Facing Iron Chariots

Bible Reading: Joshua 13:13; 15:13-14, 63; 16:10; 17:11-13; 24:29-33; Judges 1; 2:1-9

"The Lord was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had iron chariots" (Judges 1:19).

If God was with the men of Judah, then why couldn't they drive out the plains people? Were their iron chariots too difficult for God to defeat? Of course not. God had told his people to drive out ALL the inhabitants of Canaan; he wouldn't have told them to do something that he was not prepared to accomplish through them. Perhaps God wanted to teach them perseverance or a new method of warfare, or to develop in them a deeper trust or dependence. Instead of persisting in driving them out, however, the armies eventually put their swords to rest and lived among them (Judges 1:21, 30, 33; Joshua 13:13; 15:63; 16:10).

Perhaps they got tired of fighting; perhaps, relying on their own strength and wisdom, they felt helpless against the iron chariots; perhaps they were disillusioned that it was taking so long and required so much effort; perhaps, without Joshua's strong leadership, they lacked courage and motivation; perhaps they just wanted to settle down and make babies. After all, they had driven out MOST of the inhabitants of the land; wasn't that good enough? No. God knew that the Canaanites would bring destruction, not only by their armies, but also by their sins. "They will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you" (Judges 2:3).

Just as God had warned, his people soon began to adopt the pagan lifestyle and false gods of their new neighbors. By the time the next generation grew up, they "knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel" (Judges 2:10). For the rest of history, the Israelites were opposed and oppressed by these remaining nations.

Sometimes we consciously choose the path that leads away from God. More commonly, however, we allow casual relationships and daily pressures to pull us away from God one step at a time. Discouraged by the "iron chariots" in our lives that we expected God to defeat, we begin to doubt his love. We spend less time with our friends of faith and hang out more with friends who have different values. We start joining in with their suggestive humor and entertaining their worldly views. We pick up bad habits and say "It's no big deal." We give in to destructive behaviors and tell ourselves "That's just the way I am. I can't help it." We indulge in immoral thoughts, reasoning that they're harmless as long as we don't act on them. We dabble in sin, thinking we are strong enough to escape its impact. We grow so comfortable living with these sins and temptations that they begin to feel like friendly neighbors.

Somewhere along the path, we become indifferent to God. The dirt on the road captures our attention and keeps our focus downward. Before we know it, we find ourselves so far from the truth that we're not even sure what it is. If we continue down that path, where will the next generation find itself?

Stop! Look up! See the grace and compassion on your Father's face. Fall to your knees. "Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall" (Ezek. 18:30). Reach up and take your Father's hand. Let him lift you up. Turn around. Wipe the dirt off your feet. Start walking with God, hand in hand, day by day. Talk to him. Listen to him. Allow his words to infiltrate your mind. Let his love saturate your heart. Feel his spirit move within you. Let his people shore you up. Let's face the iron chariots together and trust God to go before us. "Encourage one another daily... so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness" (Heb. 3:13).