Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament book of Judges which describes the period of time in the history and narrative of Israel between the death of Joshua and the emergence of Samuel the final judge of Israel. More specifically, today’s passage is found in chapters four through seven of this Old Testament book. When and as you consider the words which are written and found within these chapters you will continue to find the narrative of the Judges emerging within the land of Israel, as the book of Judges not only describes the children of Israel doing that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, but also the LORD delivering them into the hands of very specific enemies. If and as you read the words which are found within the book of Judges you will clearly see a pattern emerging within the history of the congregation of the children of Israel, as they would do what was evil in the sight of the LORD, the LORD would deliver them into the hands of their enemies, they would cry out before and unto the LORD, and the LORD would raise up a judge who would not only deliver them out of the hands of their enemies, but would also govern them during those days of peace and rest from their enemies. It is necessary that we recognize and understand these patterns and cycles which are found within the book of Judges, for upon understanding these patterns and cycles we can not only understand the narrative of the children of Israel, but we can also understand the patterns and cycles within our own lives. IF there is one thing we must recognize and understand it’s that much of life is cyclical, and that more often than not we are the product of patterns and cycles within our lives, and within the days in which we live. We would be incredibly naïve to think about and consider—even for a moment—that we are not products of cycles and patterns within our lives. I would dare say that if you are willing to look over and even look upon your life you will clearly see that your life is a product of the various patterns and cycles which are and have been present throughout your days. What’s more, is that I would dare say that even now your life is made up of patterns and cycles—not all of which are necessarily evil in the sight of the Lord your God. As you look upon your life, and as you consider the narrative you are constructing, you will clearly see that within and throughout each day there are patterns and cycles, and even as the weeks and months go by there are patterns and cycles which emerge within your life. The narrative of the congregation of the children of Israel—specifically within the book of Judges—is one that centers upon patterns and cycles as the children of Israel would begin the pattern with transgression against the command and word of the LORD, and as the LORD would raise up enemies and adversaries against them. What’s quite interesting to think about and consider is that this wasn’t simply something that was experience during the days of the judges, for it was also experienced during the days of Solomon the son of David and king of Israel. In fact, if you begin reading with and from the first verse of the eleventh chapter of the book of First Kings you will find this reality in full force:
“But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites; of the nations concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father. Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for MOlech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods. And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the LORD God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he kept not that which the LORD commanded. Wherefore the LORD said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant. Notwithstanding in thy days I will not do it for David thy father’s sake: but I will rend it out of the hand of thy son. Howbeit I will not away all the kingdom; but will give one tribe to thy son for David my servant’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake which I have chosen. And the LORD stirred up an adversary unto Solomon, Hada the Edomite: he was of the king’s seed in Edom. For it came to pass, when David was in Edom, and Joab the captain of the host was goe up to bury the slain, after he had smitten every male in Edom; (For six months did Joab remain there with all Israel, unto he had cut off every male in Edom) that Hada fled, he and certain Edomites of his father’s servants with him, to go into Egypt; Hadad being yet a little child. And they arose out of Midian, and came to Paran: and they took men with them out of Paran, and they came to Egypt, unto Pharaoh king of Egypt; which gave him an house, and appointed him victuals, and gave him land. And Hadad found great favour in the sight of Pharaoh, so that he gave him to wife the sister of his own wife, the sister of Tahpenes the queen. And the sister of Tehpenes bare him Genubath his son, whom Tahpenes weaned in Pharaoh’s house: and Genubath was in Pharaoh’s household among the sons of Pharaoh. And when Hadad heard in Egypt that David slept with his fathers, and that Joab the captain of the host was dead, Hadad said to Pharaoh, Let me depart, that I may go to mine own country. Then Pharaoh said unto him, But what hast thou lacked with me, that, behold thou sleekest to go to thine own country? And he answered, Nothing: howbeit let me go in any wise. And God stirred him up another adversary, Rezon the son of Eliadah, which fled from his lord Hadadezer king of Zobah: and he gathered men unto him, and became captain over a band, when David slew them of Zobah: and they went to Damascus, and dwelt therein, and reigned in Damascus. And he was an adversary to Israel all the days of Solomon, beside the mischief that Hadad did: and he abhorred Israel, and reigned over Syria” (1 Kings 11:1-25).
