Tuesday, 12 April 2011

The Only Defence is a Good Offence

Judges 1-3

The conquest of Canaan was a Holy War, unlike any other campaign that Israel would wage in its subsequent history. After the main offensive drive, there remained pockets of resistance that were to be annihilated (believe it or not I squirm writing that).

The people begin well in this mop up campaign, but after a time seem to grow tired of the mandate for total wipe out, and instead go for the get-rich-quick, disobedient and easier option (no doubt spun as pragmatic and more compassionate) of keeping the people alive and making them slaves.

Leaving aside their disobedience for a moment, it is so deeply ironic that the very thing they have just been rescued from in Egypt, they then go and inflict on others for the sake of their own personal gain. Jesus had sobering words for these kinds of people (Matt.18:32-33)

The (Angel of the) LORD rebukes their folly. These people would become "thorns" piercing the flesh of Israel. The nation weeps, but history would suggest that, whilst some were no doubt sincere, the majority were churning out crocodile tears. For it is then that the seemingly impossible happens - within a generation the LORD has been forsaken for other gods (Judges 2:10).

How on earth did that happen? Surely there must have been some great national disaster that led them to believe that God had forsaken them, leading them to lose hope and faith. For surely nothing else could warrant such a casual turning from the LORD of all the earth?

The sad fact of the matter is that there was no natural disaster. Simply put, God's people were faithless. They became proud and conceited and let the things of God drop to the ground before them.

The simple truth is that living in the love of God, like any relationship, requires effort. It doesn't "just happen." Holiness doesn't come by evolution or osmosis and it certainly doesn't come through that passive brand of (English?) optimism that says "it'll all work out in the end" whilst doing nothing to bring that end about.

Winds in the desert do not produce furnished houses. The natural inclinations of a man do not produce holiness. If you want to build something great like a holy life, it takes painstaking time and effort (Heb.5:14). If you want the next generation to follow in your footsteps, it takes painstaking time and effort. The only defence is a good offence.

And so begins the anarchic downward spiral / cycle of 1. disobedience, 2. defeat, 3. (crocodile tear?) crying to God for help, 4. deliverance through a Judge that will characterise this Bible book and make them long for a king.

Ehud knew what it meant to have a good offence as he plunged his double-edged sword into fat king Eglon, the troubler of Israel. The writer to the Hebrews alludes to this very episode when he says (Heb.4:11-13):

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, [even that of Ehud's] piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.[just as Eglon was once he was eventually found by his servants]

He who shows the same merciless streak to the sinful impulses of his own heart as Ehud did to Eglon is wise, and will gain his life (Luke 13:24).

No-one ever won anything worth having by sitting around (Matt.11:12).

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