Judges chapter 10:6
We continue with the next cycle in the period of the judges. We have seen that Israel continues to go through this cycle of disobedience, divine discipline, and then deliverance. As we come to this episode, the next to last cycle in the book, we are going to discover that less and less seems to be said of God. His name is mentioned just a few times, and that is significant from the framework of the author. The Holy Spirit inspired the author in such a way that can can look at how often or where the Lord's name is mentioned in a passage, and its absence speaks volumes because it tells us that the people are less and less concerned with God, and when God's name appears one of the interesting things is, in this episode and in the subsequent one with Samson, it is almost as if it is just some sort of an addendum. The people are just saying, Oh yes, we'll include God. It is very superficial and it shows that at the core of their thinking they really do not understand doctrine any more and they are not really concerned. It is not too different from what we see in our culture today. People invoke the name of God for many different treasons, and many times they will gather together and they will open with prayer, or they will use phrases like 'If the Lord wills' but there is no real depth to their thinking, no real significant doctrine undergirding their thinking. They just sort of attach the name of God in some superficial, superstitious way as if that is going to guarantee some sort of divine blessing. Then of we invoke the name of God and attach a few Bible verses to whatever it is that we are doing somehow it makes it biblical, makes it Christian, and that covers up whatever failings there might be. That is exactly the kind of thing that is characteristic of paganism because there is no real doctrine there. The essence of paganism is non-biblical thinking and non-biblical activity.
This is typical of Israel throughout this period. We have seen that they become more and more pagan as this time goes by. They entered into the land under Joshua, they were victorious, they trusted God, they executed the faith-rest drill, but then they began to compromise. Rather than annihilating all of the Canaanites, man, woman and child, as well as all of their animals, they compromised and let many of them live. As a result of that those same Canaanites who survived began to influence the Jews with their culture. Paul picks up that principle at the end of 1 Corinthians when he says that bad company corrupts good morals. That is the principle. You associate with unbelievers who are operating on human viewpoint and you can't help but be influenced by their thinking, by their attitudes. That happens to us all the time, we can't avoid living in the world, but we have to be strengthened and we always have to have our guard up with doctrine as believers. Otherwise it is very easy to be influenced--by family members, by peers, by those we work with, by the media, the movies we see, television shows we watch, and so we have to consistently be aware of what the characteristics of paganism are that surround us, what those influences are so that we can have our guard up.
Israel has failed to have their guard up, they lack doctrine. By this time in their decline they just give lip service to Yahweh. That is where we find ourselves at the beginning of this fourth cycle with Jephthah, starting in Judges 10:6. "And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim, and Ashtaroth, and the gods of Syria, and the gods of Zidon, and the gods of Moab, and the gods of the children of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines, and forsook the LORD, and served not him." In verses 6-9 we set the context for the deliverance. It is interesting to note in terms of proportion that we have one verse here that describes Israel's sin and then we have another two verses that describes God's response to their sin in divine discipline. Then starting in chapter eleven we are going to see the response of God in delivering the people. So the emphasis here is on God's deliverance that we see in all of these episodes. That reminds us of God's grace because the more Israel deteriorates into their disobedience and into paganism, and the less obedient they are to the law which is the basis for the divine blessing in Israel, God continues to deal with them in grace, despite their failures, disobedience, and despite everything that is going wrong in Israel. God continues to deal with them in grace, and that is true for all of us. God always deals with us on the basis of grace, Grace is God's policy towards mankind which is based on the completed work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Because Christ paid the penalty for oiur sins sin is no longer the issue, so God's justice is now free to bless mankind. He blesses believer and unbeliever alike, and that is what we call common grace; and He specifically blesses believers. We are going to see in the episode with Jephthah, who is no hallmark of Christian maturity at all or of spiritual maturity, and in Samson who seems to be even worse, that these men are not spiritual giants. We know that they are listed in Hebrews eleven as examples of great faith but we have to understand that in the context of Hebrews eleven the writer of Hebrews is emphasizing the fact that these men took a stand on doctrine and executed the faith-rest drill, trusting God at a crucial moment in their lives. It is not a statement of their spiritual maturity, In fact, if we look at Judges we will see that they are not spiritually mature, they are ignorant of doctrine—especially Jephthah and Samson—and despite all of that God still blesses, delivers, rescues the nation. So the theme that undergirds these next five or six chapters is the grace of God despite the continuing and increasing failure of Israel. In them there are a number of important lessons which we must examine.
