When Israel was under the crushing rule of Jabin, Deborah decided to fight back. Apparently, Jabin had “oppressed the people of Israel cruelly for twenty years.” (1) But before we go on, I have a few questions. Question #1: Why was Jabin, this cruel man, ruling over Israel? Well . . . as it turns out . . .“The Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin.” (2) Hmm. 🤔 That doesn’t sound right. Question #2: Why would the Lord do that? Well . . . you see, “the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord after Ehud died.” (3) Okay. 🧐 So . . . Question #3: When we are bad, does God make things worse for us? 😦
Now that’s a good question. And here’s my answer: Yes. 😮 Yes, I believe he does. Not because he is a vengeful God but because when we choose evil, we are rejecting God. And God never forces his way into our lives. So this is a case of God giving the Israelites over—selling them out—so they can live exactly how they want. A life without God. Their choice.
But let’s try to understand the big picture here. Here’s a brief history lesson. The Israelites were chosen to be God’s people. Abraham was their first leader and helped them understand that the gods of other nations were false gods—that there was only one God, Yahweh. The Israelites struggled with the concept, but by the time Moses arrived on the scene God had made himself clearly known and laid down the law (literally!). “You shall have no other gods before me.” (4) Before Moses died, he passed the baton to Joshua, who at the end of his life made this declaration: “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (5)
The Israelites responded, “We will also serve the Lord, for he is our God.” (6) Yeah! 😀 Good for them! Unfortunately, they made one tiny mistake. They forgot or overlooked or ignored Moses’ instructions regarding Canaan. God told Moses to tell the Israelites “When you pass over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land. . .” (7) Their error? “When Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not drive them out completely.” (8) They let the enemy stay.
So? It sounds like they had mercy on them. Instead of killing them or driving them away completely, they put them to work. What’s so wrong with that? 😕 Well . . . did I mention they were the enemy? 🤪 Still . . . what was so bad about letting them stay and work for them? God told them “you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land.” (9) Why is this so important? God knew what would happen: “they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.” (10)
It is a lesson for all of us. We mistakenly treat our enemies as if they are not. Enemies! Plus, we believe we can handle our enemies. We cannot. They sneak into our lives. They infiltrate our world. They make us weak. They blindside us. And before we know it, we are siding with them, having compassion on them, compromising our values, and soon we are acting just like them. And they are our enemies! Guess what happened? “And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” (3)
Need I go on? I thought not. 🙄
I promise I will begin our study on Deborah next time . . . or soon thereafter. 😬
(1) Judges 4:3 (2) Judges 4:2 (3) Judges 4:1 (4) Exodus 20:3 (5) Joshua 24:14-15 (6) Joshua 24:18 (7) Numbers 33:50-52 (8) Judges 1:28 (9) Judges 2:2 (10) Judges 2:3