As you read the words which are found within the eleventh chapter of the Old Testament book of First Kings you won’t necessarily find the patterns and cycles which are put on full display in the book of Judges, however, what you will find is the same response which was given unto the congregation of the children of Israel during the days of the judges. If you read the account and narrative of Solomon son of David and king of Israel you will find that he loved many strange women, and that he had countless wives and concubines in his harem. What is so incredibly tragic about the narrative of Solomon was that this was a man whom the LORD appeared to twice, and who was tasked with the responsibility of building the Temple and sanctuary of the living God. It would be Solomon who would not only oversee the building of the Temple which would stand in the midst of Jerusalem, but it would also be Solomon who would be present at the time of the dedication of the Temple when the glory of the Lord filled the Temple, and when fire came down from heaven and consumed the sacrifices and offerings which were upon the altar. It would be Solomon who would experience peace and rest round about as his father David had subjugated the nations and peoples round about Israel, thus ushering in a time of great peace and rest for the people of God. Such peace had not been experienced since the days of Joshua when under his leadership the children of Israel conquered and subdued the land of Canaan. Twice before the Old Testament book of Joshua concluded we find it being written how the LORD gave the congregation of the children of Israel rest within the land, and gave them rest from their enemies round about them. It would be during the period of the Judges when the nation of Israel would experience a period of time when peace would be removed from the land as the LORD would raise up enemies and adversaries against them to humble them and bring them back to Himself. It would be during the days of Solomon that the LORD would raise up two distinct adversaries and enemies which would vehemently oppose him, and during the final days of Solomon’s reign it would be a time absent and void of peace—peace which was enjoyed by and fought for during the days of his father David.
I am convinced that in order to truly understand the days and times in which the congregation of the children of Israel lived in and experienced during the days of the judges it would be necessary for you to read and consider how the second chapter opens up. IF you read the first chapter of the Old Testament book of Judges you will find that it concludes with the tribes of the people of Israel not only fighting against the enemies and adversaries which were present within their lot in the land, but also failing to drive them out and utterly destroy them. What would begin with Judah and Simeon fighting together and side by side to drive out the enemies and adversaries in the midst of the land would eventually culminate in the tribes west of the Jordan being unable to drive out the inhabitants which remained within their individual lots. The first chapter of the Old Testament book of Judges concludes with many of the tribes of the children of Israel allowing the remnant of the Canaanites to remain in the land and not utterly driving them out. This would prove to be incredibly dangerous for them, for as you begin reading with and from the opening verse of the second chapter you will find an angel of the LORD appearing unto the people of Israel and rebuking them for their failure to drive out the inhabitants of the land. Consider if you will the words which are found in the second chapter beginning with the first verse of the chapter:
“And an angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you. And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their alters: but ye have not obeyed my voice: why havey done this? Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as throns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you. And it came to pass, when the angel of the LORD spake these words unto all the children of Israel, that the people lifted up their voice, and wept. And they called the name of that place Bochim and they sacrificed there unto the LORD. And when Joshua had let the people go, the children of Israel went every man unto his inheritance to possess the land. And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LORD, that He did for Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being an hundred and ten years old. And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in TImnath-heres, in the mount of Ephraim, on the north side of the hill Gaash. And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baaliom: and they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger. And they forsook the LORD, and served Baal and Ashtaroth. And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and HE delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they would not any longer stand before their enemies. Whithersoever they went out, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had said, and as the LORD had sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed. Nevertheless the LORD raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them. And yet they would not hearken unto their judges, but they went a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves unto them: they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the LORD; but they did not so. And when the LROD raised them up judges, then the LORD was the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented the LORD because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them. And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way. And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel; and he said, Because that this people hath transgressed my covenant which I commanded their fathers, and have not hearkened unto my voice; I also will not henceforth drive out any from before them of the nations which Joshua left when he died: that through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not. Therefore the LORD left those nations, without driving them out hastily; neither delivered he them into the hand of Joshua” (Judges 2:1-23).