We start off in verse 6, just to remind us of the context, the writer uses the Hebrew word meaning "again" in verse 6, and it emphasizes the repetitiveness of Israel's failure. We see thuis in Judges 3:7, "And the sons of Israel did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, and forgot the Lord their God, and served the Baal's and Asherah." That led eventually to the deliverance by Othniel. In 3:12, "And the sons of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord strengthened Eglon, the king of Moab, against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the Lord." That led eventually to the deliverance by Ehud, the second judge. In 4:1 we read, "And the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, when Ehud was dead." That eventually led to the deliverance by Deborah. Then in Judges 6:1, "And the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord delivered them into the hands of Midian." That led to the deliverance under Gideon. And now we read that for the fifth time Israel does evil in the sight of the Lord. The principle here is that they continued to go into idolatry, they continued to reject God, and they continued to succumb to the pressure from the surrounding culture to adopt the popular religion of that surrounding culture. Today the popular religion is more a less a secular humanism and is more relativism, so as believers we are constantly under pressure from the culture around us to adopt those ideas. Those ideas are continuously reflected by practices in churches. This is true throughout history. The history of the church age is the history of how the church reflects the culture around it, and so we always have to be aware of what those cultural pressures are so we can stand guard against them.
So God is going to discipline them and we need to ask the question: Why is this so bad? Why is this so frustrating? Why is the writer emphasizing "again, again, again"? First of all it shows that Israel is not learning their lesson. Again and again and again God disciplines them. They go out where they are under a foreign oppression, military occupation, for three or four years to, in this case, eighteen years, and ultimately they will be oppressed by the Philistines for forty years. So they come under extreme discipline and they just don't learn the lesson. They are stubborn, and it emphasizes how hard the heart of depravity is and how committed human beings are to trying to make life work on their own terms. They exclude God from their thinking. This is what is happening in our history and in our culture and in our churches. There is a conscious exclusion of God. Somehow God only applies to Sunday morning, Wednesday night maybe, but for the rest of the week God does not have anything to say about the basic principles of economics, law, politics, literature, and all of the other academic and practical disciplines of life. In the Middle Ages they understood that God affected everything, and so they tried to have an architecture that reflected biblical absolutes. That was reflected in the Gothic style. A Gothic cathedral was built to direct the eyesight up toward God, because everything in thee architecture was designed to bring glory to God and to focus the attention of the person coming into the building on God and on spiritual issues. They thought deeply about the underlying assumptions of what they were doing when they built these structures. Now what we do when we get into secularism is we think that God only applies to maybe morals, or God only applies to certain religious things, and we departmentalize God. Then when we get over into areas of science or history or literature or philosophy, then God doesn't really have anything to do with that and we exclude God. That is the same thing the Jews were doing, that means to abandon God. They forget God, they conscientiously remove God from having anything to do with the day to day affairs of life. But when you take God out of the picture there is always something else that goes into that vacuum. What went into that vacuum was their worship of the fertility gods.
The second thing that was so bad is that they continued to abuse the grace of God. They forget God, God disciplines them, they scream out in pain and misery for God to deliver them, and God delivers them. Then as soon as everything is back to normal they forget God again and go right back into the idolatry and living life as if God really isn't involved in the day to day affairs of life. So they are abusing the grace of God, which demonstrates a lack of gratitude. And a lack of gratitude to God for the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the job we have, the cars we drive, the family and friends that we have. It all comes from the Lord, and when we don't have gratitude and we don't recognize that then it is very easy to abuse the grace of God and to take it for granted. What happens then eventually is that God in His grace is going to lower the boom in divine discipline, which is what is happening in the life of Israel.
The third reason this is so bad is that by continuing to be involved with the fertility religions of the ancient world the Jews were destroying their own culture. It was a self-destructive behavior that was destroying their own culture, their own society, was wiping out the freedoms that they enjoyed under the Mosaic law, and ultimately it would destroy them as a nation. God eventually took them out and scattered them in order to teach them that lesson. This explains why these things were so bad.
