Summary: Sermon contrasts victories experienced by God’s people with later defeats and what caused the decline.
Living Below Provision
Series: Lessons from Judges
The book of Judges begins with some wonderful victories for the people of God. God has given Israel Canaan land and told them to possess the land. In Deuteronomy 7:1-6 He told them to utterly destroy the Canaanites. There was to be no compromise—no treaties—just go in and defeat the enemy and possess the Promise Land.
In Judges 1:2 we see Judah leading the way in that great commission God had given them in that day. They defeated the Perizzites and some other Canaanites. They captured a king named Adoni-Bezek (ad oh nigh-BEE zek) and cut of his big toes and thumbs. That seems like a mighty strange thing to do to someone but in Judges 1:7 we find that is exactly what this man has been doing to other people. In fact, he himself acknowledges this as payback from God. The principle of reaping what you sow is introduced early on in this book. And we will see a lot of it as we go on.
Old Caleb is still going strong. He is an outstanding leader and man of faith. When he and Judah come up against the city of Debir (DEE-buhr) he offers to give his daughter in marriage to the man courageous enough to capture the town. That’s when we get introduced to the first Judge in this book. He is a member of Caleb’s clan and his name is Othniel (AHTH-nih-el). What a woman he gets when he marries Acsah (AK-suh), Caleb’s daughter. At this point in the story we are seeing some upright, admirable people. Acsah is a woman of character and vision, just like her dad. She encourages her new husband to ask her father for land. That was probably in addition to her dowry. But she doesn’t stop there. In verse 15 she also asks him to give her springs of water. The land and the water were symbolic of spiritual inheritance and blessing. She had a vision for fruitfulness. Even in that patriarchal society she asked boldly of her father and received. “You have not because you ask not.” It was Caleb’s good pleasure to give that inheritance to Acsah and it is your Heavenly Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. We are reminded of Caleb’s request to Moses in Joshua 14 for Mount Hebron. That was a powerful demonstration of Caleb’s faith and is now in his daughter, Acsah, is manifesting the same kind of faith.
But the positive tone of this whole story begins to turn in Judges 1:19. Instead of experiencing complete victory, God’s people begin to enjoy only partial victory. Verse 19 “The LORD was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains..” Verse 21 “The Benjamites, however, failed to dislodge the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the Benjamites.” In other words, these people settled for partial victory in their lives. They came to accept the enemy in their lives as “just the way it is.” I think most of us know something about the temptation to do that.
All the way through the rest of this chapter we see God’s people settling for far less than God had for them. Verse 27 “But Manasseh did not drive out the people...” Verse 28 ends with the words “but never drove them out completely.” Verse 29 “Nor did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites living in Gezer ....” Verse 30 “Neither did Zebulun drive out the Canaanites living in Kitron...” Verse 31 “Nor did Asher...” Verse 33 “Neither did Naptali drive out those living in Beth Shemesh...” Verse 34 “The Amorites confined the Danites to the hill country...” The point of all this is that God’s people are not pressing into full victory that is theirs in God. They don’t have to live in half-defeat. God has provided for them all things that pertain to life and godliness. But the battles were real—and they simple decided to settle—settle for less—live below their provision.
I can tell you from personal experience—the battles we face are just as real. They are spiritual battles—but we too become tempted to settle for less than complete victory.
In the beginning of Chapter 2 God confronts them about this. He reminds them of what great things He has done for them in the past and what great promises He has given them. Then He concludes verse 2 with these words, “Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this?” That would be a hard word to receive, wouldn’t it? Can you imagine what it would be like to have God send an Angel to us this morning and the word of the Lord through that Angel be “Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this?” How should a person respond to a word like that? Their united response in recorded in Judges 2:4. They wept loudly. They even offered sacrifices to the LORD. That’s quite a response. It sounds like genuine repentance. But if it was, the repentance was short lived. The rest of the book gives a story of spiritual decline—not revival.