So, the Israelites are at it again... idolatry, that is. After the Abimelek fiasco, Israel enjoyed 45 years of peace—during which time, apparently, the Israelites began to feast at the buffet of Canaan’s gods. Finally, God gave up the Israelites once again to their idols, and they found themselves oppressed by the Philistines and the Ammonites.
And, once again, the Israelites decided they didn’t like the consequences of their wicked ways, and they cried out to God for deliverance. Only... uh oh... this time, God said no. "The Lord replied, 'When the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, the Sidonians, the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you and you cried to me for help, did I not save you from their hands? But you have forsaken me and served other gods, so I will no longer save you. Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them save you when you are in trouble!'"(vs 11-14)
Wow. In fine Dr. Phil style, when the Israelites turn to God yet again, He steps back and says, "How’s that workin' for ya?" And He did not rescue them. This could almost seem cruel. After all, the Israelites said they were sorry. They asked for forgiveness. But... how many times had they done this before? Why would this time be any different? Why wouldn’t they just turn their back on God again once they were out from under the thumb of their enemies?
Well, before you’re quick to judge God, check out verses 15 and 16: "But the Israelites said to the Lord, 'We have sinned. Do with us whatever you think best, but please rescue us now.' Then they got rid of the foreign gods among them and served the Lord. And he could bear Israel’s misery no longer."
That’s incredible! Even though (or maybe because) God didn’t jump to rescue them, they decided (at least for the time being) that their idolatry wasn’t worth it. They decided that it was better to serve God—even if they were serving Him in captivity. This was a much more important result than their liberation from the enemies. Their transformation was more important than a transformation of their circumstances.
Here’s an important life lesson: The power of the gospel is not to transform your circumstances, but to transform you in the midst of your circumstances. This is why God sometimes says no. The opportunity for personal transformation is sometimes greater if our circumstances remain the same—and God will always opt for transforming us over transforming our circumstances if leaving us where we are would be for our best good.
Sometimes God says no. Praise the Lord!