“And the LORD was with Judah, and he took possession of the hill country, but he could not drive out the inhabitants of the plain because they had chariots of iron.” (Judges 1:19 ESV)
We read that the Lord is with Judah but Judah cannot drive out the inhabitants of the plain because they had iron chariots. How could it be that God is with the people but they are unable to be victorious against the inhabitants because of their iron chariots? Is not God greater than iron chariots? Is God incapable of overcoming human weapons?
So what was the problem? The people had their eyes on the physical rather than on the all-powerful God who can conquer anything. They are looking at the iron chariots rather than looking to God who can give the victory in any circumstance. They are not trusting in the strength of the Lord. They are relying on their own strength. They are calculating that they cannot be victorious. The people are right if they are to rely only on their own strength. But God said that the land and the people would be given into their hands. But they do not believe in the word of the Lord.
The rest of the first chapter of Judges reveals the continued faithlessness of the tribes. Each tribe is described as failing to drive out the inhabitants of the land in their allotment. The people of Benjamin did not drive out the inhabitants (Judges 1:21). The people of Manasseh did not drive out the inhabitants (1:27). Ephraim did not drive out the Canaanites (1:29). Zebulun did not drive out the inhabitants (1:30). Asher did not drive out the inhabitants (1:31). Naphtali did not drive out the inhabitants (1:33). Verse 34 is interesting because not only did the people of Dan not drive out the inhabitants, but they are being driven back by the Amorites (1:34). Not only did the tribes not drive the people out as God commanded, but some of them made covenants with the people to dwell together. Some of the tribes enslaved the inhabitants rather than driving out the people, making a decision of convenience and economics over obedience.
Here is what I want us to consider. It is not that the people did not try to drive out the inhabitants of the land. The text tells us that these tribes went up in various conflicts and battles. They tried, but they did not fully believe. The problem is that they are showing half-hearted obedience. They have partial faith which led to complete failure. They did not believe that God would give them victory. This is shocking because they had seen or heard about the victories God gave on the eastern side of the Jordan River, the parting of the Jordan River during flood season, and the conquest of the land, all recorded in the book of Joshua. But they did not believe God would give them victory today. They relied on themselves, rather than the Lord. Friends, we miss out on a blessed life in Christ because we lack faith in God’s strength, choosing to rely on our own strength instead. When we look to our power, we will fail under Satan’s temptations and the weight of trials. This is why God calls us to rely on the strength of the Lord and not our own strength (Ephesians 6:10-18). Look to God’s victories in your life and through the cross to encourage your complete reliance on God going forward.
Partial faith results in complete failure.