Could Not or Would Not?
Searching for a True Savior: An Exposition of Judges

Gary Combs ·
March 5, 2023 · exposition · Judges 1-2 · Notes


In these first two introductory chapters today, we see that Israel had not fully placed their hope and trust in God to fully obey Him. They said they “could not.” But God essentially said, they “would not.” This is a question worth asking ourselves. Where have you made flimsy excuses to God because you’ve put your hope in yourself or someone or something else instead of in Him? That’s what started the downward descent of Israel.

In the first two chapters of Judges, Israel failed to fully trust God’s promise and obey His word, so the Lord allowed their enemies to oppress them. Yet, God was moved by their suffering, so He raised up judges to save them. We can learn to fully trust and obey God.


Below is an automated transcript of this message

Good morning, church! You’re here at just the right time. We’re beginning a new twelve-week series through the book of Judges, going verse by verse through the book of Judges. We’ve entitled this series, “Searching For a True Savior, an exposition of Judges.” The book’s name comes from the type of leaders that God was raising up during this time to save His people, but all of those judges fall short of being able to truly bring life change to the people of God and to bring them a true Savior. As we read a book like this, it leaves us with a taste in our mouth for someone who could truly save us; all of that points to Jesus.

We’ll be looking for Jesus in every chapter. I hope you’ll stay with us through this entire series. The book comes from its own way of describing itself, that there are twelve judges in the book of Judges that we will be talking about over the next few weeks.

In Judges chapter two, we read: Judges 2:18 (ESV) Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them.”

The book is called “Judges” because of these judges, but don’t think of it in the sense of some “black robe gavel carrying courtroom judge;” it was not like that. It was more like tribal chieftains; the kind of people that God was setting apart to save his people from oppression. The word, “judge,” here, lower case judge, is talking about these people that God was raising up. They were like local chieftains; part of a local tribe during this period of time.

The book of Judges takes place, roughly, between the 15th and the 11th century BC. That’s three millennia ago ; over 3000 years ago when the history of this book is taking place. It covers the time of the people after the death of Joshua up through the book of Ruth. That’s during the age of the Judges all the way up through the prophet Samuel. In fact, Samuel is the last judge. He’s the last prophet/priest/ judge up until that time, until the coronation of King Saul, around 1051 BC. That’s the time period that’s being covered here.

The book has no author. The author certainly is the Holy Spirit, Amen, but the human author is anonymous. The ancient rabbis attributed it to the prophet Samuel. I tend to go with those who were closest to its writing. I tend to think that maybe Samuel was the author of this book. We’ll see that there’s some key verses here that Samuel seemed to be trying to connect, where Israel had been up until the time of the kings . He would have possibly been motivated to do that by the Holy Spirit.

There are a couple of key verses in the book that really are like the “keys under the doormat” to unlock the understanding of the book. Let me point those out to you: Judges 2:10 (ESV) “And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.” It describes a group of people after the death of Joshua. They didn’t grow up fighting in the wilderness. They weren’t there at the crossing of the Red Sea. They weren’t there in the 40 years in the wilderness eating manna. They don’t know this story, so there was a failure, apparently, on the part of their parents, of teaching them the faith, passing the baton of faith were always only one generation away from apostasy because the parents, it’s up to us to pass on the gospel and the, and the faith of the fathers on to the next generation. Amen. And, and so we see here the mark of this people in the Book of Judges is they didn’t know the Lord And they didn’t know his work, they didn’t know his power. So that’s one key verse.

Here’s another key verse that happens twice in the book of judges, chapter 17 and chapter 21: Judges 17:6 and 21:25 (ESV) In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

In those days, there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes? I would say that above all the themes of this book, that’s it. Everyone did right in his own eyes. It may have happened three millennia ago, but it certainly describes a modern age, doesn’t it? An age where we’ve thrown out the idea of absolute truth, the idea of right and wrong and everybody just does their own thing. That’s what it was like during this time; everyone just did what was right in their own eyes.

