TODAY’S READING: JUDGES 1-3
Does God tempt you with evil?
You might answer, “Of course God doesn’t cause me to do evil. But, he uses evil to clean me, to purify me, to shape me, to make me the way he wants me to be…”
Many Christians might think on the surface that God doesn’t tempt them with evil. Hence, the first part of the answer above. However, when we really dig down deep and analyze the second part of the answer, then we see that many of us do indeed believe that God does tempt us with evil. We subtly believe this because we think God is using evil to achieve something in us, for us, or through us.
In Judges, Israel thought God was using evil to punish them, shape them, change them, etc.
This is a lie. God does not tempt you with evil. In no way, shape, or form does God make use of evil.
Let me repeat, this is a lie. God does not tempt you with or use evil for anything.
Let’s look at the book of Judges to see the lie in action.
Then, let’s look at Jesus to see the truth – God never uses evil for anything nor is there any evil in him.
JOSHUA: EVIL IS DEFEATED IN THE LAND AND AND THE LANDED RESTED
The book of Joshua recounts how Joshua defeated all the kings in the promised land. I wrote in All the Kings of Our Hearts Have Been Defeated by Jesus that this is a picture of Jesus defeating everything that had captured our heart so that he could reign over hearts, so that the kingdom of God would be within us.
We read of Joshua defeating these kings one after another. But, we probably fail to adequately realize that the defeat of the kings of the promised land and the rest that came as a result was not a short process. Joshua 23:1 says, “A long time afterward, when the Lord had given rest to Israel from all their surrounding enemies…”
But, the slow process of bringing rest to the land was exactly what God had told Israel would happen.
Exodus 23:28-30 says, “And I will send hornets before you, which shall drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites from before you. I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply against you. Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until have increased and possess the land.”
God said he would drive the nations out of the land little by little. This was to keep the land from being desolate and becoming filled with wild beasts. By driving out the nations little by little, Israel would grow in their trust and confidence in the Lord, enabling them to possess the land.
After his promise to drive the nations out of the land little by little, God gives Israel a warning. Exodus 28:31-33 says, “For I will give the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you. You shall make no covenant with them and their gods. They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”
God would the enemies over to Israel. Israel would play a part in driving them out of the land. But, Israel was not to make a covenant with them. They should not let the nations dwell in the land because the nations would cause them to sin. Note, God was not leaving the nations, the evil, in the land. He gave the nations over to be driven. The nations, the evil, would only remain if Israel made a covenant with them. When Israel joined themselves with the nations, the evil, then they would sin. Israel would end up serving these gods instead of the Lord.
ISRAEL TRIES TO SUBJECT EVIL TO WORK FOR THEM
The beginning of the book of Judges is a little confusing. It’s confusing because I believe the first two chapters are not in chronological order.
Chapter one starts, “After the death of Joshua…” It appears that the book of Judges picks up right where the book of Joshua left off. But, “the people of Israel inquired of the Lord, ‘Who shall go up first against the Canaanites, to fight against them?'”
Joshua had defeated the evil in the land. And, after a long time, the land was at rest. Why was Israel needing to fight again?
I believe the rest of chapter one is a summary of everything we will read through the rest of the book of Judges. While Joshua had defeated all the kings and brought rest to land, this is not what we see in Judges 1.
The key phrase is “did not drive out.”
- “Judah…could not drive out the inhabitants of the plain.” – Judges 1:19
- “Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites.” – Judges 1:21
- “Manasseh did not drive out the inhabitants.” – Judges 1:27
- “Ephraim did not drive out the Canaanites.” – Judges 1:29
- “Zebulun did not drive out the inhabitants.” – Judges 1:30
- “Asher did not drive out the inhabitants.” – Judges 1:31
- “Naphtali did not drive out the inhabitants.” – Judges 1:33
God told Israel back in Exodus 28 that they were to drive the nations out of the land when he gave them into their hand. But, Judges 1 says seven times that Israel failed to drive out the inhabitants. Seven is the number of rest, perfection, completion. Therefore, we see Israel perfectly failed to enter complete rest.
