Israel has push God away AGAIN! This time it is almost too far. “I will save you no more. Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen” (verses 13b-14a).
We were warned in the beginning of this book what was about to be revealed. We are given a close inspection of the pattern Israel would follow for MANY years and generations. Israel would abandon God, start serving other gods, become oppressed by some other people, cry out to God for help, saved by a ‘judge’ God raised up, remain faithful until that judge died, then repeat the cycle again. But their actions would be worse than where they were the last time through the cycle.
In the reading for today they are in a very bad place. Not only have they turned back to the Baals and Ashtaroth but have now included the gods of several of the people around them. I don’t know that these foreign gods
weren’t already in the mix in some homes but now they are quite visible throughout the whole nation. “The gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines” (verse 6b) are all part of Israel’s daily life.
Needless to say, God is NOT pleased with His people. “So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and He sold them into the hand of the Philistines and into the hand of the Ammonites, and they crushed and oppressed the people of Israel” (verses 7-8a). The oppression they are experiencing is wide spread. It isn’t only one small area feeling God’s anger. It is on both sides of the Jordan! And it has been going on for more than seven years before they remember who to turn to.
God LOVES IT when we turn to Him for help. But He DOES NOT love it when we fall right back into the slop once He rescues us. He requires that we learn from our mistakes and STOP repeating them! With ALL that God has rescued Israel from and all the times they have suffered punishment you would think they would have learned. Nope. Not yet. But they say they are ready to close out this cycle again.
God doesn’t answer them right away. He turns a deaf ear; ‘Talk to the hand’. In fact He is blunt with them! “You have forsaken Me and served other gods; therefore I will save you no more. Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress” (verses 13-14).
Before saying this to His people He listed the MANY times He had already saved them. He reminded them of the many times they had cried out to Him and He acted on their behalf. Yet they STILL walked away from Him. “ENOUGH! Let the gods you want save you. I’m done.”
But God has a tender heart. He saw Israel’s actions of repentance. “So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord” (verse 16a). (I would have been much happier if the ‘broke up’ their foreign gods and destroyed them.) And they KEPT asking for His help. “And He became impatient over the misery of Israel” (verse 16b).
God waited to see if His people were serious this time. He KNEW their cycle. He KNEW this wouldn’t be the last time they would have to learn the hard way. But He saw their misery and had compassion on them once again. His stern tone had gotten their attention and they had born fruits of repentance.
The people stepped out and did their best to aid in their own deliverance. God hasn’t yet told them that He would intervene on their behalf but things were so bad they felt they had no option but to stand up and fight back. Instead of looking to God though they were looking for a man. “Who is the man who will begin to fight against the Ammonites? He shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead” (verse 18b).
I’m hoping that when they said ‘begin to fight’ they were fully expecting God to take it from there. Maybe they thought if they took the first step God would have to help defend His name. Maybe they thought this was what God would require of them. Maybe they thought they were on their own. God’s last answer sure could be taken that way. But even with all the fear and uncertainty, they took that first step.
Sometimes I wonder what I should do in situations where I need God’s help. Should I wait patiently or take the step that I think is right? Is there a right or wrong answer to this question? I am brought back to the things that Israel did FIRST before stepping out. They asked for help AND they showed by a change in their behavior that they were serious about their repentance. They did their part in removing the relationship blocks they had put there. Because they were willing to show they were serious, God listened to them again. We will see how He answers them next time.
Father God, thank You that You don’t give up on me. Even when You told Israel to ask the other gods to save them You were still watching their reaction. When they showed the serious changes in their heart You were ready to move on their behalf.
I PRAY I NEVER get that far away from Your presence! Holy Spirit speak to my heart continually so I can make the changes needed right away instead of letting them pile up in me and put a HUGE block between us. I want NOTHING blocking our relationship.
Show me Holy Spirit when I should take that first step and when I need to wait. You know I’m not the most patient waiter. I need clear guidance at ALL times. Thank You that I can trust that You will be right beside me every step I take. Lead on! I will follow!