Now, be warned as we begin this, this study through the book of Judges, If it were a movie, we would probably be told to put MAO, on the front of the movie (mature audiences only), because this is a disturbing and violent book. It describes a sordid story of Israel’s failure to trust God’s promises in God’s power. What we see here is really a circular almost “down the toilet,” if you will, flushing away of their morality. They didn’t drive out the pagan peoples, called the Canaanites, and possess the promised land that God had given them. It really could be called “the book of the canonization of Israel,” because Israel begins to look just like the world instead of like God’s people.

When you read the Bible, sometimes you might be misled to think it’s a book about us, but it’s really a book about God. It’s really a book about God. It tells the truth about humanity, “warts and all.” Certainly, the book of Judges might be filled with more “warts” than most books . It’s a challenging book.

Speaking of challenging, I have outlined this book probably three different times in previous years, with the intent of preparing myself to preach it to you. Then, I would pray about it and think, Either I didn’t feel ready to preach it or I didn’t feel like you were ready to hear it. I didn’t feel a release from the spirit to do it until this year. It’s because it’s so challenging. When I preach, I always preach unto repentance. We don’t just preach for a history lesson. We preach so that the Word of God challenges heart change and always leads us to Jesus.

You’ll see why the book of Judges takes a little more effort, a little more work, to look for Jesus and the Gospel on every page, but we’re going to do that today. I’ve been challenged by this book. I hear people say, ‘Why in the world is this book even in the Bible? Why did God put this book in the Bible?’

I would say this – the apostle Paul writes this about the Old Testament in the book of Romans. He says, Romans 15:4 (ESV) “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Here’s what the Holy Spirit told Paul to tell the church at Rome. He said that the Old Testament, which includes the book of Judges, was written for our endurance and for our encouragement, so that we might have hope. We’re gonna study books in the Old Testament, like the book of Judges. We’re going to look for hope because hope is here, but we have to listen closely for God’s voice.

Pastor Tim Keller writes about this book. He says, “Judges can be described as despicable people doing deplorable things and as the history unfoldseven even the heroes, the judges, become increasingly flawed and failing. So the reader will be led to ask, again and again: What in the world is this doing in the Bible? The answer is an important one—it is the gospel!” As we go through the twelve judges, like Othniel, Gideon and Samson, they just get worse and worse. You asked the question, ‘What in the world is this doing in the Bible?’ Pastor Keller says there’s an important reason; it’s because it’s the gospel! Even here, we find the good news of hope from Jesus.

Now, as we look at this book today, I’ve entitled this message, “Could Not or Would Not?” We’re going to be looking at two chapters. Chapter one is really kind of like the report from the field by the people of Israel, how they’re doing at driving out the Canaanites from the Promised Land. Chapter one is kind of like from the human perspective. Chapter two is kind of like from God’s perspective. So, there are two introductions to the sixteen-chapter book that we’re going to be studying today.

I called it “Could Not or Would Not?” because at the conclusion of our first reading, we’ll see that they say we could not drive them out, but when we get to chapter two, God says, ‘No, it wasn’t that you could not; it was that you would not. I promised that I would help you and you forgot that.’ God reminds them; He speaks three times in these two chapters. We’re going to have three instructions for us to remember the three times that God speaks. We’ve got three instructions from God.

When I study something like this, I’m always looking for where God speaks. Where is He speaking to help me “unpack” this, so I can understand it. We’re going to form it around the three times that He speaks. He says, ‘It wasn’t that you could not, but that you would not.’

I want to ask you this question. It’s a question worth asking ourselves today. Where are you saying to God, I can’t. Where are you saying to God, I can’t forgive her. You don’t know what she did to me. I can’t forgive him. You don’t know what he did to me. God says you can with Me; it’s that you won’t. Where are you saying, I can’t kick this habit. I can’t kick this addiction. Wait a minute, in the power of Jesus, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” It’s not that you can’t, it’s that you forgot God’s power. It’s that you won’t. I want you to be asking yourself, as we go through this text, where you have said, “I can’t.”

