Since Judges follows Joshua (the last Old Testament book I read), it seemed like a good idea to dig into Judges. There is more killing and fighting; more of the Israelites getting themselves into a pickle, worshiping Baal and Asherath; more of God turning them over into the hands of their enemies; more of the Israelites crying out to God to rescue them when it got unbearable; and more of God doing just that--rescuing them.
These Old testament ways are hard for me to understand. I have to read them for a while, over and over, before I can make any sense out of them. The Israelites' troubles began when they didn't really clear out the land like they were supposed to, and then things snowball when they start dabbling in these other people's gods and rituals. The LORD said not to mess with that stuff, to worship only Him. They couldn't do it, time after time. They'd be good for 40 years or so, and then they'd slip and fall hard. So why didn't God just give them the Promised Land empty, without the troubles of other people and their gods? If He wanted Israel to worship only Him, why expose them to all this other junk?
here's what I think so far:
Its the free will thing. He wants His people to knowingly, purposefully choose to worship Him. They can see what else is out there, and go to Him. And, of course, when it gets really bad that's exactly what they do. I'd kinda' like to not wait for the ugliness, and make that choice now. But how quickly I can get distracted by the other things.
It's the He wants ALL people to come to know Him thing. God wants to draw all people to Him. If Israel is a tight little community that never has anything to do with anyone else, then the LORD is a secret. One of my favorite verses backs this up: “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us." Acts 17:27NLT