They forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the Lord to anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. In his anger against Israel the Lord gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the Lord was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress.
Israel’s rejection of God caught up with them. Initially they may well have felt that a little here and a little there would be OK and that God would turn a blind eye to their dallying with the world around them but they forgot that their God, the one true God – indeed the only God – was a jealous God. Not our human jealousy (I want what you have got) but jealousy for his name in all the earth such that he would not give his glory to another (Isaiah 42.8), and now they came face to face with the consequences.
They had been warned on a number of occasions what would happen if they sought to ‘try out’ the practices of the nations whose land was now theirs because God had decreed that it should be. But as we saw previously there were pockets of Canaanites who they did not drive out (read Judges 1)so there was temptation right in their midst and they fell!
What they had further failed to understand is that ‘God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.’ Galatians 6.7) and so true to his word ‘In his anger he sold them into the hands of their enemies all around.’ And ‘his hand was against them to defeat them.’
Now it is self-evident that we live in very different times. We do not live in a theocracy. We live post the Cross and therefore as believers we are justified and declared righteous but God does not change and God’s righteous laws do not change.
There never was a time when the countries in which we live were Christian countries but there were many times in history when our leaders both, secular and spiritual, acknowledged that there was a God and indeed the foundation of the western world was built on that belief. Indeed I don’t think it is going too far to say as Moses said in Deuteronomy 4.7ff
What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?
about where we once stood.
But that is not where we are today! And that presents us with a challenge as God’s word constantly does. Our culture has sunk low and we are called to be salt and light within it.
God has not abandoned us but would have us learn from our current low estate and cry out to him for relief as Israel did time and time again as we read in the book of Judges.
Last evening I watched Dunkirk on BBC 1 and was reminded, although the film made no mention of it, that King George VI called the nation to a Day of Prayer (follow this link for a timely reminder https://canonjjohn.com/2017/07/17/national-day-of-prayer-during-dunkirk-1940/). We need to pray again like that as countless millions with no knowledge of God or what he has done will one day face him in the final judgement.
Israel was in great distress. Our world and its people are in great distress.
Let us pray!