As I have been noting in my series, the book of Judges is a dark time in the history of Israel. Roughly from 1390 BC to 1050 BC.
The most troubling aspect of this divinely inspired recorded history is the decent of the people of Israel into apostasy. The covenant people, who experienced the LORD God deliver them from the bondage to Egypt, who received His Holy Law, who saw the terror of the LORD at Mt. Sinai, who entered into a covenant with God who in turn promised His divine power to help His people fulfill His promise to give them the land, forsook Him and turned away to serve wicked, false gods and practice false religion.
Their apostasy began to manifest itself in the first chapter, where the people of Israel started disobeying God’s commands with destroying the Canaanites. Rather than destroying them utterly, they let them live and put them under tribute, meaning essentially, a slave/vassal status.
Their disobedience was so severe, that the Angel of the LORD appears and gives them a sharp rebuke in 2:1-5. His appearance more than likely happened on one of the feast days when all the men and leaders of Israel would be gathered.
1 Now the angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land which I have sworn to your fathers; and I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you,
2 and as for you, you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed Me; what is this you have done?
3 “Therefore I also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; but they will become as thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you.'”
4 When the angel of the LORD spoke these words to all the sons of Israel, the people lifted up their voices and wept.
5 So they named that place Bochim; and there they sacrificed to the LORD.
Who exactly is this “Angel of the LORD?”
Some suggest just an unnamed messenger. The Hebrew word for angel is simply translated messenger. However, this particular angel claims some rather unique personal qualities about himself.
He tells them that he led them out of Egypt. He speaks of having made a covenant with them. He says he swore to their “fathers,” which can only mean Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He further rebukes them for not obeying Him and says that as a result, he will not drive out the inhabitants of the land for them.
A couple of passages in Exodus does provide a clue to his identification. For example, in Exodus 3:2, the angel of the LORD appears to Moses in a burning bush. There he is identified with God Himself, even telling Moses to remove his sandals, for the ground on which he stands is holy.
Later, in Exodus 14:19, the Angel of God protects the children of Israel from the Egyptian army as they cross the Red Sea.
But one unique testimony from God is found in Exodus 23:20 where it says,
20 “Behold, I am going to send an angel before you to guard you along the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared.
21 “Be on your guard before him and obey his voice; do not be rebellious toward him, for he will not pardon your transgression, since My name is in him.
22 “But if you truly obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.
23 “For My angel will go before you and bring you in to the land of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will completely destroy them.
The passage here in Exodus 23 sounds just like what is described in Judges 2. Everything that Children of Israel were warned against in Exodus 23, the Angel of the LORD appears and rebukes them for doing.
They made covenants with the Canaanites when they put them under tribute. And they failed to tear down their altars which speaks to their religious infrastructure remaining in place. Because of their disobedience for not driving out the Canaanites and their false religion, the Angel tells them that he will withdraw His support and that he will give the people over to the power of their gods.
Israel seems to be repentant, but it was only short-lived. As the writer notes, everyone served the LORD when Joshua had been alive, but now that he was dead, they went to serving other gods. Those gods, as was noted in a previous study, represented a fertility religion; a religion, that when practiced secured for the worshiper a large family, healthy flocks, and abundant crops. It is akin to the current day health and wealth prosperity Gospel. Essentially, a preoccupation with material possessions over pure obedient service to God in spite of our circumstances. In other words, they had no faith in His promises.
Now. Returning to the description of this angel as found in Exodus 23, note that he is endowed with divine authority and in point of fact, God says that, “My name is in him.” The one other person in Scripture who speaks of having God’s name in him: Jesus Christ. That is especially true in John 17, His high priestly prayer.
Jesus Christ is that same Angel of the LORD that Israel was to obey and in similar fashion, he stands ready to rebuke us in the 21st century. How we build our churches, handle the Gospel message of salvation, and proclaim the Word of God parallels what happened in Israel in Judges 2.
For instance, Jesus promised in Matthew 28:18 and Acts 1:8ff that He would be with us as we go into the World. In Matthew 16:18ff., He has promised to build His church and in other passages like Romans 1:16 and 1 Corinthians 2 has told us that the Gospel message is the Power of God unto salvation.
Yet, the modern church attempts to use worldly means to further the Gospel by organizing gimmick-driven church services, rallies, and concerts. We are told, especially here in the USA on so-called Christian TV that God owes us comfort, security, and a suffer-free life.
We also cooperate with the modern equivalent of the Canaanites in order to advance our agenda as Red State Evangelicals. Conservatism does not equal Biblical Christianity. Glen Beck, the New Age Mormon, is not a Christian.
And most tragically, we fail to train our next generation about the true God of heaven. We foolishly believe that our entertainment oriented youth ministries for some reason is blessed of God because their are huge numbers in attendance. He is not blessing them, and like the Angel of the LORD told Israel in Judges 2, He will withdraw His support and hand us over to judgment.