Joshua, Judges, and the Spiritual Life
Joshua & Judges
Understanding the Old Testament Lesson #012
March 26, 2000
Father, we do thank you so much that we can come before Your Throne of Grace this morning. You are the God Who has portrayed the end from the beginning. You have made complete sufficient provisions for every need in our life starting with the thoughts, which is the basis for our provisions. Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the penalties for our sins so that we can have everlasting life. Father, we thank you for Your Word for it gives us everything we need to know. Father, we pray that as we study it that we will not only be challenged by it but that the Holy Spirit that fills us would help us understand these things and see how they relate to our lives. We pray this in Jesus' Name. Amen.
We are continuing our study this morning in the Old Testament getting an overview, orienting ourselves to the Old Testament. One of the things that I have pointed out continuously is that the Old Testament is the background and foundation for the New Testament. One problem that many people have is misinterpreting, misunderstanding the New Testament because they just do not have an Old Testament background. When you get into the Old Testament the foundation for understanding everything in the Old Testament is the Pentateuch, the first five books of Moses, also called The Law or the torah, from Genesis through Deuteronomy. It is there that God lays the foundation for the new work that He is doing in history in a nation called Israel. The nation of the Hebrews, the descendents of Abram.
Now if you look at the overall scope of those initial five books you saw that the first eleven chapters really serves as sort of a historical prologue based upon the model of the secular treaty called a Suzerain-Vassal treaty form. In those first eleven chapters actually cover about 2000 years in history and yet they just give such a cursory evaluation and cursory information about that time. We are often left with a lot of questions. Yet, the information that is provided in these first eleven chapters is exactly what God wants us to know in order to understand why He brings this new nation in to existence.
So that the core, the heart of the teaching in Genesis really begins in Genesis 12 and we saw how that slows down with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, the Patriarchs. God is calling out a new nation and we see its purpose in Exodus 19:3-4. God is calling out this new nation to be a kingdom of priests. So that Israel function to all the other nations on the earth as an intermediary priest nation. It is through Israel, according to the Abrahamic Covenant, that God will bless all the other nations. Now because Israel has been brought to this position, God expects more of Israel then He does of all the other nations.
All of the other nations are still under the Noahic Covenant. I have made it a point, emphasized, that the things going on in this secular world at this time with capital punishment; I made the point that the Noahic Covenant among all the stipulations there also not only authorizes, but mandates capital punishment. One question that was asked, the same question that was on a paper I wrote when I was in the seventh grade on capital punishment, defended it Biblically, and her comment at the end was, "doesn't God say 'vengeance is Mine saith the LORD.'" That was the common misconception. You hear it in the news media all the time; that is the confusion that vengeance is justice. Vengeance is not justice and justice is not vengeance. If somebody murders someone it is the government's responsibility to execute justice. Now if a private citizen decides to take matters into their own hands, that is vengeance; and there is no place for vengeance in the plan of God. But there is provision; God has delegated it, the responsibility of man as a function of justice. It is not only authorized; it is mandated.
Now in terms of the background, what we have seen is that there are three items necessary to make a nation:
1. First you have to have a people. This began when God called out Abram in Genesis 12 and the development of the people, his descendants, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph; and then He took the people into captivity in Egypt. This is the analogy of a fetus in the womb; the infant nation grows to maturity and then there is the birth, the birth pains, the 10 plagues, and the nation. The people come out from Egypt in the event of the exodus, which is a type, a picture of our redemption from slavery as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. The Jews were brought out from the nation and taken to Sinai; they spent a year camped out at the base for Sinai; and it is there that God gives Moses the Mosaic Law, the Mosaic Covenant, which is a temporary and conditional covenant, which is designed to provide the people with a body of law that serves as their constitution.
3. Now God is going to give them the land. This is the focus of the next couple of books in the Old Testament, Joshua and Judges, that we will cover this morning.
So we want to look in terms of background at a couple of passages to understand God's mandates to Israel's foreign policy. You can open your Bibles to Deuteronomy 20. In Deuteronomy 20:18 we find the core of the instruction. Now we will go through this passage and look at the details, but first let's see where it is going. Look at Deuteronomy 20:18, "In order that they may not teach you…;" the purpose for the foreign policy, the specific rational for why God is doing what He is doing and why God mandates the absolute annihilation of the Canaanites. Not only are they to be destroyed, every man woman and child; it is total warfare, but their cattle. Everything is supposed to be destroyed because it teaches something about the infectiousness of sin. This doesn't fit well; this concept of total war and annihilation doesn't sit well with modern man. I find it interesting that there are a lot of parallels right now between what we covered the last couple of Sundays in the second hour on cosmic thinking. And what is really going on here is a typology in the Old Testament. Because the Canaanite worldview, their culture, represents for us and foreshadows for the believer the fact that we, too, live in the world but we are not of the world and we are supposed to have a certain attitude of separation from the world.
