Scripture Reading: Judges 1 - 6 ...
The fact that there is only one true God used to be accepted as truth by the majority of those in our nation. Religious “diversity” has perhaps been commonplace in other nations of the world, and to some extent in our own, yet something "new" has occurred in the past few decades: a turning away from the one true God, our Creator, who has revealed Himself in His creation, in His Word and in His Son, Jesus Christ. More and more and more people believe that it doesn't matter what you believe ... or IF you believe. All of this points to one of two things: judgment from God ... and/or the soon return of Jesus and God’s final judgment on the world. While that doesn't sound like much of an option, it is the reality of God's dealing with those who turn away from Him.
The first few chapters of the book of Judges explain this disastrous shift in Israel, the nation that had been chosen by God to display His wisdom, holiness, power, justice, truth and faithfulness. Chapter one records that when the tribes of Israel first entered the land God had promised to them, "the LORD was with them" (1:19,22). But then the Israelites disobeyed God by failing to drive the people who lived in Canaan out of the land, as God had told them to do. God told them, "They will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you" (2:3). This may be hard for some people to accept. What right did the Israelites have to this land in the first place? That question continues to be asked today! The answer is in Genesis 12-17: God had promised the land to Abraham and his descendants. How could God do this? Questions such as these often arise because people have not read the Bible and do not know the God who is holy and just, and who carries out judgment on those who do not worship Him.
The simple reality facing our world today is that the majority of people in every nation, including our own, do not know God! It is impossible to understand God's judgment unless you believe He is worthy of worship and perfect obedience, and that those who worship other gods bring His just judgment upon them. When you understand that, you quickly realize the implications of Judges 2:10: "After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what He had done for Israel." This was a people who had received every possible blessing from the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and had then disobeyed His Word and turned and worshiped idols, the gods of the nations around them.
God brought judgment on Israel ... but He did not abandon them. Now we read, "Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the LORD was against them to defeat them" (2:15). Having the one true God fighting against you is a scary proposition. Still God showed His mercy and grace. Chapter 2 reveals a cycle that continued for some three hundred years. As the people of Israel turned away from God, He sent enemies against them. Then they were oppressed by their enemies and cried out to the LORD, and He heard them and sent "Judges" to deliver them. But as soon as God saved them from their enemies, they settled into their everyday lives again, forgot about the LORD, their God, and turned once again to idols.
The “judges” themselves were sinful people who sometimes obeyed God and sometimes went their own way. God used them to deliver His people, but when the judge died the people once again “did evil in the eyes of the LORD.” God sees the way people live. He sees your sins and He sees mine. And sin deserves God’s judgment. From time to time God would give them a period of peace, yet they would inevitably return to their evil ways. We’ll talk more about Gideon tomorrow, but the clear pattern of Israel and their leaders was one of sin, judgment, crying out to the Lord for help, God’s deliverance, peace ... and then the cycle would start all over again.
How much like them are people today? So many claim to believe in God, to know God, even to worship God, yet they live on this merry-go-round of spiritual death where God is treated like a lucky rabbit’s foot when troubles come, but otherwise ignored and put in the drawer for safe keeping until the next crisis occurs. How foolish to worship the idols of the world around us, to give in to the temptations of the flesh and the world. John writes in I John 2:15-17: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”
Since the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, God has sent the message of salvation throughout the world, beginning in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and extending throughout the nations. Is there a nation today where the Gospel has not been proclaimed? There is one true God, one Savior, and one way to come to God - through faith in Jesus Christ. Those who believe are saved, no matter what nation they live in or what language they speak, or what race they may be. But those who do not believe will face God's judgment. God could not and did not ignore the sins of Israel, and He cannot and will not ignore the sins of the people of the nations in our world today.
God's wrath and judgment are already being seen in many ways in our nation and the nations of the world. Only repentance, confessing our sin and turning from it, placing our faith in Jesus Christ, can bring God's forgiveness and even deliver a nation from His judgment. The same is true for you! God knows those who are His and calls us to come to Him, to worship Him, to serve Him, to proclaim His name and to trust Him ... as we wait and watch for His judgment to come.
Find your hope in the LORD, the God of Israel, the God of all who believe in His Son Jesus Christ, the only true God. He is worthy of your praise, your worship and your love!
"Father, help us to teach our children to know You, to love You and to serve You! Pour out Your Spirit upon those who are truly Your people today, that we may be faithful to You, our God. Forgive us our sins and renew our strength to serve You and to proclaim Your name to the nations. In Jesus' name, Amen"