2/5/12 Come Before The Lord (Judges 1:27-2:5)

Come Before The Lord

Judges 1:27- 2:5 (See also 1:4-7; 19-21; 34)      Lesson 2
Key verses 2:4; Kevin Jesmer NIU UBF 2/5/12

“When the angel of the LORD had spoken these things to all the Israelites, the people wept aloud, 5 and they called that place Bokim. There they offered sacrifices to the LORD.”

When the various tribes occupied their inheritances they tried hard to drive out the people, but were unable to do so completely. The original inhabitants were determined to live in the land. They were very tenacious and fought back and would not leave. The best the Israelites could do was subject them to forced labor. This fell short of what God wanted them to do. They tried, but in the end their lives were filled with trouble. But, by the grace of God, they were delivered time and time again by God. In this passage we will learn the importance of obeying the Lord wholeheartedly. We will also learn that we must not compromising with, and try to manage the sin in our hearts, but we must get rid of totally through repentance and faith in Jesus. We will also learn of God’s graceful covenant and how he helps us to keep our relationship with him despite of our unfaithfulness. Let’s see.

Part l: They Disobeyed The Lord

The Israelites failed to closely obey God as they took the land. We see this in their dealing with the captured Canaanite king, Adonu-Bezek. Listen to how they dealt with him in verses 1:4-7. It reads, “When Judah attacked, the LORD gave the Canaanites and Perizzites into their hands, and they struck down ten thousand men at Bezek. 5 It was there that they found Adoni-Bezek and fought against him, putting to rout the Canaanites and Perizzites. 6 Adoni-Bezek fled, but they chased him and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and big toes. 7 Then Adoni-Bezek said, ‘Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off have picked up scraps under my table. Now God has paid me back for what I did to them.’ They brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there.” It sounds like they gave the king what he deserved. After all he did the same thing to seventy other kings. But their treatment of this king was not what God wanted. They were to devote all things, even the kings of the conquered cities over to the Lord. (Deut 7:1-2; Joshua 6:20-21; 8:1-20; 9:24) This meant that Adoni-Bezek should have been killed. It seems very harsh to us today in the New Testament era. We would never do such a thing today, nor should anyone. But God had his purpose back then, and the Israelites disobeyed God in not putting Adoni-Bezek to the sword.

They also failed to drive the people out of the land. Look at verses 19-36. Especially look at verses 19-21, which reads, “The Lord was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had chariots fitted with iron. As Moses had promised, Hebron was given to Caleb, who drove from it the three sons of Anak, the Benjamites, however, did not drive out the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the Benjamites.” There were many victories here in these verses but also many failures. Their failure to drive the inhabitants out doesn’t mean that the Israelites did not have the power to drive out them out, but rather they simply did apply their efforts and engage their faith as God want them to do for God had promised to be with them.

Was it their fault? They had many good excuses. It all seemed reasonable. After all, the inhabitants were very strong and tenacious. They had the latest war technology, like giant walled cities and iron chariots. Who could blame the Israelites for not being able to completely conquer the land? We may tend to sympathize with them. But we see that God called them on it. God promised to be with them in Deuteronomy 7:17-24 in accomplishing the task. These verses read, “You may say to yourselves, ‘These nations are stronger than we are. How can we drive them out?’ 18 But do not be afraid of them; remember well what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt. 19 You saw with your own eyes the great trials, the signs and wonders, the mighty hand and outstretched arm, with which the LORD your God brought you out. The LORD your God will do the same to all the peoples you now fear. 20 Moreover, the LORD your God will send the hornet among them until even the survivors who hide from you have perished. 21 Do not be terrified by them, for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a great and awesome God. 22 The LORD your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you. 23 But the LORD your God will deliver them over to you, throwing them into great confusion until they are destroyed. 24 He will give their kings into your hand, and you will wipe out their names from under heaven. No one will be able to stand up against you; you will destroy them.” God promised to be with them and fight for them. He would drive the inhabitants out little by little, but they needed to pray and obey God with their whole hearts and fight the spiritual battle.

Jesus promises to be with us as we serve his purpose in our lives. We think that living by faith in this world is just too hard. We think that it is impossible to pass a class, or an exam, to go into work even one more day, to share the gospel, to raise disciples, or conquer our own sinful nature even with the grace and truth of God. But Jesus says, “…surely I am with you to the very end of the age.” (Matt 28:20b) We may think we have tried our best. But did we pray? Did we get rid of useless and fruitless things in our lives? Did we apply ourselves out of obedience to God? Did we dedicate everything for his glory? We are in disobedience if we neglect the things that God has brought within our grasp…when we neglect simple faith and obedience. These things are not dependent on others’ acceptance and rejection of Jesus. You can not change anyone else’s heart, but you can have some influence over your own heart. This is a tough pill to swallow. We feel insulted that anyone, even God, should think I did not apply myself enough. But we can repent and accept the word of God and the grace of God. We can engage our faith. We can come before Jesus to be cleansed of our sin. We can stand up and take ownership of “the land” God has brought into our lives. When we try again we will discover that even if we do seem to fail, the act of trying again, by faith, is actually winning the victory because we have done it all through faith in Jesus Christ.

