MONDAY, APRIL 16
SCRIPTURE: JUDGES 1
Today we obviously start a new book. I decided to head back into the Old Testament and pick up on a little of the history of the nation of Israel. Although there are some high points and great victories throughout this book, it really doesn’t present a good picture of the nation of Israel. In fact, it presents a picture of them gradually getting further away from God and further into trouble.
One of the ways you can read this book it to look for the circular pattern that dominates the chapters. At the top of the circle, you will find Israel doing pretty good. After a bit of success and peace from their enemies, they start to slide down into idolatry. Because of their unwillingness to repent, God will send in a foreign nation to conquer Israel. After living under that nation for awhile, Israel will begin to cry out to God. It is at this point that we have reached the bottom of the circle and started back up. God will send in a deliverer or judge who will be victorious over the invading nation. The people of Israel will be back on top in a time of peace and prosperity. After a bit of that they start to slide down into idolatry again. And the whole process repeats itself.
In fact, as I have already said, this circular pattern is repeated ad nauseum throughout the book. However, each time the circle is completed the whole process goes down a little more, further away from God and further away from the way He designed life to be lived. When we finally get to the end of the book, we will read some of the saddest words in the Bible. We read at the end of chapter 21: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes”. In other words, they had completely rejected God.
With that as an overview, I’ll take you back to chapter one. Chapter one is a quick history of how the different tribes of Israel responded to the remaining Canaanites that were left in the Promised Land. What we discover is that some of the tribes like Judah did a great job of clearing out the bad guys. Other tribes of Israel just left the remaining Canaanites in place. Suffice it to say at this point, that was not a good idea.
Many years ago before farmers started using satellites to direct the planting of crops in those big circles, most farmers planted in squares or rectangles. There were several steps they would go through to prepare the ground for planting. But one of the things that had to happen was they had to plow out the corners.
Because the tractor and implement couldn’t make a square corner, there were always places in the corners of the field that the farmer had to go back to and intentionally plow out. Otherwise the field would not have been ready for planting. Plowing out the corners was one of the last things done but it was a necessary thing. It was evidence that the job was completed.
As I read through chapter one, I see a bunch of the tribes of Israel that didn’t plow out their corners. They didn’t finish the task. They left the bad guys entrenched in the Promised Land. I am sure at the time it didn’t seem like that big of deal. After all there were more Hebrews than Canaanites. After all the Canaanites could be enslaved to work for Israel. After all… After all.
What we will discover is that the Israelites committed a horrible mistake (In fact, it was a sin because they didn’t obey God.) by leaving those Canaanites there. I’m sure it was easier to do that. It just wasn’t better.
As Christ followers, we always have to be careful to plow out our own corners. To get the entire field ready to plant. To completely finish the task in front of us. Until we plow out our corners we are not ready for what God wants to produce in us.