This is what is portrayed historically for us in these Old Testament events. I want to say a word about this because it is a lot of confusion for folks. That is that when you get into the Old Testament these are literal, historical events. But God has so chosen to reveal them to us and to record these particular events and not other events in order to teach spiritual principles. The Jews understood this and Paul reiterates this in 1 Corinthians 10 "that these things happened as an example to us." So this morning what I want to look at is the historical events that took place; why they took place; the way they too place; and then stop a couple of times as we go through and draw some spiritual applications for us in the Church Age.
We must remember that in the Old Testament concept of foreshadowing and typology Israel stands as the individual believer in the church age. It is not that every person in Israel is saved but Israel as the nation is portrayed as the redeemed nation; they are portrayed as saved. The exodus redeems them; the law is the point at which they are given the revelation of God as to how they are to live. The rituals that are described and the tabernacle worship to represent the spiritual life of the nation. In the same way each individual believer is elected, selected, chosen by God back to Abraham; we are redeemed at the cross when we put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ. We are redeemed and then we have revelation of God, which describes for us how to live and gives us the priorities, teachings, and principles of Bible doctrine so that we know how to live. That is the analogy.
Now what happens is that last time we saw that when the nation Israel left Egypt they went to Sinai, and then from Sinai they went to take the land. They went to Kadesh-Barnea is located on the southern boundary of the promised land. From there they sent out twelve spies. God said, you send out and Moses' instructions from God was to send out the spies so that they could understand the layout of the land. It was not to see if they have this land, but what the obstacles were and then they could make their plans accordingly. God had already promised them the land. The issue wasn't can we do it, defeat the enemies; the issue was let's understand who the enemies are and what the situation is so that we can make wise planning as we defeat them.
The same thing is true in the spiritual life of the believer. God has already given us the victory in the Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Corinthians 15 "Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." That is stated as taught, it is ours already. We are saved at the moment of salvation from the penalty of sin but the spiritual life itself is the process whereby we realize that victory on a day-to-day basis in gaining control over the sin nature. We are freed positionally from the power or the enslavement to the sin nature but we nevertheless have to implement biblical doctrines, biblical principles under the filling of the Holy Spirit, walking by means of the Spirit, in order to realize that victory in our day-to-day life; and that is the whole process of the spiritual life. What we have to realize is that the principle is true in the spiritual life today just as it was in the national life of Israel, and that is that the battle is the Lord's. In the ultimate victory that God is giving Israel in giving them what He has promised them; it is His to give; it is not theirs. Therefore, the procedures are going to be divine procedures, these are not going to be human viewpoint procedures. God is going to show to Israel in all of this, and show to us, that the issue is obedience to God; the issue is not relying on what may appear to us to be common sense or the way everybody else is doing it or pragmatic and successful therefore it should be right. The issue is, "what does God say?"
In terms of this command to annihilate all of the Canaanites the background really goes back once again to the Noahic covenant. Just after that Noah pronounced a blessing on Shem and on Japheth and a curse, not on Ham but on Noah's grandson, Canaan; because Canaan foreshadowed all of the sexual proclivities and perversities of the Canaanite people. God has given them time and time and time again in grace in order to turn to Him. But they have sunk deeper and deeper into all of their various perversions, and so God is going to discipline the Canaanites by annihilating them. They have now given up their right to life and God is going to take their land away from them and take their culture away from them through discipline, and using the Israelites to execute that discipline. God mandates that every single one be destroyed. God can do that.
The picture here is the sovereignty of God. God is the One. Job 1:21 says, "The LORD gives, the LORD takes away, blessed be the Name of the LORD." All the earth is the LORD'S. He has a right to determine how it is used and what happens to the people on the earth. So the ultimate issue here goes back to divine authority. God mandates this because He knows that once the Jews go into this Canaanite culture, He knows the devastating consequences that that perverse culture will have upon their thinking. It will take them away from God. So He wants to annihilate them. The picture there is the same picture the Lord has for us in the spiritual life. He wants the complete removal from our life and separation from those influences that we may enjoy and that may give us pleasure, but they distract us and tempt us and take us away from an exclusive devotion to the Lord.