In the book of Judges, here, in these first two chapters, Israel failed to fully trust and obey God and as a result, God turned them over to oppression from their enemies. When they cry out, He sends judges to save them.

As we study this, we can learn from Israel and we can learn from the way God responded. We can learn to truly and fully trust and obey the Lord. As we look here today, God speaks three times. He gives us three instructions to remember. We have two chapters to read, but I’m going to break it into three “bites.” okay. We have a lot of big names and a lot of things to cover. We’re going to be listening when God speaks. He speaks early in this first reading.

Judges 1:1-20 (ESV) 1 “After the death of Joshua, the people of IsraelIsrael inquired of the Lord, “Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?” 2 The Lord said, “Judah shall go up; behold, I have given the land into his hand.” 3 And Judah said to Simeon his brother, “Come up with me into the territory allotted to me, that we may fight against the Canaanites. And I likewise will go with you into the territory allotted to you.” So Simeon went with him. 4 Then Judah went up and the Lord gave the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand, and they defeated 10,000 of them at Bezek. 5 They found Adoni-bezek at Bezek and fought against him and defeated the Canaanites and the Perizzites. 6 Adoni-bezek fled, but they pursued him and caught him and cut off his thumbs and his big toes.7 And Adoni-bezek said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and their big toes cut off used to pick up scraps under my table. As I have done, so God has repaid me.” And they brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there. 8 And the men of Judah fought against Jerusalem and captured it and struck it with the edge of the sword and set the city on fire. 9 And afterward the men of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites who lived in the hill country, in the Negeb, and in the lowland. 10 And Judah went against the Canaanites who lived in Hebron (now the name of Hebron was formerly Kiriath-arba), and they defeated Sheshai and Ahiman and Talmai. 11 From there they went against the inhabitants of Debir. The name of Debir was formerly Kiriath-sepher. 12 And Caleb said, “He who attacks Kiriath-sepher and captures it, I will give him Achsah my daughter for a wife.” 13 And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, captured it. And he gave him Achsah his daughter for a wife. 14 When she came to him, she urged him to ask her father for a field. And she dismounted from her donkey, and Caleb said to her, “What do you want?” 15 She said to him, “Give me a blessing. Since you have set me in the land of the Negeb, give me also springs of water.” And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the lower springs. 16 And the descendants of the Kenite, Moses’ father-in-law, went up with the people of Judah from the city of palms into the wilderness of Judah, which lies in the Negeb near Arad, and they went and settled with the people. 17 And Judah went with Simeon his brother, and they defeated the Canaanites who inhabited Zephath and devoted it to destruction. So the name of the city was called Hormah. 18 Judah also captured Gaza with its territory, and Ashkelon with its territory, and Ekron with its territory. 19 And the Lord was with Judah, and he took possession of the hill country, but he could not drive out the inhabitants of the plain because they had chariots of iron. 20 And Hebron was given to Caleb, as Moses had said. And he drove out from it the three sons of Anak.” I’m gonna pause there.


1. Remembering that the battle is the Lord’s. (Trust God’s power)

Learning to fully trust and obey God means that we remember that the battle is the Lord’s. Go back to when God spoke. Remember, I said that we’re looking for where God speaks? Go back to verse two, The Lord said, “Judah shall go up; behold, I have given the land into his hand.” God promised His power. He said, ‘I’ve given it to you.’ It starts out great, but then, Judah apparently forgets that the battle is the Lord’s. It started out so successful. They defeated everybody; they even defeated Adoni-bezek, who had defeated seventy kings. They defeated him.

The whole cutting off the thumbs and big toes thing is a troubling part of the story. That’s troubling. It’s weird, right? That’s some strange stuff; this is only the beginning of strange stuff that we will encounter in the book of Judges.