Instead, they did exactly what God told them not to do. They made covenants with the people in the land. We know this because instead of driving the nations out of the land they made a covenant them. Instead of driving the evil out, Israel made a covenant with it. The key phrase is “subject to forced labor.”
- “They put the Canaanites to forced labor.” – Judges 1:28
- “So the Canaanites lived among the, but became subject to forced labor.” – Judges 1:30
- “The inhabitants of Beth-shemesh and Beth-anath became subject to forced labor for them.” – Judges 1:33
- “The Amorites…became subject to forced labor.” – Judges 1:35
Judges 1 says four times that Israel put the nations to forced labor instead of driving them out of the land. Four is the number that speaks to universal quality or totality of something. Therefore, this is a picture of the total or universal manner in which Israel made a covenant with evil and tried to force evil to work for Israel. Instead of driving the evil out, Israel tried to make use of the evil.
This is the summary of the entire book of Judges.
THE LORD CAN’T DELIVER ISRAEL FROM EVIL BECAUSE OF THEIR COVENANT WITH IT
Remember Judges 1 started after Joshua died, although we don’t know how long after. However, we know now that Judges 2 jumps to a different time period because verse 6 says, “When Joshua dismissed the people.” This is referring back to Joshua 23-24 when Joshua called the people of Israel together to give them a word of knowledge about the time to come.
Therefore, I believe Judges 2:1-5 takes placed just before Joshua summoned Israel together. In fact, I believe those verses explain why Joshua summoned Israel together.
Judges 2:1 says that the angel of the Lord, the pre-incarnate Jesus, went from Gilgal to Bochim. Gilgal is the place where Israel camped and Joshua launched all of his attacks on the nations in the promised land. Gilgal means rolled away and is symbolic of the resurrection. I wrote about this in At Gilgal the Stone Was Rolled Away.
But, the angel of the Lord leaves Gilgal and goes to Bochim. Bochim means weepers. Why did the angel of the Lord leave the place the stone was rolled away, symbolic of the resurrection, and go to a place of weeping?
In Judges 2:1-3, the angel of the Lord says, “I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down the altars.’ But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done? 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.'”
So, Israel wept and sacrificed to the Lord. (Just remember that obedience is greater than sacrifice.)
What had Israel done?
Judges 2:11-12 says, “And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the people who were around them, and bowed down to them.” Instead of driving out the nations, Israel put them into forced labor. That is, instead of driving the evil from out of their presence, they made a covenant with it by serving false gods.
What did trying to make use of evil, covenanting with evil, and serving the evil false gods do to Israel?
They believed that not was God good but he was also evil. Israel had taken its actions with and thoughts of evil and transferred them onto God’s character. Judges 2:12, 14-15 says, “And they provoked the Lord to anger…So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. Whenever they marched out, the hand of the Lord was against them for harm, as the Lord had warned, and as the Lord had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress.”
But, that’s not what the angel of the Lord said earlier. The angel of the Lord said, “I will never break my covenant with you.” Also, we know that God does not destroy, as I wrote in Who Says “I Destroy” – God or Satan? Further, Romans 8:31 says, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
Israel viewed God as evil because they themselves were evil, had tried to subject evil to their will, and served evil Gods. But, the truth was that God was not against them but for them.
The reality was that the Lord raised up judges who saved Israel. “Judges 2:18 says, “Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them.” The Lord wasn’t angry. He was moved to pity, sad. Just like the angel of the Lord who had gone to the place of weeping above.
But, Israel continued to whore after the false gods and serve evil. Therefore, because Israel had mapped their evil on to God, they believed that God was using evil to test, or tempt, them.
Judges 2:20-22 says, “So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he said, ‘Because this people have transgressed my covenant that I commanded their fathers and have not obeyed my voice, I will no longer drive out out before them any of the nations that Joshua left when he died, in order to test Israel by them, whether they will take care to walk in the way of the Lord as their fathers did, or not.'”
