The Israelites were in great distress. Finally, they cried out to the LORD for help, saying, “We have sinned against you because we have abandoned you as our God and have served the images of Baal.” The LORD replied, “Did I not rescue you from the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, the Sidonians, the Amalekites, and the Maonites? When they oppressed you, you cried out to me for help, and I rescued you. Yet you have abandoned me and served other gods. So I will not rescue you anymore. Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen! Let them rescue you in your hour of distress!” Judg 10:9-14
That is most definitely not the answer the Israelites wanted to hear when they cried out to God! But it is definitely the answer they deserved to hear. And it is unquestionably the one we deserve to hear!
How many times have we read – just in the Books of Joshua and Judges – “again the Israelites did evil in the LORD’s sight” (Judg 10:6)? We never read of the Philistines worshiping the gods of the Sidonians, or the Ammonites worshiping the gods of the Moabites. Why is it that those worshiping the false gods are more faithful to them then God’s people are to Him? Yet we continually see the Israelites changing their allegiance from Jehovah alone to Jehovah and a false god, to a myriad of false gods, to no longer serving Him at all. A reality we must learn from the Israelites is that we cannot serve God and serve the gods of this world. If He does not have all of our heart, He will soon not have any of it!
Could it be that the Israelites thought that by worshiping these other gods that the other nations would more readily accept them? Did they think that embracing the other religions of the land would bring peace to the region? The reality they experienced was that the more they accepted the gods of the other nations the less the other nations feared or respected them. When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, they did so with the reputation and fear of their God preceding them. They were one people of strength and might – with one purpose – because of their God. But as they turned their hearts to the false gods of the land, they became just another people – divided, without purpose or conviction, and without repute – a people to be oppressed. The very distinction of who they were – the people of the Lord God Jehovah – no longer existed. They forgot who they were in light of Whose they were.
But by His grace – He did not forget Whose they were! You and i would have no reason to protest if God had chosen to write them off for good. He would have been well within reason and right to move on and raise up a new people for Himself and allow these to disappear off the face of the earth and enter into an eternity separated from Him. How many times should He have to forgive them – and rescue them? And yet, His intention, even with His rebuke, is not to leave them abandoned, rather to draw them to repentance.
Remember God made a covenant with Abraham. He can never abandon His people… even when they abandon Him! He will discipline them. He will withhold His blessing from them. He will not stave off the consequence of their sin. He will even permit them to separate themselves from Him. But He will never forget that He is their God. And He will never fail to forgive them and restore them if they repent of their sin and turn to Him.
See what happened. “The Israelites pleaded with the LORD and said, “We have sinned. Punish us as You see fit, only rescue us today from our enemies.” Then the Israelites put aside their foreign gods and served the LORD. And He was grieved by their misery” (Judg 10:15-16). They confessed their sin. They surrendered themselves to His judgment and justice. They turned from their wicked ways and turned to Him. And He forgave them – for the umpteenth time! No matter how much they had sinned, and no matter how many times they turned their backs on Him, He was willing to forgive them. Talk about grace and mercy!
i don’t know about you, but that sounds very much like another passage in Scripture to me. “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land” (2 Chron 7:14). And the grace that He extended to His people here in Judges 10 gives me reason to hold onto the hope that “nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:38-39).
So what do we do with that knowledge of His grace? Do we allow it to justify our sinful ways or does it drive us to our knees in worship and adoration. And then does it drive us to our feet to join Him in His mission – that all may know of His love and His gospel. He has called us and chosen us to be one people – His! For one purpose – His! For the furtherance of one mission – His! For the glory of One Name – His!
May the God we cry out to be the One True God – the Lord God Jehovah – the One we have chosen – and the One who has chosen us! And may it be so this day!
(Excerpt from “Lessons Learned In The Wilderness — Possessing The Promise”. For more information about the book see http://www.wildernesslessons.com/Possessing_The_Promise.html.)