Every now and then, I tell myself that enough is enough. I’m done struggling. I’m done failing. I’m not going to live like this for one more day.
I’m going to start eating healthy again.
This sudden decision is followed by one to three business days of really good behavior. I stop snacking, stop late night binging, stop overeating. It’s glorious, those three days. I feel great. Hopeful.
I wake up on day four a little bit cocky. I reward myself. I’m so strong I don’t need a strict diet anymore.
Until suddenly, it’s day twenty-four, and I’m right back where I started. Oops?
The Israelites go through the same cycle in this chapter, only with much higher stakes: life or death.
The universal Enemy
The book of Judges opens with bloodshed, which is fitting, because just about every chapter still to come in this book is also filled with bloodshed.
But there’s something different about the violence in this chapter. It’s not motivated by greed or hatred or anything else deeply human – it’s motivated by God.
After describing a long list of cities and peoples that fell to the sword of Israel, the Bible kindly reminds us that “the Lord was with the men of [Israel]” (verse 19).
The Lord? Violent? Bloodthirsty? Commanding the Israelites to take people’s lives? Our internal alarm bells are going off.
And it’s time we listen to them. Unless God is not a loving, merciful God and really just a supernatural troll, this level of violence and urgency must be justified.
The Canaanites, the Perizzites, and the others weren’t innocent people blindsided by a sudden attack. They had heard about the true God through what He’d done for the Israelites and didn’t care. They committed atrocities regularly and didn’t care. The Bible even gives us a glimpse of the kind of torture that one king, Adoni-Bezek, inflicted on his prisoners in the past (verse 7).
God ordered bloodshed in order to eradicate evil from the land of Canaan. It wasn’t cruelty or senseless killing.
It was for the sake of the surrounding nations, so they wouldn’t suffer under these kind of people anymore.
It was for the sake of the Israelites, so they wouldn’t start copying their neighbors.
And it was for our sake, so we would know how ruthlessly we should attack sin and evil today.
Don’t hesitate. Come out swinging. Don’t stop until everything is destroyed. Remove all remaining traces.
This kind of violence is meant for sin and sin only. God gave us a living example, a startling and sobering alert. He wants us to notice this. He wants us to absorb this. He wants us never to forget this.
Because He doesn’t want to lose us to the Enemy.
“I want you to keep resisting and keep fighting evil, so that you can live.”
At first, the Israelites got the message. They exploded from the gate, racking up victories, handing out defeats, just as God commanded.
But then at city number four they got cocky. They gave themselves a break. They were so strong in the Lord that they didn’t need to get rid of all of the sin around them.
Their list of victories in Judges 1 literally turns into a list of misses. Nations they didn’t conquer, sin they didn’t eradicate.
They didn’t know it then, but years later, they would wake up and look around. They would find themselves not just back where they started, but worse off: surrounded by sin and unable to resist it.
And that’s a story we all know too well.
Every time I got cocky on day four and stopped treating my body like God’s temple, days later I would be even more unhealthy than when I started. Every time we get proud and stop following God, we eventually find ourselves farther from Him than when we started.
It’s a dangerous game we’re playing and it needs to stop. For our own sake, for the sake of those we hurt with our sin, and for the sake of our heavenly Father, who loves us and who suffered on a cross so that we don’t have to do this anymore.
The bloodsoaked Bible is our reminder – sin is not a game; it’s a killer. Before it takes our lives, let’s give our lives to the only God who is able to give us victory over it. He’s ready for us. Are we?
What do you think? Why do you think God commanded the Israelites to destroy so many nations?