Rev. Joseph Bianco
The book of Judges begins with an ending, the ending of the conquest of Canaan along with the end of Israel’s fidelity to God. Judges as a whole tells the story of the downward spiral of Israel. While God raises up judges to lead them, the Israelites are faithful for a time, but then Israel falls back into rebellion and idol worship. In the beginning of chapter 1 we read of some successful conquests, but by the end of chapter 1 there is obvious failure to clear the land. This failure to obey God’s command results in the Israelites living side-by-side with their enemies. What is the outcome? Syncretism. Syncretism is a word that means the “mixing of religions.” A big difference between Israel and the modern church was that Israel was a nation-state and God has particular commands for the nation of Israel, namely to capture the land. Today the church is not called to the conquest of lands, but there is one similarity that remains exactly the same: the very first commandment Israel received from Moses in Exodus 20:3, “You shall have no other gods before me.” God knew that if Israel did not complete the conquest, syncretism would arise. Today, syncretism still exists. God tests Israel by, “the nations that the LORD left” (3:1). God allowed Israel to be captured and even defeated by these nations, but when God’s people cried out, the LORD raised up Judges to help them. The pattern repeats.
Reflect: While there are many similarities between Israel and God’s people today, there are also many differences. One major difference is that at the time of the Judges God called Israel to be a holy people at the center of the world, but today God’s people are called to go out and to “Make disciples of every nation” (Matthew 28:19). What remains the same? Any student of church history can tell you that much like Israel, the church has had a history of apostasy and faithfulness. Often as a response to syncretism, these movements take the form of breaking denominational ties or (going back to the reformation), risking life and limb. As you consider this movement of faithfulness and apostasy, reflect on how you have seen syncretism in your own lifetime. How have you seen this movement in local churches and denominations? What part can you play in helping God’s people to remain faithful? Take some time and ask the Lord how he can use you to help God’s people towards faithfulness. Hint: Try and focus on yourself and your own shortcomings first.
Connect: Consider the contrast between the great commission in Matthew and the failed conquest in Judges.
Matthew 28:16-20 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
This blog is part of the ministry of City Reformed Presbyterian Church. Unless otherwise noted, the entries are written by Matt Koerber. This is part of a project that our church is doing as we read through the narrative sections of Scripture between early January and Easter 2020. New entries will be scheduled to drop automatically at 5:00 am on the scheduled day.