Lessons Learned From Israel

By Matt Allen

Most of us are not fascinated with Old Testament history. Sometimes we would rather take a beating than have to decipher all of those old, long Hebrew names. Old Testament history is very repetitive and that could be a reason why some of the lessons that it contains are often over-looked. There are many important things that we can learn from the Old Testament. Remember what was said in Romans 15:4, “the things that were written afore time for our learning… “

Let us for a few moments go back to the book of Judges. Consider what was going on in the first few chapters of the book. Israel did not fully drive out the inhabitants of the land. This was a direct violation of what God wanted them to do. Chapter 2:2-3 says: “And you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars. But you have not obeyed My voice. Why have you done this? Therefore I also said, I will not drive them out before you; but they shall be thorns in your side, and their gods shall be a snare to you.”

Israel did not heed the commandment of God. As a result, they paid the consequences of it for many years to come. The people of the lands around them were a constant problem, as the evil influence of the Canaanites caused Israel to fall into disobedience. Idol worship became a problem that would haunt Israel for the rest of its existence. During the time of the judges, the nation of Israel went through many disobedient periods. They would fall away and God would punish them after he couldn’t take anymore. The children would cry out, and God would raise a deliverer to relieve them of the oppression that they were suffering. After reading Judges, it seems that the only time that they wanted to do what God wanted was when they were being oppressed. This cycle happened over and over again.

This story is a sad one. It is the story of God’s chosen people who in Deuteronomy made a covenant with the Lord and then ignored it. It must have hurt God more than we will ever know. Yet today, we could be guilty of the same things if we are not careful. When we become a Christian, we put off the old man of sin to walk in newness of life (i.e., the Christian life). Have we gotten rid of the snares of sin in our life so that we won’t be tripped up?

The Christian is engaged in a constant battle with the devil and sin. Paul mentioned this battle in Romans 7:14-25. This battle is ultimately important because the outcome determines where we will make our spiritual home, either in heaven or in hell. It is be-cause of these eternal implications that the stakes are much higher.

We know that Satan is the most cunning being around. He can make the most horrible thing seem good, just so we will do it. As Christians, we have to be on guard for the snares that the devil puts out there. The things of the world have to be done away with so that they won’t hinder us in our battle with sin. Satan appeals to man through the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Read 1 John 2:15-16. The lust of the flesh refers to the worldly attitudes and passions that we may have. Have we tried to get rid of these? John mentions the pride of life … .

As a young person, I am familiar with this. I have been caught up in it a few times myself. The pride of life is trying to seek after the finer things in life. It is doing all that you can to get everything while you are here on the earth. Many young people are getting caught up in this today. They are putting education before the Lord. They are putting career advancement before the Lord. The Lord is taking a back seat to everything these days. John also mentions the lust of the eyes .. .

The lust of the eyes is seeking the material things in this life. An example is found in Luke 4:1-13. Satan showed Christ the kingdoms of the world, which was an appeal to the lust of the eyes. One can also use the same reference to Luke in the lust of the flesh. In this context, Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights. He was hungry and weak from this ordeal. Satan tempts him to turn stones into bread. There is nothing wrong with obtaining food, as long as it is done in a way pleasing unto the Lord, but for Jesus to give in to Satan would have been a victory for the evil one.

Another example of Satan tempting man in all three ways is mentioned in Genesis 3:1-6. Satan appealed to Eve by telling her that she would not surely die if she partook of the forbidden fruit. Then he lead her on by saying that she would be like God. And then, just think of it, he said that she would know good and evil. As one goes on in verse 6, one can see Eve is really thinking about it. She knows it is wrong to do so, but she is trying to make it sound good in her mind, so that she will feel justified to partake. The Bible says that the fruit was good for food (lust of the flesh), pleasant to the eyes (it looked so good, lust of the eyes), and it was a tree desirable to make one wise (the pride of life). Here Satan tempted Eve and she succumbed to him.

Satan tempts us today, in the same ways and we need to be on guard for this. Here is a very important thought for us to consider. We have the Israelites as an example for us not to follow. Now take a moment to look at your life. Where does it stand? Are we like Israel in that we allow people around us to lead us into questionable practices and questionable places? Do we associate with people of like precious faith? We should want to be around other Christians. They share the same goals and values that we do. When one associates with people who do not share the same values, then it is easy for their attitudes to rub off on us. The things that they do won’t be questioned very deeply, because our conscience will be seared. If we do not get rid of the habits of the world after we become a Christian, then they will become as traps. These things quickly became traps to the Israelites. I’m not trying to say that we should be an isolationist, but we always need to be careful.

Other important lessons to learn from Israel might have to do with our timing in prayer. Do you only pray to the Lord when something is wrong? For example, a crisis occurs and then you start to pray. Sometimes a crisis occurs and it causes people to start attending services again.

After the crisis subsides, prayer subsides also, and they stop attending services. That is the way of following in the steps of the Israelites. Israel only seemed to worship or care about God in times of crisis.

Let us go back to Judges 2:2-3. Have we let the things of the world today become a snare to us? Have we really turned our life around. Until we remove the snare, then we cannot be fully pleasing to God. We all know examples of this today, and probably know people who are like this, but let us guard ourselves against doing the very same thing. We need to always examine our lives and make sure that we don’t follow in the steps of Israel. Their history is one of the saddest known to man. They could have done so much for the Lord, but they forsook him. Please guard against the snares in your life so that you will be able to do much for the Lord.

Guardian of Truth XL: No. 20, p. 12-13
October 17, 1996