Sunday School with Judges: Part 2, Thorns and Snares

As I mentioned yesterday, one of the big struggles many of us have with the book of Judges is how, coming on the heels of Joshua, it continues the conquest of Canaan.

That said, Judges quickly changes the focus. Concerning the surrounding pagan nations, the struggle in the book of Judges shifts from removal and eradication to faithfulness and covenantal fidelity in the midst of the nations. From Judges 2:
Judges 2.1-4
Now the angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done? So now I say, I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.” As soon as the angel of the Lord spoke these words to all the people of Israel, the people lifted up their voices and wept. 
God changes the agenda. No longer will God stand with Israel in battle against the nations. God will leave the nations where they are so that they will be "thorns" and "snares" to Israel.

To be sure, there are some sticky issues here, how God seems to leave the nations in place as a punishment for Israel. Regardless, this situation changes the game in Judges when compared to the book of Joshua. Specifically, with the nations staying put the focus in Judges lasers in on the issue of idolatry, remaining faithful to God in the midst of thorns and snares.

And that is a message that can preach. I preached it recently out at the prison and it really resonated. "You live among thorns and snares," I said to the Men in White. And they wholeheartedly agreed. All around them the gods of this world are enticing or threatening them.

And it's the same for all of us. We live lives surrounded by thorns and snares. And as the image of the snare makes clear, this is not a passive situation, us just falling into a hole. We feel positively hunted by predatory forces. These are snares we are avoiding.

All that to say, while the book of Judges has its problems, the book does speak to this situation well, the experience of trying to be faithful while living among the nations, about fidelity to God while living in the midst of thorns and snares.

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