Sunday, February 28, 2016

"'Vengeance is Mine!' says the Lord"

Day #60

Scripture Reading:  Judges 12 - 15 ...

PEOPLE!!  How does God put up with us?!  The consequences of mankind’s rebellion against God have plagued the world since Adam and Eve first sinned against God in the Garden of Eden.  Being blind to the truth about God and focusing on the physical world rather than the spiritual world, people throughout the centuries have continued to look for strength and power in all the wrong places.  Instead of seeking God, living by faith, trusting God’s wisdom and truth, obeying God’s commands, people go their own way and think that somehow they will be the first to avoid the consequences of God’s judgment that we all deserve.  Such foolishness abounds as much today as it did in the days of the Judges.

The Judges, Israel, the Philistines and Samson ... they were all characters in a real-life drama in which the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was at the center.  We have seen that this roughly 300-year period in the history of Israel revealed both the depth of mankind's depravity and the wisdom, power, mercy and grace of God as He brought judgment on Israel's enemies and, at times, upon Israel, yet continued to save a remnant who believed and trusted in Him.  Unless God determines to show His favor upon individuals or nations, we remain in a spiritual darkness that overwhelms the soul and leads to despair.  This explains the state of many people you know, who are living around you, perhaps even in your own home.  This explains the actions of people at work or school or in positions of authority.  As you read the book of Judges you see not only what life in Israel was like, but what life in the nations around Israel was like!  PEOPLE!!

It would have been easy for Israel to be overcome by their enemies at any time during this period.  They had no central leadership among the twelve tribes, they had no unified commitment to worship the one true God, who had brought them into the land in fulfillment of His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and they had no unified army to fight against their enemies.  They were utterly and totally helpless ... EXCEPT for the God who had chosen them out of all the nations of the world to be His own possession.  God had promised to bring the Savior from these people, from the tribe of Judah, so He now preserved them, saved them, even from themselves! 

The Judges whom God raised up and empowered were extremely flawed people for the most part who, like Samson, made serious errors in judgment. Yet, a clue to God's work during this period is found in Chapter 14, verse 4, as God chose Samson to lead Israel:  "His parents did not know that this was from the LORD, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; for at that time they were ruling over Israel."  When you and I do not understand why certain things happen among the nations of the world, it is good to keep in mind that God sees a much bigger picture than we do.  He is at work in a thousand ways “behind the scenes” to accomplish His purposes.  And He uses even the evil of leaders and armies to bring to pass all that He has promised to do.

The Philistines (who lived in the land presently occupied by the Palestinians - the Gaza Strip), were a thorn in the flesh for Israel.  We will hear more about them in the future (Hint:  Goliath was a Philistine!).  Having occupied the land before God brought Israel out of Egypt and into the promised land, the Philistines were continually opposed to Israel and were at this time exercising authority over them, making life miserable for the tribes of Israel.  Not much seems to have changed in our day!!  Isn’t it amazing that this battle continues after more than 3,000 years?!!!

It was God's intention and desire to deal with the Philistines and to point those in Israel back to Him.  "Judgment" and "vengeance" are not words used today when referring to the God who reveals Himself in His Word, in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the world around us.  But God has not changed.  The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 12:19, quoting Deuteronomy 32:35:  “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written:  ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”  God is storing up His wrath, but judgment WILL come!

So why all of the bloodshed?  Why did God use people like Samson to bring judgment on peoples and nations?  All of this points to God's plan to bring HOPE, to bring salvation - deliverance from His wrath ... through the death of His own Son on the cross.  It is the cross of Jesus Christ that stands as the centerpiece of God's plan to gather a people for Himself from every people, tribe, nation and tongue.  No other religion - NONE - either understands God's holiness and His just wrath and judgment, or understands God's mercy and grace in providing a Savior to take the place of those who are chosen by God to be His special people.  What is sad today is that many in the church who claim to believe in this one true God do not truly know Him or honor Him as God.  Instead, they question the justice of God and refuse to believe that God will ultimately bring His vengeance upon anyone!

John's Revelation, the conclusion to God's prophecies about the future, displays clearly what God is about to do ... much as He did to the Philistines ... but we are told by many today that the book of Revelation is symbolic and is not to be taken literally.  Here is truth:  There is one God.  He is God in the Old Testament, during the time of the Judges; and He is God in the Gospels, as He sends His Son to take upon Himself a human nature to seek and to save the lost.  He is God in the New Testament, as the Gospel of grace is spread throughout the world, He is God today, as He withholds the final judgment until the last of His sheep is found ... and He is the God who will release His wrath in full measure on all those who have rejected Him and His offer of salvation in His Son, the only HOPE ... Jesus Christ!

Learn from these pages of history from the past.  Receive God's offer of forgiveness today as you come to Him through faith in Jesus, and find peace, hope and joy ... for a lifetime ... and MORE!!

"Heavenly Father, YOU alone are God!  I praise You because You are worthy of praise.  You are perfect in all Your ways and You rule over all You have made.  Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever!  Thank You, Father, for the gift of Your Son and for Your amazing, amazing grace.  In Jesus' name, Amen" 

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