This is the background for Deuteronomy 20:18. In order that they, that is the Canaanites, "may not teach you to do according to all their detestable things which they have done to their gods, so that you would sin against the LORD your God." God is going to give Israel a specific foreign policy; and as we will see, a specific military policy and strategy to take the land which goes against all normal concepts of military and foreign policy. There are in this passage, go back to Deuteronomy 20:10, there are two categories, two phases of this foreign policy.
1. First of all let's read Deuteronomy 20:10 "When you approach a city to fight against it, you shall offer it terms of peace." So they would offer certain terms of peace; and these are cities far off. This is not cities inside Canaan itself. These are cities in what we call Trans Jordon, what we call today the Eastern Bank, the eastern side of the Jordan River. This is not in the land per say.
2. Deuteronomy 20:11 "When you approach a city to fight against it, you shall offer it terms of peace. If it agrees to make peace with you and opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall become your forced labor and shall serve you." So right there we see how God institutes, as a matter of course, slavery.
Now I am going to challenge to your thinking a little further: God does not authorize; God does not give principles for regulating sin. So when God gives certain policies that regulate an activity we need to pay attention to it if we from our self-righteous culture think presuppositionally that that activity is sinful. See, in America we think slavery is wrong. The Bible doesn't say slavery is wrong; the Bible says slavery practiced in certain conditions is wrong. If you go back and examination the Mosaic law and its teaching on slavery there is always a way for the slave to buy himself out of slavery. It is not based on racial prejudice; it is based on economics usually. In this case it is based on the fact that these nations have given up their right to freedom because of their sinfulness and idolatry. So ultimately what we see here is that every issue sooner or later must be understood in terms of spiritual dynamics. Remember that the source of all problems is sin and so the source of all solutions must be the spiritual solution that God provides.
Now if this nation or this city, and at this time in Canaan it is dominated by city states much like Greece later on. You don't really have countries and nations; you had this stronghold; each city had its own rule and functioned in an autonomous way; and even tough they band together in somewhat of an alliance for mutual protection. Deuteronomy 20:12–15 "However, if it does not make peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it. When the LORD your God gives it into your hand…" Notice their victory is going to be from the Lord. It is not determined by their military prowess or their technology. It is dependent upon the Lord; He either gives them success or not. "When the LORD your God gives it into your hand you shall strike all the men in it with the edge of the sword."
Now remember this is talking about the cities outside the land; so all the males were to be eliminated. "Only the women and the children and the animals and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourself; and you shall use the spoil of your enemies which the LORD your God has given you." So the Lord authorizes that they take all this spoil, all this booty for themselves as a foundation for their future economy. "Thus you shall do to all the cities that are very far from you, which are not of the cities of these nations nearby." So the point that He is making is that these nations have an opportunity to keep their positions and keep their lives; they are given a choice and they are given offers of peace, and if they reject that then they lose everything. This is no different from the offer of the gospel today. There is only one way to come to peace with God and that is through Jesus Christ at the cross. Modern man and the world's system have a terrible problem with the exclusivity claims of Christianity.
Did any of you watch Larry King this last week? There was a couple of nights that I watched part of it. He had various leaders from the Jewish community, Roman Catholic community, Protestant community on and they were talking about the problem and some of the things he was saying about Israel. One of the issues that they focused on was the exclusivity claims of Christianity. There was a Rabbi on there and this Rabbi, Harold Kushner, and he wrote a book, Why Bad Things Happen to Good People, which teaches that God does not have control and never did have control. I think that Kushner is out of control, but nevertheless, he is trying to make a case. Dr. D. A. Carson from Trinity was one of the evangelicals there from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He is a very boisterous person who does not differ much from Roman Catholicism, but nevertheless, we will not get into that. Carson made the point that whenever you says something is right or true, then that automatically makes a statement that everything else is false. Kushner wants to say that no, no, no, you can say that something is right without inferring that everything else is wrong. He gave the insipid example of a husband saying to his wife, you are the most wonderful woman in the world. Well anybody that understands language knows that there is a difference there. If you tell your wife that she is the most wonderful woman in the world, you are not saying that every other woman in the world is not as good, not as wonderful a wife as she is.
Carson made the point that 'of course you are' if you take it literally. Now he did not go any further because he did not have time or format. But when a husband says that to his wife he is really making an idiomatic compliment to his wife and as far as I am concerned, my wife is the most wonderful woman in the world; he is not making a qualitative statement of comparison of her to every other woman in the world. And so you get into these language distinctions. I just wanted to point that out because the world despises the fact that Christians claim that there is one and only one way to have peace with God and that is through Jesus Christ.