The Israelites tried to make the best out of a bad situation. Look at verse 28, “When Israel became strong, they pressed the Canaanites into forced labor but never drove them out completely.” They knew that it was not right for the idol worshipping nations to freely dwell among them. Since they could not drive them out, they tried their best to manage them by placing them into forced labor. But these people, whom they allowed to remain, would hinder the spiritual health of the nation. Ancient Israel did not win them over to their God, Jehovah. Rather, the people won the Israelites over to their idols. God warned them of this in Deuteronomy 7:2b-4, which reads, “…Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. 3 Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, 4 for they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods, and the LORD’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you.” It was all happening according to God’s prediction.

There are times when we allow sin to remain in our hearts. What do we do? Mostly, we try to manage and control our sin, without actual repenting of them and getting rid of them. When we do, then no matter what we do, we are spiritually harassed, robbed of the full life that Jesus wants to give to us. We need to root out all sin from within us and dedicate our hearts to the Lord by engaging faith and obedience in a life-giving struggle. This can be done by the power of God. When we repent and accept Jesus as our Savior, we are changed. We become new creations. 2 Corinthians 5:17 reads, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” (NIV 1984) Stop trying to manage your sins. Let’s come to Jesus and let him completely obliterate the sin from with us and let him make us into new creations!

As we know, conquering our land never means to drive other people from our midst and communities. No! People should have a place to be among us and still not believe, a place where they can even dissent. The Bible does not teach isolation from the world, but it definitely does teach separation from the world. We Christians are “in” the world, but never “of” it. Think of our lives as being like a ship. The ship is on the water, but trouble comes when the water gets into the ship. In light of this, to clear the land means to conquer our own hearts with the Gospel and with the love of God. It means not giving into cultural pressures and letting the idols of our land take root in our hearts. It means driving out sins and evil spirits from every crook and cranny of our hearts and lives though repentance and faith.

There is also and outward expression of “conquering the land.” We have the ”land” of our families, relationships, our jobs and the mission field that God has called us to, which for us, are the people of DeKalb and the students of our schools and of NIU. Conquering these lands does not mean that the vast majority of the people will believe in Jesus and grow as humble shepherds and Bible teachers of campus students. It does not mean that 10,000 Dekalbers will be meeting weekly for praise and worship. It means that the gospel is being faithfully and prayerfully preached. It means that one person’s heart is being changed and controlled by the power of God. It means that at least one person has hope and stands up a servant of God with a heart full of faith. (And that one person could be our very own self.) With this definition of “conquering the land”, we can see that it is definitely within our grasp to conquer our land when the Lord is by our side.

Part ll: God Has So Much In Store For Us…But We Must Clear The Land

The Israelites disobedience hindered them from enjoying all the fruit of the Promised Land. Look at verse 34. “The Amorites confined the Danites to the hill country, not allowing them to come down into the plain.” The plain is where the fertile soil was. The plain had the best farmland and access to the trade routes. There was prosperity in the plains. But the Danites had to dwell in the hill country. Their failure to drive out the Amorites cost them dearly.

They also failed to take control of Jerusalem. Look at 1:21, which reads, “The Benjamites, however, did not drive out the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the Benjamites.” If you look on the map, you will see that Jerusalem was the perfect location for a capital for their new nation for it was right in the middle. They could have utilized it as a very effective center of power. But they failed to drive out the Jebusites. Actually it would be 500 years later that the Israelites, under King David, would take Jerusalem and make it their capital.

The fact remains that if we don’t completely dedicate our hearts to the Lord and let the light of the gospel drive out every shadow from within, we forfeit a lot to of the joy and blessings that the Lord has for us. We are forever struggling with one sin after another. Some people spend a life time of struggling with things that are totally unnecessary. Why do we do this to ourselves? Most of the time, we are our worst enemy. God has so much in store for us, but we must devote our hearts to him.

