After reaching the Promised Land the people of Israel abandoned God for the temporary and lustful pleasures that the other people groups around them had to offer. Forgotten are the god’s of Egypt they had found new god’s to worship.
7 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 3:7 ESV
Baal and Asheroth are a male and female divinity of the people that lived in the Promised Land before Israel. They are the god’s of that land and in effect the god’s of Israeli’s enemies. It is interesting how quickly the unholy surrounding culture seems to capture the imagination of the newly arrived Jewish peoples to the land. Within a generation these god’s were a trap that would plague the people of Israel until they too are driven from the land like they were commanded to do to the original peoples. These people that God judged and wanted displaced were not innocent occupants. These people were rebellious and evil before God. Looking at how Israel adopts their culture is proof of God’s justification to remove them from the land not unlike when He sent the flood that destroyed everyone except Noah. The Prophet Jeremiah more than 600 years later is telling the Nation of Israel that because of their evil God will destroy the nation and that their judgment had arrived just as it had for the peoples before them.
4 Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, 5 and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind— 6 therefore, behold, days are coming, declares the Lord, when this place shall no more be called Topheth, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter. 7 And in this place I will make void the plans of Judah and Jerusalem, and will cause their people to fall by the sword before their enemies, and by the hand of those who seek their life. I will give their dead bodies for food to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the earth. 8 And I will make this city a horror, a thing to be hissed at. Everyone who passes by it will be horrified and will hiss because of all its wounds. 9 And I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and their daughters, and everyone shall eat the flesh of his neighbor in the siege and in the distress, with which their enemies and those who seek their life afflict them.’ Jeremiah 19:4-9 ESV
God is patient but the evil lived out by those serving false god’s is too much for God’s good character and justice to remain silent. Sacrificing children to an idol is a horrifying path of selfish evil and lest the reader think they are above such “primitive and barbaric” practices look to our own contemporary culture where children are sacrificed through abortion in the millions every year at the altar of convenience, rebellion, and sex. Nothing really changes when it comes to the nature of people.
The difference between the nation of Israel in the future and the newly formed nation of Israel is that this earlier generation repented and returned to God when they needed help.
9 But when the people of Israel cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel, who saved them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. 10 The Spirit of the Lord was upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the Lord gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand. And his hand prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim. 11 So the land had rest forty years. Then Othniel the son of Kenaz died. Judges 3:9-11
While Caleb’s nephew, Othniel, was blessed by God and a worthy leader the remembrance and service to God by the people of Israel only lasts the remainder of his life. As noted in Judges 2 Godly leadership is a benefit to a nation however it does not have the power to change the hearts of individuals. After he dies the people returned to their rebellion and another Judge empowered by God will be needed.
One of the most amazing and powerful glimpses into God’s perspective that demonstrates God’s vision, plans, mercy, and grace is reviled to Elijah who as being hunted by Israelites who were also the servants of Baal. Paul recounts the event in his letter to the Romans.
I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” 4 But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. Romans 11:1-5 ESV
The world may seem crazy and those that worship the gods of money, sex, and power in this land may seem to be everywhere but know that God is in control, God knows who His children are, and know that God has grace for those He is keeping from serving such evil.
Who will you serve? Who do you serve now? I pray reader that you would evaluate the priorities and the passions that you serve. If they do not come from God then you are no better off or more sophisticated than those of the past that served the Baals and the Asheroth.
19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:19-24 ESV