The final appendices to the historical account in the book of Judges are meant to vividly portray the abhorrent practices of a people who no longer live by a moral compass. Both accounts, have one character in common. The immoral and aberrant decisions of the Israelites hinges upon the central figure—the Levite. The sons of Levi were the chosen representatives of God. Instead of representing a holy God and directing the affections of the people toward Him, they represented their own carnal lifestyles and left the people to flounder in their own imaginations. From the first story told in Judges 17-18, the downfall of the spiritual leadership was leading a man-devised worship instead of a God-desired worship.
In western culture, much clutters effective ministry. People debate worship style, ministry models, and marketing. Leaders wait for the latest poll or socio-economic study to help them pinpoint their target audience. Since when did God challenge His preachers to target an audience? These pursuits are not essential to a healthy ministry and a healthy ministry that begins to accumulate these practices will soon be effectively benign in the culture. A healthy ministry focuses all its energy on preaching God’s word and living by it.
I would challenge any church to consider shedding the gimmicks to attract a crowd of carnally-minded, pleasure-seeking, Christ-professing people. Drop the egg hunts, concerts, raffles, and blessing of the bikes which are only marketing ploys. Instead, follow Christ’s suggestion, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32). The church is sending a mixed message to the world. Because of our self-centered strategies we are saying, “Christ is not attractive alone. We will tantalize you with incentives and entertain you until your guard is down then we will spring Jesus on you.
I would challenge any church to put a stop to the worship style debate and replace the pursuit for the most awe-inspiring, emotionally-charged song service with a meaningful, heart-rending prayer service.
I would challenge any church to lay aside the marketing methods and rely on the meaningful methods of a sincerely compassionate life. Society’s broken moral compass is not their problem. Yes, they will stand accountable for their own individual actions. Yet, the way of the culture is permitted by the way of the church. It is our problem. It is the church’s problem. It is time to be the representatives we are called to be. Otherwise, stop complaining about the depravity of the culture you fail to influence.
There is a lot of tough talk in Judges 13-16. You feel the high-octane, testosterone-driven banter throughout the story of Samson. The key question revealed at the end of the account is the question Samson never seemed to answer correctly until his grand finale. Delilah asks the question, “Wherein lies your great strength?”
Samson toys with the danger of a surreptitious woman, but the saddest aspect is the realization he never really acknowledges the correct answer in his life. Before he meets Delilah, Samson has a great victory. He kills one thousand men with a donkey’s jawbone. At the end of his vigilante moment, he tosses the crude weapon aside and announces his accomplishment. “I have slain!” There is no acknowledgment to God for His intervention. No sacrifice, no praise, not even a moment of reflection. Notice what brings him to his knees. Thirst conquers the mighty hero. In the face of tremendous victory, he is reminded how fragile his life really is. Thirst chokes his self-adulation. Wherein lies your great strength, O great one, who now scratches at the dust from which you came? Wherein lies your strength, O conquering hero, as you faint lifeless?
It is good to always live in the reality of your identity. God’s strength is made perfect in your weakness. Paul said, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Neither let the mighty man glory in his might, Let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, That he understandeth and knoweth me, That I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: For in these things I delight, saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:23-24).
Samson was used in spite of his character, but in his final moment, his faith directed his life. He turned to God, his helper. This may very well be the sole reason his name appears in the Hall of Faith. Will you waste your life until your final act all because you fail to glory in God? Will you continue under the false premise of your own abilities? Will you rob God of the glory due to His name?
Glory in your weakness, that the power of God may rest upon you.
Did you read the news this morning? Not in your newspaper or on your mobile device, but rather did you read the current events in Judges 1-3?
Judges is a despondent chronicle of Israel’s atrocious failure. The people who were called out of the world when God called Abraham, revert to the characteristics and practices of that very world. In the book of Judges, you will read of the cyclical pattern through which Israel stumbles—Sin, Slavery, Supplication, Salvation. What was the culprit for this savage repetition?
“And…there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10).
A brief survey through Scripture reveals man’s nature is to forget God. In Exodus 5:2, Pharaoh brashly declared his agnosticism. Psalm 92:5-6 gets into the psychology of this condition and describes the God-ignorant individual is brutish. The word brutish indicates someone who thinks and acts more like a beast of the field than the crown of God’s creation. Turn to the New Testament and Paul informs his young preacher boy, Titus, there are many who claim to know God, but their works are not consistent with such a claim. They are disobedient to the Lord they claim they know (Titus 1:16). Paul prophecies of the terrible end for those who know not God in 2 Thessalonians 1:8 where he says, “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God.” The path of agnosticism, intentional or ignorantly, leads to a tragic end.
