THE JUDGES OF ISRAEL
“In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes (Judges 21.25).”
A gifted servant of the Lord many years ago said, “There is no medium between absolute predestination and absolute atheism.” We agree. There are really only two schools of serious thought on predestination. There are those that absolutely believe it, and there are those that absolutely do not. All other views range somewhere in between the two and are compromises, or corruptions of the two positions, and are not worthy of serious consideration at this time.
The Old School, Primitive Baptists do absolutely believe in predestination. We have a number of vociferous enemies, however, that absolutely do not believe in predestination. They claim to hold to the doctrine, but what they have really done is re-name the doctrine of election. They call it predestination. God predestinated people, not events” is the foundation of their arguments. Their saying so, however, will not make it so, no matter how often they say it.
Lest anyone think we have not understood these deniers of predestination correctly, we offer a sample of their corruption of the word, “predestination,” as published in a leading Conditional paper for October, 1995. The title of the article was fittingly misnamed, “The Bible Doctrine of Predestination.”
Predestination is unto salvation not unto damnation. Where is it taught that God has predestinated anyone to hell? Or that He has predestinated all things good and evil that comes to pass? Where is that taught in any of these passages? They simply are not.
Before the world began, God chose (elected) a people to what? To be finally housed with Him in heaven. Here is a breakdown of the word so we can easily remember:
PRE - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - DESTINATION
(tells you when) (tells you where)
Before the foundation Heaven and immortal
of the world. glory.”
We shall not waste time with a thorough examination of this perversion of both language and doctrine. Notice the author's erroneous interchanging the words, “election” and “predestination.” .His assertion was, “God has elected a people.” His supposed proof? “Here is a breakdown of the word so we can easily remember: PRE ----- DESTINATION.”
Thus, we see that these compromisers are simply interchanging the words, “predestination” and election,” and falsely assuming them to be one and the same. The difference between election and predestination is plain to believers.
Much emphasis has also been put on the supposed notion that the word “predestination” is not found in the Bible, and that predestinate and predestinated are used only a combined four times. True enough, the word “predestination” has not been used in that form in the King James Version of the Bible, but does it then follow that the doctrine of predestination is not there? Certainly not! We contend, not for the words in particular, but for the blessed truths set forth in the Word of God that mean exactly the same things as the words themselves. There are many texts in the Scriptures where words are used to teach the doctrine of predestination, even though the specific word “predestination” is not used. Does it nullify the doctrine of predestination simply because the word, “predestination” is not used? We question if any would boldly go before God in prayer to inform Him there is no doctrine of predestination since they could not find the word in that form in the Bible, unless they are rank, unhumbled Arminians with seared consciences.
Paul wrote Timothy, “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand (II Timothy 4.6).” We have never heard of anyone that did not understand what the apostle meant. He spoke of dying. But, if we used the reasoning Conditionalists employ against predestination, that if the specific word is not there, then the doctrine must not be there, we might as well believe Paul said he was to be made a blood sacrifice, and that he was leaving town on a train. The Spirit of truth inspired Paul to use the words, “offered” and “departure.” By Conditionalist reasoning the two words cannot mean death, for the word, “death” was not used. That is what they also say about predestination. They make a fuss over the absence of the word.
