Now these are the nations that the Lord left, to test Israel by them, that is, all in Israel who had not experienced all the wars in Canaan. It was only in order that the generations of the people of Israel might know war, to teach war to those who had not known it before. (Judges 3:1-2)
Yahweh knew the heart of the people of Israel. He understood how wayward His children were and how inclined they were to follow other gods. He had made a pact with them. They were to obey everything that He commanded and follow Him unquestionably. In all that God had done to deliver and maintain the Israelites, this was not unreasonable. But, He had seen them turn from Him numerous times, even immediately following a supernatural event. Frankly, He knew they couldn’t be trusted. So, He determined to test them.
Once they had taken the land of Canaan for their own possession – just as Yahweh said they would with Him going before them – the Israelites got comfortable and neglected to teach the next generation about all that He had done as their God (Judges 2:10).
When they’d fought their enemies to claim the land in the first place, they didn’t drive out all their foes. These nations remained as slaves under the Israelites. In this condition, God allowed these peoples to grow strong, to rise up, to contend with Israel, and to overcome them. He brought testing upon His people, and He did it through the mechanism of oppression and war.
The question the Israelites had to answer to God’s satisfaction was: Would they rely on Him in obedience, or follow the other gods of the pagan nations? Judges 3:7 succinctly spells it out:
And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. They forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth.
Obviously, no; they turned from Yahweh. The allure of foreign gods was too strong. Their eyes were dazzled by the bling; their itching ears were scratched. They failed the test.
In their failing, God allowed them to experience persecution and tribulation so they would eventually remember Him and cry out for the salvation only He could provide. But, they had to experience war so that God could teach them about Himself.
The object lesson wasn’t just for Israel; it has been for mankind through the ages and for us today.
God knows the heart of His people in the church. Some are strong believers; others quite nominal. From the example of our brothers and sisters in the 10/40 Window across the world, we’ve seen how living in the midst of foreign gods either strengthens Christian faith or roots out those who don’t truly believe. By experiencing persecution and suffering, i.e. tribulation, the true church has grown strong, even as it must endure while underground.
China is a prominent example. Before Mao’s Great Leap Forward, it is estimated that there were perhaps 100,000 believers in China. The oppression and persecution accompanying this Marxist-Communist regime that developed drove the church underground. If a believer hasn’t spent time in prison for his faith, others are actually wary of how true a believer he is. The resulting growth of Christianity in China has many estimates declaring that the church now comprises well over 100 Million believers.
Another example is Iran. When Islam overthrew the Shah and subjected the people to Sharia Law, the nation entered a very dark time. Since then, depression rates, alcoholism, drug use, and suicide in the population are among the highest in the world. Allah and his prophet Muhammad do not satisfy and fill the void in people’s hearts. In this dark place, Christianity has shined a light that has given people immense hope. Because of the underground activities of a faithful few, Iran now has the fastest growing Christian population in the world.
I believe these examples of what has happened in other nations, and how God has worked through very dark conditions, is a template of sorts for us in America. The American church grew fat and lazy, spending its time and money on the trappings of religion, but not following the heart of God. In order to shake up the church, God has allowed the current political and social circumstances to rise so as to test those who call themselves Christians.
This is a time of winnowing. We are in the middle of an intense spiritual war. Those who truly believe are doubling down in their faith. Those who are on the fence must make a decision: follow the world or follow Jesus. In addition, God is giving non-believers a very real purpose to turn toward Him with all the fear and disruption that has come upon the world.
The wheat and the chaff are separating. Before long, God’s process and purpose will be completed. He will have determined those who are truly the Bride of Christ and those who are not. Whatever His timing is for this, once it’s completed, He will Rapture His true church.
Just as Yahweh rescued His people Israel during the time of Judges when they finally called out to Him, He will do the same for us after this coming period of tribulation (not The Tribulation) has run its course.