The Message (MSG)
3 1-4 These are the nations that God left there, using them to test the Israelites who had no experience in the Canaanite wars. He did it to train the descendants of Israel, the ones who had no battle experience, in the art of war. He left the five Philistine tyrants, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites living on Mount Lebanon from Mount Baal Hermon to Hamath’s Pass. They were there to test Israel and see whether they would obey God’s commands that were given to their parents through Moses.
So the Bible says that God did this purposely to test Israel to see if they would continue to obey the commands they had learned from their parents. They knew the right thing to do, but hadn’t been tested on it to see how they would stand up under pressure.
5-6 But the People of Israel made themselves at home among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. They married their daughters and gave their own daughters to their sons in marriage. And they worshiped their gods.
7-8 The People of Israel did evil in God’s sight. They forgot their God and worshiped the Baal gods and Asherah goddesses. God’s hot anger blazed against Israel. He sold them off to Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim. The People of Israel were in servitude to Cushan-Rishathaim for eight years.
9-10 The People of Israel cried out to God and God raised up a savior who rescued them: Caleb’s nephew Othniel, son of his younger brother Kenaz. The Spirit of God came on him and he rallied Israel. He went out to war and God gave him Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim. Othniel made short work of him.
11 The land was quiet for forty years. Then Othniel son of Kenaz died.
12-14 But the People of Israel went back to doing evil in God’s sight. So God made Eglon king of Moab a power against Israel because they did evil in God’s sight. He recruited the Ammonites and Amalekites and went out and struck Israel. They took the City of Palms. The People of Israel were in servitude to Eglon fourteen years.
Unfortunately, instead of passing the test, the Children of Israel were easy prey to forget what God had done for them. This starts a time of them forgetting God so much that they worshipped heathen idols, forcing Him to take action against them to bring them back to Him. The Book of Judges list all the many times they turned against God, and each time He loved them so much and had so much mercy on them that He raised up a person to lead them into battle and free them from their enemies. They would turn back to God and follow Him until that particular person died, then they would slip back into worshiping heathen gods and turn against the One True God.
The first four verses of this chapter really made me think: What things does God allow to stay in our lives in order to test us to see how much we have grown or to see if they will pull us away from Him?
This test for Israel was to see where their priorities lay. It wasn’t a test like they had experienced in the wilderness where they needed salvation from the Egyptians or needed water or food. This was a test to see how much they had learned by their experience in the wilderness.
Would they stand fast to the principles God had taught them or would they be drawn away by the heathen peoples around them? There was no miraculous intervention needed by God because they were in a desperate situation. In this test what was truly in their hearts would be revealed by their actions.
God wants you to be continually learning and growing in your walk with Him, but every now and then He throws a test in there just to see if you will stand on the truths you have just learned.
In my way of thinking, it’s sort of like in school where you study a particular section for a time and then you have a test on it to see what you have learned. The only difference is that God’s way of testing is more like a POP TEST (For those of you too young to remember this term you would get to class, and the teacher would surprise you by saying “We are going to have a Pop Test. Get out your pencil and paper.” She gave the test right then, which did count a percentage toward your final grade. Those Pop Tests stressed me out, because most of the time we either had 1 or 2 questions, which totally messed up your grade if you even missed one of them. You had to think hard to remember what the teacher had said previously because there wasn’t time to study before the Pop Test. You just had to be prepared at all times.)
I can truly say that I did not like POP TESTS in school, but I have come to realize that God uses a way of testing like this. You don’t know the time and date of the test, you are just presented with a set of circumstances where you must make a decision based on what you have learned. God wants your heart to be changed so much that you will automatically make the right decision even when you have a POP TEST.
Now back to the Israelites – they later suffered dire consequences for their actions, but the initial test was one where they could have chosen to stay pure in their worship to God. If they had chosen rightly, it would have saved them many years of terrible consequences for their actions.
God will always use things to test you – that is part of bearing good fruit. It removes the bad branches so the good ones can flourish. God wants to make sure you are growing and thriving, so He shows you things and then he allows you to be tested on them to make sure you will make the right decision on your own.
The Israelites could have saved themselves from much oppression if they had just chosen to remember how God had told them to live and stuck to it no matter how enticing things looked around them. In the end they would have been much better off.
You might not even realize it the next time God gives you a POP TEST, but you can always be prepared for one by choosing to live for God each day by putting into active practice everything you have learned in the past. That way you will pass the test successfully.
This post written by Cathy Deaton.
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