Israel stopped trying to banish the Canaanites, and the angel of the Lord came bringing a severe rebuke. The angel came from Gilgal which is the place where the stones were after Israel crossed the Jordan. His message was clear and distressing. The angel is God, and he had delivered Israel out of Egypt, given them the land, and kept his covenant. He gave strict instructions not to enter into covenants with the inhabitants of the land, and he had commanded the people to break down the Canaanite altars. Israel did not obey, and now they would suffer because God would no longer go before them and drive out their enemies. The Canaanites would oppress Israel, and their gods would be traps that would ensnare Israel in idolatry. This devastating news caused great sorrow, and the people responded by worshipping and offering sacrifices to the Lord. There was much sorrow, but it was remorse and not repentance.
Joshua's generation fought and conquered the promised land. They served the Lord and were faithful to him. However, when that generation was gathered to their fathers, there arose a new generation that did not know the Lord or what he had done for Israel. There was a loss of godly leaders starting with the home and moving to the nation. Joshua's generation knew of God's power and faithfulness by experience, but the next generation was different. They knew about God but did not know God. Israel's decline was gradual and imperceptible. The new generation placed God among the gods of the Canaanites and began to worship the Baals. They abandoned the God of their fathers who had saved them and given them the land of their inheritance. They chased after other gods indiscriminately and provoked the Lord to anger. God gave his chosen people into the hands of plunderers and sold them into the hands of their enemies. The Lord used to go before his people and drive out their enemies, but now he sells his people to them. God had warned his people about the destructive nature of sin, but they would not listen and so now they would bear the consequences of their disobedience. The people continued to suffer and lived in dreadful distress.
God is merciful, and he did not abandon his disobedient people. He would not discard his people for their apostasy. He raised up leaders called judges who would deliver his people. Israel did not respond to grace any differently than they did to judgment and would soon prostitute themselves to other gods. They would turn away from the old ways of faith and embrace idolatry. God continues to give grace to undeserving people. God was moved by the suffering of his people, and he would save them from their oppressors. God's kindness only brought temporary adjustments and Israel would revert right back to their idolatry forsaking their God. It seemed that each generation grew progressively worse. Sin became ingrained, and the people refused to abandon their evil practices. God's anger was kindled toward Israel because they broke the covenant and it came at a significant cost. The Lord no longer drove out the nations, and he left them in place as a test to see if Israel would remain faithful to God's law despite foreign influence. Would God's people look to him for salvation and would the fruit of their faith be seen in their obedience?
Things To Consider:
- Why do small compromises lead to great sin?
- Why does obedience matter?
- How can religion be empty?
- How can you tell the difference between sorrow and repentance?
- What can be learned from the failure of the new generation about discipleship?
- How do we put God among other things in our lives?
- How do you see God's grace and patience in this passage?
- Why do you think God was so patient?
- Why do you think the people were so stubborn?
- What tests of love and loyalty are you facing?