As we look at verse 6 we are told that they did evil in the sight of the Lord and that is defined specifically as serving the Baal's and the Ashterah. Those are in the plural because there were various manifestations of these two idols—Baal, the male god; Ashterah, the female goddess. They had different names but there were all of these showing up in different religions. Even in reading fiction it is very easy to be assaulted by evolutionary presuppositions, but the reality is that religion did not evolve from a polytheistic system to a monotheistic system, which is the way it is normally presented in the classroom. Modern man has applied the theory of evolution to the development of religion. So according to modern views of the development of religion man starts off with many gods—polytheism—and gradually, as man became more and more sophisticated as time went by, eventually he came to the idea of only one God and having a monotheistic religion. All primitive cultures started out with one God, and then they moved from one god to the development of other gods, and the more they distanced themselves in time from the tower of Babel and the scattering of the nations at that time the more they degenerated into polytheism. So polytheism is really the degeneration of man as a result of his rejection of God and rebellion against God, which started with the tower of Babel. What happened in these various religions was that in primitive societies the primary issue in life was life support. In primitive societies where they were hunters or gatherers, when they began to develop various agricultural methods, that, too, goes from a complex system to a deterioration. You never have people starting off as hunters or gatherers and then going up the scale, it is always a deterioration. Modern man reverses everything because he is committed to evolution. Their primary issues in life, though, are agricultural and that means they need to have certain types of weather--rain at the right time, in Egypt the floods of the Nile--good soil conditions, and in all of this in order to guarantee consistent crops. Of course, the ultimate goal here is to achieve some sort of economic security in life, and your prestige and position in life was usually determined by how secure you were in terms of your own personal finances and wealth, so all of this also relates to man's meaning and purpose in life. So everything is going to be tied to the weather and soil conditions and agricultural prosperity. The major issue in life, then, becomes fertility. So they developed these gods and throughout the world as these religious systems developed the "sky God" would eventually disappear and was either overthrown by a young male god and his consort lover, wife, girlfriend, however you want to put it, who is the female goddess. And there are intense sexual overtones to their relationship. In the development of paganism what happens on the earth is a reflection of what happens in the heavens. They got the idea that the fertility and the sexual activity between the gods had something to do with the fertility on the earth. They developed these religious practices to try to manipulate and encourage the gods to be fertile, so they developed certain sexual rituals in temples, in high places, and up in the sacred groves, where they would engage in all manner of sexual activity in order to try to encourage the male and female gods to engage in sexual activity so that they would have fertility. These were represented by all the nations surrounding Israel. So when we read verse 6 that they served Baal and Ashtaroth it is a summary of all the fertility religions surrounding Israel.
Note Deuteronomy 32:15-17. This is the song that Moses wrote before his death and it relates to the history of Israel. It is his commentary based on divine viewpoint of what goes on in Israel. Verse 15—"But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked." Jushurun is a name applied to Israel when they were spiritually mature. Fat and kicked indicates their prosperity. They were obedient to God, they were mature and had an abundance of blessing, and then they began to reject God—"then he forsook God who made him," i.e. they abandoned the creator God, "and scornfully esteemed the Rock of his salvation." They not only rejected God but they scorned God, they began to ridicule God. Verse 16—"They provoked him to jealously with foreign gods," they rejected the God who delivered them from Egypt and begin to go after the foreign gods of the surrounding nations. Verse 17—"They sacrificed unto demons, not to God." What undergirded the entire phallic system was demonism and the real problem was that they were aligning themselves with the demonic. This brings our attention to the fact that all of this wasn't just something that happened in isolation in history but is part of the angelic conflict. Satan was out to destroy the Jews because they were God's chosen people, they had a particular mission as the missionary ethnic group that God was going to use, through whom God would bring the Messiah, and so if Satan could destroy the Jews then he would destroy the line of the Messiah, he would render ineffective all of the promises and prophecies that God had made in the Old Testament. So there is a demonic aspect to false religion. All false religions ultimately had their origin in Satan and in the demonic. The divine viewpoint on worshipping idols is not that it is just worshipping inanimate stone but that it is ultimately part of demonic influence and doctrines of demons. Verse 18—"Of the Rock who begot you thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten the God who fathered you." That is the commentary of what happened in the period of the judges. They are basically turning away from God and turning to demons. Psalm 96:5 has another comment on this where the writer of the psalm says, "For all the gods of the peoples are idols; but the Lord made the heavens." So there is this contrast between the creator God and the demons. Paul adds his own additional comment on idolatry on doctrines of demons in 1 Corinthians 10:20, 21. Whenever you get away from God and the truth of the Scriptures you are getting involved in doctrines of demons. This seems harsh to a lot of people but we have toi keep this in mind because a lot of human viewpoint sounds good and, well they can't really be all that hard, and we tend to try to diminish the seriousness of this involvement with human viewpoint and how horrible it is. Scripture says that there are really only two ways of looking at this. Modern man says if you do this then you are just too rigid and you just see everything in black and white. That is a reaction to God. Divine viewpoint is the way that God looks at everything. God has designed every aspect of His creation to function together in one systematic, interrelated whole, and everything adheres together. That is what we mean by divine viewpoint, it is the one singular viewpoint that is expressed in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. In contrast there are a multitude of different human viewpoint systems, but they all have one thing in common and that is that they are demonic. James 3:13-15, " ... this wisdom [the wisdom of the world. All human viewpoint thinking is classified as the wisdom of the world. The Bible also uses the word "cosmos" to refer to it, which is cosmic thinking] does not descend from above, but it is earthly, it is natural and it is demonic." So there James classifies all human viewpoint thinking as demonic. The issue is always between cosmic thinking and divine viewpoint.
