1. Failure is a fact of life. All of us have been failers at one time or another. No one succeeds in every endeavor undertaken. Most often our failures are small in nature, since most of our life's endeavors are modest. But some failures are significant; some can be life-changing; some might bring harm to others; some could prove fatal.
2. Whenever I fail, I can usually pin-point the cause of my lack of success. "My timing was off," I might tell myself, or, "I just didn't 'have it' on that particular day." Sometimes, when I fail, I blame others and, sometimes, it might be true. I have also been known to blame the weather, "bad luck," or other "circumstances beyond my control" for failures on my part. On occasion -- just like everybody else -- I have had to admit to myself that it was I and I alone who failed. When it came down to it, I just didn't get the job done. Perhaps the task was bigger than I had anticipated, requiring more time and energy than I had available to bring to it. Maybe I didn't have the right skills, or the right tools, to get that job done. Perhaps I wasn't really ready, totally unprepared for what was expected of me. Maybe I ignored the directions: left out a step or two, or tried a "short cut" through a difficult procedure. Or maybe, even after starting well, I got "sloppy" at the end of the project, no longer being careful, rushing to the finish without properly taking care of business. In such cases I have failed because I have compromised my original goal, the authentic intent of the project.
3. One of the great themes of the book of Judges is "F __ __ __ __ __ __ through
C __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __."
a. Israel's failure in the Promised Land began with their decision to d __ __ __ __ __ __ God's direct command to annihilate or otherwise completely drive out all of the inhabitants of the land of Canaan. God knew that the wicked yet attractive religions of the region would lead His people astray. He knew that they would not be able to resist the seductive allure of the various Baal gods or the Ashtoreths. So He commanded His people -- first through M __ __ __ __ and then through J __ __ __ __ __ -- that they were to completely rid the entire region of even the slightest trace of that culture, which had been declared by Him to be herem -- consecrated for divine judgment and destruction. To do less, God knew, would lead His people into spiritual r __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __, spiritual compromise, and, finally, to apostasy.
(1) Baal is one of the names given to the Canaanite "storm God" also called "Hadod." In the mythology of the region, he was the son of "Dagon," god of rain and agriculture. Often in the Old Testament we read the name Baal in a plural form. This is because certain manifestations of Baal were assigned in the religion to particular places.
(2) Ashtoreth ( also sometimes rendered in a plural form) was the "goddess of the evening star," renowned and worshiped for her beauty. She served as the goddess of fertility and love, and was often linked in the Canaanite pantheon with Baal.
(3) The religion of the Canaanites was noisy, showy, and accessible. At its most desperate, it sanctioned the sacrifice of children in order to appease the gods. But it also allowed for abundant hedonism, and featured, as did so many of the religions of the region, temple prostitution as a means of worshiping the goddess of fertility.
b. "The Book of Judges is a commentary on the nature and characteristics of spiritual apostasy. The writer not only presents the theological trends involved in apostasy, but vividly describes the practical consequences of apostasy in everyday life. The covenant failure of Israel are contrasted with the covenant faithfulness of Jehovah." - John J. Davis: Conquest and Crisis
c. That the Canaanites have disappeared from the face of the earth is an archaeological fact. They were not destroyed by the armies of Israel; they were assimilated into their larger and more virulent culture by means of the vehicle of marriage. The resulting clash of cultures in individual households produced compromise necessary for peace in the home, and the faith of God's chosen people was weakened at the essential individual level. No national decision was made to disobey God's commands, but the nation moved away from the God of their fathers as individuals disobeyed the covenant by compromising their faith.
4. In reading Judges 2:6 - 3:6 we learn several key factors in the predicament faced by the young nation at the time of our text passage.