If you begin reading with and from the first and opening verse of the second chapter you will encounter the tremendous reality of an angel of the LORD coming up from Gilgal to Bochum with a very specific message for this generation which had emerged within the land—a message that doesn’t highlight that which has been accomplished within the land, but rather that which was left undone. This particular angel spoke unto them how the living God made them to go up out of the land oF Egypt, and how He brought them unto the land which the LORD had sworn unto them, and declared unto them He would never break His covenant with them. With the LORD bringing the children of Israel into the land, it was absolutely necessary that they recognized and understood that they were to make no league with the inhabitants of the land, and were to throw down their altars. What takes this to a whole new level is when you read and consider the fact that the angel would go on to speak unto them and declare unto them that they did not obey the voice of the LORD, and then asked them why they had not obeyed the voice of the LORD. It’s important that we recognize and understand that when the LORD brought the children of Israel into the land He was very clear and very specific in His instructions that they were not only to utterly drive out and destroy the inhabitants from within the land, but also that they were to destroy their altars, their images, and the symboled of the idolatry and pagan worship of the inhabitants which dwelt in the midst of the land. DESTROY AND DRIVE OUT! As you consider the words which the LORD spoke unto the congregation of the children of Israel—not only through Moses the servant of the LORD, but also through Joshua the son of Nun—you will find the LORD emphatically declared unto the children of Israel that they were not only to utterly drive out and destroy the inhabitants from the land, but they were also to destroy all the symbols and artifacts of idolatrous worship within the land. If there is one thing we must learn and understand when reading the words which are found within this particular chapter—as well as the Old Testament book of Judges—you will find and discover the undeniable reality why the LORD would issue specific commands to the children of Israel to utterly drive out the inhabitants of the land, and to utterly destroy all the altars, all the images, and all the idolatrous forms of worship. What’s more, is that the narrative of Solomon king of Israel is a powerful example of why the LORD instructed and commanded the congregation of the children of Israel to abstain from giving themselves in marriage to the inhabitants of the land, and to keep their sons from being given in marriage to their daughters, and their daughters being given int marriage unto their sons.
What we find in the Old Testament book of Judges is an absolutely powerful testament to precisely why the LORD issued such a command unto the children of Israel, for the LORD knew what would and what could happen if the children of Israel failed to utterly drive out the inhabitants of the land. Moreover, the LORD knew what would and what could happen if the congregation of the children of Israel failed—perhaps even refused to destroy the idols, the images, and the altars which were present in the land. It was true the LORD would bring the children of Israel into the land of Canaan, and it was true He would give it to them as an inheritance, however, being brought into the land would not come without and apart from the task, the assignment and the responsibility to take certain action upon entering into the land. That which we find in the Old Testament book of Judges stems from the underlying and root cause of the children of Israel failing to utterly drive out the inhabitants of the land, and utterly destroying the altars, the images, and the symbols of their idolatrous and pagan worship which was present in the midst of the land. We read a tremendous amount of language in the Old Testament books of Second Kings and Second Chronicles concerning the activity of Josiah who would arrive and emerge upon the throne of the southern kingdom of Judah after descending from an evil and wicked father who would lead the entire nation and kingdom into idolatry and immorality before the throne of the living God. If you read and study the narrative of Josiah the king of the southern kingdom of Judah you will find him ascending to the throne at a young age, but how the living God got a hold of his heart early on, and would eventually bring him to the place where he would bring national reform, revival, cleansing and awakening within the land. If you begin reading with and from the opening verse of the twenty-third chapter of Second kings you will find the following words which were written concerning the days of the reign of Josiah after the words of the Law of Moses were not only found in the Temple, but also as they were read to him. Consider if you will the words which are found in this chapter beginning with the first and opening verse:
“And the king sent, and they gathered unto him all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem. And the king went up into the house of the LORD, and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the people, both small and great: and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the LORD. And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the LORD, and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood to the covenant. And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the door, to bring forth out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove, and for all the host of heaven: and he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried the ashes of them unto Beth-el. And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high place in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven. And he brought out the grove from the house of the LORD, without Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron, and stamped it small to powder, and cast the powder thereof upon the graves of the children of the people. And he brake down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the grove. And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had burned incense, from Geba to Beer-sheba, and brake down the high places of the gates that were in the entering in of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on a man’s left hand at the gate of the city. NEverhtless the priests of the high places came not up to the altar of the LORD in Jerusalem, but they did eat of the unleavened bread among their brethren. And he defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the children of Hinton, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech. And he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun, at the entering