While Israel believed the Lord was tempting them evil and refusing to drive out the evil nations from before them, the reality was that the Lord was unable to drive out the evil from before because of Israel’s unbelief.
CHRISTIANS STILL FALSELY BELIEVE THE LORD USES AND TEMPTS WITH EVIL
That Christians still believe God uses evil or tempts people with evil is evident from the way the read the Old Testament. “That’s just how God was back then.” It’s also evident from the way they talk, pointing out how God did this or that bad thing but he ultimately is using it for good.
We even see it in the Bible.
John 1:5 says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” But, I like how the NASB and Young’s Literal Translation translate this verse.
NASB – “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”
Young’s – “And the light in the darkness did shine, and the darkness did not perceive it.”
The Lord was with Israel telling them that he would not forsake his covenant with them. He was showing his pity by raising up judges to deliver them from their oppressors. But, Israel didn’t comprehend or perceive God’s light. They thought he had evil in them.
We are no different today. Why?
In John 3:19, Jesus says, “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”
Israel subjected the evil nations to their forced labor and bowed down to evil gods. Therefore, they saw God with evil, darkness, in him. We do exactly the same thing today. If you believe God has any darkness, any evil, in him at all, then you believe this because you love the darkness rather than the light because your works are evil. Jesus’ words, not mine.
This is precisely why John wrote in 1 John 1:5-6, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”
God is light. He has no darkness in him. He doesn’t have evil in him. He doesn’t make use of evil. God is light that shines into the darkness. God is goodness that overcomes evil. To say otherwise is to show that you don’t have true fellowship him.
Israel worshiped evil gods. Therefore, they said that God used evil. It was this belief, actually their unbelief, that prevented God from fully delivering them.
The same is true for us today. Matthew 13:58 says, “And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.” When you believe God has evil in him or uses evil to accomplishes his purposes, that is unbelief that prevents God from doing mighty works. Since the idea that God has evil in him or uses evil in some is so rampant in the church, maybe this unbelief is the reason why the church is unable to walk in the power and authority of Jesus.
GOD DOES NOT TEMPT YOU WITH EVIL
God does not tempt you will evil. Period!
Temptation comes from Satan (Matthew 4:1, 3, 1 Thessalonians 3:5, 1 Peter 5:8).
Temptation also comes from our evil desires. James 1:12-15 says, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own evil desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”
According to the scriptures above, it’s a simple fact that God has no evil in him and he does not use evil.
But, it’s also true that God doesn’t use evil to establish his kingdom because it would not and cannot work.
Jesus was accused of healing people by the power of evil. They said he cast out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons. They thought Jesus, and therefore God, had evil in him or used evil for his purposes. In Luke 11:17, Jesus responded to these accusations, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls.” Jesus could not have been using evil to cast evil because then the kingdom of evil would have fallen. Jesus further said, “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”
WHY DOES GOD GET RID OF EVIL SLOWLY?
Recall Exodus 23:28-30 above. If God drives out the evil within hearts quickly, then our hearts would be desolate and ripe to be filled with all sorts of wild, beastly thoughts, intentions, desires, passions, and ideas. God removes the evil slowly from our hearts so that at the same time our faith can build, filling the places he has removed the evil from with truth and light.
If God did not do it this way, then we would be just like Israel in the book of Judges. Having had all the kings defeated and peace in the land, it was worse for Israel when their enemies came back. They weren’t able to achieve rest again.
This is exactly what Jesus says to the Jews after they accused him of using evil to drive out evil. Luke 11:24-26 says, “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”
God is able to drive the evil out of hearts slowly because he is love. This is why Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
God is love. Clearly, love is not evil. And, clearly the description Paul gives of love is the antithesis of evil.
God does not tempt you with evil. He never has, and he never will.
God is good, always and only.