© Tony Taylor Stork

© Tony Taylor Stork

Have you ever started off strong on a project—or maybe it was a relationship or a friendship—only to have things go really sour?

© amriphoto

© amriphoto

It seemed so promising at the beginning, but in the end you were left with nothing but a big mess and the question, “How on earth did this happen?”

That’s exactly what happened to ancient Israel. God had such big plans for them. He intended to give them all of Canaan along with the blessings that went with it. Joshua got them off to a strong start. Under his leadership, God handed Israel a big chunk of the promised land. But then the project fizzled.

What happened? Perhaps the essence of the problem is found in three little words: “But they settled” (Judges 3:5, HCSB).

1. They got settled—You know how it is. After a hectic day, you’ve just gotten comfortable in your favorite easy chair with a cozy quilt, a big bowl of popcorn, and your favorite movie when the phone rings. Do you pause the move, untuck the quilt, find a safe place to stash the popcorn (where the dog won’t get it), and get up to answer the phone, hoping someone doesn’t claim your spot before you get back? Or do you let the answering machine get it? That’s how it was with Israel. Once settled, it was just easier to stay put than to obey God’s directive to push forward.

2. They settled for—They were satisfied with an “okay” relationship rather than seeking the fullness of the experience God offered them. They had lost the fervor and faith that energized men like Caleb. Even after 80 full years of life, Caleb wasn’t happy with a quiet cabin by a stream somewhere. God had promised him that he would conquer giants, and he wasn’t about to retire until he did.

3. They settled among a people whom God had pronounced anathema. The Israelites were very good about following the protections God put in place against physical illness, but they repeatedly violated His social safeguards. They quarantined physical lepers; they married spiritual lepers.

The Israelites botched their assignment because they didn’t finish driving out the idolaters from the land God gave them. What about me? Am I willing to drive out all the sin from my life to pursue a fuller experience with God? Or do I get settled with sin—and maybe even settle for it?

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