in of the house of the LORD, by the chamber of Nathan-melech the chamberlain, which was in the suburbs, and burned the chariots of the sun with fire. And the altars that were on the top of the upper chamber of Ahab, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars which Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of the LORD, did the king beat down, and brake them down from thence, and cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron. And the high places that were before Jerusalem, which were on the right hand of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had buildest for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Zidonians, and for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites, and for Milcah the abomination of the children of Ammon, did the king defile. And he brake in pieces the images, and cut down the groves, and filled their places with the bones of men. Moreover the altar that was at Beth-el, and the high place which Jeroboam the son of NEbat, who made Israel to sin, and made, both that altar and the high place he brake down, and burned the high place, and stamped it small to powder, and burned the grove. And as Josiah turned himself, he spied the sepulchres that were there in the mount, and sent, and took the bones out of the sepulchres, and burned them upon the altar, and polluted it, according to the word o the LORD which the man of God proclaimed who proclaimed these words. Then he said, What title is that I see? And the men of the city him, It is the sepulchre of the man of God, which came from Judah, and proclaimed these things that thou hast done against the altar of Beth-el. And he said, Let him alone; let no man move his bones. So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet that came out of Samaria. And all the houses also of the high places that were in the cites of Samaria, which the kings of Israel had made to provoke the LORD to anger, Josiah took away, and did to them according to all the acts that he had done in Beth-el, and did to them according to all the acts that he had done in Beth-el. And he slew all the priests of the high places that were there upon the altars, and burned men’s bones upon them, and returned to Jerusalem. And the king commanded all the people, saying, Keep the Passover unto the LORD your God, as it is written in the book of this covenant. Surely there was not Holden such a Passover from the days of the judges that judged Israel, not in all the days of the kings of Israel, not the kings of Judah; but in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, wherein this Passover was Holden to the LORD in Jerusalem. Moreover the works with familiar spirits, and the wizards, and the images, and the idols, and all the abominations that were spied in the land of Judah an in Jerusalem, did Josiah put away, that he might perform the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found int eh house of the LORD. And like unto him where no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any man like him” (2 Kings 23:1-25).
If you carefully consider the words which were written in the book of Second Kings you will find the narrative and account of a king of whom there was none who would or could ever compare to him. It’s incredibly interesting to read and consider the words which are found in the twenty-fifth verse of this particular chapter you will find the author of the book emphatically declaring concerning Josiah that there was not likened unto him any king before him which turned to the LORD with all their heart, and with all their soul, and with all their might, according to the law of Moses. It’s necessary for us to consider the tremendous significance of these words, for these words are based solely and entirely on the actions Josiah took after hearing the words which were written in the Law read to him after they were found in the Temple of the Lord. As you read and study the narrative of the life of Josiah you will find that he was a king who ascended to the throne at a young age, and in the eighteenth year of his reign you will find him engaging himself in such a powerful sense of reform within the nation, for Josiah would go throughout the land, and as Joshua and the children of Israel would conquer and subdue the land of Canaan when they entered in by driving out and dispossessing nations and peoples, Josiah would move throughout the land from Dan to Beersheba and would utterly destroy any and every trace of idolatry and pagan worship found within the land. The words that are found within this passage must be carefully understood, for the actions of Josiah not only bring us face to face with that which the congregation of the children of Israel should have done upon their entering, inheriting and possessing the land of Canaan, but also how Josiah—this single king towards the end of the time of the southern kingdom of Judah—would destroy all traces of idolatry that encompassed the reigns of multiple kings which reigned upon the throne of David. The words contained within this passage bring us face to face with the fact that Josiah would undo the idolatrous worship which Solomon son of David had set up and established on the mount of corruption which was the hill opposite the mountain upon which the Temple of the Lord was and had been established. What’s more, is that Josiah would also undo the idolatrous worship that was set up and established during the days of Jeroboam son of Nebat whom the LORD would give ten of the twelve tribes of Israel to reign as king after Solomon would die and go the way of all the earth. If you begin reading with and from the thirteenth verse of this passage you will find the following words which deal specifically with Josiah tearing down and destroying the idolatrous worship that was introduced and implemented among the people of God, beginning with Solomon king of Israel, and continuing with Jeroboam son of Nebat who would be the first king to reign over the northern kingdom of Israel after the kingdom was divided. Consider if you will the following words found within this chapter starting with the thirteenth verse:
“And the high places that were before Jerusalem, which were on the right hand of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had builder for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Zidonians, and for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites, and for Malcolm the abomination of the children of Ammon, did the king defile. And he brake in pieces the images, and cut down the groves, and filled their places with the bones of men. Moreover the altar that was at Beth-el, and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, had made, both that altar and the high place he break down, and burned the high place, and stamped it small to powerder, and burned the grove” (2 Kings 23:13-15).
