worship in His presence together.
photo by Pearl | Lightstock.com