There are several aspects regarding the doctrine of predestination that we must mention briefly, even though they have been mentioned often in the pages of The Remnant. First, there is a doctrine in the Bible very properly called predestination, no matter what name is used in the Scriptures to identify it. Second, predestination and the knowledge of God, that complete knowledge of all things He possesses from eternity, embrace the same things. What God knew in eternity was, at that time, certain, or it could not have been certainly known. For His knowledge to be certain all things were decreed, willed, ordained, purposed, foreordained, predestinated, or acted upon with something from God of equal force, to be certain. What else is there, other than predestination, or its equivalent, that makes future events certain? To our minds, none but fools deny the weight of the argument. Neither will it pass muster to say that God willed to permit the good and the evil He saw would take place in time. “Willed to permit” is the equivalent of decreeing or predestinating the same, for if the will of God is exercised in the matter it cannot be unwilled by man, beasts, or devils. Nor can it be said He simply permitted some things to take place. God, infinite in wisdom, either willed to permit or He was unwilling to permit; thus we go full circle to predestination again, for if God was unwilling to permit certain events, then no power in creation could bring them to pass contrary to His unwillingness. If He was willing, it was the same as predestination. We would be obliged to those that contend on the one hand that predestination is not in the Bible, and on the other hand that in eternity God permitted some things to transpire, but He was not willing to predestinate the same, to give us a few passages of Scripture where all this “permit” business may be found. (We are acquainted with I Corinthians 16.7, and Hebrews 6.3, and would note that the usage of the word “permit” there is not applicable to the above proposition.) Third, the things God tells the children of men are certain to come to pass, unless He appends a contingency to the same. Fourth, those things He tells us do not become certain at the time He tells them, or simply because He tells them; they were always certain, or He would not have told them. “The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations (Psalm 33.11).” His counsel shall stand. His thoughts are to all generations! “Forever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven (Psalm 119.89).” The works of his hands are verity and judgment; all his commandments are sure. They stand fast for ever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness (Psalm 111.7,8).”
With these few remarks to preface our subject we return to the text at our heading, trusting the Lord may give us direction.
ISRAEL UNDER THE JUDGES.
“In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes (Judges 21.25).” Thus the book of judges closes. It is worthy of note that this last verse was, in similar language, recorded three other times in the book, (Judges 17.6; 18.1; 19.1). The twelve tribes, without any predominant leaders as were Moses and Joshua, attempted to maintain their own local affairs, both civic and religious. Except for what is recorded in Judges 1.1, and in times of extreme distress, there is no mention that the Israelites called upon God for guidance. They did call upon Him in Judges 21.3 regarding the decimation of the tribe of Benjamin, but there is no record that God was pleased to directly answer them.
It was a dark period in the history of Israel. Failure was stamped upon their every activity.
It is this failure of Israel under the judges that draws our attention to the subject of predestination. We have previously affirmed (The Remnant Volume 9, No.5) that the actions of the kings of Canaan, along with their subjects, were absolutely predestinated. So too were the actions of the tribes of Israel. Though some may consider this position abhorrent, finding it difficult to believe even the failures of Israel were subject to the eternal purposes of God, let us test the matter with of God's Word. “Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the Lord, saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them? And the Lord said, Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his hand (Judges 1.1,2).” The continuation of the conquest of Canaan was then led by the tribe of Judah. They were to fulfill the commission given them in Deuteronomy 20.16-18 to exterminate everything that breathed. &rlquo;And the Lord was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron (Judges 1.19).” Even though the Lord directed Judah to go up, and was with them in the battle, their conflict with the enemy ended in only partial success. So it was with Benjamin, Verse 21; with Manasseh, Verse 27; with Ephraim, Verse 29; with Zebulun, Verse 30; with Asher, Verse 31; with Naphtali, Verse 33; with Dan, Verse 34. What went wrong? Surely God did not deceive the tribes. We are certain He could have given them complete victory had He been pleased to do so.
“And an angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, Twill never break my covenant with you. And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars: but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this? Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you. And it came to pass, when the angel of the Lord spake these words unto all the children of Israel, that the people lifted up their voice, and wept. And they called the name of that place Bochim: and they sacrificed there unto the Lord (Judges 2.1-5).” This recounting of the travels of Israel is very revealing. Jehovah had made a covenant with them and swore He would never break the same. Israel, however, did not obey His voice and were asked by God, “why have ye done this?” This was not asked because God was limited in knowledge. He asked them so that it would drive home the point; they had sinned.