When reading and studying the narrative of Josiah king of the southern kingdom of Judah it is absolutely necessary to think about and consider that he had so turned his heart toward the Lord his God, and the manifestation of his turning his heart wholly and fully to the LORD his God was moving throughout the land and bringing about such a tremendous cleansing and reformation, as he would completely and utterly destroy all traces of idolatry and all traces of pagan worship which had been introduced in the midst of the land. We dare not and must not miss the incredible significance of what is found within this particular chapter, for not only did Josiah undo that which Solomon king of Israel had introduced into the nation and kingdom of Israel, but he also undid that which Jeroboam son of Nebat introduced to the northern kingdom of Israel when he caused and made the whole northern kingdom to sin and transgress against the commandment of the Lord. What’s more, is that you will find and discover that Josiah was the son of Manasseh who was perhaps the most vile, the most corrupt, and most rebellious of all the kings of the southern kingdom of Judah before he turned his heart away from the wickedness he had implemented and introduced into the land. It’s absolutely remarkable and astonishing to think about and consider the fact that not only did Josiah undo that which Solomon king of Israel and son of David the man after God’s own heart had created, and not only did he undo that which Jeroboam son of Nebat had introduced in the northern kingdom of Israel in Dan and Beersheba, but he also undid that which his own father had done during his days as king over the southern kingdom of Judah. How absolutely wonderful and powerful it is to think about and consider the fact that Josiah was a king who turned his heart completely and fully to the LORD, and went after him with all his heart, with all his might, with all his soul, and with all his strength. In all reality, it might very well be said that we find and see in Josiah a wonderful picture of what Moses meant when he declared unto the congregation of the children of Israel in the plains of Moab that the LORD their God was One, and that they were to love the LORD their God with all their heart, with all their soul, with all their mind, and with all their strength. It’s worth noticing and considering the absolutely astonishing reality that turning one’s heart completely and totally to the LORD, and going after the LORD with all one’s heart, with all one’s soul, with all one’s strength, and with all one’s might will indeed bring them to the place where they are unwilling to allow any traces of transgression, idolatry, rebellion, wickedness and the like—not only in their own life, but also before and all around them. Josiah heard the words which were written and recorded in the book of the Law of Moses, and his first response was to rend his clothes in humility and repentance before the LORD his God. Josiah would be so convicted with and by the words he heard in the book of the Law of Moses that the rending of his garments was only the beginning, for he would launch a personal campaign for holiness, a campaign for cleansing, a campaign for righteousness, and a campaign for purity in the land—and not only within the southern kingdom of Judah, but also in the northern kingdom of Israel.
