Brief Notes

You Cannot
Go to Shiloh

12 March 2024

If we fail to deal
with our self-life and our flesh,
we cannot know the Lord
as the source of
spiritual power and victory

The book of Judges begins by briefly recording the victory of Judah and Simeon in driving out the inhabitants of the land (Judges 1:1-7), and the blessing of the “springs of water” that came with such victory (vv. 11-15). Before long, however, the Children of Israel, rather than driving out the inhabitants, as the Lord commanded them, gave up that struggle and instead dwelt among them; thus, the Lord turned away from His people.

What comes next, according to Darby, is the key to understanding the entire book of Judges:

Then the Angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said: “I led you up from Egypt and brought you to the land of which I swore to your fathers; and I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you. And you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed My voice.

Why have you done this? Therefore I also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; but they shall be thorns in your side, and their gods shall be a snare to you.’ ”

So it was, when the Angel of the LORD spoke these words to all the children of Israel, that the people lifted up their voices and wept. Then they called the name of that place Bochim; and they sacrificed there to the LORD.
— Judges 2:1-5

Darby states of this chapter in his Synopsis:

This change from Gilgal to Bochim is the key to the book; it is so, alas! but too often, the condition of God’s children.

So, what does he mean by that?

Gilgal was the place where the Children of Israel entered the Good Land to take possession of it; it was also the place where they returned after their victories against the inhabitants of the land (10:15, 43, 14:6).

To first come to Gilgal, the Children of Israel had to cross the river Jordan. When they did, they took up twelve stones from the river, one for each of the twelve tribes, as a memorial of that crossing, and set them up in Gilgal; Joshua also left twelve stones in the Jordan itself (Josh. 4:1-9). Then, upon arriving at Gilgal, they were circumcised there after wandering in the wilderness for 40 years (Josh. 5:2-9).

Gilgal, therefore, is the place of our death and resurrection with Christ, and where our flesh is dealt with (cf. Rom. 6:1-8). These are signified, respectively, by the stones in the river, the stones in Gilgal, and the circumcision of the Children of Israel.

In contrast, “Bochin,” of course, means “Weeping.” And whenever we give up dealing with our self-life and our flesh, to live instead as the world does, the end result will surely be “weeping,” rather than victory, just as it was with the Children of Israel.

Darby goes on to state that while the work at Gilgal is something hidden, it is the necessary basis for any open manifestation of spiritual victory:

This inward mortification is a work of no outward glory; it is unseen, or little and pitiful in the eyes of man; it makes us little in our own [eyes], but [makes] God and His grace great….

The strength was not shown at Gilgal. It was shown against the Amorites of the mountains, at Gibeon; but it was gathered at Gilgal.

And even so, in our experience, if we truly desire to serve the Lord, to have a life of spiritual victory, to have power in the gospel, we must allow Him to do a hidden work in us, something others do not see, of bringing us into the real experience of the cross; and we must, so to speak, always remain at this “Gilgal,” just as the Children of Israel did during their conquest of the Good Land. In this way our self-life and our flesh will be dealt with, so that when the time comes to serve the Lord in an open way, we will be able to do so.

Otherwise, even though we may continue with the Lord, our service to Him will be quite limited; as Darby points out, while the Children of Israel could worship the Lord in Bochim, they could not know Him there as the source of power and victory:

God may be worshiped in Bochim: His relationship to the people was unaltered. He accepts these tears [Judges 2:5]. But what a difference!

And he concludes with the comment already quoted above:

This change from Gilgal to Bochim is the key to the book; it is so, alas! but too often, the condition of God’s children.

Indeed, how much does this describe the situation of the church as a whole today! Still worshiping the Lord, to some extent at least, but with so little spiritual power, because of a lack of the real experience of the cross to deal with the self-life the flesh.

But if this change from Gilgal to Bochim is the key to understanding the book of Judges, then we next need to ask, how and why did the Children of Israel forsake Gilgal?

We will consider that in the next Note in this series.

Sent to our mailing list on
— 12 March 2024 —