Friday, February 18, 2011

Book of Judges Series - Intro and Overview


As promised, this week we begin a new Friday series as we have completed the Hall of Faith.  We are beginning our tour through Judges where I hope to highlight the lives of the judges featured in this book.  This week will be sort of an introduction to set up the environment in which the judges ruled.  I hope that we can see many parallels to America and many other nations today.  I hope to dispel the erroneous belief that the problems facing our nations can be solved merely by electing Republicans or even Constitutionalists to our government.  We should not be looking to man to take God's thumb off of America, but we should be looking to God.  We should also be examining ourselves as a people and not our elected officials who are merely a reflection of who this nation has become.  We will see in this book how God deals with a sinful nation when He wants to get their attention.  We will begin in Judges chapter 2.
So the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LORD which He had done for Israel. Now Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died when he was one hundred and ten years old. And they buried him within the border of his inheritance at Timnath Heres, in the mountains of Ephraim, on the north side of Mount Gaash. Judges 2:7-9 NKJV
This foreshadows the fall that was to come.  When Joshua and those who were part of his generation were alive, the people followed the Lord.  Joshua was a firsthand witness to the power of God as were those who were his contemporaries.  When the people had that witness, they followed the Lord.  The implication made by telling us that the people followed the Lord all the days of their lives, is that once their lives ended things were going to change.  In this case, they took a terrible turn for the worse.
When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel.  Judges 2:10 NKJV
This is a troubling statement.  Apparently, the parents who followed the Lord took it for granted that their children knew the same.  I can not emphasize the importance of bringing children up in the ways of the Lord.  God warned the Israelites in Deuteronomy among other places the importance of bringing their children up in the knowledge of all that the Lord has done.  We are told in the New Testament to bring our children up in the knowledge of the Lord.  There is nothing more important for a parent to do then to make sure their children know about Jesus.  It is not enough to just teach them, but we must live as examples to them.  "Do as I say and not as I do" only results in children who strive to do the very things you told them not to do because in the end they will follow your example, not your dictates.  It is by example that we raise our children.  If you tell them to read their Bibles but never let them see you reading or even reading with them, it is empty.  If you tell them not to use the bad language they learn from you, your instruction is empty.  If you tell them to live in the example of Jesus while you live in the example of the world, your words will, again, be empty.   We see here that the generation that rose up after the previous one died away did not know the Lord nor what He had done for Israel.  And now we will see the tragic results.
Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served the Baals; and they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; and they followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them, and they bowed down to them; and they provoked the LORD to anger. They forsook the LORD and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.  Judges 2:11-13 NKJV
The people of Israel fell into sin.  They turned away from the Lord and turned to the false gods of the sinful nations surrounding them.  The wanted to be just like the rest of the world and so gave up their identity of a nation holy unto the Lord for the identity of those around them.  They did not remember how they even got where they were that day nor did they remember the misery of slavery their forefathers were delivered from.  God was not pleased.  God was angry.  His own people turned against Him for idols and false gods. 
And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel. So He delivered them into the hands of plunderers who despoiled them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies. Wherever they went out, the hand of the LORD was against them for calamity, as the LORD had said, and as the LORD had sworn to them. And they were greatly distressed.  Judges 14-15 NKJV
Wait a minute.  God allowed the people He loved, His special chosen people, the ones set apart unto Him, to suffer calamity at the hands of their enemies?  Yes, He did.  He chastised them, and rather harshly as well.  He allowed them those nations who followed the false gods the Israelites seemed to love so much to show them just what it meant to fall under their authority.  They were defeated in battle.  They were taken into slavery.  They lived under oppression.  Life was not good in the land that rejected the Lord.  They did not want God and so God showed them what life would be like in a world where He was not their Protector.  I remember after Katrina and 9/11 that some preachers came out publicly and proclaimed that what had happened was God's judgment upon America.  They were generally met with a chorus of hatred for even suggesting such an outlandish thing.  But are their ideas really that far-fetched?  When God has time and time again judged nations, many of whom were wiped from the face of the earth, should we doubt that God had a hand in the several great calamities that affected our nation?  Should we be defiant in events that God at the very least allowed to happen or should be get on our knees and thank Him that we are still even around to have the chance to repent.  If we are still around to repent, it means God has chastened us not judged us and we should be thankful and use the opportunity to repent.  Once judgment comes, there is no turning back.  If God would do so to the land of His chosen people, how much more would God do to a nation that is under no such promise as Israel.  We need to heed these warning in the Bible as examples to us that there are consequences for turning against the true and living God. 
Nevertheless, the LORD raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand of those who plundered them. Yet they would not listen to their judges, but they played the harlot with other gods, and bowed down to them. They turned quickly from the way in which their fathers walked, in obeying the commandments of the LORD; they did not do so. And when the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed them and harassed them.  Judges 2:16-18 NKJV
And here we see the heart behind God when He allowed Israel to fall to her enemies.  God raised judges to deliver the Israel from her enemies.  The fetes accomplished by these judges were unmistakeably the work of God so God can once again show His people His power in delivering them from their enemies.  God loves His people so much that He basically auditioned for them, to show them that He was the only God.  He chastened them out of love to draw them back into that relationship with Him and to live once again under His protection.  He showed them the dangers of the world and how He can protect them from those dangers.  He loved His people so much that He could not sit back and hear their cries for mercy. 
And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they reverted and behaved more corruptly than their fathers, by following other gods, to serve them and bow down to them. They did not cease from their own doings nor from their stubborn way. Then the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel; and He said, "Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers, and has not heeded My voice, "I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died, so that through them I may test Israel, whether they will keep the ways of the LORD, to walk in them as their fathers kept them, or not." Therefore the LORD left those nations, without driving them out immediately; nor did He deliver them into the hand of Joshua.  Judges 2:19-23 NKJV
Unfortunately, the people were stubborn and rebellious and while there may have been some brief revival, they inevitably reverted to their wicked ways.  They were quick to forget the God who delivered them from their enemies and when that happened, God allowed those enemies to oppress them once again.  This pattern repeated itself too many times with the people never learning.  God finally came to the end of His patience and stopped removing the enemies of Israel from the land.  Sadly, Israel even to this day, even after miraculously bringing them back to their land, they still live in rebellion to Him and so those enemies still remain in their midst.  Instead of the Ammonites and Philistines we have the Palestinians, Hamas, Hezbollah, and just about all of the Arab nations.  But even still, to this day, God delivers Israel from the hands of her enemies, allowing them to harass Israel but to never overtake her. 

