After Moses died Joshua led the Israelites into the land which God was going to give them – from the Euphrates River (modern-day Iraq) to the Mediterranean, which included His prime destination – the city of Jerusalem (Joshua 1:4). Unfortunately, even though God said He was going to go before them and give “the peoples of the land” into their hand, they had to do their part. But they did not obey God, for they did not drive out all the inhabitants of the land as God directed them. Therefore God said He would not drive them out and instead they would become as thorns in their sides, and their gods would be a snare to them (Judges 2:1-3). What can we learn from that? Read on and see.
After Joshua died: (from Judges 2) 11the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals, 12and they forsook the Lord…and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them; thus, they provoked the Lord to anger.
They proceeded to do the same thing they had done when Moses was up on Mount Sinai. All those years in Egypt when they were in bondage seemingly taught them to do as their slave masters did. They became idol worshipers just like the Egyptians.
13So they forsook the Lord and served Baal and the Ashtaroth. 14The anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and He gave them into the hands of plunderers who plundered them, and He sold them into the hands of their enemies around them so that they could no longer stand before their enemies.
God gave them into the hands of their plunderers. What does that mean? It means that God is in control of the events of history. It doesn’t necessarily mean He micro-manages things, but broadly speaking, He is very much in control.
Just before Joshua died, he did what I call a “recounting of history.” It happens many times in Scripture. Stephen’s defense before the Sanhedrin in Acts 6-7 is a lengthy redress of history from the time of Abraham up to the then present. It is a wonderful way in which God gives a summary of the events He deems important.
Anyhow, earlier, in Joshua 24:11, God told Joshua that He gave them (the people he was fighting against in order to take the land God was giving them) into his hand. Believe what you may, but God is in control. In this case, the people turned from God and proceeded to serve other gods, so He gave them into the hands of their plunderers, and guess what? They plundered them.
Back to Judges 2, 15Wherever they went, the hand of the Lord was against them for evil, as the Lord had spoken and as the Lord had sworn to them, so that they were severely distressed. 16Then the Lord raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of those who plundered them.
What a hard, and yet wonderful, lesson this is. As angry as the Israelites made God, He is longsuffering and will always listen if you come to Him in sincere repentance (see 2 Chronicles 7:12-15). So, He raised up judges who delivered them from their plunderers. Read on…
17Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they played the harlot after other gods and bowed themselves down to them…18When the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge and delivered them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge…
Worshiping other gods was a severe affront to God, one in which He considers harlotry. The 2nd commandment explicitly warns against it, and God gives an astounding warning about it, one which we will see play out with Jezebel.
19But it came about when the judge died, that they would turn back and act more corruptly than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them and bow down to them; they did not abandon their practices or their stubborn ways. 20So the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and He said, “Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers and has not listened to My voice, 21I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died, 22in order to test Israel by them, whether they will keep the way of the Lord to walk in it as their fathers did, or not.” 23So the Lord allowed those nations to remain, not driving them out quickly; and He did not give them into the hand of Joshua.
How many times would the Israelites turn away from God and play the harlot, and yet He would draw them near to Him by raising up another judge. The judge would deliver them, but when he died the people would again turn from Him. That in no way should be taken as authorization to do what is right in one’s own eyes, for God would eventually judge them when He brought Nebuchadnezzar against them and he forced the Israelites into captivity for seventy years.