Sunday, September 27, 2015

Judges 6a - What is God Doing?

Look around you. Consider the circumstances in which you have been placed. Do you know why God has allowed them to come to pass?  What is He doing in your life?  Is He correcting you and chastening you through some difficult situation?  Or is that situation brought about because He is going to use you as a player in a mighty victory He is about to unfold?  God does not always let us know in advance the reasons for our condition. In this chapter of Judges, we see Gideon struggling with these same issues. 

As a reader of scripture we are often given the benefit of God's purposes and plans and we see people either align themselves or stand against God. In our own life we don't always have a map to interpret our circumstances and at the time, neither did the Israelites unless God spoke directly to them. We have the benefit of the written word in full. They had just the foundations of the law to rely upon. 

After the defeat of Sisera by Deborah  we are told that the Israelites enjoyed peace for 40 years. During that time the Israelites went back to living their own way and sinning against God. As a result God allowed them to have a taste of His hand of protection being removed from them. God allowed Midian to overtake his people and oppress them. [Sidenote: notice that God allowed the nation to have victory. These difficult circumstances were the natural end of their sinful choices, but prior to this point (for 40 years) God protected the people from their enemies.]

The circumstances were so overwhelming that Israelites abandoned ther homes and farms and fled to caves for protection. Their crops were ruined by the enemy. The Midianites even destroyed the livestock. They had become completely impoverished because of them. While they lived in peace they did not cry out to the Lord, but now in their time of trouble they cry out. 

God sent a prophet to remind them of the ways God has intervened for his people in the past and explained that their condition is not because of the Midianites or due to God's failure, but because of the faithlessness of God's people. (Judges 6:10). This must have been a word of hope and conviction all in one. God had not changed, it was the people who had failed God. 

The angel of the Lord (preincarnate Jesus) came to Gideon who was threshing in a wine press to hide the grain from the enemy. He gets a word directly from the lips of God, "the Lord is with you, mighty warrior".   This is odd to Gideon because it doesn't seem like that. he isn't mighty and the Lord doesn't seem to be with anyone right now. 

Gideon asks the age old question that so many have asked. "If God is good and loving and stands with His people, why would He allow these circumstances to befall us?"  (Judges 6:13). He sees that God is Sovereign, but wrongly attributes his condition to God rather than the failure of the people. 

Our view of ourselves is usually higher than God's view. If we truly saw the reality and full measure of our sin, I don't know that we could bear it. God does send his Holy Spirit to convict us of our sin, but I believe the Holy Spirit only gives us a glimpse - we just couldn't handle the full view. In the case of Gideon, He was viewing the circumstances as God acting on the people rather than seeing that the people had brought destruction on themselves. It didn't seem that the Lord was with them; he felt God's blessing had been removed from the people. Sometimes God brings chastisement to us to correct our view of our sin. Sin should never be minimized and God says it deserves death. Thank God that we are seen not for the merit we bring, but we have the grace of God because of the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf.  We were condemned, but through Jesus finished work we have been redeemed. 

Notice that God never allowed His people to suffer for as long as they had rebelled. In the midst of the suffering, God is gracious. God never allows his people the full measure of their punishment because that would result in eternal separation. God is gracious even in suffering. 

Finally, though Gideon is doubtful, God has come to redeem His people from the enemy and end the oppression of Midian.   They are about to see a mighty victory of God delivered by one of the weakest men in the nation. Even though we may not have wisdom, strength, or leadership skills, in the hands of God, we can be a part of the victory God provides. The question is will we trust and obey. 

This chapter is full of so much rich treasure we need to continue this until next time. 

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

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Judges 5 - Giving Recognition

Recognition is a double-edged sword. When we have done rightly and have accomplished something of significance we love to receive recognition from among our friends and colleagues. We thrive when our counterparts see the good we have done. When we have done wrongly however, we hope and pray no one notices. To notice all the wrong we have done would ruin our reputation among our peers. 

This is one of the reasons unbelievers have such a hard time coming to faith. It is when we recognize that we are thoroughly sinful and God has seen it all and has pronounced judgement on that sin that we have to abandon any hope of maintaining our own reputation. Our only hope is based on the reputation of another. There is no room for pride at the foot of the cross. 

