Friday, August 28, 2015

Judges 3 - We Need A Hero

As we look into the conditions of the hearts of men in Judges 3, we see a nation that had turned from God, embraced the worship of worthless idols and had engaged in the ways of the pagans living in the country. I can't help but thinking of the parallels between our own times and theirs. We also live in a culture that chooses doing their own thing without regard for others or God. As in the times of Israel, we also cry, "we need a Hero!"

Most of the nation didn't recognize their need until God allowed these other nations to dominate them and subject them to serving foreign nations. Then they cried out to the Lord. (Judges 3:8-9).  Note: prosperity and times without I strife and conflict often change our perspective and keep us from intense dependence on God. So it was with Israel and in our own time. 

They like us needed a hero to rescue them. They needed someone strong who was not afraid to take on the enemy. They needed someone who could guide the nation back to righteous living and point the way to their Father in Heaven.   As we in the United States are beginning to search for a leader I think how wonderful it would be to have one of the Judges in this chapter. They have earned a place in history because of their faithful service powered by the Holy Spirit. Othniel, Ehud and Shamgar were not afraid to stand up against wicked rulers and leading the people overcame the enemy. Each of them saved Israel. 

Each of these Judges was just a man, but they are a type of Christ. Israel failed to honor God and the result was bondage to nations they thought were their friends. Just as Christ redeemed mankind from the enemy, the judges released their brothers and sisters from the bondage of the enemy nations. Just as Christ asked us to come to Him and embrace right living, the Judges did the same for Israel.  Note that the judges did not do these mighty things in their own power, but they had the Spirit of God upon them to empower them. All of us lining for Christ are weak in our own flesh but with God's Spirit in us, there is nothing that cannot be accomplished. 

We too had once dabbled in sin and found that one day sin was our Master and no longer a playful companion. In our sin, we saw our need for a Savior. If you happen to be reading this and do not have the Spirit of God living within you, you can have this assurance too. Just cry out to God and agree with him about the matter of sin. Confess your sins and ask for Jesus the redeemer to save you and give you peace with God. You can know forgiveness. God in turn will give His Spirit to empower you to turn from sin and to live boldly for Him. 

Our nation surely needs a righteous leader who will look to God for his/her strength. We need a leader who will guide the nation back to God and help them to know that forgiveness is available for those who will agree with God about the sin in our nation and yield to His leadership, abandoning our own way. Only then will we know the victory and the fellowship of God. 

One last challenge for you today. You may never lead a nation, but each of us has an number of people who are influenced by our life. Let's be the one in our area of influence to stand for right and to encourage our friends to do the same. We may not lead a nation, but with the Spirit of God in is there is no telling how we may be used to bring God glory. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Judges 2 - Discarding God

We live in a nation and in a culture that toys with sin on a regular basis. We have even gone so far as to embrace the activities the God has said, "You shall not".  As we look back over our history, it seems each succeeding decade has gone just a bit deeper into the abyss, so that sin is now normalized and those who cling to God's principles are ostracized and maligned. Oh, how far we have come. 

They say that those who don't learn the lessons from history are doomed to repeat them. In Judges chapter 2 we have a very similar scenario played out before us and we see God's response. The nation of Israel followed God's ways when they were under the leadership of Joshua, (though we did see some cracks in the foundation). Once Joshua and the elders who served with him passed on to their reward, the nation began to slide further and further away from God. 

We saw in the last chapter, that many of the tribes of Israel had not taken full control of the land but they cohabitated in it with the Canaanites. They allowed them to continue their idol worship and their perverted ways. Israelite children growing up in that time would see idols as normal and would live side by side with pagans. It is no wonder then that after a generation that they began to practice idolatry with the pagans and saw nothing wrong with it. 

In Judges 2, the Angel of the Lord comes and shares God's heart with the people. he brought them out of Egypt and gave th a place of honor with Him. He made a covenant with them yet Israel violated that covenant. Rather than correcting them and separating the pagans from them as He had in the past, God gives them over to their sin and allows it to grow. Instead He uses these pagans to test the people to see if they will remain loyal to God and follow in His ways or if they will embrace the sinful practices around them. 

God does not abide sin. In Judges 2:20, we see God is angry with the nation. Just because the people didn't see immediate correction from God doesn't mean that  judgement is not being stored up. In fact their fate was all that much worse because God allowed them to deceive themselves that they were in good standing with God though they dabbled in sin. 

It is a warning and a challenge to us now. Will we take a close look at our lives and clearly see where we have allowed sin in and thus deceived ourselves. Will we take the test that God has left before or nation to turn from ungodly idols and activities?  Will we embrace God's ways though they are unpopular and may bring the world's mocking? Will we endure the taunting and ostracism in order to align ourselves with our Lord?  

How much have you been helped by our God?  How much sin has He forgiven?  What sacrifice did He offer to save you from the sin that enslaved you?  Will we not also endure hardship to stay pure and turn from worldly ways?  

Our nation should not be deceived. Just because God has not offered immediate correction does not indicate that He is pleased. We know the Lord's return is sooner today than it was yesterday. He could come at any moment and with Him being judgement for the careless disregard we have shown Him. We should confess our sins and turn from them while there is still time. Our Lord longs for us to seek Him and promises peace, redemption, and eternal rewards for those who will. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Judges 1 - Friends and Enemies

As we open the book of Judges the stage is being set. Joshua has passed and now the nations are left without clear leadership. What will they do?  In verse 1 we are encouraged to learn that the Israelites sought God and received His  council.   But not all tribes of Israel executed that council. 

Judah receives orders to drive the Canaanites out of the land and occupy it for themselves. They turn to their friends and brother nation Simeon and together the conquer the land. 

Caleb offers his daughter Acsah, to them valiant enough to capture the City of Debir. He later received his daughters request for expanded territory to include springs of water to nourish the land and animals. 

The men of Judah saw great victory operating on Gods commands. Oh that it would be true of us as well. 

Midway through this first chapter (Judges 1:22) we learn that the story is not as rosey as we initially thought. There were tribes if Israel that chose not to drive the enemy out of the land and chose to let them remain. As a result they had ongoing conflict with the former peoples. God had clearly instructed the Israelites to completely remove the former inhabitants, but we are about to see that the results of half-hearted obedience.   The enemy continued to live in the land stirring strife and influencing generations away from faithful obedience. 

When I consider my own testimony, I can see that when I seek the Lord and ask for His direction, I have greater victory and ultimately sleep better at night with less conflict. I enjoy the fellowship of fellow Christians who encourage me and pray for me and keep me in the way I have commited to God. 

But when I determine my own boundaries and follow God with less  than my full effort, I find that the easier way I may have chosen is full of strife and conflict. I have unbelievers embedded into life in such a way as to sway me from whole-hearted yielding to the Spirit residing in me. I am tempted to go the way of the world rather than influencing the world for Christ. 

We have these two examples of obedience before us in this chapter. We must choose to serve God fully or go our own way. Each have difficulties and consequences, but only one gives us victory. Which will you choose today?

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him.