Monday after the Third Sunday after Trinity Sunday
Scripture: Judges 2:6-23 (NKJV)
6 And when Joshua had dismissed the people, the children of Israel went each to his own inheritance to possess the land. 7 So the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LORD which He had done for Israel. 8 Now Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died when he was one hundred and ten years old. 9 And they buried him within the border of his inheritance at Timnath Heres, in the mountains of Ephraim, on the north side of Mount Gaash. 10 When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel.
11 Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served the Baals; 12 and they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; and they followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them, and they bowed down to them; and they provoked the LORD to anger. 13 They forsook the LORD and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. 14 And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel. So He delivered them into the hands of plunderers who despoiled them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies. 15 Wherever they went out, the hand of the LORD was against them for calamity, as the LORD had said, and as the LORD had sworn to them. And they were greatly distressed.
16 Nevertheless, the LORD raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand of those who plundered them. 17 Yet they would not listen to their judges, but they played the harlot with other gods, and bowed down to them. They turned quickly from the way in which their fathers walked, in obeying the commandments of the LORD; they did not do so. 18 And when the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed them and harassed them.
19 And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they reverted and behaved more corruptly than their fathers, by following other gods, to serve them and bow down to them. They did not cease from their own doings nor from their stubborn way. 20 Then the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel; and He said, “Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers, and has not heeded My voice, 21 I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died, 22 so that through them I may test Israel, whether they will keep the ways of the LORD, to walk in them as their fathers kept them, or not.” 23 Therefore the LORD left those nations, without driving them out immediately; nor did He deliver them into the hand of Joshua.
It was out of mercy and pity that the Lord raised up judges in order to deliver the children of Israel from oppression. However, when the judge was dead, the people reverted back to their old sinful behavior and even worse. They received the grace of God in vain. Rejecting the working of God, “They did not cease from their own doings nor from their stubborn way.”
The Lutheran Confessions describe the temporary “good” behavior of the Israelites under the judges as “works of the law” as opposed to “fruits of the Spirit.” The student who only behaves well when the teacher is watching is producing a work of the law. When the teacher turns her back, the student does what he wants. “But when man is born anew by the Spirit of God, and liberated from the Law, that is, freed from this driver, and is led by the Spirit of Christ, he lives according to the immutable will of God comprised in the Law, and so far as he is born anew, does everything from a free, cheerful spirit; and these are called not properly works of the Law, but works and fruits of the Spirit.” (FC SD VI 17)
Similarly the Lord has not completely driven out our sinful nature, in order that he might test us whether we “will keep the ways of the Lord.” “We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain.” (2 Cor. 6:1) Confess your sinful desires and trusting in free forgiveness of your Savior Jesus Christ, serve with a cleansed heart and mind.