Emotionalism Gets You Nowhere
Judges Lesson #004
July 2, 2000
We continue our study of how a nation becomes paganized. In other words, how the nation Israel went from being a nation dedicated to God, a nation where they were dominated mostly by believers who were positive and obedient to doctrine as exemplified by the tribe of Judah at the beginning of Judges 1, by Caleb, by Joshua, by the next generation represented by a young warrior named Othniel, to one of degradation, degeneration, perversion, where they were compromising with the Canaanite culture all around them.
Instead of having victory in battles they were losing, and finally they were just settling down and compromising with those around them. Eventually they were not even defeating their enemies, they were having to retreat from positions previously held. It is an illustration, as it were, of the spiritual life of the believer in reversionism. But in a historical context it gives us a look at what takes place in the deterioration of a nation.
Israel started off at Mount Sinai with the greatest law code, the greatest system of freedom, ever to exist in human history. They did not have a government as such, as we are used to, they simply had an executive branch that was God Himself. God would rule through a bureaucracy that was known as the priesthood. Through the priesthood the people would come before God and when there was a need for someone with a leadership stature God would raise up judges. We saw that there were provisions for these men in Deuteronomy 17 —God made provision for everything.
And yet what we see is this nation that enters the land victoriously, with the tremendous conquests at Jericho, Ai, and other battles that they fought as they secured the major strongholds in the land and defeated the Canaanites in Joshua’s generation, in the next generation they began to lose, began to compromise. Instead of carrying out the destruction of the Canaanites they decided that maybe there was a better way—let the cattle live, let the people live—and they began to live off the prosperity of the pagans around them.
Some might ask why God would want a culture eradicated. Three reasons:
One had to do with divine discipline on that culture itself because of its rank carnality, immorality, and perversion. God wanted that culture removed from the face of the earth.
Secondly, to protect the believers in Israel from this influence.
And third, He wanted to demonstrate that believers do not need to rely upon unbelievers for their sustenance or provision, that God’s grace is sufficient for everything. They did not need to depend upon anything that was produced by the Canaanite culture.
Judges is designed to show that man in his depravity will always tend toward rejecting God—that is the trend—and that there is always a necessity for human government, a strong governmental authority in order to restrain evil. The theocracy in Israel failed, not because of its leadership which was God, but it failed because they had no capacity for freedom because they had lost the doctrine in their souls.
There are various social problems that take place—poverty, marital failure, racism, inequities, violence, all kinds of problems that we see in life. They are not the problem, they are merely the symptoms of the problem. The ultimate problem is a spiritual problem. The solution is not a political solution, not an economic solution, not developing government programs and throwing money at it; if there is no internal change in the mental attitude and volition of the nation then these things will just continue to plague and deteriorate the nation over time. Ultimate defeat begins with small compromises.
The point that comes through time and again in the first chapter is how God is gracious even when the Jews are failures. One of the things we will note throughout this book is that God continues to deal with Israel on the basis of His covenant as a gracious God, despite Israel’s failures. Although God clearly disciplines the nation, sometimes harshly, what we see over and over again is how God extends His grace to Israel, even when they don’t repent and come back to Him. God continues to deliver them, continues to provide deliverance again and again and again.
The lesson of chapter one is that Israel has compromised, and the more they compromise the less they are able to have any kind of victory militarily until they are left with simply co-existence with the Canaanites. That is a perfect illustration of what happens in the lives of most believers because they start compromising with human viewpoint thinking, at what seems to be an innocuous, subtle level—it’s not really going to make a difference if I do this or think like that—and they really don’t think it has an impact on the spiritual life.
But it does, it has a cumulative effect until eventually they are letting into their souls a co-existence of ideas, human viewpoint and divine viewpoint, and they become complacent. Eventually they wonder why “doctrine doesn’t work”! The reason doctrine doesn’t work is that you are basically negative, have given up, and you are no longer fully, radically, militantly trusting Christ.
Chapter two gives us the divine interpretation of the failures of chapter one. Chapter one is basically a record of what happened. Their failure wasn’t because they were militarily inefficient or because Judah didn’t possess chariots or iron, Judges 2:19; the issue was spiritual. The God who gave them victory at Jericho is the same God who could drive out the Philistines in the lowland, despite the fact that they had iron and chariots. The issue was trusting God, not technological or military skill. God never asks us to do more than His grace provides.
The first five verses give us the divine viewpoint interpretation of Israel’s failures from the vantage point of the angel of the Lord. Judges 2:1, “Now the angel of the Lord [literally, the angel of Yahweh] came up from Gilgal.” Who is the angel of the Lord? In the Hebrew, mal'akhyhvh.
An angel is a messenger, a representative from the high court of God. Cf Exodus chapter 23 where we have God’s preparation of the nation for the conquest, His provision for Israel. Exodus 23:20—“Behold, I send an angel before you, to guard you in the way, and to bring you into the place which I have prepared.” Exodus 23:21—“Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions; for my name is in him.”
