“Now these are the nations that the LORD left, to test Israel by them, that is, all in Israel who had not experienced all the wars in Canaan. It was only in order that the generations of the people of Israel might know war, to teach war to those who had not known it before. These are the nations: the five lords of the Philistines and all the Canaanites and the Sidonians and the Hivites who lived on Mount Lebanon, from Mount Baal-hermon as far as Lebo-hamath. They were 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. So the people of Israel lived among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And their daughters they took to themselves for wives, and their own daughters they gave to their sons, and they served their gods. And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. They forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth.” Judges 3:1-7
The LORD is good in all His ways, full of wisdom and grace. He taught Israel to the test, giving clear instructions and commands, yet even with an ‘open book,’ left to their own devices and self-will, they failed. Was it a lack of experience with warfare by which they could plead ignorance? The allure of ease or distraction over taking up arms? Naivety over the nature of the enemy, underestimating their spiritually destructive effect? Was it weakness of the flesh– the enticement of the wiles of foreign women, or the temptation to make alliances through intermarriage that in their minds would be politically beneficial, and therefore justifiable? We do not know for sure; it could be a combination of all of the above. What we do know is that Israel clearly disobeyed, failing God’s deliberate test, and reaped the consequences, over and over.
We face tests all the time, opportunities to follow God’s directions and apply what we know of God Himself. He faithfully trains us for war, teaching His strategies and intelligence on the enemy, supplying strength, fitting us with armor. He wants us to pass, because He knows what is best for us, and He wants us to know Him– His power, victory, and blessing. But He allows us to exercise our wills and learn to align them to His; we grow strong through the exercise of faith, resistance, and brave resolve. (Psalm 18:34; 144:1; John 8:44; 17:15; Ephesians 6:10-18; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8-9)
Sometimes we learn the hard way, giving in to the flesh or lesser desires, weaknesses that distort our reasoning, the catty eye, the whining tongue, but even here, He offers grace. In Israel, again and again, merciful God sent judges to lead His people, giving one more chance to correct course, but their rest was always temporary. Again and again, after a time, they failed the tests. How committed am I to intense study and practice?
Lord on high, give me resolve to yield to Your training. Help me exercise faith and intelligent choices that set aside self to honor You, and so pass Your tests.