The inference of that is that every other system is completely and totally false and… all these other systems, no matter how good they might be; no matter how wonderful; no matter how much they might work for some people, they are all evil. Islam, Buddhism, liberal Christianity that denies the deity of Christ and the substitutionary atonement of Christ, are all evil systems and those who promote those systems are also evil. That is why both John the Baptist and Jesus compared the Pharisees to vipers and false teachers and everything else because of the evil consequences of what they were teaching. The Scriptures teach that there is only one way to God and that is through the seed of Israel, Jesus Christ, who is called the seed of Israel in Galatians 3.
God wants to establish the fact here, in conducting Israel's foreign policy, the annihilation of the Canaanites; what God is doing is providing a framework whereby this new nation, a kingdom of priests, can live in the land as a righteous nation and an example of righteousness to all of the nations. The first stage of the foreign policy deals with those nations in the Trans-Jordan area and then Deuteronomy 20:16 and following deals with the foreign policy towards those who are in the cities. Deuteronomy 20:16 "Only in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes." That is total warfare, not just human beings, but everything.
Deuteronomy 20:17 "But you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite." Now these are the various ethnic groups that are all living in the land that God has promised. Not there is a variety of ethnic groups, a sort of a melting pot, and they all hold to the same cultural values and the same basic religious system, which by this time is practicing human sacrifice; it is deeply involved in all kinds of sexual perversions, the phallic cult, fertility worship everything that went along with it, including temple prostitution, and they are a degraded society. So it is time now that the cancer is excised and removed from the body; it is time for the Canaanite culture to be removed and excised from the human race. "But you shall utterly destroy them and then Deuteronomy 20:18 "In order that they may not teach you to do according to all their detestable things which they have done for their gods, so that you would sin against the LORD your God." This is God's mandate. God is going to provide the way for them to conquer them, and this is what Israel failed to understand at the first Kadesh. (Equipment problem….)
Let's turn to Joshua 1 and we see the outline and organization. God's instructions to Joshua look at Joshua 1:6, God says to Joshua, "Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them." This is a reference back to God's promise, His unconditional promise to provide the land for the nation Israel. Joshua 1:7 "Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you;" so this is the foundation by which the nation is to conquer. It is by obedience to God's will. The analogy for the Christian life is that as long as we are following God's Word and applying God's Word then it is God who then gives the victory. What we have gotten confused about is the idea that Christians are the one who ultimately determine the victory in their Christian life ant that is nothing more than morality and pull yourself up by your own bootstraps kind of thinking. What we are going to see in Joshua is that the victory is not given because the Israelites practiced the latest in military strategy or because they had the wisest of military generals or because they had the latest technology. It is because God gives them victory.
So the foundation is to be obedient to the law. We have seen that this is the issue in the entire history of the nation Israel. That in Israel's history they will be blessed as long as they are obeying the law and God is going to bless them economically, bless them in terms of their agriculture, bless them in terms of weather. He is going to remove the wild beast from the land and all manner of consequences will follow because of their obedience to the Mosaic Law. On the other hand, if they are disobedient there is going to be a whole series of five cycles of discipline culminating in the fifth cycle which is the removal of the people from the land. Joshua 1:7 "Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go."
Joshua 1:8 "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success." This is just a reminder. Then in Joshua 1:9 "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous!" The interesting thing is that the next phrase, "Do not tremble or be dismayed;" those words are found again in 1 Samuel 17 when you find David going against Goliath, the champion of the Philistines, who came out and challenging the nation… they tremble and they are dismayed. You see these key words developed throughout the Old Testament. They always relate back to the failure to apply the law and to be obedient. So the issue here is "if you are obedient you will be strong and courageous; if you are disobedient because of the consequences of sin in the land the result is fear in the face of adversity and fear in the face of the enemy.
The promises in the last clause, literally it is a causal chi in the Hebrew; a preposition chi, because "the LORD your God is with you wherever you go," Joshua 1:9. So the foundation for their victory is in the LORD and His provision for the nation. Now when they go into the land (draws a picture of the area of the promised land). The two tribes of Rueben and Gad settle on the Trans-Jordan side. Kadesh-barnea is down to the south. They come across, in terms of their invasion, they come across through the land into the land of Moab and then they come to the Jordan River. It is here at Mt. Nebo that Moses goes to the top of the mountain and he is taken to be with the LORD. They never found his body, no body knows what happened.