“Wherefore I also said... (Verse 3).” This is recorded in the past tense. At the time God revealed His covenant with Israel and gave them instructions, He also said, “I will not drive them out from before you.” It is clear when reading this carefully that God had also said, before they had failed in serving Him, that He would not drive the enemy out before them. To review then, God had made a covenant with His people, Israel, and in swearing to their fathers (Verse 1), promised to never break it, and at the same time He also said He would not drive out the heathen. Yet, we also see that He did drive out some of the heathen. There is no contradiction, brethren. God did what He said He would do, to the extent He was pleased, and that, based on His eternal will, and further confirmed it by His covenant with Israel, as related in Deuteronomy, chapters 29 and 30. In that covenant Israel was apprised of the following: &lduqo;The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law (Deuteronomy 29.29).” We conclude from this that God did not show them (or us) some things, which He there said were secret. They, and we, are shown such things as please God to reveal unto us. This must also include the manner in which He assisted the Israelites in their battles with the inhabitants of Canaan.
As before mentioned, Israel miserably failed to follow the instructions given them by God through both Moses and Joshua. The question then to be answered is, was this miserable failure embraced in the predestination of God? We answer with another question: If these failures and apostasy were not predestinated, how came they to occur? It has before been shown that God certainly knew what would and did take place, thus His perfect knowledge fully complimented His perfect will for all to come to pass as He was pleased. A perfect knowledge and a perfect will in the matter certainly appears to also compliment a perfect purpose for all these events; thus they must have been predestinated or decreed prior to the execution of the same. Surely no person that fears God thinks He waited to react to these failures until they transpired. This would categorize the affairs of time to a situation similar to a chess match; First, the sinner would make his move, and then God would be obliged to react according to the quality of move the sinner executed, or simply do nothing and leave the affairs of men to their will and whim rather than His infinite wisdom. We are persuaded this seeming quandry is best answered by deferring to the government of God, and confessing that predestination is infinitely superior to free will.
After the death of Joshua and the elders that outlived him (Judges 2.7), the tribes of Israel went a whoring after other gods. “And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Balaam (Judges 2.11).” They forsook the Lord and served Baal and Ashtaroth until the anger of the Lord was hot against them. Thus He delivered them into the hands of spoilers, their enemies round about them (Judges 2.12-14). Having no king, the twelve tribes did that which seemed right in their own eyes. It might appear to the casual observer that God had fully given them over to satisfy their own lusts, and to work their own devices without interference. Far from it, His purposes were coming to pass despite what seemed such an evil cloud over His chosen people. “Nevertheless the Lord raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them. And yet they would not hearken unto their judges, but they went a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves unto them: they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the Lord; but they did not so (Judges 2.16, 17).” Surely we are not to believe that the Lord raised up judges for Israel as an after-thought, or because it was the best He could do with bad circumstances. That doctrine might suit the Fullerites, Arminians, Conditionalists, and assorted other workmongers, but it shall never do for those that have been taught by the Spirit of God that He works all things after the counsel of His own will (Ephesians 1.11). No sir! The plan of God was going on with definite and precise execution, Israel's sins not withstanding. “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure (Isaiah 46.10).” These judges served the pleasure of God for that period in Israel's history even though the people would not hearken unto them. His counsel stood, even though the Israelites could not.
It should be carefully observed when reading the book of Judges that God had not forsaken His people. They would sin, often grievously. Then God would raise up their enemies round about them to vex them. After sufficient suffering, determined by God's secret purposes, Israel would cry unto Him, the God they had forsaken, for deliverance, and God would, according to His good pleasure and infinite counsel, raise up judges to rescue His chosen ones. This cycle of events covered a period of about 450 years.
