As the Book of Judges opens there are two things that are immediately noticeable to the reader: (1) Joshua has died and so life without Joshua begins for the children of Israel, and (2), the children of Israel get off to a good start.
Joshua had led the people into the Promised Land and to many wonderful victories but now the nation was in a position where they needed to collectively rely upon God because the presence of an intercessor like a Moses or Joshua wasn’t there.
No doubt, to some degree, this reality was difficult. It was clearly quite a change. Yet, despite the fact they were without Joshua, they were not without the LORD! All they needed to do was seek Him and find Him, look to Him, trust Him, and He would direct their steps.
And they did…
The second half of verse 1 reads,
It came to pass that the children of Israel asked the LORD, saying, “Who shall be first to go up for us against the Canaanites to fight against them?” (vs.1b)
So after the death of Joshua the children of Israel asked the LORD what they should do and specifically who should be the first to go up for them to fight against the Canaanites. That’s a good lesson in itself. They asked the LORD what they should do before they started to do something. How many times are we tempted to run headlong into situations or make decisions without asking the LORD, and then, after making a decision, ask the LORD to ‘bless it’ or make it work? While there’s much we can learn from Israel’s bad behavior, there are also instances like this where we can learn from Israel’s positive behavior. We ought to seek the LORD before we make decisions and then trust His guidance, along with the means of wisdom He has provided us (i.e. His Word and a multitude of godly counselors) for the decisions we make.
Israel asked the LORD who should be the first to go up against the Canaanites and they were given a response: “Judah shall go up. Indeed I have delivered the land into his hand” (vs.2). Simple enough, right? They asked and received, sought and found, knocked and had the door of direction opened to them. We would do well to remember that Jesus exhorts us to do the same in Luke 11:9.
But that’s not the only thing they did right. After collectively seeking the LORD, the tribe of Judah proposed a partnership with the tribe of Simeon: “Come up with me to my allotted territory, that we may fight against the Canaanites; and I will likewise go with you to your allotted territory” (vs.3).
Some think it might have been a lack of faith that led Judah to ask Simeon to go with him; however, because the Scripture does not condemn Judah’s asking Simeon to go, andbecause the LORD delivered the Canaanites and Perizzites into their hands (vs.4-5), andbecause we know, according to Psalm 133:1, that God thinks it’s good and pleasant when the brethren dwell together in unity, it’s more likely that Judah was acting wisely in this situation. The work would not only be easier but the tribes would function in a manner pleasing to the LORD, one that is reminiscent of how God desires for His church to function – as one body working together.
It’s interesting that every time the tribes worked together in the opening chapter of Judges God granted them victory.
Here Judah and Simeon work together to possess Judah’s land.
In verse 17, Judah helped Simeon possess his inheritance, attacking the Canaanites who inhabited Zephath.
In verse 22, we see the house of Joseph, most likely referring to the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, go up against Bethel and strike the city with the edge of the sword (vs.25).
Thus, reading Judges 1 through New Testament lenses, you could say – we’re reminded of the importance of partnering with other Christians in the fellowship and propagation of the Gospel. We’re not called to acquire land but to advance a kingdom. And like Judah and Simeon, we are supposed to do it together. This was one of the themes of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Remember, Paul was writing as an apostle inspired by the Holy Spirit, an emissary of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that when he wrote under divine inspiration he was communicating God’s revelation to His church. Consider, then, what he exhorted them to do towards the end of the opening chapter of that letter:
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the Gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the Gospel. (Phil. 1:27)
That’s what Paul wanted to see if he was able to visit them again and it’s what he wanted to hear about if he wasn’t able to get back there – that they would be standing firm alongside one another, being as united in mind as they could be, and striving together to live a life worthy of the Gospel of Christ. So then, just as Judah and Simeon strived side by side to possess the land they were allotted in Canaan, you and I are called to strive side by side in the fellowship and propagation of the Gospel. In view of Judges 1:1-5, may you be exhorted today to seek God before making decisions and work together with other Christians to spread (and live) the glorious gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.