What I happen to find so absolutely captivating and intriguing about the narrative of Josiah as it compares and relates to the Old Testament book of Judges is when you consider the fact that in the Old Testament book of Judges you will find the angel of the LORD rebuking and chastising the people of Israel for not utterly driving out the inhabitants of the land, and for not tearing down and destroying their altars, their images, and their traces and forms of idolatrous worship. With that being said, it’s worth noting and pointing out that before Gideon would lead the congregation of the children of Israel against the Midianites who would oppress the people of God for a period of time, he would be instructed to tear down and destroy the altar of Baal which his father had set up in the midst of the land. It’s worth noting and pointing out that Gideon’s first act after being called and appointed by the living God to be one of the judges of the nation of Israel was not to engage in conflict and war, but to tear down the altar of Baal which his own father had set up in the midst of the land. It would be through the life of Gideon that we would not only see one who would engage and conquer the enemy, but also one who would tear down the altar of Baal, thus tearing down that which was abominable in the sight of the living God. Through the life of Gideon we see a powerful picture of what the children of Israel were called and commanded to do—namely, drive out the inhabitants of the land, and destroy the altars and images of idolatrous and pagan worship in the midst of the land. Through the life of Gideon—one of the judges whom the living God raised up in the midst of the land of Israel—we find a wonderful picture of one who would not only rise up against the enemy and adversary which would oppress the people of God, but also one who would destroy the altar of Baal in his own home—albeit not an altar which he himself would use, but rather one that his father would have set up in the midst of the land. Though there is no mention of any military conquest, nor any mention of engaging the enemies and adversaries round about the southern kingdom of Judah when speaking concerning Josiah, we must recognize that his actions were perhaps far greater than any military conquest or endeavor in the midst of the land. Josiah one of the final kings of the southern kingdom of Judah would find his greatest strength—not in military conquests or military endeavors, but rather in a personal campaign for reform and cleansing which he would launch within and throughout the land. It would be Josiah the final godly king of the southern kingdom of Judah that would unleash a firestorm of holiness and purity in the midst of the land—and not only a firestorm of holiness and purity in the midst of the land, but he would also call the nation and people back to the heart of worship, as he called to observe the Passover and to give themselves in worship to the Lord their God.
The reason I find the narrative of Josiah so incredibly captivating is because it is the narrative of Josiah that helps us recognize and understand that which the congregation of the children of Israel should have done—that which they were called to do upon entering into and inhabiting the land that was given unto them by the Lord their God. The Old Testament book of Judges was and is a book of patterns and cycles, and it’s important for us to recognize and understand that those patterns and cycles were introduced as a direct result of failing to utterly drive out the inhabitants of the land, as well as failing to destroy and tear down their altars, their images, and the like within the land. The Old Testament book of Judges is not only a book about judges whom the LORD raised up in the midst of the land of Israel between the days of Joshua and Samuel the prophet of the Lord, but it is also a book that describes patterns and cycles which were a direct result of failing and perhaps even refusing to utterly drive out the inhabitants of the land, and refusing to utterly destroy the altars and images of idolatrous worship which were present within the land. UTTERLY DRIVE OUT, UTTERLY DESTROY! If there is one thing the Old Testament book of Judges reveals, it’s the absolutely wonderful and tremendous reality that we have not only been called to utterly drive out those things within our lives which could be a snare, scourge and trap for us, but also to utterly destroy all those things within our lives which could turn our hearts away from the Lord our God. The Lord knew that in order for the people of Israel to truly inherit and take possession of the land which was before them, and in order for them to truly take possession of the land and enjoy it the way they were created and intended to, they would need to carry out and fulfill a two-fold mission and assignment in the midst of the land—namely, utterly destroy, and utterly drive out. Oh as we read the words which are found within the book of Judges, we must recognize and understand that when the angel of the LORD appeared unto them with a word from the LORD, they had failed to walk in obedience to the LORD in the matter of utterly destroying and utterly driving out. Can I be so bold as to declare that certain of the woes and certain of the conflicts and struggles we face might very well be a direct result of our failure to utterly drive out and utterly destroy. Like Saul who was given a command to utterly destroy Amalek from the face of the earth, and yet both he and the people chose to spare that which was good and that which was pleasant rather than utterly and completely destroy it. It’s interesting to note that Saul and the people destroyed anything that was vile, and anything that was not pleasant or appealing before them and unto their eyes, and they chose to keep that which was good and that which was pleasant. Oh how this is reminiscent of the garden of Eden when the LORD instructed Adam not to partake of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and how when the serpent beguiled Eve to take and eat of the fruit, she saw that the fruit was good for food, and pleasing to the eyes, and that it would make her wise. Eve chose to partake of the fruit of that which was considered good in her eyes, and Saul chose to spare that which was good in his eyes.