Notice a couple of things we might be troubled with, from our modern 21st century point of view. To look back across three thousand years and say, ‘Isn’t this like some kind of holy Jihad that God has sent them on? Aren’t they supposed to cleanse the land?’ This is like dispossessing people who own the land previously. We question it.

For us to understand it, first of all, he says in verse seven, And Adoni-bezek said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and their big toes cut off used to pick up scraps under my table. As I have done, so God has repaid me.” God has repaid me; I’ve done the same thing. He recognized he had it coming.

The other thing to recognize, if you go back to Genesis, chapter 15, is when God first gave His covenant to Abraham. The word, “covenant,” in the Hebrew, means “to cut.” We still use that kind of terminology today, “to cut a deal.” God told Abraham to cut a calf, a goat, a lamb and a pigeon and lay them apart from each other, so that half is here and half is there. This was not uncommon for Abraham during his day, that if they were going to “cut a deal,” if they were going to make a covenant that the two parties would walk through the path of blood between the animals. They were basically saying, ‘If I break the covenant, then what happened to these animals should happen to me,’ but they walked through it together. After Abraham had laid it out (this is back in Genesis, chapter 15, if you want to read about it) and God gave him this covenant, God recognized that Abraham could not keep his part. So He put him in a deep sleep and God went through by Himself because God’s the only one that could keep this covenant.

God put Abraham to sleep; when he’s asleep, He gives him a vision–your people will take this land, but not yet. First, they will go into captivity for four hundred years. He told Abraham this long before Isaac had Jacob; long before Jacob had twelve sons that became the twelve tribes that got carried into Egypt, where they were there in slavery for four hundred years. After the sins of the Canaanites it’s comes to the full measure , which is gonna be nearly five hundred years later. Then, He will send your people back, your children back, to possess the land. He gave them the land of Canaan because He’s the capital “J” in judges. The stench of their sin rose to His nostrils. He’d given him five hundred years to repent and they didn’t.

I would say, let’s be careful about judging God. He’s the capital “J” Judge. He’s using Israel to cleanse the land and for it to be a land that belongs to His people, a people that only worship the one true God. What we find out is that they couldn’t. They don’t do it. They’re unable. After the death of Joshua is where the book of Judges takes place. It begins after the death of Joshua. Joshua’s name was “Yeshua,” which means “God’s salvation,” which is the same for Jesus.

This is the season now. Certainly, Judah had to go first. Judah always went first. If you go back and read Exodus, when they encamped, Judah always camped to the eastern side where the sun came up. They packed up first and they always led.

Judah is actually the fourth son of Jacob, the fourth tribe of Israel, but he’s elevated back there in Genesis, when Jacob puts the blessing on the twelve sons, he puts a special blessing on Judah. His name means, “God be praised, Yahweh be praised.” Jacob puts a blessing on him. He says to him, ‘You’re like a lion and the scepter will never pass from your hands. Kings are going to come from you.’ This is all pointing to Jesus, who is the son of David, who’s in the lineage of Judah. It’s where we get the name “Jew;” it comes from the tribe of Judah.

They go first and they win great battles for a season. One of their chief leaders, Joshua, was dead, but Caleb is still alive.

If you remember Joshua and Caleb, they were the two spies from the twelve spies who forty-five years earlier had gone into the land and spied out the land for Moses and the people of Israel. Ten came back with a negative report and said, ‘They were giants and we were like grasshoppers in their sight,’ but Joshua and Caleb said, ‘No, listen, we can do it. It’s the land filled with milk and honey and God can help us.’ That’s this Caleb. So, when it came time to come into Israel, finally, forty years later, the only two men that actually got to go in that were still alive, that had left Egypt were Joshua and Caleb, but now, Joshua’s dead. Caleb is still alive.

Moses says to Caleb, ‘Listen, you were faithful. What land do you want? You get to pick.’ He says, ‘You know what? My right arm is as strong as it was when we came into the land; Iwas 40 years old. I’m 85 years old now, but my right arm is just as strong as it was then. Give me the mountains; give me the giants.

