Judges 1 Devotional
By Pastor Lawrence
Following the death of Joshua, the faithful and courageous leader of Israel, the next generations of God’s people begin not only fail to uproot the remaining Canaanites but also begin spiraling down into sin, doubt and disobedience to such an extent that there seems to be no more distinguishing difference between Israel and the surrounding nations. According to Deuteronomy 7:22, Moses had warned the Israelites that God would not clear away all the nations at once but only a little at a time so that the at wild beasts wouldn’t grow too numerous for them. And in Judges 3:2 we’re given a second reason that the Lord allows these remnants of the nations to remain, so that following generations might learn the art of war and learn to trust and obey the Lord in these difficulties.
And from the very beginning we are meant to see a clear distinction between Judah’s obedience to the Lord in conquering and possessing the lands given unto them, and the rest of the tribes’ failure to do as the Lord God commanded them. In the first twenty verses we see one success after another of all the peoples and places that the tribe of Judah conquered on behalf of the Lord. However, beginning in v.21 we read time and again of the failure of the tribes to drive out the inhabitants of their cities. In some cases we are told that the Israelite tribes allowed the remaining Canaanites to live amongst them as their slaves, but in other cases, the Israelites freely mingled with the Canaanites and took up their customs following their ways. Far from remaining separate from these cursed peoples, the vast majority of Israelites sought out their friendship and fellowship in direct disobedience to the Lord.
The first judge mentioned in the book of Judges is considered to be the model to which the others fail to measure up. Othniel is of the tribe of Judah, the same tribe from which Jesus would come, Othniel displays the same zealous qualities as his older brother Caleb who fought alongside of Joshua in the previous generation; he is both faithful and courageous and the Lord goes with him into battle granting him the victory. The people also were inquiring of the Lord, petitioning his aid early on. This would not continue throughout the book, for prayer is not mentioned again until Israel has turned from the faithful few into the nations of Sodom and Gomorrah.
As a result of this prayerlessness, we soon see that the Lord begins distancing himself from the tribes of Israel because they do not trust in him nor obey his commands. Like the later judge Sampson, the Israelites would break one vow after another unto God and yet still assume that the Lord would go with them and give them strength in battle, but little did they know that the Lord had removed his hand from them leaving them to their own devices to do what was right in their own eyes.
That is a sobering prospect for us to entertain that it is possible for the Lord to withdraw his presence from us even without our realization. It is indeed possible to grieve the Holy Spirit by little acts of disobedience, by little decisions to tolerate sin rather than to kill that which so easily entangles us. Sometimes it is a slow fading away from the Lord that we need to be leery of.
Thankfully, though, the Lord sends the Israelites a savior just at the moment when they are the weakest and even on the brink of despair. As dark as the book of Judges seems to be at times, thankfully, we still see foreshadowing of our savior whom we so desperately need. And even when our faith is weak and our repentance is weaker, God’s grace is greater than our sin.