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.
Sometimes bad circumstances exist in the lives of God's people as an opportunity in God's plan to test our faithfulness and commitment. Israel's disobedience had led to the Canaanite nations living among them. But the text in Judges is clear with this statement that God had a sovereign purpose even in their choice to incompletely follow His command. These nations would be used to teach warfare to new generations (Judges 3:1-3) and to test the spiritual fidelity of succeeding generations of Israelites.
I am currently reading Jerry Bridges' book "Trusting God". It is an interesting and in-depth book on the sovereignty of God. That is a subject in short supply among evangelicals, at least in the sense that the scriptures treat the subject. This verse in Judges is just one example. God will have a sovereign purpose even in negative circumstances. This runs counter-intuitive to progress oriented success minded Christians today. But sometimes the greatest spiritual success comes within situations filled with physical difficulties. I am looking forward to reading on in Bridges' analysis of scriptural sovereignty. He treats the theological subject with intense practical and personal accessibility, which is the way I think all good theology should lead us.
When trusting God in the midst of trying circumstances, we must remember that none of the difficulty catches Him off guard. He is not scrambling to catch up. He is wise. He is all-knowing. And He is totally loving. Even when the consequences of our sin bring adverse circumstances to our lives, He is gracious and merciful. We can see His sovereign hand and His love even in these times.
Israel was given a chance to continue to grow in national relationship with God through the adverse circumstances of having pagan nations living among them. They could easily have trusted God and seen God deliver them from the temptations of idolatry and spiritual infidelity. The book of Judges details the struggle they had in so doing and is witness to the sovereign plan of God.
- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13