Judges 1:1-3:36

1.  Succession plan

Moses was the liberator. Joshua was the military leader for conquering the land. There was never any intention to have a leader after that. Everything was to be organized by tribes and local government. No President. No King. No standing national armies. It would be like our having States but no national government. There would be no United States – just States.

Some tribes do better than others at driving out the Canaanites. Some have to cooperate with each other and some do it on their own. Some few are unsuccessful and live with the consequences. There is no attempt to form a national effort to drive out the Canaanites. “Every boat on its own bottom”

The assumption is every tribe is capable of governing itself because they all have the same set of values in the Law. Such a system assumes people have the ability to govern themselves and do not need external controls except in extreme circumstances.

It didn’t work because the people themselves could not govern themselves. They had no internal gyroscope. They needed external control. Like the Garden of Eden, God put them in the middle of an almost impossible test. Canaan was a cesspool of temptation for Israel. You might say there was no worse place God could have put them. Everything in it appealed to their worst natures. God did not command them to clean up the Canaanites. He told them to drive them out of the land completely because they had violated the land itself with their corruption. He needed them to fumigate – not use air freshener.

“So vile had the practices of the Canaanites become that the land was said to “vomit out its inhabitants” (Lev. 18:25) and the Israelites were warned by Yahweh to keep all his statutes and ordinances “that the land,” into which he was about to bring them, would not “vomit” them out (Lev. 20:22). The character of the Canaanite religion as portrayed I the Ugaritic literature furnishes ample background to illustrate the accuracy of these biblical statements in their characterization of the utter moral and religious degeneracy of the inhabitants of Canaan, wo were accordingly to be decimated and dispossessed.

In a not altogether dissimilar way, a millennium later, the African Canaanites, as they still called themselves, or the Carthaginians, as we call them, were crushed by the immensely superior Romans, whose stern code of morals and singularly elevated paganism remind us in many ways of early Israel.”

They drove out some and thought reducing others to slaves was adequate. But they left their gods and their altars intact. They did not understand the corrupting power of what they had let remain.

The hallmark of Canaanite religion at any time and in any culture is not any particular sin. It is not lust, greed, violence or deceit. It is rewarding bad behavior and calling it good. Psalm 12:8: “The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among me.” When what is vile is honored, that is the heart of Canaanite idolatry.

2.  “They will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you.”

A snare is a very particular thing. It is not like a minefield. A minefield is simply hidden destruction. A snare is not an overwhelming force. A snare depends on the nature of the prey as much as the design of the snare. That is what evil understands.

It’s important to know that false gods are not content to merely trick us or make us stumble. The purpose of a snare is to catch an animal to kill it and eat it. False gods are not just false. They are fatal. Evil is not content to fool us. It desires us. Genesis 4:7: “Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

James 1:14-15: “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

We think of being snared as simply being deceived by an opponent who is satisfied to see us frustrated or caught by him. It’s like a prank or a scam. That’s not the intent of evil. It is to consume our lives. That is the only thing that satisfies evil. To destroy what God loves. It desires us. And it only adds to its pleasure that we take part in our own destruction. It hunts us but we trap ourselves.

3.  Look at the nature and the principles of a snare.

Position your traps and snares where there is proof that animals pass through. You may construct a perfect snare, but it will not catch anything if haphazardly placed in the woods. Animals have bedding areas, waterholes, and feeding areas with trails leading from one to another. You must place snares and traps around these areas to be effective. For an evader in a hostile environment, trap and snare concealment is important. It is equally important, however, not to create a disturbance that will alarm the animal and cause it to avoid the trap. Therefore, if you must dig, remove all fresh dirt from the area. Most animals will instinctively avoid a pitfall-type trap.

Prepare the various parts of a trap or snare away from the site, carry them in, and set them up. Such actions make it easier to avoid disturbing the local vegetation, thereby alerting the prey. Do not use freshly cut, live vegetation to construct a trap or snare. Freshly cut vegetation will “bleed” sap that has an odor the prey will be able to smell. It is an alarm signal to the animal. You must remove or mask the human scent on and around the trap you set. Although birds do not have a developed sense of smell, nearly all mammals depend on smell even more than on sight. Even the slightest human scent on a trap will alarm the prey and cause it to avoid the area. When you position the trap, camouflage it as naturally as possible to prevent detection by the enemy and to avoid alarming the prey.

Traps or snares placed on a trail or run should use channelization. To build a channel, construct a funnel-shaped barrier extending from the sides of the trail toward the trap, with the narrowest part nearest the trap. Channelization should be inconspicuous to avoid alerting the prey. As the animal gets to the trap, it cannot turn left or right and continues into the trap. Few wild animals will back up, preferring to face the direction of travel. Channelization does not have to be an impassable barrier. You only have to make it inconvenient for the animal to go over or through the barrier. For best effect, the channelization should reduce the trail’s width to just slightly wider than the targeted animal’s body. Maintain this constriction at least as far back from the trap as the animal’s body length, then begin the widening toward the mouth of the funnel.

