From Bad to Worse.
“Again the Israelites did evil in the LORD’s sight. They worshiped images of Baal and Ashtoreth, and the gods of Aram, Sidon, Moab, Ammon, and Philistia. Not only this, but they abandoned the LORD and no longer served him at all.“ – Judges 10:6 NLT
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse for the people of God, it did. After their debacle with Abimelech, you would think they would have taken the hint and learned their lesson that God was to be their ruler and nobody else. But the Israelites were a little slow on the uptake. They do seem to get a 45-year break from the constant rebuke and punishment from God in the form of the judgeships of Tola and Jair. We don’t learn a lot about either of these two men, but we do know that while they judged there is no indication of enemies attacking or punishment being meted out by God. But that doesn’t mean that all was well in the land.
Because verse six gives us a glimpse into what was really going on. The people had been busy falling back into their old habit. But now they were not only worshiping Baal and Ashtaroth (who were the female consorts of Baal), but they added a whole slew of other gods to their retinue, including the gods of Aram, Sidon, Moab, Ammon and the Philistines. On top of that, they had completely forsaken Yahweh altogether. This wasn’t a case of adding more gods to their worship of the one true God, they had left Him out of the mix completely.
So once again, God responds by giving them over to their enemies. Instead of victory, they would suffer defeat and humiliation, and it would last a long 8 years. And the amazing thing is, it took the people 18 years to finally call out to God. No doubt they had been calling out to all their other gods the entire time and finally decided they weren’t getting the answer they were looking for. So when all else fails, call on Yahweh. But God responds by reminding them of all the times He has rescued them before. He had saved them time and time again, and each time they had turned right back to their other gods. So this time, God tells them He is done rescuing and encourages them to turn to their other gods for help. “Go ahead! Cry out for help to the gods you’ve chosen–let them get you out of the mess you’re in!” (Judges 10:14 MSG). God wasn’t being mean. He was looking for something – true repentance.
It wasn’t going to be enough to just cry out to Him for help. They had done that before. This time God wanted action in keeping with their words. It reminds me of what John the Baptist had to say to the Pharisees when they showed up asking to be baptized. He told them, “Prove by the way you live that you have really turned from your sins and turned to God” (Matthew 3:8 NLT). John was looking for fruit in keeping with repentance. So was God. He wanted to see them clean house. To get rid of their other gods. Which they did. We aren’t told how long it took them to do so, but they finally got rid of their substitutes for God and put Him back in the place where He belonged. And when they did, God showed mercy.
But the interesting thing is, their troubles didn’t disappear. Repentance is NOT an elixir to get rid of all our problems. They still had the Ammonites camping outside their door. They had repented, but they weren’t dependent. They were serving the Lord again, but they weren’t looking to Him to solve their problems. They were still looking to substitutes for God. And this time it would be a man, not another god. But it would still prove to be a bad decision. And we’ll see more about that tomorrow.
But suffice it to say, that we can never afford to find substitutes or replacements for God. People, possessions, power, prominence, pleasure … none of these things can deliver what only God can. They will always disappoint and the people of Israel would learn that lesson the hard way.
Father, why do we always feel the urge to find replacements for you? Why can’t we learn to trust You and rely on You alone? I can turn to so many other things other than You. But they never deliver as anticipated. They always disappoint. But You never do. Help me learn to rely on You and You alone. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men