Starting next week we will go through the judges, studying them one by one through Israel's repeating pattern of rebellion then revival then rebellion once again.  May we learn from Israel's rebellion, may we learn as individuals and as Americans.  If you are not from America, this applies just as much to your nation as it does ours.  We will see that it is not a politician or a political party that will save us.  We will see that it is not a change of laws that will take God's hand of oppression off of America or any other nation.  We like to fight the legal battles for things such as prostitution, drugs, abortion, etc, but without a change of heart, a change of law is meaningless.  Abortion is a wicked miserable thing, but whether or not it is legal is largely meaningless when it comes to the moral state of our nation.  The real problem is that so many people desire to have abortions.  Changing the law will not change that desire.  We just need to look at prostitution for an example of making something illegal and not ending the desire for it.  Prostitution is illegal just about everywhere, yet flourishes nonetheless.  We need to reach the hearts of the people, not of the politicians and we need to reach them for Christ not for Republicanism or even Constitutionalism.  In Judges, we will learn that it is not the people who elected the judges to "retake their nation for God".  No, God raised up the judges to reach the people to draw them back to Him.  Let us pray that it will be the same for America. 
Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, "The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play." Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.  1 Corinthians 10:1-11 NKJV

2 comments:

  1. LOL...you said, "a SHORT introduction" :)
    I'm excited about this series. There are so many awesome stories in this book, I'm looking forward to your insight!

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  2. Also looking forward to it. We did Judges in our family devotions last month. Many parallels to today and lessons to be learned.

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