There are the stories that are told that the angel fought with a demon over possession of his body. But Moses is not allowed to go into land to possess it because of his sinful failure at the second time at the rock. He was to speak to the rock for water to come forth and he disobeyed God and because of that disobedience, in spite of all his obedience and all the wonderful things that Moses did, his tremendous spiritual maturity, he was not allowed to enter the land. The only people that were allowed to enter the land were Joshua and Caleb; and at this time they are probably close to eighty years of age and everyone else is at least twenty years younger.
They come into the land and the first place they hit is Jericho. Jerusalem is located (using map…); and Jericho is a fortified city. When this is emphasized in the text, this is a fortified city; your mind goes back to what happened at the first Kedesh. When the spies went in to the land and they came back they said there were three problems:
1. There were giants in the land.
2. The people were numerous; there are too many of them.
3. And they had fortified cities.
Now God is saying, okay, you have lots of problems in your life and I am going to show you that I can solve all of the problems in your life. The first problem they faced was the military problem of a fortress. Now you would think that they would come back and say that we have to solve this problem, let's get out our military textbook or field manuals and figure out what the latest technology is in perceived warfare and then we are going to attack the city, attach Jericho. God says, 'No, I Am going to show you how we are going to do this. You are going to take seven priest and seven trumpets out in front of the people. Then all the tribes are going to march in order and they will go forth and they will circle the city of Jericho once a day.' I want you to think about this a minute. There are approximately 2-1/2 million Jews at this time. Turn with me and let's look at the instructions in Joshua 6:2-5. The LORD said to Joshua, see, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and the valiant warriors. You shall march around the city, all the men of war circling the city once.
So there were about 600,000 men of war, maybe a little less, at least 600,000 over the age of twenty. Let's say they have an army of over 5000,000. So if you march them, a huge number of people walking around the city. This is not just some small line with a couple of hundred people out there. There are walking around using tambourines and blowing trumpets. This probably took most of the day or just part of the morning for them to just walk around the city. You can imagine what the inhabitants of Jericho were thinking at the time. So God says these are the instructions, you are going to take seven priest and seven trumpets; they'll stand at t he front of the line and they will walk around the city once a day for six days. Then on the seventh day you will follow the same procedure. During this entire time no one is to say a word. The only noise to be produced is the blast of the trumpets. Then on the seventh day, continuing in silence except for the trumpets, you will go around the city seven times. And then everyone will shout to the top of their lungs and the walls will fall down.
What God is demonstrating here is that victory comes on God's terms, not on man's terms; and that God's way may seem foolish to man, which is the whole theme 1 Corinthians 2 that the wisdom of man is foolishness to God and the wisdom of God is foolishness to man. Not the is that God has a specific procedure for exercising victory over the nations, the nation or city states in Canaan and they are conquered one at a time according to God's rules, not according to human viewpoint thinking. Now the picture that we should have in or minds spiritually in terms of application is that the land, this whole Promised Land here that God has given to Israel represents the believer's life. At the moment of salvation you are out here (overhead illustration); you have a life and thinking that is dominated by all kinds of sin patterns, all kinds of sin habits, all kinds of cosmic ideas, worldly thinking, all sorts of opinions and thoughts, and your job in sanctification is to eliminate all of that from your life under the power of God the Holy Spirit through studying the Word of God.
This is analogous to what happens here. Israel goes into the land. They come along here (illustration), they go into the land. First they take out Jericho, and then they take out Ai and go into the central hill country. Then they send out troops south and begin eliminating the major strongholds. They send another force up north and eliminate the various strongholds in the land. This is analogous to what is to happen in the spiritual life. We start dealing with certain bad habits; we start dealing with certain major sins that dominate our lives through application of doctrine and the filling of the Holy Spirit. But what happened in the life of Israel is so often the same pattern we see in the life of a believer. We see somebody who is saved and have a lot of problems in their life. They have come out of drug abuse; they've come out of this problem of whatever it is; they are miserable; they are unhappy; but now they are saved and they start growing and advancing and they deal with the major problems in their life. And now there is a measure of stability, a measure of happiness, a measure of success in their life.
