All parents understand the feeling of frustration that comes about when children fail to obey what their dad and mom instructed them to do. The conversation might go like this: “I told you not to do that, but you did it anyway. Would you please explain to me why you did that when I told you not to?!” The pointed inquiry may get a response of silence, a shrug of the shoulders, a confession and apology, or it might get a variety of excuses. Parents, does this sound familiar?
After the Israelites had conquered the land of Canaan in the days of Joshua, the Angel of the Lord asked them, “Why have you done this?” What was the “this” that Israel had done? Consider Judges 2:1,2:
(1) Then the Angel of the LORD . . . said: I led you up from Egypt and brought you to the land of which I swore to your fathers; and I said, I will never break My covenant with you. (2) And you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars. But you have not obeyed My voice. Why have you done this?
So, the “this” which got Israel into trouble with God was the fact that the people did not obey Him. Specifically, He had told them how to deal with the Canaanites – make no covenant with them and tear down their altars. Israel failed to carry out God’s commands. Israel’s refusal to submit to Him brought about His question: “Why have you done this?”
This incident reminds us that the Lord is aware of all that transpires on earth. He sees man’s coming and going, man’s submission and rebellion, man’s wise choices and man’s foolish ones, too.
We see man’s accountability to God. We cannot simply push away His questions or try to laugh them off. When God asks man to answer for His behavior, then man needs to be ready to be honest about his actions and be prepared to face the consequences.
Israel had no excuse for failing to obey the Lord. God’s communication about how Israel should treat the Canaanites and their idolatrous practices was understandable. God’s commands were doable – it required faith and courage on Israel’s part, but what God wanted them to do was not impossible. Furthermore, Israel could not excuse her disobedience by pointing a finger at God and accusing Him of wrongdoing or being a stumblingblock to them.
No, no, no. Israel’s failure to obey God had nothing to do with the nature of the commands given or the character of the Giver of those instructions. Israel did not obey the Lord simply because she was unwilling to do so. There may have been multiple factors in causing the Israelites to think as they did, but the bottom line was, they decided that the best course of action for them was to disregard what God told them to do. What disastrous thinking that is!
As you and I consider our decisions, what we have done and not done in fulfilling God’s will, His question to us would be the same one that He asked Israel: “Why have you done this?” Such a sobering question makes us aware of our accountability to God as we sojourn here on earth. And what about when this life is over? “(W)e must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). On that day, neither excuses nor finger pointing will be able to change the truth about our choices in life.
— Roger D. Campbell