“And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim, and Ashtaroth, and the gods of Syria, and the gods of Zidon, and the gods of Moab, and the gods of the children of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines, and forsook the LORD, and served not him. And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hands of the Philistines, and into the hands of the children of Ammon. And that year they vexed and oppressed the children of Israel: eighteen years, all the children of Israel that were on the other side Jordan in the land of the Amorites, which is in Gilead. Moreover the children of Ammon passed over Jordan to fight also against Judah, and against Benjamin, and against the house of Ephraim; so that Israel was sore distressed . And the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, saying , We have sinned against thee, both because we have forsaken our God, and also served Baalim. And the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Did not I deliver you from the Egyptians, and from the Amorites, from the children of Ammon, and from the Philistines? The Zidonians also, and the Amalekites, and the Maonites, did oppress you; and ye cried to me, and I delivered you out of their hand. Yet ye have forsaken me, and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more . Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen ; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation. And the children of Israel said unto the LORD, We have sinned : do thou unto us whatsoever seemeth good unto thee; deliver us only, we pray thee, this day. And they put away the strange gods from among them, and served the LORD: and his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel.” Judges 10:6-16
One of the most terrifying aspects to God’s personality is how he will sometimes give people exactly what they want. Despite the commandments given by God, the children of Israel had an idolatry problem. Throughout their history they found themselves over and over again drawn away of their own lusts and enticed. They chose the stone idols of the Canaanites, and the wicked gods of the Philistines. Despite their unique history and their unique revelations from God, they chose over and over again to bow down to the gods of the nations that surrounded them. God would send a prophet, and things would reform, for a bit, but they always returned to the idols. Instead of loving and cleaving to the God that had brought them out of Egypt, they instead snuggled up to a god that demanded the sacrifice of their children.
So God decides to give their heart's desire, and he sells them into the hands of their enemies. For 18 years the Ammonites and Philistines oppressed them, and although it must have been fun at the beginning to be out from underneath ‘all those rules’, oppression is still oppression, and the Bible says that “Israel was sore distressed”. They wanted out from under the yoke, and they did what they had always done; they cried out to the God of their fathers for deliverance.
But this time, God tells them that this time will be different. He will not help them. He challenges them to “Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen ; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation.” He tells them that "I will deliver you no more”. Seven times he has rescued them already, and the end result was always the same. God always got put on the shelf and ignored as soon as the crisis of the moment had passed. This time they were on their own. The one person in the entire universe that could help them has openly told them that he will not. Their last flicker of hope to get out from under the yoke of oppression just went out, and they have no one to blame, but themselves.
You see, it didn’t impress God that they were unhappy. Serving sin will always make you unhappy eventually. It didn’t really impress God that they cried out, or that they said they were sorry. They should have been sorry. They should have been broken-hearted over how they had treated him. But the Bible says that “his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel.” What changed God’s mind?
I believe the secret to moving the heart of God is found in the very beginning of verse 16. It didn’t move God that they were sorry, it didn’t move God that they wanted out of a bad situation; what moved God was that they put away their strange gods. One of the reasons we have so little victory over the sin in our lives is because we are willing to be sorry, but not willing to take the first step and put it away. A man may be bound in the chains of alcohol, and he may hate the fact that his sin has cost him his life, his marriage, and his job. He may sit there in the dark and weep and cry about what a sorry old drunk he is, but as long as he sits there with that bottle in his hand, there will be no victory for him. If he gets up and pours that putrid rot-gut down the sink and smashes the bottles, well now we’re going somewhere.
Do you want to get God’s attention, and get God’s help? Do you want to move the very heart of God on your behalf? Do you need his soul to be grieved over your misery? Then put away your wickedness, God will help you. Pour out the whiskey, shoot the TV, and throw away your internet. Stop your gossiping, quit your meanness, and put away your lying tongue. Vomit up your pride, and turn away from your vanities. Burn the bridges, tell the old crowd to take a hike.Whatever the issue is, you know what it is, and you know what a stronghold it is in your life. Put it away and beg for God’s help to keep it away. Commit open warfare against your sin, and in the middle of your first salvo against the enemy that you have served for so long, you might be surprised who shows up on the battlefield to help you, and ultimately give you the victory.