And what happens? They lose momentum, they stop at that point and they relax; they don't pursue the spiritual life all the way to spiritual maturity. This is exactly what happened in the life of Israel in the shift from Joshua to Judges. In the book of Joshua you see the nation victorious over the Canaanites but they are simply taking out all of the major strongholds. Now when they come into the book of Judges what happens is that they don't carry out God's commands to the fullest extent. They do not annihilate every man, woman and child among the Canaanites and the Canaanite culture. They leave them alive. They begin operate on some liberal thought, well we just can't kill everybody; what right do we have to kill all these people and take their lives; and they begin to exercise their own judgment and authority independent from that of God. And so there are pockets left, strongholds of Canaanite culture that are left in the land. It is from these strongholds of Canaanite culture that you get the influence now on the nation, and so the whole book of Judges is a description of what happens in the life of the nation. They reach a certain level of victory and then they begin to compromise, everything begins to fall apart and they go through seven different cycles of disobedience, discipline and deliverance. That is basically the story of Judges.
Turn with me now to Judges 2:11. This is a summary of the entire Book of Judges. Now the main verse, the key verse in this particular Book is stated twice in order to make sure that we don't miss it. In Judges 17:6 and 21:25 "… every man did what was right in his own eyes." Judges is a rally a Book that is why all of this is some sense is an introduction to a study we are going to have in the Book of Judges. Judges is a book for our times. It is a book about the impact or result of cultural relativism on the Jews after the conquest because they failed to execute God's plan precisely and in its place they compromised. Then compromise always leads to the assimilation of false values. The underlying issue is authority and that is why authority is the foundational issue in everything in life.
That is why it is important for you parents to inculcate your children with authority orientation to understand those principles so that when they get older they have respect for authority and they can have respect for the Word of God and the authority of the Word of God. That is why in Protestant theology we have always emphasized the principle of 'Sola Scriptura.' This came out of the Reformation, which means "the Scripture alone" is our authority. It not some ecclesiastical decision from a denomination; it is not the consensus of churches; it is not anything but Scripture. Scripture alone is our ultimate authority. So when society moves away from the Scripture as the ultimate authority, then the only thing that can replace it is something in the creation, man himself and his opinion. So, what we see in the Book of Judges is what happens in cultural relativism. Cultural relativism is when everybody does that which is right in their own eyes.
Now let's look at Judges 2:11 to get a synopsis of the Book of Judges. "Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the Yahweh and served the Baals." This is subsequent to their conquest under Joshua. The first ten verses of chapter two rehearse Joshua's victory over the Canaanites as they have entered the land. The first chapter talks about how each of the tribes went in and possessed their area, but came short of absolute annihilation and absolute possession. So the next generation comes along because their parents' generation failed to apply God's Word 100% and the next generation has learned from their example that you can have a measure of success without complete obedience, so we will do what we wanted to do.
Judges 2:11 "Then the sons if Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals." Now this term "Baal" is a reference, literally just means "lord;" and it is a reference to the second person in pantheon of the Canaanite religion, the son, Baal. Sometimes you see the term in the plural, which is just a term for all the false gods of the Canaanites. Now Baal is the storm god; he is the god of the rain; he is the god of fertility; and in some cases the god of war. There are various different Baals; sometimes he was called Hadad the storm god. He is also the god of thunder and lightening. He is roughly comparable to the Roman Jupiter or the Greek Zeus. El, his father is comparable to the Roman mythology Satan and in Greek mythology it was Uranus. Of El and Baal, Baal becomes the dominate figure and in agricultural economies, of course it is storm, rain, fertility, all of these things that are crucial to their survival as a culture.
Now Baal has three consorts, three female deities that are associated with him. There is Anat, Astarte, and the Asherah. Of course the culture is always – when a culture creates a religion it is always a reflection of their value system and because they create gods to imitate them. So we see the immorality and the perversion of the Canaanite culture in their mythology. All three of these goddesses, Anat, Astarte, and Asherah are principally concerned with sex and war. They conceive but they never bear. They are very sensuous in their function, but they are not eternal. They are perennially fruitful but they never bear. They are perpetually virgins. They never lose their virginity and they are referred to as mother goddesses, and they function as divine courtesans. In fact they are sometimes referred to simply as 'the virgin goddess.'
Now if you come out of a background in Roman Catholicism you can certainly see where this cultural idea was picked up later on and assimilated into Christianity. One of the things that happened in the early centuries of Christianity, sometime in the third, forth, fifth century later is that missionaries went into cultures and instead of having a head-on confrontation with their religions and their worldview, what they would do; and you even see Christians do this today in the practice of witnessing. They come along and they say, well what you believe is really isn't that different from what we believe. And so they begin to compromise and try to make Christianity more culturally acceptable and they begin to assimilate and adapt it to this foreign culture that it is going into. And what would happen in many cases, when we went into North Africa and into areas in the Middle East and later when they went into areas in Northern Europe, they would take the pantheons of gods and goddesses and they would just reduce them to saints.
