Bible Readings for July 20th
In Judges 3:4, we read that Yahweh allowed Canaanites and Philistines to remain in the land “for the testing of Israel, to know whether Israel would obey the commandments of the LORD, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.” This does not mean that Yahweh didn’t know which direction Israel would go (we will look at two factors that tell us this). In fact, this passage has much to say to help us understand better the significance of Yahweh’s tests for those of us living today.
First, Yahweh had made no effort to keep Israel’s inevitable failure a secret. Yahweh had told Moses that, after Moses would die, “this people will rise and whore after the foreign gods among them in the land that they are entering, and they will forsake me and break my covenant that I have made with them” (Deut. 31:16). Joshua had even told the entire nation of Israel when he flatly told the people, “You are not able to the serve the LORD, for he is a holy God” (Josh. 24:19). From what we have read so far, the results of Israel’s tests are a foregone conclusion.
Second, God makes it clear that his reasons for testing Israel are multifaceted and not a blind experiment. In Judges 3:2, Yahweh explains another purpose behind testing Israel: “It was in order that the generations of the people of Israel might know war, to teach war to those who had not known it before.” Yahweh knows his exact purposes in these tests.
But if it isn’t that Yahweh needed to learn that Israel would not be able to obey his commandments, then what was the point of testing Israel at all? Why not simply wipe away the Canaanites and the Philistines so that Israel could get on with enjoying the Promised Land? In fact, these tests came in order to teach Israel that they were incapable of obeying Yahweh. The law was given, the Apostle Paul explains, to teach us our depravity: “So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24). That word “guardian” (paidagogos) is the word from which we get our word pedagogy, a word referring to the practice of teaching.
These failures taught Israel that their hearts were hard, that they were not capable of obeying Yahweh, and that they needed a king who could make them righteous in spite of themselves.
In fact, the law continues to teach us that we also stand in need of a king who can make us righteous. But hear now the good news of the gospel: Jesus Christ came to be tested in our place so that we might be rewarded on the basis of his performance, since he was cursed on the basis of our failure.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.