It should also be pointed out that none of these judges were persons of any great significance or class. Some were themselves rancorous individuals. The judges were by name, Othniel, Judges 3.9; Ehud, Judges 3.15; Shamgar, Judges 3.31; Deborah and Barak, Judges 4.4-6; Gideon, Judges 6.11; Abimelech, more properly a local schismatic king over the men of Shechem, Judges 9.6; Tola, Judges 10.1; Jair, Judges 10.3; Jephthah, Judges 11.1; Ibzan, Judges 12.8; Elon, Judges 12.11; Abdon, Judges 12.13; Samson, Judges 13.24. Of these judges, four are mentioned in Hebrews 11 as men of faith, and yet three of these, Samson, Gideon and Jephthah were also men of very bothersome conduct, especially Gideon, (Judges 8.27). For emphasis, we repeat the following text again: Nevertheless the Lord raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them (Judges 2.16).”
The reign of the judges over wicked Israel was obviously temporal, and yet it was instituted for a predetermined purpose that seemed good in the Lord's sight, even though Arminians find it hard to swallow. What was that predetermined purpose? “I also will not henceforth drive out any from before them of the nations which Joshua left when he died: That through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the Lord to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it or not (Judges 2.21, 22ff).” This business was to prove the twelve tribes! It surely was not to prove it to God, for He knew all that would transpire before He formed the universe and all things in it. Over a long series of transgressions, of Israel groaning before the Lord, and He then raising up judges to deliver His people, God was proving the Israelites both unable and unwilling to serve their God under such a regimen. But this was the way which He had ordained; they were to be proved, both to themselves and to the saints of God for centuries afterward. For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope (Romans 15.4).”
In summary, we see Israel then in their land of promise. But they had no powerful men raised up of God to lead them as did Moses and Joshua years before. There was no king in Israel, so they attempted to follow what seemed right in their vain imaginations. Failure and debasement followed swiftly and surely. For over four centuries they were given a succession of judges, no better than themselves, to serve until God, in His anger, gave them a king. “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help. I will be thy king: where is any other that may save thee in all thy cities? and thy judges of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes? I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath. The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is hid (Hosea 13.9-12).”
What is related here regarding the judges may also be said of Israel under the kings. Just as they failed those four and one-half (more or less) centuries while under the rule of judges, they failed for many more centuries under their kings. They were being proved, years after years that neither the law, judges, kings, or their own devices could make them a willing and obedient people. If given eyes to see, we are blessed to observe that nothing but God's direct hand through Jesus our Lord and the work of the Holy Spirit in us can render us suitable to walk in His ways. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure (Philippians 2.13).” We hold that God's good pleasure is as old as God Himself. Why was it that these poor Israelites could only fail? Was it in their own power to do otherwise? No; “For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God (Romans 13.1).” This surely brings us again to predestination. What else can ordained of God mean?
Israel failed, true enough and sadly so, at least from appearance. However, in all this we are driven to the inescapable position that their failure, as well as ours, teaches us that “...without me ye can do nothing (John 15.5).”
If the whole of the Old Testament was read through from beginning to ending it would show us much the same thing this brief Book of Judges shows us; God had prepared something better for us from the foundation of the world, and that was the Lamb slain. This is our acceptable sacrifice before the Father. If we are numbered among the chosen then we have been predestinated to be conformed to His image, Romans 8.29. Nothing, and no one, can conform us but He who secures the future from the past. That is predestination. Moses could not conform the Israelites, nor could Joshua. The people could not conform themselves by doing what was right in their own eyes. The judges did not succeed and each king in succession failed to produce even one case of conformity.
We conclude with that glorious summation of truth as written by Paul: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen (Romans 11.33-36).” We would repeat Paul's last word: AMEN! If all things are of Him, and all things are through Him, and finally, all things are to Him, then it appears certain to us that the wisdom and knowledge of God not only embraces all things, but all things are bound up in the omnipresence of God. God, in His fulness, Jesus Christ, upholds all things by the word of His power, and by Him all things consist. Surely our God is, as our former brethren used to say, everywhere present, and nowhere absent. His very being encompasses all worlds, all events, and all time, as well as all eternity. Words fail poor sinners to fully express His majesty. AMEN!
J. F. Poole
Volume 10, No. 2