Judges 2: Forgetting the Lord
Why was there danger that the children of Israel would forget to worship and obey the Lord? There were still parts of Canaan and many cities which had not been conquered, and many of the native people were living among them. These people did not worship the Lord, but many worshiped Baal the sun-god, and Ashtoreth whom they called, "the queen of heaven," and connected her with the planet Venus. (Ashtaroth, a plural word, means images of Ashtoreth.) The worship of these idols let the people do many evil things, and the children of Israel were often tempted to join in this worship and forget the Lord. When they served the Lord they were safe, and the native people who remained in the land paid them tribute, but when they worshiped idols and forgot the Lord and His commandments, some enemy was stronger than they.
After Joshua's death there was no settled leader of the people for nearly four hundred years, not till the days of Samuel. During this time, the people were often disobedient to the Lord, and when they were, some enemy would trouble them. At one time it was a king of Mesopotamia. (Where was Mesopotamia?) Then it was the king of Moab; then the Canaanites, the Midianites, the Ammonites, the Philistines. And when the people were in distress the Lord sent them a judge who was their leader for a time. He reminded them of their duty to the Lord and overcame their enemy. We are going to learn about some of these judges who lived between Joshua and Samuel, and led the people each for a short time. Their stories are told in the Book of Judges. Read Judges 2.
1. What did the children of Israel do while Moses was their leader? What did they do with Joshua as their leader?
2. Why did the people succeed against their enemies in the days of Joshua, but afterward they were often defeated?
3. Was there another great leader after Joshua, as Joshua came after Moses?
4. What were the leaders after Joshua called?
What enemies must we fight with and overcome with the Lord's help before we can live in the heavenly land? When these enemies are once overcome, are they entirely destroyed? Do they ever come up to trouble us again? They do come up again and again, for they are not really destroyed, but are removed to one side and are kept in control by the Lord's power. We are never safe except by remembering our need of the Lord's help. If we begin to think we are safe and to trust ourselves, the old enemy comes back again and is stronger than we. This experience that we all know so well and so sadly is exactly pictured in the story of the children of Israel and the nations of the land. (P. 279) How earnestly this lesson was taught in the farewell words of Moses and of Joshua!
Are we in any danger of worshiping idols? We really worship what we care most for, that to which we make everything else yield. If we follow what we want and what seems pleasant, we are worshiping an idol. If we choose what is right because the Lord commands it, we are worshiping Him. (A. 8869; E. 950)
It is said in the chapter that the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel. It is only in appearance that the Lord is ever angry, as a kind father seems angry to a disobedient child. The word expresses the intensity of the Lord's desire that we shall live in the ways that He knows are good; but it means that we close ourselves to Him by disobedience, so that His love seems to us like anger. (A. 6997, 8875, 10431)
Who is our judge who, even when we have been unfaithful, will have pity on us and strengthen us once more against our enemies? As Moses and Aaron and Joshua all represent the Lord, so too do Samson and Gideon and all the judges about whom we are to learn. (A. 1409)
It seems very strange that the children of Israel could again and again disobey and forget the Lord, especially when they always prospered when they obeyed Him, and always were in trouble when they disobeyed. But is it not even stranger that we forget Him again and again, and come into the power of some old enemy? How can we be so ungrateful and unfaithful?