To determine whether God’s Chosen People truly had faith in Him, the Lord allowed pagan nations to remain in the land of Canaan as the Exodus concluded so that the next generation of Israelites might experience war. Judges 1:1-2 tells us:
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.
Why, we might ask, would God want to subject His children to the violence associated with war? What kind of a loving God would do that?
After listing the nations that would confront them, Judges 4:4 goes on to tell us why:
They were for the testing of Israel, to know whether Israel would obey the commandments of the Lord, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.
So, war was the mechanism for God to determine if Israel would trust Him by obeying all the laws that He had set forth in order that they would live righteously for Him. How did circumstances get to this point that Yahweh had to test the peoples of Israel in this way?
The first generation to leave Egypt had significant issues. They were delivered miraculously by the hand of God time and again. Their failure to trust the Lord was largely due to their having been conditioned for the last 400 years to glorify the pagan Egyptian gods. These gods were visibly represented by idols. Then Moses came along and told them they had to worship an invisible God who was Spirit only. The giving of the Ten Commandments solidified this quandary, as they were instructed to worship no God but Yahweh, and they couldn’t even represent Him through the making of an idol.
That didn’t work out so well, and their lack of trust in this God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – despite the overwhelming miraculous evidence – resulted in this entire generation sentenced to death in the wilderness because of their unbelief.
The second generation learned the lesson. They were generally faithful to God by obeying His Word. Several incidents cropped up that caused them grief, but God knew their hearts and their faith in Him. He ushered them across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. However, part of their duty was to take out the giants of the pagan nations inhabiting Canaan.
They had mixed results, but that was probably to be expected by frail, sinful people. All-in-all they did generally what God intended, i.e. to devote these other nations to destruction and to possess the land.
As their leader, Joshua knew – just as Moses before him had – that the Israelites were a stiff-necked people and subject to disobedience. He warned them that other gods would be a snare, and that they would have to choose between Yahweh and the pagan gods. It’s why he made his famous declaration in Joshua 24:15:
“And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Surprisingly, the people heard him and responded positively. In fact, following the death of Joshua, they continued working at their appointed task of driving out the inhabitants of the land as God directed, again having mixed success. But then . . . trouble!
Judges 2:10 describes what happened in the following years:
And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.
This new generation, the third counting those who left Egypt, i.e. the grandchildren, completely lost it. Here is what Judges 2:11-13 shows what happened:
And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger. They abandoned the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth.
Is it any wonder that God determined He had to test them?
What happened? The second generation learned their lesson pretty well. They saw the unbelief of their fathers and realized something had to change. They needed to have faith in the God who delivered them from bondage. All well and good. But look at what they neglected. They didn’t teach their children, despite what God had commanded they do. Recall that Moses declared in Deuteronomy 6:4-7 as the Lord had instructed:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
And if the children didn’t learn and propagate the Word, how then could their children know it? Is it any wonder that the time of the Judges was one of great apostasy, as ignorance of God was passed on for many generations?
Is there a lesson for us today? Of course. It’s what makes the Bible as relevant as it is – ALL of Scripture, from the Old Testament through the New Testament.
However we want to describe the faith of the World War 2 generation in America (i.e. the Greatest Generation) and those following, there’s little doubt that the teaching of God’s Word has dramatically declined since then with the resulting Biblical illiteracy that consumes our culture today. People are more inclined to believe in aliens from other planets than they are in the God of the Bible and their absolute need for salvation. In fact, many believe their redemption will come through these visitors from outer space. Given the examples we see in the Old Testament, we know that doesn’t bode well.
These examples also show what God tends to do in order to test His people to see if they really believe and trust in Him. He brings war and difficult times. Why? So that we can learn to rely on Him – or not.
Over the last twenty years we’ve had a pretty good run at this testing. Starting with 9/11, the serious financial difficulties in 2008, and certainly the last two plus years of COVID and its aftermath, all these and more have greatly tested the church, not to mention the secular population.
And how have we done? The church embraced Islam, the prosperity and other social gospels have risen greatly, and a large contingent of Christianity decided to trust the government and its authority figures rather than God.
Finding a good church is a major challenge these days, i.e. one that actually preaches and teaches God’s Word as written. Eastern mysticism is rising exponentially as New Age dominates the spiritual realm of many people’s lives. Children have little to no idea of who the God of the Bible is, the fact of their sinfulness, or why they aren’t good people like they’ve been conditioned to believe.
In the time of Judges, the Lord had to raise up a deliverer who would rescue Israel for a brief period, then they’d slip back into apostasy. What can we expect in this day and age?
I think God has clearly shown that judgment must come because there is soon to be an end to things. In the past, that meant subjugation by pagan nations. Now, that means God is getting ready to wrap up the Church Age and history as we know it in order for unbelievers to be under the subjugation of Antichrist in the Tribulation.
Ultimately, in Israel as the years rolled by, the people were ruled by kings, and they fell further away from God. It meant the absolute destruction of the nation – initially at the hands of the Assyrians and Babylonians, and finally again by the Romans. Judgment fell because it had to.
Are we so special in this nation that we think we’re immune to God’s judgment? Apparently, many people think so. But we’re not. This world – led by the example of America – has been on a downward trajectory for a long time. The blood we’ve shed and the abominations we’ve propagated are a stench to God.
Who is our deliverer in this new time of Judges on the cusp of the Tribulation? None other than Jesus Christ. Mankind has shown that it is incapable of delivering itself from the troubles it brings on through its anti-God actions. We need a true Savior, and we have Him in Jesus. But in this world gone rogue, we need One who will remove us from its midst.
Many of us who name the Name of Christ realize how alien this world has become to us. (Sadly, many Christians don’t, and they’ve decided to embrace the world.). Because of this world’s hostility, such destruction is coming that will make the past violence and oppression of the pagan nations against Israel look like child’s play. Thankfully, God knows all this and will remove those of us who have called upon Him.
Why? Why the pre-Tribulation Rapture? It’s all because of Jesus! It’s His merciful gift to us who believe. We’ve already proven through faith our need for Him and trust in Him. We have no further requirement to demonstrate how thoroughly we can gird up and stand against the horrors of God’s wrath upon this earth. God’s grace is sufficient.
Soon, the Lord will show us this very fact.