If you look at verse 20, you see that Caleb took Hebron and he took the land of Enoch. Enoch was the father who had boys that were big, giant men. That’s where Caleb goes. Caleb is from the tribe of Judah.

Here’s what starts happening and maybe this happens to you. After success, you start off small. Maybe, when you first got married, you were like me and my wife. We lived in a little 12 X 55 trailer in a little trailer park in Radford, Virginia called, “Rustic Village.” We used to call it “Rusty Village.” Maybe, you started out like that. You didn’t have much. You prayed and asked God for everything because you didn’t have a bank account. You couldn’t qualify for a credit card yet. Do you remember being there? You start and you trust God more because that’s all you have. I think Judah starts out that way. They’re taking people down there. They’re cleansing the land. They’re doing it right and then they encounter those iron chariots down in the plains.

The Philistines, those Canaanites, were people who probably traveled there from the island of Crete. They had ironworks and they were more advanced technologically than the people of Israel were. Judah encountered this; he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t kick them out, but these are the children that forgot that when Joshua led the people in, they encountered a city called Jericho that had walls so high. No one had ever overthrown Jericho. God said, ’I’ll give it to you. All I need you to do is march around it for seven days and on the seventh day, march around it seven times. After you’ve marched around it seven times, I want you to blow trumpets and shout and the walls will come down.’ The people did and the walls came down. I think they could have just let out a shout and blown the wheels off of those iron chariots, but they forgot. They had gotten used to being successful and they forgot that the battle is the Lord’s, so they said they could not. They said they could not.

Don’t be afraid. I don’t know what you’re facing today. Maybe the doctor gave you bad news. The battle is the Lord’s. It’s not the doctors; we need doctors. God gives us medical science. There’s a reason for it. It’s a blessing, but God has the final say. The battle is the Lord’s. I can’t kick this habit. I can’t kick this addiction . Of course, you can’t, but God can. The battle is the Lord’s. I can’t get my marriage back together, of course you can’t, but the battle is the Lord’s. You can’t. But God can. The battle is the Lord’s.

2 Chronicles 20:15 (NLT) “This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” Where are you in your life? Maybe, you’ve experienced some success, so now, you think “you got this,” but “you don’t got this.” You’re going to encounter some “iron chariots” and when you do, all of a sudden, you recognize your power is falling short and you’ll see that you can’t. It’s true –you can’t, but God can. Remember the battle is the Lord’s.


2. Remembering that God’s commands are for our good. (Trust God’s plan)

Let’s keep reading:

Judges 1:21-2:5 (ESV) 21 “But the people of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem, so the Jebusites have lived with the people of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this day. 22 The house of Joseph also went up against Bethel, and the Lord was with them. 23 And the house of Joseph scouted out Bethel. (Now the name of the city was formerly Luz.) 24 And the spies saw a man coming out of the city, and they said to him, “Please show us the way into the city, and we will deal kindly with you.” 25 And he showed them the way into the city. And they struck the city with the edge of the sword, but they let the man and all his family go. 26 And the man went to the land of the Hittites and built a city and called its name Luz. That is its name to this day. 27 Manasseh did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shean and its villages, or Taanach and its villages, or the inhabitants of Dor and its villages, or the inhabitants of Ibleam and its villages, or the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages, for the Canaanites persisted in dwelling in that land. 28 When Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not drive them out completely. 29 And Ephraim did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites lived in Gezer among them. 30 Zebulun did not drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, or the inhabitants of Nahalol, so the Canaanites lived among them, but became subject to forced labor. 31 Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of Acco, or the inhabitants of Sidon or of Ahlab or of Achzib or of Helbah or of Aphik or of Rehob, 32 so the Asherites lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land, for they did not drive them out. 33 Naphtali did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh, or the inhabitants of Beth-anath, so they lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land. Nevertheless, the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh and of Beth-anath became subject to forced labor for them. 34 The Amorites pressed the people of Dan back into the hill country, for they did not allow them to come down to the plain. 35 The Amorites persisted in dwelling in Mount Heres, in Aijalon, and in Shaalbim, but the hand of the house of Joseph rested heavily on them, and they became subject to forced labor. 36 And the border of the Amorites ran from the ascent of Akrabbim, from Sela and upward. 2:1 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, 2 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? 3 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.” 4 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. 5 And they called the name of that place Bochim. And they sacrificed there to the Lord.”

