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. Judges 1:17 (ESV)
The command of devotion was that all inhabitants of the land were destroyed, without compromise. In hebrew the word is Haram (Herem) and understanding it will help give context to today’s passage.
ḥāram: A verb meaning to destroy, to doom, to devote. This word is most commonly associated with the Israelites destroying the Canaanites upon their entry into the Promised Land (Deut. 7:2; Josh. 11:20)
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. Judges 1:19 (ESV)
After the death of Joshua we begin to see promise in the people’s devotion to the Lord as they seek him about who should go first. God tells the people Judah shall go first because God has given his territory into his hand. Judah means praise, this is where we get the idea of praise going up first and being like a weapon of war.
However Judah immediately starts to deviate from God’s plan by inviting his brother Simeon and now we see a lack of faith in the “God who was with them” and had promised them the land resulting in the inhabitants of the plain remaining. Iron chariots are no match for God.
This begins to give us an insight into Israel’s eroding faith in God and their failure to fulfill Gods command of devotion (Haram). Our lesson is to put our trust in Gods word and so fulfill Christ’s command for single hearted obedience to God (Luke 10:27) and the killing of sin, leaving no room for compromise (Luke 9:23).
When Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not drive them out completely. Judges 1:28 (ESV)
Again we see more compromise in fulfilling the law of devotion. A compromise is made putting the enemy to forced Labour. God gave the law of devotion (Haram) for a reason, it was not because the culture of the people was necessarily evil but their religions and spiritual practice were evil and would cause Gods people to compromise their faith.
We need to be mindful of this today, we are in the world but not of the world. We still have the command of devotion on us, it is twofold, we should be devoted wholly to the Lord and we should devote sin to utter destruction in our lives.
Putting the enemy to forced labour speaks of both compromise and the subtle bondage of legalism, where sin is not eradicated by submission to the grace and power of God, but instead is kept in check with legalistic behavior which only serves to bottle up the sin, leading to further bodge and frustration when the temporary reforms of man give way to the power of sin. see Romans 6:14 and Galatians 3:3
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.” Judges 2:3 (ESV)
If we do not wholly follow and cleave to the Lord, being totally devoted to his service and devoting his enemies (sin) to destruction, then we will live lives marked by bondage and struggles with sin and compromise.
Sin brings bondage, God desires that we be free (John 8:36) so we should not hold back in our devotion to him. We should not be lukewarm (Revelation 3:16), we should love him with all our hearts, trusting him to drive out the enemy before us.
As Philippians 2:12-13 reminds us we should work out our salvation with fear and trembling because is is God who is at work in us and has energised us to fulfill his good pleasure.
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. Judges 2:10 (ESV)
It is crucial for every generation of God’s people to pass the baton on to the next generation
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6 (ESV)
We do not have a faith dependant on good works like Islam, who do not know what Allah will do with them or “Jehovah Witnesses” who need to do works to make it to paradise.
We have confidence in the eternal security God promises us in his word, knowing as Paul reminds the church that he who began the good work of salvation in us will bring it to completion. We can take joy, comfort and hope in that sure promise. Thank God for the amazing promise of future grace.
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, Philippians 1:9 (ESV)
Love, knowledge and discernment are often pitched against each other as opposing forces, but Paul prays that all three will grow together. It is worth noting that love is mentioned first.
Put no trust in extortion; set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, set not your heart on them. Psalm 62:10 (ESV)
God is our rock, not the riches of this world