Summary: If you have ever found yourself enticed by sin once then unable to stop once you gave in, then listen to this message as God shows Israel what they need to do in order for God to rescue them.
The Australian Pitcher plant is beautiful to behold. This is especially true for certain kinds of insects. If you know anything about pitcher plants you know they are what are called carnivorous because they eat meat. Here’s how it works for the Australian Pitcher:
The pitchers secret nectar to lure insects to the opening. Cephalotus follicularis has a white collar around the pitcher opening which is slippery and heavily baited with nectar. When insects try to get this nectar they usually slip and fall into acids and enzymes below, which dissolve the insect. The pitchers then reabsorb the nutrient rich fluid.
For people, sin, and especially letting anything get in the way of serving God is like a Pitcher Plant. It looks and smells so good we just have to taste it. But when we start out thinking we can maneuver the edge and stay out of trouble we end up slipping up and slipping into to the death that awaits below as we become slaves of that which we thought would bring us pleasure.
God shows Israel what its like to rely on the gods they’ve chosen to serve and then they enjoy the sweet fellowship that comes from true repentance. For us, God sometimes lets us feel the consequences of serving other gods. I’m so glad, though, that he waits patiently for us to repent so He can pluck us out of the Pitcher Plant where we have become mired.
Verses 1 - 5
Tola and Jair are what is known as minor judges. Hardly anything is known about them or their exploits. They may have been more like administrators, judging judicial matters, though military exploits are a possibility as well though we don’t know who their oppressors were.
Tola served in central Palestine in Shamir. His rule overlapped with Jair, who judged east of the Jordan and serves as an introduction to a more renowned member of the Gileadite clan: Jepthah, which we’ll read about next week.
Jair having thirty sons and thirty donkeys shows he was rich and powerful. Kings rode donkeys of this kind.
So now we shift to the Transjordan area to the east.
Verses 6 - 9
Notice that the list of gods Israel served has now expanded from the Baals and Ashtoreths of the Canaanites. Now they are worshipping Chemosh - the main god of Moab, Milcom of the Ammonites, and Dagon, god of the Philistines.
Not only did Philistia oppress Israel from the west, but Ammon crossed the Jordan after oppressing the Gileadites to attack Judah, Benjamin, and Ephraim.
Again we see that Israel was "severely distressed."
Verses 10 - 12
Once again Israel cries out in its distress. This gets repeated so many times it almost becomes laughable were it not tragic and true. Israel wants out of a jam, they don’t want out of worshipping the other gods.
20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. ESV
You see, the gods of the peoples around Israel claimed to provide "fruit" in the form of sensual pleasure, practical help for crops and families, and visible manifestations. In other words: you could see the idol you worshipped. It was also very self-centered and self-empowering. You do this and you get that. Serving Yahweh was very different. You loved Him though you couldn’t see Him. You trusted Him though He didn’t belong to you and you couldn’t make Him do what you wanted.