We trust God’s power and we trust God’s plan, remembering that His commands for us are good. Sometimes we think, when God tells us to do something that He’s trying to limit our freedom. I’d rather do this. The truth is, if we obey His word, it results in Him being able to bless us and we find blessing in our life.

When we disobey His word, it brings sorrow and suffering. We see God speak in Chapter two; “But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done?” We see them slowly compromising there, little by little. You know what? I could drive them out like the tribe of Joseph. The house of Joseph was so powerful. It had two tribes, Manessa and Ephraim. They could have defeated everybody, but they thought, These guys are hard workers. We’ve got the land now, let’s just leave them here with all of their false religions and their pluralism. They allowed the temptation to stay in their camp for economic reasons.

You know, we’ll often do that today for economic reasons. We’ll say, ‘It’s cheaper to live together rather than to get married. We can get more money from welfare, from the government.’ We start compromising, ‘You know, it would be easier not to make a commitment because then if we break up, it’s just so expensive. It would be more economical to lie on my taxes.’ We begin to compromise and use worldly methods.

That’s what they began to do. It goes from Judah who thought he couldn’t, to this group who didn’t. They didn’t because they didn’t want to, and you’ll notice, did not drive out eight times going through all of these tribes till we finally get to the point with Dan where he gets driven out.

I want to show you a map quickly. You’ll notice that nine of the twelve tribes are mentioned. Judah’s in the South; Gaza is down here. They have all the land along the western border of the Dead Sea, all the way up to Jerusalem. Judah, by far, is the biggest land mass. They were the most successful at winning their land. Judah invited the tribe of Simeon to help. Simeon is surrounded by Judah and disappears inside of Judah. Judah is this southern land if you will. Reuben and Gad took land under Moses, East of the Jordan. Issachar is implied by the mention of “Megiddo.” You’ll see that Ruben was not mentioned because they had land on the other side when they were fighting with Moses. One that is not mentioned at all is the tribe of Levi. That is because Levi was the priestly tribe that God says, ‘They’re my possession, so I’m not going to give them a land allotment. I’m gonna give them cities and all of the land allotments because they’re to be the priestly tribe for the people.’

In Chapter 2:1, “Now the angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bochim. Dr. Warren Wiersbe says this, “But the Israelites go from “winning to weeping.” Gilgal was the place that Joshua and the people came in and they went before the Lord. They had revival and they repented. Gilgal became the home base for Joshua. Battle after battle, Gilgal was a place of rejoicing and getting right with God, but “Bochim” means “weeping.” It was a place of repentance and weeping because they didn’t do what God said. I don’t think it was a place where angels would hang out, but it’s there for a reason. The Lord’s reminding them of what it looks like when they’re right with Him. “But you have not obeyed my voice.”

He says in verse one, “I will never break my covenant with you.” This is God saying, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Now, this puts the Lord in an apparent dilemma, because the Lord says, “I’ll never leave you,” but there’s a problem; You keep leaving me. What’s God going to do about that? All through the book of Judges, we get this giant question mark. “How’s God going to solve this?” He promises to never leave us, but at the same time, we keep leaving Him.

How’s he going to give us a judge, a true Savior that can solve our “could not, would not” problem? We need a new heart. The heart is the seat of the will. We need a new heart that “would” and, therefore, with the power of Jesus, “could.” We feel this tension but the law is good; the problem is, we can’t keep it.