They would take a goddess, for example in Sweden there was a goddess named Bridget, and they just reduced her to a saint and that saint had the same areas of power and interest and control that the goddess had had. So really you don't have to change your thinking that much to shift from being a pagan to being a Christian. And that is what happened and that is where we get a source of a lot of these things over the ages. And the whole concept of having a virgin goddess with a baby there are certain statues that were found in the Northern African area that are identical to the ancient statutes of Astarte and her baby. She was sometimes pictured with a baby whose birth was in the Spring and it would die in the Fall and come back to life via the mother-child cult. And those little statutes were identical and then they were renamed Mary and Jesus in the Christian era. But it is the same figure, the same image, the same saints. So there is a picture of assimilation and that is where you get historically this emphasis on Mary and now the talk in Roman Catholicism about making her the total redemptress to Christ and even elevating her to a level of deity. But all of this has its root historically in the mother-child cult, which goes back to the phallic cult and the fertility religion of the ancient civilizations.
Now all of these female deities were also goddesses of war and there are various pictures and portrayals of Astarte pictured as a naked woman astride a horse bearing a shield and lance. And in the various epics she is described as full of blood lust and carrying out massacres. And she would fill her temple with worshipers who she would then slay…. She would take her sword and her spear and she would just flail and go through the crowd of worshipers and cut off their heads and arms until the blood in the temple was running neck deep on her horse. So violence and sex was what was worshiped in the Canaanite culture. And this is why God had to annihilate that culture. But because of the failure of the Jews to annihilate that culture they were attracted by the sensuality of the culture, and so they began to leave the worship of God and to get involved in the phallic cult.
Judges 2:12-15 "… and they forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them; thus they provoked the LORD to anger. So they forsook the LORD and served Baal and the Ashtaroth. The anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and He gave them into the hands of plunderers." So here we see the exercise of the cycles of discipline as outlined in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. "The anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and He gave them into the hands of the plunderers who plundered them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies around them, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies." So first there is disobedience to God, rejecting God, in verses Judges 2:11-12; and then there is divine discipline, in Judges 2:14-15. "Wherever they went, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had spoken and as the LORD had sworn to them, so that they were severely distressed."
In Judges 2:16 you have deliverance; there is always grace in judgment. God always provides a solution to the sin problem. So the people would come to a point where they were devastated; they were being dominated by the foreign powers; whether there were the Ammonites, Midianites, or whoever it was, the Philistines later on, and eventually they would turn back to the LORD and say LORD we have sinned. So you have confession of sin and a return to the LORD and at that point God would deliver them. Judges 2:16-17 "Then the LORD raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of those who plundered them. Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they played the harlot after other gods and bowed themselves down to them."
Now the word for judges here is not a judge in the sense that we know that we think of a judge in our judicial system. A judge in the Jewish system is a combination of military leader, ruler, and has a legal function, much like we have a judge today. They would come to Deborah and she would make decisions, but she also led armies with Barak; Gideon led armies. So it is a kind of combination position, part military-part judicial-part executive of the nation. They don not listen to their judges. They are immoral; they are unfaithful to the covenant with God and they would turn around as soon as things were going good again, they would turn their back on God and go back. It has a common ring to it. People are often ring to it; when life gets bad they turn to the LORD and they get interested in doctrine again and they show up at church and everything kind of smoothes out and they start getting distracted so everything falls apart again and they come screaming back to God as if God is simply there to take care of them when they have problems. So they continue to go through this cycle. They turned aside quickly from the way in which their fathers had walked in obeying the commandments of the LORD. They did not do as their fathers; that is in obedience to the LORD.
Judges 2:18-19 "When the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge and delivered them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed and afflicted them. But it came about when the judge died, that they would turn back and act more corruptly than their fathers," so there is not only this cycle of disobedience, discipline, deliverance, but there is a decline; it gets worse. Each cycle, there are seven cycles in the Book of Judges and each one gets worst; each cycle last longer until you come to the last one when the Philistines are dominating, God raises up Samson, but nobody wants Samson to deliver them. The Israelites are against him; the Philistines are against him; and he cannot even control his own sex lust. When the Book ends the nation is still under the heel of the Philistines. There is no deliverance.
There is a great picture here because what we see is the nation still under the oppression of the Philistines and it is not until David, the picture of Jesus Christ the Messiah. It is not until David's times that the people are ultimately delivered from the Philistines, who in biblical typology often represent Satan. So there is a lot of semantic dynamics that are going on here. In an overall structure we see that the ultimate deliverance from all of this cycle is of course the Messiah and David is the anointed king and it is a picture of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then we come to Judges 2:20-21 "So the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and He said, 'Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers and has not listened to My voice, I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died."