Judges 10:6-- "and they abandoned the Lord, and did not serve him." You either serve God or you serve something else. There are no alternatives, you are not in an non-serving position. The word for "serve" is also the word for slave and it brings in the whole idea that if you are not serving God then you are a slave to your sin nature, you think you are free but you are really a slave in your soul.
Verse 7, "And the wrath of God was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hands of the Philistines and the hands of Ammon. Verse 8, "And that year they harassed and oppressed the children of Israel--eighteen years." It was 18 years before they finally cry out. That tells us something about how stubborn man is. We don't want to admit that these problems are our fault because these problems are because we have made bad decisions from a position of weakness. We don't want to admit that the reason we can't quite make life work is because we have rejected God, that negative volition on our part is the real problem. We say that it is just because we aren't doing something quite right, and we have this tremendous ability to rationalize behavior and say it really isn't my bad decisions that are causing all the problems in my life, it must be somebody else, it must be something else, I just wasn't born at the right time, it is just the wrong circumstances but it really isn't my fault. Some people are just so stubborn in their arrogant attempt to make life work apart from God that they always seem to justify their behavior and rationalize away the trauma in their life. Arrogance always blinds us to our own failures and our own flaws. But finally things came to a point of intensity in Israel that they could no longer avoid it, so they cried out to God.
Verse 10, the intensity of their misery. They cried [screamed] out to the Lord. We have seen in every other instance where they have cried out to the Lord but this is the first time we are given the content of the cry. "We have sinned against you." So they are admitting their sin. This is a classic case of confession and forgiveness. Notice they don't say they are sorry for their sin, they admit and state exactly what the sin is.
Notice what God says in verse 11. He is going to remind them of His grace historically in their lives and how He has continuously delivered them. The underlying thing here is that God is a little short-tempered with them, to use an anthropopathism, because again and again and again the same thing has happened. The point has been made with regard to 1 John 1:9 that when we confess our sins God is going to forgive us. Notice here that there is no mention anywhere of forgiveness. This isn't a passage that is talking about forgiveness, it is a passage that is talking about the consequences of sin and divine discipline. Those are two separate things, and people in our culture do not understand the difference between forgiveness and consequences. Legal consequences are confused with forgiveness. You can forgive somebody but they still have to suffer the consequences. Over and over again in Scripture God forgives people but they still have to suffer certain consequences. But sometimes they don't; sometimes God removes those consequences in His grace, but not always. This passage is talking about the fact that, like so many believers, they just bounce in and out of fellowship; they confess the sin and get back in fellowship and then commit the same sin again and again and again. And God is saying, Look the point is, you have to stop committing the sin. You have to start learning to walk by means of the Holy Spirit, you have to abide in Christ--stay in fellowship so you can grow as a believer. This is what God is basically saying to Israel in verse 11.
Verse 13, "Yet you have forsaken me, and served other gods; wherefore, I will deliver you no more." They are forgiven. Forgiveness occurred, but God says He is not going to reduce the consequences, He is not going to relax the divine discipline because they haven't learned the lesson yet. There are three things that can happen when we get involved in sin and God lowers the boom on us in divine discipline. First of all, He can leave the discipline at the same intensity. Secondly, He can relax its intensity. Third, He can take it away. That is up to God. But once we are back in fellowship, once we confess our sins, the suffering may continue but now, because we can apply doctrine and the problem-solving devices, then that suffering can be turned into blessing because now we can use our spiritual resources in order to handle the suffering. It becomes a way of increasing our momentum in spiritual growth. But if we don't stay in fellowship and we continue in that suffering and become bitter, angry towards God because we are still going through it, then we are just back out of fellowship operating on bitterness, anger, hostility towards God, and that can lead to a hardened heart and scar tissue on the soul. That is exactly what happened to Israel in the Old Testament.