Look what it says in Deuteronomy 10:12-13 (NLT) 12 “And now, Israel,what does the Lord your God require of you? He requires only that you fear the Lord your God, and live in a way that pleases him, and love him and serve him with all your heart and soul. 13 And you must always obey the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good.”

It is not to limit your freedom, but to be a blessing to you. The problem, however, is what the Israelites are learning – they “could not” and they “would not” because they need a new heart and they need a better judge. They need a better Savior. We feel that tension throughout. Let’s keep reading.


3. Remembering that God has raised up Jesus to save us. (Trust God’s provision)

We’re at Chapter two, verse 6 now; remember this is from God’s perspective. I told you that chapter one is kind of like the people’s report from the field. Now, God’s talking about it. He kind of backtracks in verse six; Joshua was still alive. He gives us some of that information.

6 When Joshua dismissedthe the people, the people of Israel went each to his inheritance to take possession of the land. 7 And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work that the Lord had done for Israel. 8 And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of 110 years. 9 And they buried him within the boundaries of his inheritance in Timnath-heres, in the hill country of Ephraim, north of the mountain of Gaash. 10 And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel. 11 And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. 12 And they abandoned the Lord , the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger. 13 They abandoned the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. 14 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. 15 Whenever they marched out, the hand of the Lord was against them for harm, as the Lord had warned, and as the Lord had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress. 16 Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them. 17 Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the Lord, and they did not do so. 18 Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. 19 But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways. 20 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he said, “Because this people have transgressed my covenant that I commanded their fathers and have not obeyed my voice, 21 I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations that Joshua left when he died, 22 in order to test Israel by them, whether they will take care to walk in the way of the Lord as their fathers did, or not.” 23 So the Lord left those nations, not driving them out quickly, and he did not give them into the hand of Joshua.”

We conclude chapter two in the introduction to this book. Here we are at the third instruction– to remember that God has raised up Jesus to save us.. We can trust God’s provision, we can trust His power, we can trust His plans and His commandments. We can trust His provision.

You might be saying, ‘I didn’t see Jesus in what you just read. Gary, you didn’t mention Jesus.’ You would be right, but we do see that God raised up judges to save them. As long as those judges lived, they would be rescued for a season, but the problem with these twelve judges, as we will find, is that they keep dying. These are faulty, frail human judges. As heroes go , they go from “okay” to “crazy. “ Every time we try to put our trust in a human king or a human hero, they always let us down. There’s only One who’s never, ever let us down–that’s Jesus.

Remember the “horns of the dilemma” that the Father had caused, really for Himself, as he walked through that covenant with Abraham by Himself saying, ‘I’m the only one that can keep both sides because I know that you can’t keep your side.’ Here, He’s saying to the people of Israel, ‘You haven’t kept your side of the covenant. You haven’t driven out the false gods and the false religions. In fact, you’ve embraced pluralism and you’ve made me an “add on.” You say that you believe in Me, but you also worship the Baals and the Ashtaroth.’

This is how we live today, people. We don’t mind if we worship Jesus; we just mind when we say He’s the only way, but we are okay with having Jesus as an “add on,” so it doesn’t really change the way we live. The change is when we make Him not an add on, but the only way.

The Israelites, here, had made God, Yahweh God, an add on and they were worshiping the gods of the Canaanites. They were worshiping whoever in order to get their own way and indeed putting themselves in the place of God. They’d forgotten; they no longer remembered the gods of their fathers. We see here the absence of a true judge, a capital J judge.

Verse 14, “So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel…” God is angry. Why is He angry? If He didn’t care about His people, if He didn’t care about Israel, He wouldn’t be angry.

Who can make you angry? Your spouse , your kids, somebody close to you can make you angry. It’s the person that knows how to “push your buttons.”