As I sit here this morning I can’t help but be absolutely and completely overwhelmed with the narrative in the garden of Eden, as well as the narrative of Saul the first king of Israel, for the two events are intrinsically linked and connected. When Eve sinned and transgressed against the command of the Lord in the garden of Eden, she did so by choosing that which was good in her eyes, and that which was pleasant for and unto her. When Saul sinned and transgressed against the commandment of the Lord, he did so by sparing and holding on to that which was good and that which was pleasant in his sight, and in the sight of the people. The underlying matter and danger is this is the ultimate result of Adam and Eve partaking of the fruit of the tree, for ever since they partook of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil man would be in the place of God where they would give themselves to choosing that which was good and that which was pleasant in their eyes. One of the most important realities concerning the transgression of the garden of Eden was that man from that time forward would make their own decisions on what was good and what was evil, and in most cases they would not defer to the judgement of the Lord their God. The danger in partaking of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is that it opened the eyes of Adam and Eve, and now instead of the Lord the God of heaven and earth being the judge and ultimate authority on what was good, what was right, what was evil, and what was wicked in His sight—man would now be in the place of God, as they would make their own decisions on what is good and what is pleasant. I can’t help but wonder if this narrative of good and evil, and choosing that which is good and evil cannot be found in the account of the judges which rose up in the midst of the nation and people of Israel. I can’t help but wonder if when you think about and consider the narrative that is found in the Old Testament book of Judges, you cannot and will not find and discover the tremendous reality that one of the greatest reasons why they would and could not utterly drive out the inhabitants of the land, and utterly destroy the altars, the groves , the images and all the traces of idolatry in the midst of the land was because they allowed themselves to be their own judges, and choosing what was good, what was right, and what was pleasant in their own eyes and in their own sight. In the Old Testament book of Proverbs we find and discover a powerful verse that emphatically declares that there is a way which seems right unto a man, and the end thereof is death and destruction. The more I think about and consider the words which are found in the Old Testament book of Judges, the more I can’t help but think about the absolutely astounding reality that the people of Israel made their own decisions on what was good and what was right in their own eyes, and as a direct result of that mindset they allowed and permitted to remain within their midst that which should have been driven out and that which should have been destroyed.
As if what you read and find in the second chapter of the book of Judges isn’t bad enough—if you come to the third chapter you will find two distinct realities concerning the nation and people of Israel within the land which the LORD swore unto their fathers. IN the first four verses of this Old Testament book you will find that there were certain nations which the LORD left in order that He might prove Israel by them—to prove those who did not know the wars of Canaan, and to teach them war. There were nations which the LORD left in order that He might prove Israel by them, to know whether they would hear men unto the commandments of the LORD, which He had commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses. When you begin reading with and from the fifth verse you will find that the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hittites, and JEbusites: and they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods. Moreover, the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD< and forgot the Lord their God, and served Baalim and the groves. That which we find in the second chapter of the Old Testament book of Judges is essentially a summary of that which is found within this Old Testament book concerning the patterns and cycles which took place during the days of the judges, for the children of Israel would sin against the LORD by doing that which was right in their own eyes, and as a direct result the LORD would give them over into the hands of their enemies which would oppress them. The children of Israel would live under this oppression of their enemies and adversaries for a period of time until they cried out unto the LORD by reason of their oppression, and the LORD would raise up a judge who would not only deliver them out of the hand of their enemy which oppressed them, but would also govern them according to the ways of the Lord their God. Moses was dead. Joshua was dead. The elders which were alive during the days of Joshua were dead. The children and people of Israel were left to their own devices and to their own imaginations, and what we read and what we find in this Old Testament book is a remarkable narrative of what this people did when they were left to their own devices and their own imaginations without any leadership and without any government. The more we read and the more we consider that which is written and recorded within the Old Testament book of Judges, the more we must recognize and come face to face with the absolutely wonderful and tremendous reality that patterns and cycles can indeed and can in fact be dangerous, and that if we aren’t careful—patterns and cycles can feel very much like the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness over a period of forty years. I can’t help but get the strong sense that the patterns and cycles which we find in the Old Testament book of Judges is much like the cyclical movement and motion of the children of Israel in the wilderness as they were forced to bear their iniquities over a period of forty years before they would ultimately and eventually perish and fall in the wilderness. Oh that we would read the Old Testament book of Judges and would truly recognize and understand—not only the patterns and cycles within our own lives, but also that we would recognize and understand that which we have been called to utterly destroy, and that which we have been called to utterly drive out.