Summary: In one of the saddest chapters of the Bible, Israel first neglects, then abandons their relationship with Yahweh. Through it all, though He remains faithful to them and stands ready to help when they cry out, just like with us.
I was 16 years old. It was my first "real" job after working as a newspaper delivery person for many years. I worked for a dry cleaner establishment that (I found out later) was about to go under. My job was to deliver cleaned drapes to customers. I was given the keys to an old van and told to take drapes to a series of addresses.
I got in and started driving and something didn’t quite seem right about this van, especially when it came to stopping. I’ll never forget: I was coming up to the intersection of East 5th Avenue and Mangrove Avenue in Chico, California. The light was red and I applied my brakes to stop behind another car which had already stopped at the intersection. But when I put on the brakes nothing happened. The pedal went right down to the floor and the van did not slow. Now, like I said, I was 16 - I didn’t have the experience to know how to slow the car by putting it into a lower gear, etc. So I’m watching myself, in one of those moments when time seems to slow down, approach then hit the car in front of me.
It wasn’t a big hit, but it did cause a lot of damage. It wasn’t until later I found out that the brakes on that van were going out and hadn’t been fixed. Needless to say I was not fired, but never drove that van again!
The reason I bring this story up is that sometimes we find ourselves in situations where we see trouble ahead. We don’t want it to happen, but seem powerless to stop it. Like approaching a waterfall when its too late and current is too strong to turn around - Israel finds itself slowly and inexorably drawn over the edge, plunging headlong into idolatry and defeat.
Judges chapter 2 is one of the saddest chapters in the Bible as we see what started out as such a promising life in the Promised Land turn into a walk away from the One who gave the gift - and the consequences that come from that disobedience.
We enter the chapter after learning of a series of defeats Israel faced - tribe after tribe was unable to dislodge the intransigent Canaanites living in their tribal lands. In Chapter 2 we learn that this was only the beginning - the warning that should have been heeded but was not. Then in Chapter 2 it’s as if they are sleep walking or something - unable to wake up and realize what is happening-and unable to stop. Then when calamity falls they are sorry, but unwilling to repent. We learn lessons too about the ways the flesh can fool us into believing that not serving God and serving ourselves instead will be okay, when it really isn’t at all!
Verse 1 - 5
As we get into this we need to stop for a moment to talk about this character "the Angel of the Lord." The Angel of the Lord appears twice in Genesis, once in Exodus, and once in Numbers before this incident in Judges. In Genesis he appeared to Hagar, Abram’s wife, when she fled her mistress Sarai and promised her son, the child of the flesh (Ishmael), would be a great nation (Genesis 16). Then He appeared to Abram when he was about to sacrifice the child of promise (Isaac) on Mount Moriah (Genesis 22). Then he appeared to Moses out of the burning bush (Exodus 3), and then to Balaam as he sought to prophecy against Israel (Numbers 22).
Who is the Angel of the Lord? Many scholars agree that he is essentially the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ. We’ll see the Angel of the Lord again in Judges, but we don’t see him ever in the New Testament ("angel" with the definite article "the").
The Angel of the Lord seems to show up at significant times in Israel’s history - to the two major lines from Abram, at the calling of Moses, at the rescue of Israel from Balaam - and now, as Israel is about to walk directly away from God.
Notice that this person takes credit for bringing them up from Egypt, so this is God we’re talking about. And look what He says: "I will never break my covenant with you." That’s a wonderful thing, and despite all that we read about here and all that can happen in our lives if we decide to walk in the flesh, God never breaks his covenant with us. That doesn’t mean He simply leaves alone though. He does discipline - something God will hand out beginning right here.
God is faithful and He just asks the people not to ally with the people of the land and not to give any opportunity for influence by the religions created by these people. Israel did both.