At that point the Lord is going to leave them there. Why? Judges 2:22 "In order to test Israel by them…." So we see this continual testing and challenging is a picture of how we are continually tested by our own sin nature. This internal enemy that we have in order to test us to see if we will walk with the Lord. So this is the picture that is given us. There are seven cycles that take place. It begins with Orthniel who is the nephew or son-in-law of Caleb and he is probably the most spiritually astute of this whole crowd. Then it deteriorates. Each generation of judges becomes more and more corrupt until you end with Jephthah and Samson. Jephthah sacrifices his daughter as a burnt offering and Samson just cannot control his lust. So it just gets progressively worse through this period of time.
Then you come to the end where there are really three appendixes, Ruth in the Hebrew canon is part of Judges. And you have two appendixes that deal with the total corruption of the priesthood and show the corruption of the people and each of those appendixes and in Ruth the city of Bethlehem plays an important role. It is Bethlehem that is the city where Ruth will settle down with Boaz and she gives birth to the grandfather of David. So if you teach Ruth as it is in the Hebrew canon, as part of Judges, Judges does not really end on a negative note, but it ends on a positive note foreshadowing the redemption and ultimate deliverance that God is going to give to the nation. Always the emphasis on God's grace even in the midst of judgment. But in those three appendixes Bethlehem is mentioned and there is always something negative about Bethlehem. There is always something to come back and present Bethlehem in a negative light until you get to Ruth and Boaz. Then you see the transformation of Bethlehem from a negative to a positive. And it is in Bethlehem ultimately that the Savior and Messiah will be born.
So again we see how God continues to graciously work in the lives of the people despite their sin, despite the perversity of the nation, God's grace continues to offer a redemption solution in order to bring the people back to Himself. So when you read through Joshua, Judges and Ruth the picture is first in Joshua of the conquest and God has given us the victory in the Lord Jesus Christ and the issues to recovery are to recognize that to live the Christian life according to God's principles and procedures. When God's principles and procedures are violated then there is defeat. It is not that this is our, in a sense it is our salute. God has given us the victory already but we must learn the principles of Scripture in order to realize that in our present experience. And then Judges is the picture of what happens when the believer fails, when the believer compromises, when the believer fails to submit himself to the authority of God. And then Ruth is the picture of how God is going to provide the Kinsman-Redeemer.
In the Book of Ruth you have the story of Ruth; she is a widow under the levirate marriage concept of the Mosaic Law. If her husband dies and she does not have a child to raise up in his name to take his inheritance, then she is to go his kinsman and that kinsman is to purchase her and he is to take her as his wife and raise his children to redeem that inheritance of the dead husband who did not have a child. So the inheritance stays in the family. All of this is a picture of what is called the kinsman-redeemer; that Jesus Christ in order to redeem us, the Savior in order to redeem mankind has to be a kinsman; He has to be true humanity. God cannot solve this on His own. God has to become flesh. He had to become a man in order to go to the cross because only true humanity could pay the penalty for the sins of the human race on the cross. So Ruth is the picture of this kinsman-redeemer who comes and delivers Ruth and in the same way Jesus Christ comes to deliver us and to pay the ransom price, which is His death on the cross so that we can have eternal life.
So that covers Joshua and Judges and the next time we will come back and we will look at the beginning of the monarchy, the nation's rejection of God as King, and they wanted a king like everyone else and yet we still see God's gracious protection for the nation. So we will begin our study of the monarchy next time. With our heads bowed and our eyes closed. Father, we do thank You for the opportunity we have to look at Your Word, to study these things, to see Your continuous grace throughout our lives and that in spite of our sinfulness, in spite of our rebellion, despite the discipline that You bring in our lives because of our disobedience, Your grace is always present. You always have a redemption solution. There is always an opportunity to recover either through salvation by accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior or through confess of sin. There is continuous provision for us and our victory is already secured because of everything You have done for us at the cross. Father, we pray that if there is anyone here this morning that is uncertain of their eternal salvation, unsure of their eternal destiny that they would take this opportunity to make that certain. The issue is believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. It is not a matter of moral reformation; it is not a matter of church membership; it is simply a matter of your relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ by faith alone. The Scripture says that there is no other Name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. Now Father, we pray that you would help us to understand and assimilate the things that we have studied today and challenge us by them. We pray this in Jesus' Name, Amen.