by Steven Chan
7 November 2010
At the beginning of the book of Judges, the Bible records what happened after the death of Joshua: “Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the LORD, saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them?” (Judges 1:1)
It is heartening to read that the people of God still sought the Lord even after the death of their leader, Joshua (although not for long as stated in Judges 2:10-11). They asked the Lord for direction and advice as regards matters affecting their lives – in the present instance as regards who should be the first to fight against the Canaanites. There were lots of people in Israel – so they had to decide as regards who should be the first to go?
Judges 1:2: “And the LORD said, Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his hand.” The Bible tells us that God told them that Judah would be the first to go up and fight against the Canaanites and He assured them that He has delivered the land into the hand of Judah. It is comforting to know that when we seek God for direction and wisdom in matters of our lives, God offers more than just what we ask for; He provides assurance that He will be with us and will ensure deliverance into our hands.
The Bible says in Prov 16:1-3: “The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD. All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits. Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established.” Psa 37:5 : “Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.” The Bible encourages us to commit our way and our works unto the Lord, and to trust in Him, and the assurance is that the Lord shall bring establish our thoughts and plans as well as bring to pass what we have planned.
God wants us to trust Him – and not trust in our own selves: 2 Cor 1:9: “But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead”. 1Tim 4:10: “For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men,” 1 Tim 6:17: “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God…” We should note that our trust in God should not be restricted only to the religious aspects of our lives but should be extended to cover our entire lives.
However, whilst the children of Israel sought the Lord’s direction, they failed to obey the will of God as regards what they should do with the people occupying the land. Let’s consider what God had told them earlier: Ex 23:30-33: “By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land. And I will set thy bounds from the Red sea even unto the sea of the Philistines, and from the desert unto the river: for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and thou shalt drive them out before thee. Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor with their gods. They shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me: for if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee.”
God had instructed them plainly that the inhabitants of the land that God had promised to give to the Israelites were to be driven out and that they should not be allowed to stay in the land – and God gave His reason as well: “lest they make thee sin against me”.
But in the first chapter of the book of Judges, we read the many instances recorded by God for us to observe, from Judges 1:27-36 the fact that “neither did Manasseh drive out the inhabitants of Bethshean and her towns, nor…Judges 1:28 And it came to pass, when Israel was strong, that they put the Canaanites to tribute, and did not utterly drive them out” – that the various tribes of Israel failed to drive out the people out of the land and instead permitted them to remain with them. In Judges 2:2, 3, God said “but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this? “Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you.”
The Bible tells us why such incidents are recorded: 1 Cor 10:11-12: “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” They are recorded for our admonition or instruction so that we do not commit similar sins against the Lord.
For the Christian, the parallel to the instruction that was given to the Israelites can be found in 2 Cor 6:14-18: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”
The apostle Paul who penned 2 Cor 6:14-18 had in his earlier letter to the church at Corinth explained thus in 1 Cor 5:9-10: “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.” The implication here is that Christians will necessarily have to associate with unbelievers and sinners in this world and it is not God’s intention for us to “go out of this world” so as to live like the “hermits”. In any case, what good would the Christian be able to do for the world if we were to all go and live separate lives in the mountains, etc… as we are required to be the light and salt of the world (Matt 5:13-16).
So, what did the apostle intend to convey in 2 Cor 6:14-18 when he exhorted that Christians are to be separated and to not touch the unclean things? In the context, Paul warned the Christians not to receive the grace of God in vain (2 Cor 6:1) by ensuring that we give “no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed” (2 Cor 6:3) and that since we “have these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”(2 Cor 7:1). In other words, we are not to have fellowship with the evil deeds of the people of this world as is similarly expressed in Eph 5:7-11: “Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.”
We are warned therefore to be careful as we live in this world lest we be influenced by them to do that which is not pleasing to God. 1 Cor 15:33-34: “Be not deceived: Evil companionships corrupt good morals. Awake to soberness righteously, and sin not; for some have no knowledge of God: I speak this to move you to shame.”
If we enjoy the company if evil companions, we may be influenced to do what they do and speak as they speak. Listen to the warning of Paul in Eph 5:3-5: “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as becometh saints; nor filthiness, nor foolish talking, or jesting, which are not befitting: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know of a surety, that no fornicator, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” Dirty or filthy jokes as well as profane words should not be used by Christians. Unfortunately, because some have such close associations with those who do not respect God, they learn to speak like the world and use words that are not befitting of Christians. They also dress immodestly like the world. They use swear words that is common to the people of the world. Brethren, these things ought not to be. We are to the light of the world to show them the way to God. But if our lights are dimmed by our desire to be just like them, then do we wonder why we have not been able to influence them to the Lord?
Are we separate and distinct from the world in terms of how we conduct our lives even as we live among them? We must drive out the deeds of the flesh from our lives as is taught clearly in Col 3 and Gal 5:19-21. We cannot serve God and mammon (Matt 6:24). If we allow the influence of the world (through the various media available today as well as through close interactions with people who do not respect God) to take root in our lives and in our hearts, then such will also become the thorns in our sides and they will make us sin against the Lord – just as God had forewarned the Israelites.
Have we put to death the deeds of the flesh? Have we driven out the influences that will make us sin against the Lord? Or, are we like the Israelites who embraced them into their midst in direct rejection of what God has expressly said? No wonder the Lord punished the Israelites. How does God feel about us today? Are we a people who seek Him in all things and desire to do His will?