Verse 14, in a statement that is loaded with sarcasm God says in effect you really need to spend a little more time realizing the futility of idolatry, so why don't you go cry out to those false gods just some more? "Let them deliver you"! God is pushing them to show the inability of their own thinking. Their whole religious system ultimately doesn't work.
This brings us to the whole question of the relationship of confession, forgiveness and divine discipline. The summary has already been pointed out. There is the example of David's sin in 2 Samuel 11 & 12. This is David's sin of adultery with Bathsheba and the consequent cover-up when he conspired to murder Uriah. When he took Bathsheba it is not rape, but it almost has that overtone. He is certainly in a position of authority, she is not. He has known her all of her life, she is the daughter of one of his most trusted advisors. So he uses his position to influence her in a very wrong way. An interesting thing is that the Scripture never tells us that she loved him. In 2 Samuel 12 God sends Nathan the prophet to confront David with his sin because David hasn't confessed his sin, he is still out of fellowship and operating on arrogance. Nathan presents a parable. David became self-righteously indignant and said that the man should be punished. Notice verse 6, "He shall restore fourfold for the lamb." David has announced his own punishment, a fourfold discipline. Nathan makes the application in verse 7 and informs David that he is the man and that this is the punishment that God has given him. In verses 9 & 10 David's discipline is announced. "... the sword shall never depart from your house." This is part of the punishment. Verse 11, "Behold, I will raise up adversity against you out of your own house, and I will take your wives from before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun." Verse 12, "For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun." In verse 13 David confesses his sin, but the punishment has been announced and there is going to be a fourfold punishment on David for his sin. First of all, his child is going to die in infancy, vv.14, 15. Secondly, Amnon, David's son, rapes David's daughter Tamar, so there is incest in the family, something that would just tear apart the heart of a parent. Thirdly, his son Absolom murders Amnon in revenge for what Amnon had done to his sister, Tamar. The heartache and the misery that all this would have brought David is just unimaginable, to see his family fragment like this. Absolom was his favorite son and the one he loved the most, and Absolom turned against him and led a revolt against David in which eventually Absolom was killed. That just brought more pain and misery to David. David was in fellowship when he went through all of that suffering. When David confessed his sin God did not diminish or remove the consequences. Sin brings consequences. Yet when he confessed his sin the emotional trauma disappeared. The joy of his salvation was restored to him so that he had a positive mental attitude based on doctrine. And because he had that positive mental attitude based on doctrine, and because he now could apply doctrine to the situation using the faith-rest drill he was able to endure this incredible suffering. That endurance of the suffering in fellowship and on the basis of doctrine enabled him to mature spiritually. But he had to go through that suffering, it was self-induced misery, and because of his disobedience to God and because of his arrogance toward Bathsheba and her husband. This was a complex web ofd sin that revealed the profound carnality in David's life before any of it ever started and he allowed it to run unrestrained. So because of God's grace and His Word David is able to endure the discipline.
Then there is the case of Hezekiah, 2 Kings 19:29. This takes place during the time of the Assyrian invasion when the northern kingdom has already gone out under divine discipline. Now the Assyrian, Sennacherib is outside the gates of Jerusalem and has sent a warning message to Hezekiah that God is not going to help him or provide any sort of relief for him. Hezekiah has been disobedient to God, relying on other ways to solve his problems, relying on other nations. Now Hezekiah goes before the Lord, confesses his sin, and appeals to God to deliver them. The answer starts in verse 29: God is going to deliver the nation and the Assyrians will not destroy Jerusalem. The discipline is taken away, but the discipline on the southern kingdom isn't removed completely and there is another episode in the next chapter where Hezekiah in his arrogance showed off all the treasures they had in the temple to the men from Babylon. Isaiah tells him of the consequences, v. 16ff. The point is that the discipline on the southern kingdom of Judah was diminished but eventually they did go out under discipline at the time of Nebuchanezzar.
So we should not get confused and think that just because there is grace and forgiveness that somehow that absolves us of consequences. And God wants to drive this home to the Jews. So we read in Judges 10:15. They are dictating to God: "deliver us only." Do what seems best to you, but deliver us! They still haven't learned that it is God's plan, not their plan; it is God's agenda, not their agenda; it is God's purposes, not their purposes. But God, nevertheless, deals with them in grace. They put away the foreign God's from among them and they served the Lord [stayed in fellowship], "and his soul could no longer endure the misery." This is an idiom form the fact that God is now going to deliver them in grace.