In Semitic idiom the concept of name relates to the essence or character of someone or a thing. So here God is saying that His essence is in the messenger, i.e., “My character is inside him.” Jesus said in John 17:6, “I manifested thy name.” This was Jesus’ role as the Second Person of the Trinity incarnate. He is the One who expresses who God is.
In John 17:12, “While I was with them I was teaching them in thy name which thou hast given me.” So there is an identification here between Jesus in His statement [“I have thy name”] and the fact of the angel, the envoy of God in Exodus 23:21. Other Scriptures that we come to in the Old Testament indicate that the angel of Yahweh is equated to Yahweh Himself.
Genesis 16:7–13, the angel of Yahweh appearing to Hagar, and Hagar addresses the angel as Yahweh, and also bowing down and worshipping the angel. The angel of Yahweh never rejects the worship of man, though elsewhere in Scripture angels do. Gideon himself builds an altar to the angel of Yahweh and says, “I have seen Yahweh Himself.”
Furthermore, in Judges 13:18 when the angel of the Lord appears to the father of Samson, the father asks in Judges 13:17, “What is your name?” The angel replies, “Why do you ask my name seeing it is wonderful?” Here we have the same Hebrew word, paliy, that we find in Isaiah 9:6—“His name will be called Wonderful.” This is the name of the Second Person of the Trinity incarnate, Jesus Christ.
In Zechariah 1:12–13 we find a conversation between the angel of Yahweh and Yahweh Himself. Our conclusion is that the angel of Yahweh in the Old Testament is God the Son pre-incarnate, John 1:18.
Gilgal was located about halfway between the Jordan River and Jericho. It was where the army of the people camped when they crossed the Jordan and set up twelve stones, Joshua 4:19. Gilgal becomes Joshua’s command and control center. It is to Gilgal that the army always returns in the book of Joshua. The commander-in-chief that is set up over the armies of Israel is the angel of Yahweh, and He directs all the actions of the army of Israel from Gilgal.
So the movement from Gilgal to Bochim in Judges 2:1 indicates the cessation of holy war. The commander-in-chief of the armies of Yahweh has left the command and control center. There will not be holy war again in human history until Jesus Christ returns at the Second Advent at the battle of Armageddon. During that time it was the believer’s primary responsibility not only to kill the enemy but to annihilate the enemy, man, woman, and child. That tells us that there are times in warfare that it is legitimate to kill non-combatants.
Next, the angel of Yahweh pronounces a judgment on the nation, Judges 2:1–3. Notice that the angel announces that because of their failure, their compromise, they are never going to truly experience the kind of victory that God had given them. This is a tribute to missed opportunity in the Christian life. It happens to us all the time.
Any time we fail to trust God in certain situations we are going to miss out on blessings that God had intended to give us but will be held on reserve and never distributed to us. These are contingent blessings in time and they may affect our eventual rewards and inheritance in Heaven. The word that is used here to drive out is the Hebrew word garash which means to drive out, to expel, to defeat, to remove, to annihilate. And God says, “I will not drive them out before you.”
In Exodus 23:20ff we are told that the angel of Yahweh would go before them, and the consequences are announced in Exodus 23:22ff. This is a progressive thing, just like the spiritual life; God is not going to give us complete victory. This is in complete contrast to the Pentecostal, holiness idea that there is some sort of second work of grace after salvation, after which we will never have problems again in the Christian life, and if we do we weren’t really saved.
But God does not give us complete victory over everything at the instant of salvation, it is a progress. God has given Israel a covenant—the land covenant or real estate covenant—which is an expansion of the Abrahamic covenant, Genesis 12:1–3.
The key Scripture is given in Deuteronomy 29–30; this is a provision which basically says that God will bless the nation and provide a number of blessings for them if they are obedient. He announces that the nation will be rebellious, that He would take them out of the land and scatter them among all the nations, but that He would eventually restore them to the land—there would be national regeneration, restoration, blessing, and prosperity. Their borders would extend to the original borders promised to Abraham, and they would fully occupy the land.
In Judges 2 the angel announces that he will cease this and he will not give them complete victory over the Canaanites. The point of this is that God had originally promised to give them the land then here He says, “I will not give you the land, I’m not going to completely drive out the enemy, the pagans.”
We know that God’s promise—He does not go back on His word—will eventually be fulfilled in a literal manner. This is one of the reasons we believe in a literal Millennium and that God still has a future for Israel. He has made literal promises to Israel which have never been fulfilled in human history.
Their response is in Judges 2:4–5,they wept, bakah. What we see here is pure emotionalism. If we read the text we see that nothing happens, there is no true repentance which means change of mind resulting in change of behavior. There is no change, it is just an emotional response because they don’t like the consequences.