Then the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD gave them into the hands of Midian seven years. The power of Midian prevailed against Israel. Because of Midian the sons of Israel made for themselves the dens which were in the mountains and the caves and the strongholds. For it was when Israel had sown, that the Midianites would come up with the Amalekites and the sons of the east and go against them. So they would camp against them and destroy the produce of the earth as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel as well as no sheep, ox, or donkey. For they would come up with their livestock and their tents, they would come in like locusts for number, both they and their camels were innumerable; and they came into the land to devastate it. (Judges 6:1-5 NASB)
Context and perspective are everything? Well, no, not really. We say that, but then we tend to “emphasize” a particular perspective to suit our desired point. Our behavior differs from our pithy statement. Perspective isn’t everything. Actually, we focus on what we want, and find a perspective that supports that conclusion.
The writer of Judges has an audience. They have these kings who, every other generation, wander from God. It’s frustrating, and causes no end of confusion. It’s not that they don’t know who the One True God is, but for one reason or another, these kings add another god into the worship of Yahweh. The writer of Judges points out that this is nothing new.
But there are things about the time of the judges which are very different from the time of the kings. For instance, without a central standing army, nomadic peoples can descend on Canaan and overwhelm the farmers. And that is what’s happening here. The writer of Judges has the perspective that this happens due to the people’s sin. That’s his perspective.
On the other hand, this also affects the Canaanites who have not been driven out, the Philistines living in the plains, and the “city folk” who don’t live on farms. We sometimes forget to view these descriptions with the “response to sin” removed.
At this time, Egypt is busy getting their stuff together, recovering from a recent occupation. Mesopotamia is between empires at the moment. The kings of Syria haven’t yet arisen, and the Hittites are still in the mountains of Asia Minor. It’s pretty much up to the squabbling city-states of Canaan to address this issue.
The land is in chaos during the time of the judges. The Canaanites of Meggido have iron chariots, but they do them no good against the camel cavalry of the desert nomads. The only option in response to these migrant invaders is to hide the produce in mountain strongholds and caves. And that is only partially effective.
Saying that seven years of these nomadic invaders comes as a response to the sin of the Sons of Israel is one perspective. It’s one that interprets the events of that day in light of the relationship of the people, chosen by Yahweh, to be His people. Whenever they chose not to be “exclusive” in their relationship with Yahweh, they suffered.
But this perspective does not address all the “bad” stuff that happened to the people. Some bad stuff happened while the people were following Yahweh. We’re not given those events. They don’t support the author’s point. On the other hand, he never says they don’t happen. We know they had to happen. This author sticks to his point, his perspective supports it, and other points are left to others to make.
These events are what they are. The perspective used to derive meaning from the events can vary. But, the choice of perspective is driven by the author’s intended point to make to his audience. The chosen message for this author is that, when God’s chosen people are unfaithful to Yahweh, He permits them to suffer. That is not to say that this is the only time people suffer. But it does point out that God holds His people accountable for their actions.
That perspective isn’t an error. It’s true. It’s not the only explanation of why bad things happen, but it was never intended to be. Later on, during the reign of Hezekiah, Assyria attacks Judah, and gets all the way to Jerusalem. Yet Hezekiah and the people are doing well with God. So, why did the Assyrians have so much success? Answering that question wasn’t the author’s point, so we aren’t told. But, we are told that God used that attack to demonstrate His power over even earthly powers considered unbeatable. But only the Sons of Israel were given that point or perspective.
The unfaithfulness of the Sons of Israel was the explanation of why the nomadic peoples were able to oppress the land. The reason given for most of the events in Judges is the same. God holds His people accountable for their relationship with Him. That point is supposed to be our take-away, our lesson, our insight gained from Judges. So, keeping that point in mind, what’s going on in our world? Are there things that indicate we may not be honoring our relationship with God?
God still holds His people accountable for their relationship with Him. We live under a new covenant, but it’s still a covenant. There are things for us and for God by which to abide in order to be faithful to the covenant. He has done His part through His Son, Jesus. We do our part when we rely on Him, and put this relationship ahead of every other, including ourselves.
Stuff happens when we are not faithful. Stuff often happens anyway, but why ask for more? Why not be faithful and avoid additional problems. Isn’t closeness with God what makes it easier to get through the stuff of this life anyway? If we have a solid relationship with the Creator of the universe, what else matters anyway? If nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:35-39), then why does stuff bother us? The only stuff that should bother us is the stuff our Master uses to bring us back to Him. The other stuff just deepens what we already have with Him.
Well, that’s my perspective through this knothole this morning. What do you see of God through yours?