Before reading Judges 1, read Joshua 24:14-15. Joshua closed his life with a challenge to God’s people. That challenge was to decide who they would serve — would they serve the gods of other countries, would they continue in the idolatry of their fathers, or would they serve almighty God of the universe? The Israelites made a commitment to serve God and obey Him. The only problem is that they only obeyed that commitment half way.
God had commanded His people to drive the Canaanite (the people living in the Promised Land) completely out of the country. They were ordered by God to either kill these people or force them to leave the land. God desired for Israel to be a land filled with His people only. Several centuries before God made a promise to Abraham that God would give the land of Canaan to his descendants. God had kept His promise. Now God did not want His people to be influenced by the wicked people around them who would tempt them to serve other Gods and do things that were against God’s will. The Canaanite people were horrible, all sorts of slavery, prostitution, child sacrifice, and violence. And all of these things were done in the name of their spirituality. As the Hebrews took the land, God had given every tribe and family a place in the land to live, and promised them the power to defeat people who lived in that place.
Judges 1 tells the story of how they obeyed half-way. They did possess the land, and they drove some of the people out. But in a large way, they allowed the Canaanite to stay in the land. They would allow them to stay in the land, live in a city right up the road from God’s people. I can hear them now, “Yeah, I know God told us not to have these people as neighbors, and I know God said to drive them out. But that is kind of mean. And we love God. We are strong enough to have these people live here, and serve God at the same time.” Well, for 5,000 years, the people who were left in the land by God’s people have been a thorn in the side of the Jews. To this day, the descendants of those people start wars against the Jews in Israel. And all throughout Israel’s history, God’s people have fallen into idolatry, serving the gods of the Canaanite.
You cannot serve God half-way. You cannot say, “I love God and want to serve Him,” and at the same time say, “But I will not give this up,” or “I will not do this thing He said to do.” It just doesn’t work. Your heart will be divided, and eventually, you will lose touch with God. Faith in God is a life of total obedience to God and His Word. God wants people with a total commitment to Him alone. Divided loyalty will not work.
What areas of your life has God spoken to you about, that you are still holding on to? Learn from God’s people in Judges, you cannot have divided loyalty.