“The Israelites cried out to the Lord…” Judges 3:9, 15, 4:3, 6:6 (HCSB)

After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the LORD, “Who will be the first to go up and fight for us against the Canaanites?” Judges 1:1 (HCSB) What a wonderful way to launch a new era for the children of Israel! They inquired of the Lord. He answered their plea and directed the men of Judah to lead them in battle. The legacy of victory had continued from the time of Joshua, or so it would seem. In that very first chapter of Judges, we begin to see the tide change. There is a series of failures that signified this era. It was one marked by cycles of disobedience, compromising tolerance, religious and moral mayhem, and the worship of other gods (Judges 1:21, 27, 29-34). They were constantly doing “evil in the Lord’s sight” and “everyone did whatever he wanted.” Judges 2:11, 3:7, 3:12, 4:1, 6:1,13:1, 17:6, 21:25.

Israel’s defeat by their enemies would be God’s means of discipline. He would hear their response of desperate cries and raise up deliverers (Judges) to save them. God would pour His Spirit on them enabling them to lead His people and win many battles. There were repeated cycles of rebellion, discipline, repentance, obedience and deliverance. In the midst of moral chaos and constant bouts of defiance, God remained the same. He was faithful to His Covenant and to His people. He continued to reach out to His own, urging them to return to him and experience the joy of obedience.

Obedience and repentance can turn the tides of negative consequences. When God disciplines His children, it is always an act of grace. He could choose to give us what we deserve, but in His discipline, He grants us an opportunity to get it right and to return to proper fellowship with Him. We deserve death and to be cut off from His Presence, but He chooses to respond to our cries of desperation and rescue us from our self-destructive demise.

How far can we stray away from the presence and guidance of the Lord? How much can we assimilate into the culture we live in? How much can our values resemble those of the world? How much of our rebellion against God would it take for Him to turn a deaf ear to our cries of help? During the time of the judges, His children were pretty far gone. The last verse in the book of Judges says: “…everyone did whatever he wanted.” (21:25b HCSB). In the first verse of the book of Ruth it says, “During the time of the judges…” It is during this same period of repeated rebellion that the beautiful love story of redemption unfolds. The people get a glimpse of God’s ultimate plan.

God loves us too much to leave us to our own devices. Cry out to Him! He will never forsake us! What an awesome and faithful God! Let us walk continually in obedience to Him.

“The Israelites cried out to the Lord, and He raised up…” Judges 3:9, 15

By Abigail George

The Lord gave them rest on every side according to all He had sworn to their fathers. None of their enemies were able to stand against them, for the Lord handed over all their enemies to them.”  Joshua 21:45 (HCSB)

The book of Joshua serves as a victorious finale to the events recorded in the Pentateuch, in particular, those incredible encounters the Israelites had with Yahweh on their journey through the wilderness. It is a beautifully detailed picture of God continuing to fulfill His promises to His people. It records the memorable entry into the Promised Land so reminiscent of the great escape from the Egyptian army at the Red Sea. Many battles were fought and won. Cities were conquered. Nations were annihilated. The land had to be cleansed, for the Holy Presence of God entered the Land and His chosen people would dwell there. On numerous occasions Joshua and the people were encouraged by the Lord to be “strong and courageous.” (Josh. 1:6, 7, 9, 18; 10:25, 23:6) Through it all, it was God who fought for them and gained the victory.

The conquered land was divided among the people. The scripture says, “So the Lord gave Israel all the land He had sworn to give their fathers, and they took possession of it and settled there.” (Josh. 21:43 HCSB) Not only did God fulfill His promise to give the land, but He fulfilled His promise of rest. (Exodus 33:14) He gave them rest all around. They could settle and be secure knowing their enemies were no longer threats. As a matter of fact, God had given the enemies to them. The Lord was on their side. He promised that if they would obey Him, they would continue in His rest.

On your journey with the Lord you may face battles, difficult areas of your life to conquer, and strongholds to overcome. Remember that the Lord is fighting for you just as He did for the Israelites. God has promised to take you through the journey to the destination He has for you. Not only will He get you to that place, but he will also give you rest there. The enemy has no chance against you because the Lord is on your side. Continue to trust in Him. Walk in obedience and rest in Him. The rest the Israelites anticipated was in a specific locality—a land just beyond the Jordan River. Praise the Lord that Jesus Christ is our ultimate place of rest. It is in Him we can rest from the enemy and live securely. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Mt. 11:28 (HCSB)

You can rest now, for God has fulfilled His promise. Will you rest in Christ?

“None of the good promises the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed. Everything was fulfilled.” Joshua 21:45 (HCSB)

By Abigail George

Passages for Further Study: Deut. 12:10; 25:19; Hebrews 4

“Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them.  Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do.  Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.  This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:6-9, NLT

We see God commanding Joshua to be strong and courageous in three areas:

  • Being a leader
  • Studying, meditating and obeying God’s commands
  • Knowing God was with him

When I looked up the words “strong” and “courageous” they had similar meanings. I also noticed two common words in both definitions: “to harden.”  (http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/hebrew/nas/chazaq.html).

We usually think of those words in the context of a person hardening his heart against God. But, in this context it seems that it would mean Joshua needed to harden his heart against fear.

God told Joshua he was going to be the next leader of the people. It takes a strength and courage to be a leader who is not going to doubt that he is the leader or fear the people he leads. We saw with Moses that he doubted his leadership skills and it was more than he could bear when the people rebelled. He had to harden his heart against their complaining and (unjust) criticism of his leadership. Now it’s Joshua who was going to have to be hardened against their complaining and become a leader who is able to lay aside the fear of man for the fear of God.

It takes strength and courage to spend the time to study and meditate on God’s instructions and obey them. Joshua had to be humble enough to study God’s Word, trust the instructions of God, and obey His commands if he was going to be successful and lead the people into the Promised Land.

It takes strength and courage to realize God is going to lead you away from the usual and take you where you have never been. In Deuteronomy 2:1-3, we see the Israelites circling around Mt. Seir. They were not making any progress just walking in circles around the mountain. I wonder if it was comforting looking at the familiar scenery. The path around the mountain must have looked like a well-worn rug with all those people trudging on it. They may have become so familiar with their route they knew what to expect at each bend, then God told them, “You have circled this mountain enough already!” Something new and different was coming. It was time to move on and this was going to be something big. Joshua was going to have to harden his heart against the fear of the unknown and follow God wherever he went.

What do you fear? Be strong and courageous!

By Karen Aker