JUDGES 1 € A RECORD OF COMPROMISE
In this first chapter of Judges we have the record of Israel settling into their inheritance. Yahweh had decreed that they were to exterminate the nations of Canaan (Deut.7:2). They were to perform this commandment faithfully and without compro mise They were not to make any covenants with the people, nor were they allowed to let their emotions govern their dealings with these wicked communities. They were to show no mercy to them at all. In issuing this decree, the allwise Creator was taking into account the contaminating influence that these people would be if they were left to molest and influence the Children of Israel. The Canaanites were a race of people who had given themselves up to abominable practices. The idolatr ous worship of this people was connected with the practice of immorality, and now that the fourth generation from Abraham was about to enter into the Promised Land, the iniquity of these people had come to the full (Gen.15:16).
The record of Judges 1 shows how that Israel compromised the commandments of Yahweh. Instead of exterminating these people they allowed them to live in the land; "They did not destroy the nations concerning whom Yahweh commanded them: but were mingled among the heathen and learned their works, and served their idols: which were a snare unto them."(Ps.106:34-36). This compromise was based upon Israel's confidence in them selves; "And it came to pass when Israel were strong that they put the Canaanites to tribute, and did not utterly drive them out" (1:28). In this they made a grave mistake. There is a grave warning in this verse of Scripture: at a time when the ecclesia of God feels it is self-sufficient, and confident in its own might, it is more likely to fall into the error of compromise and failure. It is always good to place our reliance and confidence in Yahweh despite the circumstances which may overtake us. To keep God's commandments is to play safe in the way of life, always being conscious of our weakness and our utter dependence upon Him. As a wise and Heavenly Father, He knows what is best for us, and in the following out of His commandments, even though we may not at all times understand the reasons why, we give honour and glory to Him, acknowledg ing His overshadowing providence in all our ways.
Notice in this chapter the repetition of the phrase, "the Canaanites dwelt among them"(v.29,v30,v22). The people of Israel were content to allow these corrupt Gentiles to share their inheritance. However, it was not long before we find the position reversed, and in verse 33 we read concerning the tribe of Naphtali, that "he dwelt among the Canaanites." No longer was it a matter of a tribe allowing the Canaanites to dwell among them, but now we find the Canaanites are in the ascendancy and allowed the tribe of Naphtali to dwell among them. During our life of probation for the Kingdom of God, we must beware that we become not ensnared in the society of this world. James says that "the friendship of the world is enmity with God" (James 4:4). It was in the days of Israel, and the same remains true of today, if we are to preserve our particu lar identity as "the Israel of God" (Gal.6:16) we must avoid the society of the Canaanites, the people outside the Covenants of Promise. Zechariah the prophet, in speaking of the glori ous age to dawn when the Messiah will be in the midst of Isra el, describes the pilgrimage of all nations to Jerusalem to visit the house of Prayer to. acknowledge the supremacy of Israel's God. During this time Zechariah adds, "There shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of God" (Zech.l4:21), and in that day Yahweh will not permit those who are uncircumcised in heart and ears to desecrate the Holy Land, which by promise, has been given to Abraham and to his seed. In anti cipation of this glorious era, Israel should have exercised this same principle by exterminating those who would mar their inheritance which had been given to them by promise. They failed by compromise.
The sad record of decline in Israel is evidenced in the activ ities of the tribe of Judah. In Judges 1:2, we notice that Judah is enthusiastic in their approach to the work of clear ing the land (1:2-3). Judah, which means "The praise of Yah" was eager to perform the work which was set before them and in going first in this most important campaign, they were to set an example to the rest of the tribes. However their original enthusiasm and zeal dissipated as they encountered the diff iculties in their path. We read in v.19 that Yahweh was with them when they drave out the inhabitants of the mountains, but the record continues to tell us they could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley because they had chariots of iron.
The reason for this was not that Yahweh lacked the power to overcome the chariots of iron, but of Judah's lack of faith in the face of increased difficulty. Previous to this incident Israel had shown a great fear of the Canaanites because of their chariots of iron (Joshua 17:16-18).
Note in these verses how Joshua exhorts them to trust in Yah weh who is more powerful than any of the chariots of the hea then. He is able to render powerless all the forces which mankind could muster (Psalm 76:6). Still later in the record of Judges, we find that Judah who began so conspicuously, had degenerated to such an extent that they were now prepared to accept the Philistines as neighbours even to the extent of sacrificing their principles to maintain peace and security with the corrupt nations of the land (Judges 15:9-13).
This decline of Judah was typical of the whole nation and from very short period of history from the time of Joshua, Isra el had now come to a time when "every man did that which was light in his own eyes."