Use of Bait
Baiting a trap or snare increases your chances of catching an animal. When catching fish, you must bait nearly all the devices. Success with an unbaited trap depends on its placement in a good location. A baited trap can actually draw animals to it. The bait should be something the animal knows. This bait, however, should not be so readily available in the immediate area that the animal can get it close by. For example, baiting a trap with corn in the middle of a corn field would not be likely to work. Likewise, if corn is not grown in the region, a corn-baited trap may arouse an animal’s curiosity and keep it alerted while it ponders the strange food. Under such circumstances it may not go for the bait. One bait that works well on small mammals is the peanut butter from a meal, ready-to-eat (MRE) ration. Salt is also a good bait. When using such baits, scatter bits of it around the trap to give the prey a chance to sample it and develop a craving for it. The animal will then overcome some of its caution before it gets to the trap.

This is a long reading but it is worth it. It illustrates better than anything I know the art of hunting with snares.

MY DEAR WORMWOOD, Obviously you are making excellent progress. My only fear is lest in attempting to hurry the patient you awaken him to a sense of his real position. For you and I, who see that position as it really is, must never forget how totally different it ought to appear to him. We know that we have introduced a change of direction in his course which is already carrying him out of his orbit around he Enemy; but he must be made to imagine that all the choices which have effected this change of course are trivial and revocable. He must not be allowed to suspect that he is now, however slowly, heading right away from the sun on a line which will carry him into the cold and dark of utmost space. For this reason I am almost glad to hear that he is still a churchgoer and a communicant. I know there are dangers in this; but anything is better than that he should realize the break it has made with the first months of his Christian life. As long as he retains externally the habits of a Christian he can still be made to think of himself as one who has adopted a few new friends and amusements but whose spiritual state is much the same as it was six weeks ago. And while he thinks that, we do not have to contend with the explicit repentance of a definite, fully recognized, sin, but only with his vague, though uneasy, feeling that he hasn’t been doing very well lately. This dim uneasiness needs careful handling. If it gets too strong it may wake him up and spoil the whole game. On the other hand, if you suppress it entirely – which, by the by, the Enemy will probably not allow you to do – we lose an element in the situation which can be turned to good account. If such a feeling is allowed to live, but not allowed to become irresistible and flower into real repentance, it has one invaluable tendency. It increases the patient’s reluctance to think about the Enemy. All humans at nearly all times have some such reluctance; but when thinking of Him involves facing and intensifying a whole vague cloud of half-conscious guilt, this reluctance is increased tenfold. They hate every idea that suggests Him, just as men in financial embarrassment hate the very sight of a pass-book. In this state your patient will not omit, but he will increasingly dislike, his religious duties. He will think about them as little as he feels he decently can beforehand, and forget them as soon as possible when they are over. A few weeks ago you had to tempt him to unreality and inattention in his prayers: but now you will find him opening his arms to you and almost begging you to distract his purpose and benumb his heart. He will want his prayers to be unreal, for he will dread nothing so much as effective contact with the Enemy. His aim will be to let sleeping worms lie. As this condition becomes more fully established, you will be gradually freed from the tiresome business of providing Pleasures as temptations. As the uneasiness and his reluctance to face it cut him off more and more from all real happiness, and as habit renders the pleasures of vanity and excitement and flippancy at once less pleasant and harder to forgo (for that is what habit fortunately does to a pleasure) you will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his wandering attention. You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday’s paper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but in conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room. All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at last he may say, as one of my own patients said on his arrival down here, “I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked”. The Christians describe the Enemy as one “without whom Nothing is strong”. And Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off. You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy. It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.

4.  They wept and offered sacrifices but they did change their behavior.

Nothing hardens the heart like frequent and sometimes extravagant sorrow with no change in behavior. Mere sorrow is not what God desires. It is a change in our behavior.

5.  And the snare is permanent because of their inability to eradicate the Canaanites.

But God in His mercy sends them judges as temporary heroes during a crisis. We can depend on heroes during a crisis but we cannot manage ourselves. The key to what God desires is not heroes but self-control. To master ourselves.

We have three stories of heroes and at the end of each the comment that the people were at peace as long as the hero lived – up to eighty years of good behavior – and then they revert to their faithless ways. There is no law in their hearts. They cannot master themselves.

The irony, of course, is that in the end they have no common understanding of what is right. The society disintegrates into small factions and “in those days everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” It was the first postmodern society. What is right for you may not be right for me. Who is to say? I read a good description of the Higgs Boson particle this week. It is the egg in a bowl of flour that makes it all stick together. A society with no common values is a bowl of flour with no egg.

All of us have particular snares in our lives and the bait is probably different for each of us. Each craving is unique and we can be certain that Satan has scattered bait all around our lives to entice us. We are not called to live in fear but in caution. Sin desires us and just keeps changing the bait in our lives.

In “The Sun Also Rises”, Ernest Hemingway has one of the characters say this to the question “How did you go bankrupt?” “Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”

That is how it is with sin. It goes gradually…and then suddenly. Slowly…and then fast.

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