If you remember throughout Deuteronomy and Joshua, there were multiple times where Moses and Joshua instructed the people to raise a memorial or write the law so the next generation could learn of the wonders of God’s work on Israel’s behalf. “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). Obviously, the teaching did not occur and diligence was out of the question.
Judges cycles through this experience and the headlines resemble today’s current events. Society at large devolves into animalistic behaviors. There are those who claim to be a Christian, yet their own works defy any such claim. Christian’s immorality, infidelity, and insincerity give the world a run for its money. There was a time where followers of Christ lived in such purity, they were duly named, Puritans. They had their own inconsistencies, but they did not resemble the world in any way. Parents, take heed. The world is a great educator. The world is very interactive, and the reward system is pleasant for a season. If you are not teaching your children or grandchildren diligently, then you are flirting with the agnosticism of the world. If you are not living a life of distinction. If you do not call sin what it is, if you are not worshiping God on Sunday with all your heart, if you are not living for God the rest of the week, then you will read the headlines of the future, “There arose another generation which knew not the Lord.”
You can make the difference.
What a melodramatic ending to a victorious conquest? Joshua 21:43-44 records the conclusion of all the nation’s struggle to possess the Promised Land.
And the Lord gave unto Israel all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein. And the Lord gave them rest round about, according to all that he sware unto their fathers: and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand. There failed not ought of any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.
It is vital for Christians to realize the nature of rest. Israel had rest after faithful obedience to God’s detailed instructions. In order to follow those instructions, they meditated day and night upon the Word. They had rest after a fierce struggle. They were not handed the land and all its bounty simply by crossing the Jordan River. The victorious path must be lined with…victory! A victory means you have faced the enemy. Too many Christians are soft. Like C. T. Studd described in his booklet entitled The Chocolate Soldier:
Every true Christian is a soldier—of Christ—a hero “par excellence!” Braver than the bravest—scorning the soft seductions of peace and her oft-repeated warnings against hardship, disease, danger, and death, whom he counts among his bosom friends. The otherwise Christian is a chocolate Christian! Dissolving in water and melting at the smell of fire. “Sweeties” they are! Bonbons, lollipops! Living their lives on a glass dish or in a cardboard box, each clad in his soft clothing, a little frilled white paper to preserve his dear little delicate constitution.
“Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).
The most haunting verse in Joshua 9 is verse fourteen. It is easy for us to expect more from Joshua, Eleazer, and the elders of Israel than we expect from ourselves. Only a few days earlier, they demolished Jericho according to the word of the Captain of the Lord’s Host. They were successful when they followed the word of the Lord.
Then Ai was a startling upset. Thirty-six men were killed! Joshua had seen these people face disappointment before and it was not a pretty thing. Their parents wanted to stone Moses and return to Egypt. Would they repeat the bad behavior? Joshua turns to God and learns of sin in the camp. After Achan’s treachery was punished, God gave Joshua instructions to defeat Ai. Would you be surprised to know they won the victory? They were successful when they followed the word of the Lord.
As a caravan rides into the camp feigning to be distant travelers, you would think Joshua would take a trip to the Tabernacle to seek God’s counsel. However, he does not and instead presumptuously makes peace with them! “And the men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord” (Joshua 9:14). They were duped when they refused to follow the word of the Lord.
Several years later, the time of the judges was characterized by a lack of seeking God’s will. “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). It appears to be their nature to lean more upon their own ideas than search God’s infinite wisdom. Hundreds of years later, not much has changed when Isaiah writes:
“Woe to the rebellious children, saith the Lord, That take counsel, but not of me; And that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, That they may add sin to sin: That walk to go down into Egypt, And have not asked at my mouth; To strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, And to trust in the shadow of Egypt” (Isaiah 30:1-2)!
Apparently, human nature chooses to ignore God’s counsel, and over time the children and grandchildren become less interested in seeking His will in their lives. God’s wisdom is not elusive. It is easy to be intreated. “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17). God is not at fault for man’s tendency to ignore his wisdom. If you ignore wisdom, then, in contrast, you choose foolishness. Choose today to follow the instruction of the wisest counsel given to us on earth.
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; And lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, And he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).