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Judges: the Canaanization of Israel

This morning I’m teaching Judges and Ruth in an OT Intro course. Those are perhaps two of the easiest books to teach in the OT (which is why I’ve heard multiple sermon/talk series on both, a rarity for OT!): strong, central, themes that are easily seen, especially once we make the connection to our world and the life of the Christian today:

[T]he central theme of the Book of Judges is the Canaanization of Israel.  Herein lies the key to the relevance of this ancient composition for North American Christianity, for like the Israelites of the settlement period, we have largely forgotten the covenant Lord . . . . Like the ancient Israelites we too are being squeezed into the mold of the pagan world around us.

Evidence of the “Canaanization” of the church are everywhere: our preoccupation with material prosperity, which turns Christianity into a fertility religion;

our syncretistic and aberrant forms of worship; our refusal to obey the Lord’s call to separation from the world;

our divisiveness and competitiveness; our moral compromises, as a result of which Christians and non-Christians are often indistinguishable; our [male] exploitation and abuse [and neglect] of women and children;

our reluctance to answer the Lord’s call to service, and when we finally go, our propensity to displace “Thy kingdom come” with “my kingdom come”; our eagerness to fight the Lord’s battles with the world’s resources and strategies; our willingness to stand up and defend perpetrators of evil instead of justice.  These and many other lessons will be drawn from the leaves of this fascinating book . . .

He goes on to cite what the book teaches regarding the reality of God’s wrath and power of his grace and the constancy of his plan to build himself a people, a light to the world; “the true hero in the book is God and God alone,” even if God is repeatedly using people to show us how he is our hero.

Daniel Block, Judges and Ruth (NAC), 71-2.