God has given Himself to Israel and now, they’ve rejected Him. In fact, it says in verse 17, “for they whored after other gods..” They’ve broken their monogamous relationship with Him, that He’s the husband and they’re the bride. They’ve broken it to chase after other gods and He’s angry about it. Why? Because He loves them. He wants to be their only God and they are his people. Of course He’s angry; it makes sense. He’s angry, but He doesn’t destroy them. Instead, He allows them to get what they deserve. Even the judgment is grace because He hopes it will drive them back to Him.

They need a judge that won’t die because every time they’d have a judge, they’d follow for awhile, but as soon as that judge would die, it says that they would become more corrupt than they were before.

It says in the book of Acts 4:12 (GW) “No one else can save us. Indeed, we can be saved only by the power of the one named Jesus and not by any other person.” There’s no name given under heaven except for Jesus. That’s the exclusive claim of Jesus– “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the father but by me.”

This is a problem for a modern pluralistic age that says, ‘I’d like a “buffet” religion. I would like some of this and some of that. That was what was happening to Israel. They had compromised with God’s word. Now, they were completely canonized, but God still loves them and He pities them. He keeps on sending them a rescue. Israel had neither the power–they could not, nor the will power –they would not. That’s where we are. We need a Savior, someone to rescue us and help us fully obey God.

Where are you saying, “I can’t.” Where are you saying, “I don’t have the willpower.” God is saying to you, ‘You could not and you would not, but I can and I did when I sent You Jesus, because Jesus is the unseen member in these two chapters. He’s the One who hung on the cross. We see at the cross, an intersection between the two horns of the dilemma that God loves us and God is holy and so on the cross, we see the sinless sacrifice of Jesus. We see God’s love and God’s holiness intermingled so that Jesus is the true Savior that rescues us from our inability of “I could not” and “I would not.”

Where are you at today? Are you still saying to God, “I can’t.” The truth is, you just don’t have the willpower.

When Jesus stood over the city of Jerusalem. He said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets, and stone those which are sent to you, how often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would not!”

How about you? Would you come to the true Savior, Jesus Christ, Who died for your sins, is raised from the grave and lives today? Would you come to Him? He’ll give you the power so that you can. He’ll give you a new heart, so that you will want His will for you.

We used to sing this song when I was growing up. It was written in 1850. I looked it up to see. This song is entitled, “Trust and obey.” Here is the chorus:

“Trust and obey, for there’s no other way. To be happy in Jesus, is to trust and obey.”

I need help with that. I need a new heart. I want to trust and obey, but I end up compromising or depending on my own success, then I start using worldly methods. I need a new heart, but only Jesus can give it to us. He’s the true Savior. Will you turn your life over to Him? Would you give your life to Him?

Let’s pray. Lord, even as we read these chapters in Judges, we, first of all, see ourselves in its pages. What we see that is missing and that we need the most is what You’ve given to us in Your New Testament. It’s Jesus. This tribe of Judah was preparing for him all along. He’s the lion of Judah. He’s the capital J Judge, the capital S Savior. Lord, thank You for giving us Jesus. I wonder, is there anyone in my hearing this morning, maybe in this room, the next room or watching online that has never said “yes” to Jesus? You’ve never asked Him to come in and help you with your “could nots” and your “would nots.” Would you invite Him into your life now? Pray with me, ‘Dear Lord Jesus, I’m a sinner. I need a Savior. I believe that You died on the cross for my sins, you were raised from the grave and that you live today. Come and live in me. Make me a child of God. I want to follow You the rest of my days.’ If you’re praying, that prayer of faith, believing, He will save you. Others are here and you know Jesus, but you’ve been saying, ‘I can’t.’ You’ve forgotten that He says, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” He can turn your can’t into a can. He says, I can and I did. Would you name that place where you don’t have forgiveness? You can with His power. Maybe, it is a place that you can’t kick a habit or an addiction – I can. He’s given me a new willpower. I claim it in Jesus’ name. The battle is the Lord’s. That place is just too big. You say, I can’t. He can . The battle is the Lord’s; He is able. Give it to Him. We trust you now, Lord. In Jesus’ name, Amen.