Saturday, February 27, 2016

"Don't do that!"

Day #59

Scripture Reading:  Judges 7 - 11 ...

Gideon’s “fleece” became known throughout the world for centuries as a method for determining God’s will in your life.  You “put out a fleece,” you take a step in a certain direction to see whether or not that’s the way God wants you to go.  In other words, you put God to the test to see if what He has already said in His Word applies to your current situation!  Many think this is a good thing, but in the case of Gideon, and some of the other “judges” of Israel, the result was often a hesitant obedience that brought negative consequences in one form or another.  Delayed obedience reveals a lack of faith in God’s Word and often leaves room for people to manipulate God’s direction.  It’s like saying, “I’ll pray about it,” when you already know what God wants you to do.

Those who know the book of Judges know that the cycle during this period of Israel's history repeated itself often:  Israel sinned against God by worshiping other gods, God sent their enemies to oppress them, they eventually cried out to the LORD for deliverance, God sent them a "Judge" to lead them into battle and delivered them from their enemies.  Israel worshiped the LORD ... for a time ... then the cycle repeated itself again.  For many people today who claim to believe in God it seems that not much has changed.  Some try to make deals with God during times of crisis and then return to their former way of living.  Consistent obedience is the result of the new birth, of the work of the Holy Spirit within those who are truly God’s people.  Examine your life to make sure you are not caught in this cycle of disobedience and discipline because in truth it is a cycle that results from unbelief!

When reading the book of Judges you should not expect to see devotion to the LORD rising from the masses.  You may remember 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."  Even the Judges that God used to deliver His people were very flawed people and did some horrible things in the name of God.  Their way of life was certainly not pleasing to God and it was a dark time, not only in the history of the world, but in the history of Israel.  The fact that God used such people to bring deliverance to Israel should not lead us to think that God somehow approves of such actions.

All of this was still preparation for the time of the kings of Israel, which would point to the coming King, the Messiah, Jesus.  Human nature, left to itself, reveals exactly what we read about in Judges.  People refuse to worship the one, true God, their Creator.  The vast majority of people in the world remained in utter spiritual darkness, even up to the birth of Jesus some 1300 years later.  God explains this time in the New Testament, in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 10:

"I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea.  They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.  They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ!   Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert" (I Corinthians 10:1-5).

Then Paul goes on to say, "Now these things occurred as examples to keep US from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.  Do not be idolaters, as some of them were ...  We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did ... We should not test the Lord, as some of them did ... And do not grumble, as some of them did" (I Corinthians 10:6-10).

"These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.  So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!!" (I Corinthians 10:11-12).  This is the context for a very familiar verse, I Corinthians 10:13 ... a verse that talks about temptation.  When you read the book of Judges you see human nature giving in to every temptation imaginable (and some unimaginable!).  And things have not changed with regard to human nature on this side of the cross.  What HAS changed is the pouring out of the Spirit that produces a heart change in the lives of believers.

Satan, the world and our own flesh tempt us continually to turn away from God, to go our own way and do our own thing.  It is THIS temptation that is spoken of in verse 13:  "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."  The judges of Israel were able to deliver them from their visible, outward, worldly enemies, but they could not deliver the people from their inward enemy, their own sinful nature.  Only Jesus Christ, the promised Savior, could do that through His death and resurrection.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, God gives to believers today the power to overcome such foolish and obvious temptations ... idolatry, sexual immorality, testing the Lord, grumbling and complaining against God.  Yet, still today there are those who turn to other gods, who seek pleasure in the things of the world and who question God when things do not go their way.  As difficult as it is to read the book of Judges and to witness the depravity of those who were called to be the people of God, except for the grace of God through our risen and exalted Lord Jesus Christ and the work of His Spirit within us, our lives would not look any different!

God's judgment would fall on them, in this world and at death.  How much more will God's righteous judgment fall on those who worship other gods and who turn away from Him today.  HE alone is God; there is no other, and He alone is worthy of our worship, praise and service.

"Heavenly Father, we acknowledge that sin lies within us and it is only by Your grace through faith in Your Son, Jesus Christ, that we can draw near to You for forgiveness and life.  Father, begin with me ... fill me with Your Spirit and empower me to overcome the sin that remains in me, so that I may love You, worship You and serve You with joy, rejoicing in Your goodness and love and living to make You known in the world, for Your glory.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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