Part lll: God Never Breaks His Covenant With Us (2:1-5)

God calls his people to account for their sin. Look at verses 2:1-3, “The angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land I swore to give to your ancestors. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, 2 and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.’ Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? 3 And I have also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; they will become traps for you, and their gods will become snares to you.’” What did God remind them of? He reminded them of the grace of God. Look at verse 1, ““The angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land I swore to give to your ancestors. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you” God always begins with his grace, even if he is about the rebuke his people. It is always good to be reminded of the grace of God frequently. It is Jesus who brought us out of the land of slavery to sin, self and the devil and freed us to enter eternal life as children of God. He made us citizens of his kingdom, by his grace. We now have power to live by faith. During our time on earth we serve God’s holy purpose in our lives enjoying our life in him. This is the grace of God.

Next, God reminded them of the covenant. A covenant is a two sided agreement. God promises one thing and he promises to come through if we keep our side of the covenant. At Mount Sinai, God made a sacred and binding agreement with the Israelites called a covenant (Exodus 19:5-8). God’s part of the covenant was to make Israel a special nation, to protect them and to given them a unique blessings for following him. Israel’s part was to love God and obey his laws. But because they rejected and disobeyed God, the agreement to protect them was to no longer in effect, but the promise to make Israel a nation through which the whole world would be blessed (fulfilled in the Messiah’s coming.) remained valid. God still wanted the Israelites it be a holy people, but now, instead of one-sidedly protecting them, he would use oppression to bring his people back to him, just as he warned he would (Lev 26, Deut 28).

What is the covenant that God has made with us? Jeremiah 31:31 says, “’The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to them,’ declares the LORD. 33 ‘This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,’ declares the LORD. ‘I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,’ declares the LORD. ‘For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.’” The days that Jeremiah is talking about are the days of the new covenant in Jesus Christ. The “days” are the days when Jesus suffered and died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead giving us a living hope in the Kingdom of God. It is the days of the New Testament church which we are now living in. It is the Age of Grace, God’s grace poured out on sinners who stand at the foot of the cross in faith.

The main gist of this covenant is found in verse 34b, “…For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.” When we come to Jesus, confessing and repenting of our sins and accepting his sacrifice on the cross, he forgives us of our wickedness and remembers our sins no more. He gives us a clean slate and we can move forward in our lives of faith. When we are forgiven of our sins, God considers us his holy children and the Holy Spirit can come into our hearts like a flood and dwell with us. In this way the words in Jer 31:33b are fulfilled, “…“I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” The Holy Spirit teaches us directly. He reminds us all that Jesus has taught us. He convicts our hearts with regards to sin, righteousness and judgment. He guides our feet on the paths of peace for his names’ sake. (This does not negate the necessity of Bible teachers however.) God promises to work in all peoples’ hearts, from the least of them to the greatest. God does not discriminate. He will dwell in any believer, from the most down and out homeless believer, to the CEO believer. Thank you Jesus.

And so what is our part of this covenant? I believe it is nestled in the words of verse 34b, “…“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Our side of the covenant is to believe the gospel with faith. We must recognize our wickedness and come to God with humble contrite hearts confessing that it against God whom we have sinned. Then the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God, whose sinless sacrifice satisfies God’s justice will cover our hearts. We are forgiven. We are God’s children with eternal life. The Holy Spirit dwells in us. The only thing keeping us from entering into this graceful covenant is our stubborn refusal to believe, which is born out of our pride. But even in these cases God is ceaselessly coming to our aid looking for any crack in the walls we have put up. Yes, we will fail again and again. But Jesus never fails. The Gospel never fails. By his grace, we can be held in a covenant relationship with Jesus. Praise God for that fact.

Do to their own forsaking of the covenant, the people would have to deal with many snares. Look at verse 3; “And I have also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; they will become traps for you, and their gods will become snares to you.’” God still loved his people. But the inhabitant of the land, would become snares that God would work through, to draw his people to himself, time and time again. And so there is no need to despair about anything in your life. God will work though it all to draw you to himself.

It is amazing to see their response. Let’s see in 2:4-5, “When the angel of the LORD had spoken these things to all the Israelites, the people wept aloud, 5 and they called that place Bokim. There they offered sacrifices to the LORD.” The people repented of their sins. They cared about their broken relationship with God. The people of Israel knew they had sinned, and they wept aloud, responding with deep sorrow. Repentance is the true measure of spiritual sensitivity. Let us pray that God may give is a sprit of repentance for when we repent, new beginnings and times of refreshing will come from the Lord.

Today we learned the importance of obeying the Lord with faith and life giving struggle. We learned to not compromise with sin our hearts but come to Jesus and become new creations. We need to realize how much the Lord wants to bless us if only we will surrender the entirety of our hearts to him. Most of all lets us enter into the beautiful covenant with God, full of grace and full of forgiveness, by repenting and believing in Jesus.

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