Bad News From God

Now the angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land which I have sworn to your fathers; and I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you, and as for you, you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed Me; what is this you have done?  Therefore I also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; but they will become as thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you.’”  When the angel of the Lord spoke these words to all the sons of Israel, the people lifted up their voices and wept.  So they named that place Bochim; and there they sacrificed to the Lord. (Judges 2:1 — 5 NASB

Every time I encounter the Angel of Yahweh in Scripture, I believe this is God Himself in visible form. Only here does God go for a strenuous walk. He goes up from Gilgal to Bochim, which, depending on where you believe Bochim to be, is all up hill. But regardless of how far or in which direction, God begins His walk where His people began.  Gilgal is still the place they started their conquest of Canaan, and where they reestablished their covenant with Him.

The message from Yahweh is that He held up His end of the bargain, He brought them out from Egypt and gave them this land.  This land was what He had promised to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.  All three were buried among the hills on which they stood listening to Yahweh speak to them.  Notice the agreement, Yahweh makes a covenant He will not break, and the people make no covenant with the inhabitants, replacing their worship with His.  Not terribly complex.

Did you also notice His affirmation that He will never break His covenant? Remember that this is how He starts out His harsh words to them. Part of the harshness is because Yahweh has obligated Himself to them.  It’s not because they are so good, and it can’t be because of their father’s righteousness.  Yahweh chose them in spite of their failures.  Their part of the covenant was to drive out the Canaanites, and they made friends with them instead. At the most, they forced these Canaanites into forced labor.  Yahweh has obligated Himself to a people who refuse to be obligated to Him.

So, Yahweh modifies the agreement somewhat.  He declares that, if they will not drive them out, then He will use them to correct His people. The people changed covenant, and Yahweh just rolls with it. The people of God, the Sons of Israel, the Children of Abraham, were becoming just like everyone else. They began to lose their distinctiveness.  So, Yahweh begins to use that against them.  They chose compromise, and Yahweh made it expensive.

Compromise is, more or less, how this sort of conquest went in those days. The Babylonians and Assyrians, were both the product of assimilated invaders. Canaan had mixtures of Hittites, Amorites, Egyptians, and several other people groups mixed into the culture. And every time another conquering people showed up, the gods were renamed, old myths retold, and then everything found a new equilibrium.   Compromise and adaptation were how people survived.

The God responsible for bringing these Children of Abraham back to the land of Canaan wasn’t interested in how things had always worked in the past. This counter-culture Deity sought something different. With Him, there would be no pantheon, the stories were all about Him, and He advocated a genocidal approach to the conquest of Canaan. That was not how the cultures around the Tribes of Israel played with others. This God was down right rude.

Who wants to be rude? Why can’t we all just get along? Isn’t compromise the pathway to peace among all peoples? Seriously, you have to kill everyone? When it got tough, when the enemies broke out the iron chariots, when the city walls seemed high and thick, compromise began to look attractive.  And, to be honest, it still does. Our culture tells us to put down the swords and spears, and just compromise. That way, everyone wins. And isn’t that the point?  Apparently, it’s not the point of our Master.  So, how expensive does it have to become for us to stop the compromise?

Anyway, that’s my view of the ball game through the fence today. What’s your view like?