The Israelites had conquered Canaan. They had found a home in the Promise Land, but a short time later they were weeping in defeat. “Then the angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said: ‘I led you up from Egypt and brought you to the land which I swore to your fathers; and I said, “I will never break My covenant with you. And you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars.” But you have not obeyed My voice. Why have you done this? Therefore I also said, “I will not drive them out before you; but they shall be thorns in your side, and their gods shall be a snare to you.”’ So it was when the Angel of the Lord spoke these words to all the children of Israel, that the people lifted up their voice and wept.” (Judges 2:1-4)
They became slaves in the Promise Land. It was the enemy within that defeated them.
Moses and Joshua were dead and there were no strong leaders to take their place. In leadership, succession is success. Transition in leadership will take place either with us or without us, but it will happen. It is a process which cannot be stopped. The Bible does not tell us the reason Joshua failed to raise up another godly leader, but he died without a successor, and it became a disaster for Israel.
Moses had a vision of Israel becoming a “kingdom of priests.” (Exodus 19:6) But Israel failed to see his vision. All they could see was the Promise Land. Because they failed to understand God’s divine purpose for their lives and were content with an incomplete vision, they lost the Promise Land. Our vision determines what God is able do through our lives.
Each of the tribes of Israel emphasized their unique differences rather than seeing themselves as a “kingdom of priests.” Each tribe had their own leaders and land. They failed to see and promote unity as a nation. Each tribe was competing with the others rather than seeking the good of the kingdom. They emphasized their differences rather than promoting the things they had in common.
The biggest thing in the minds of the Israelites was the Promise Land. They were focused on receiving their inheritance and were more interested in what they were going to get rather than what they could give.
This is what made idolatry so attractive to them. Idolatry offered them many indulgences. These descendants of former slaves had been involved in warfare for a long time and were ready to enjoy the spoils of the battle.
The big battles for the conquest of Canaan had already been fought. The great cities and strongholds had been captured and only pockets of resistance remained. Fighting was what had united them against a common enemy. They became warriors and were good at fighting battles, but they were poor builders and ill equipped at building God’s kingdom.
Fighting a war for a just cause requires:
Disciple – we must prepare ourselves to fight.
Leadership – warfare requires generals who can develop good battle plans against the enemy.
Passion – there must be a fire which burns within the warrior. There must be a cause worth fighting for. But it is easier to unite people against a common enemy than to build a community.
Vision – there must be a common goal for a preferred future. Everyone involved must be able to see the same vision and share the same goals.
Covenant – their common goals cause people to commit themselves to long-term covenant relationships.
Grace – because of these long-term commitments they learn to show kindness and patience with each other.
It takes one set of skills to fight successfully and another to be a builder. Building requires developing a new talents. It requires a renewed thinking process. This is the reason the book of Joshua is a book of victory, and the book of Judges is a book of defeat. The Israelites failed to build the Kingdom of God.