Beginning of the End


More Backsliding and More Misery!

After the death of Abimelech, the rule of judges who respected God helped to hold back idolatry for a time. But before long the people returned to the practices of the heathen around them. Apostasy quickly brought punishment. The Ammonites conquered the eastern tribes of Israel and, crossing the Jordan river, invaded the territory of Judah and Ephraim. On the west the Philistines came up from their plain beside the sea, burning and looting wherever they went. Israel seemed to be hopelessly under the power of unyielding enemies. BOE 279.7

Again the people looked for help from Him whom they had forsaken and insulted. “The children of Israel cried out to the Lord, saying, ‘We have sinned against You, because we have both forsaken our God and served the Baals!’” But the people did not mourn because they had dishonored God by breaking His holy law, but because their sins had brought suffering on themselves. True repentance is a determined turning away from evil. BOE 280.1

The Lord answered them through one of His prophets: “Did I not deliver you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites and from the people of Ammon and from the Philistines? ... You cried out to Me, and I delivered you from their hand. Yet you have forsaken Me and served other gods. Therefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in your time of distress.” BOE 280.2

The Israelites now humbled themselves before the Lord. “So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord.” And the Lord’s heart of love “could no longer endure the misery of Israel.” Oh, the long-suffering mercy of our God! When His people put away the sins that had shut out His presence, He heard their prayers and began to work for them immediately. He raised up a deliverer named Jephthah, who made war against the Ammonites and completely destroyed their power. At this time Israel had suffered under the oppression of her enemies for eighteen years, but the people again forgot the lesson taught by suffering. BOE 280.3

As His people returned to their evil ways, the Lord permitted them to be oppressed by powerful enemies—the Philistines. For many years they were constantly harassed, and at times completely conquered, by this cruel and warlike nation. They had mingled with these idolaters, uniting in pleasure and in worship until they seemed to be one with them in spirit and interest. Then these professed friends of Israel became their bitterest enemies and tried to bring about their destruction. BOE 280.4

The Bible plainly teaches that there can be no harmony between the people of God and the world. Satan works through those who do not love God, under the cover of pretended friendship, to entice God’s people into sin. When their defense is removed, then Satan will lead his agents to turn against them and seek to destroy them. BOE 280.5