Read Judges 10
10 After the time of Abimelek, a man of Issachar named Tola son of Puah, the son of Dodo, rose to save Israel. He lived in Shamir, in the hill country of Ephraim. 2 He led Israel twenty-three years; then he died, and was buried in Shamir.
3 He was followed by Jair of Gilead, who led Israel twenty-two years. 4 He had thirty sons, who rode thirty donkeys. They controlled thirty towns in Gilead, which to this day are called Havvoth Jair. 5 When Jair died, he was buried in Kamon.
6 Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord. They served the Baals and the Ashtoreths, and the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites and the gods of the Philistines. And because the Israelites forsook the Lord and no longer served him, 7 he became angry with them. He sold them into the hands of the Philistines and the Ammonites, 8 who that year shattered and crushed them. For eighteen years they oppressed all the Israelites on the east side of the Jordan in Gilead, the land of the Amorites. 9 The Ammonites also crossed the Jordan to fight against Judah, Benjamin and Ephraim; Israel was in great distress. 10 Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord, “We have sinned against you, forsaking our God and serving the Baals.”
11 The Lord replied, “When the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, 12 the Sidonians, the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you and you cried to me for help, did I not save you from their hands? 13 But you have forsaken me and served other gods, so I will no longer save you. 14 Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them save you when you are in trouble!”
15 But the Israelites said to the Lord, “We have sinned. Do with us whatever you think best, but please rescue us now.” 16 Then they got rid of the foreign gods among them and served the Lord. And he could bear Israel’s misery no longer.
17 When the Ammonites were called to arms and camped in Gilead, the Israelites assembled and camped at Mizpah. 18 The leaders of the people of Gilead said to each other, “Whoever will take the lead in attacking the Ammonites will be head over all who live in Gilead.”
This passage shows us that we cannot serve two gods. We cannot say we love God when our hearts are elsewhere. Even if the Israelites didn’t explicitly say they rejected God, their actions proved otherwise. Their hearts were focused on serving false gods rather than serving the one true God.
Eventually, God gave the Israelites up to their own desires. As a result, they become slaves to the nation they want to be a part of. Through this, the Israelites were oppressed and harassed. This wasn’t God causing them pain, but instead the Israelites inflicting pain upon themselves as a result of their sin. What a reminder that our sin always has consequences, and sometimes we have to bear through difficulties because of our sin (similar to the Israelites). The next thing we need to notice is the Israelites enjoyed their sin. They thought worshiping other gods and indulging in worldly desires was better than following God, so they remained unrepentant. Although it may seem better or more fulfilling to do what the rest of the world is doing, it is harmful to us. What seems good to us is far worse than the life God has to offer us.
The Israelites finally call out to God, but their “repentance” is just to get out of their horrible situation. It isn’t driven by a desire for a right relationship with the Lord. They want the benefits of God’s goodness but do not want God Himself. For the first time, God tells Israel He will no longer save them. As we read this it feels confusing, but one commentator stated, “This apparent rejection, and the apparent indifference to the pleas of His people, was designed to test the sincerity of their response.” For too long the Israelites have been minimizing their sin but have to deal with maximum consequences. As a result, God wants Israel to be fully exposed to the gravity of their sin so they could become sick of it. Sometimes, it isn’t until we hit rock bottom where we finally realize how badly we need God. We do know that God continues to forgive them throughout the Old Testament.
Finally, the Israelites have a sincere repentance. They respond to God by saying, “Do whatever seems best for You.” Here, the Israelites depict a genuine submission and surrender to God. They turned from their idols and turned towards God. Repentance isn’t merely turning away from something. It also means turning to God. God was hurt while His people sinned against Him. His holiness cannot stand us turning away from Him. Yet no matter how many times we fail and fall short, God’s heart is still after us. He eagerly awaits us to turn back to Him, having open arms of a loving Father. His heart is towards you and for you.
- What are idols you are serving? How have they taken the place of God in your life?
- How are you doing at practicing repentance? Are you actively turning away from the sin in your life and running towards Jesus?
- Do you believe God’s heart is for you, ready to offer you grace?
By The Way
Along with this passage, Ezekiel 20:9-13 highlights God’s heart towards their sin. This occurs several books after Judges, and the Israelites are still falling short, like we all do. In response to their sin, God says, “You shall know that I am the Lord, when I deal with you for My name’s sake, not according to your evil ways, nor according to your corrupt deeds, O House of Israel, declares the Lord our God.” We deserve to be dealt with harshly because of our sin, and we were. All of God’s harshness was put on Jesus who died on the cross for our sins. He dealt with our sins according to His name’s sake, not according to our mistakes. How gracious and good our Father is. He took our sin and canceled our debt.
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