Photo by Aaron Burden
It is much easier to read through the Bible and focus on the passages of Scripture describing God as loving and kind and merciful. But in so doing we miss the full character of the God who is also jealous and just and judge. This morning as I began reading in Judges 1 & 2 I was reminded of the loving, kind, merciful God who took the Israelites out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the promised land to live in covenant relationship with Him. However, that covenant relationship took a different turn for the Israelites when they decided to pick and choose what part of God’s voice and commands they would obey.
At the same time the Benjaminites did not drive out the Jebusites who were living in Jerusalem. Judges 1:21
When Israel became stronger, they made the Canaanites serve as forced labor but never drove them out completely. Judges 1:28
At that time Ephraim failed to drive out the Canaanites who were living in Gezer. Judges 1:29
Zebulun failed to drive out the residents of Kitron or the residents of Nahalol. Judges 1:30
Asher failed to drive out the residents of Acco or of Sidon, or Ahlab, Achzib, Helbah, Aphik, or Rehab. Judges 1:31
Naphtali did not drive out the residents of Beth-shemesh or the residents of Beth-anath. Judges 1:33
Did God respond to this disobedience by saying, that’s okay. I know you have disobeyed me, but I will just ignore it. I didn’t mean you had to eradicate the other nations and residents. No, His response was:
I brought you out of Egypt and led you into the land I had promised to your fathers. I also said: I will never break My covenant with you. You are not to make a covenant with the people who are living in this land, and you are to tear down their altars. But you have not obeyed Me. What is this you have done? Therefore, I now say: I will not drive out these people before you. They will be thorns in your sides, and their gods will be a trap for you.
Whenever the Israelites went out, the LORD was against them and brought disaster on them, just as He had promised and sworn to them. So they suffered greatly. Judges 2:1-3, 15
Let us not think God changed His mind to be mean. No. God’s response was just because He alone is holy and righteous in all His ways. He knows what is best for His children and when we decide to do things our way or “help” God out by changing up the rules, we find ourselves before a God who loves us enough to stay true to His steadfast love. So the question becomes when God tells us to do something hard, are we willing to obey entirely or just partially?
Thank you, Lord, for loving me enough to hold true to Your Word and character and in so doing not allow me to get away with my partial disobedience.
P.S. The rest of the book of Judges will demonstrate over and over God’s righteous judgment on the people He has entered into covenant relationship without undermining His own character. The book of Judges provides a great picture of a loving yet judging God.