Deborah in her song presented in Judges 5 lists the source of her help and calls out those who chose not to stand with the nation in battle. First, she acknowledges that the source of victory is God himself. Verses 1-5 are a praise to God for the way he acted to secure Israel's victory. We should always take time to praise God for his hand in our lives. Not only does He offer salvation, but He is active and at work in the believers life.  It is God who gains the victory for His people. 

Secondly, she gives credit to the tribes who came to help and to all the willing volunteers who offered themselves to stand against the enemy who had treated the people so cruelly. 

She then calls out the tribes that chose not to engage the enemy in verses 15-17, forever having their reputations tarnished among the nation.  Why did they choose to stay home when their brothers were on the battlefield standing against an enemy vastly stronger than themselves? 

The heroine is recognized. Jael was thought to be a friend of Sisera. So many things could have prevented her mission. And the task was so brutal and violent. Not what you would expect from a woman, but in the last few chapters you see the men choosing not to stand up as leaders and leaving the tasks to the women. Not God's chosen plan, but in this case the women are lauded for their bold acts. 

We see in the final section another woman highlighted. Sisera's mother, looking for his return chooses to delude herself into thinking he is only delayed because of the great victory he must have won. The world relies on it own strength and even when it is not trustworthy it looks to delusions to help reinforce its thinking. One day all the delusions will be gone and Jesus will stand before the world in judgement. Ther will be no more opportunities to repent then. Our world view should be grounded in truth and our trust should be in the strength God supplies rather than our own. 

In the end, we can choose the path of Jael, taking on what might be hard and brutal tasks in obedience to the Lord or we can be like Sisera's mother placing all her faith in a man who could not save and deluding herself to assure herself that her faith was not misplaced. You can operate in the Lord's strength and wisdom or your own. 

In the end the nation enjoyed peace for forty years because of God's mighty victory for the people. We can enjoy peace for eternity because of God's victory over death and sin. All we have to do is accept the free offer of salvation. Will we give recognition to the source of our victory?

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

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Judges 4 - Justice

At first blush, this chapter would seem to scream for a commentary on girl power as we see the story of a woman judge and a woman warrior take center stage. There is no doubt that God can do mighty things with a woman when His Spirit is allowed to have control. We should all yield to the Holy Spirit and we would see God active and almighty in the circumstances we face. But that is not the topic of this devotion. 

I was struck by how God uses evil to bring justice while at the same time, overcoming evil. In Judges 4:1 after the death of Judge Ehud, Israelites again doing evil in the eyes of the Lord.  Here are God's selected people turning against God's leadership. They go their own way and once again disregard God. They prese that because they are Hos people that God will bless and bless without holding them accountable for sin. We could discuss some parallels for today among Christians, but there is no time for that. 

Enter the Canaanites. Remember in Chapter 1 how the Israelites did not annihilate the Canaanites, but allowed th to live in the land as well?  Now they have become more bold and have captured Israel. Note however, in Judges 4:2 that it was the Lord who initiated this action. This was not just their inclination or the natural result of their prior choices, but God is actively moving nations against His own people. Sisera, the commander of the armies was merely being used by God to execute justice against His people. God cannot be treated with such casual disregard by His own. He will defend himself and humble His people to bring them back to himself. 

Sisera cruelly oppressed the Israelites for 20 long years. When the Israelites had come to the end of themselves, they cried out to the Lord for help. It makes you wonder why they would wait so long but our sin nature is stubborn and headstrong. We resist yielding to God and resist doing our battle in prayer. We prefer our own efforts and it takes a while for us to realize again our efforts are nothing against the powers of God or the peers of Satan at work. Yet they did cry to God and He answered their prayer. 

Even though Sisera had a huge army and great power to oppress, even he was no match for even the most unlikely warrior, a woman who was aligned with him. God had a plan to defeat Sisera and there was nothing he could do to resist God. The armies of Israel didn't win the victory, but Sisera was taken out without a fight. 

God brought both Justice and victory to Israel all because one person led by the Spirit of God followed His leading. God seemingly allowed the pagan nations to overcome God's people and to reign for a time, but God will not let them escape Hos wrath. For those who do evil, God will not overlook. But for those who will turn to h in prayerful dependence He will offer great power to see victory over the enemy. Will we yield to God's Spirit at work in us?

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