Friday, May 20, 2011

The Book of Judes - Prolonged Chastisement

It is Friday and so that means we are continuing in our study on the book of Judges.  Today we are not going to study a judge at all as God is being a little tougher on Israel this time.  God will raise up a judge, but this time He is going to allow them to ponder their sin and its consequences for some time first.
And Jair died and was buried in Camon. Then the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served the Baals and the Ashtoreths, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the people of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines; and they forsook the LORD and did not serve Him.  Judges 10:5-6 NKJV
After a few weeks off, we are back to a familiar refraim. Israel, despite all He has done, has forgetten God.  Actually, they did not foget Him, they rejected Him.  I wonder what will happen.
So the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel; and He sold them into the hands of the Philistines and into the hands of the people of Ammon. From that year they harassed and oppressed the children of Israel for eighteen years--all the children of Israel who [were] on the other side of the Jordan in the land of the Amorites, in Gilead. Moreover the people of Ammon crossed over the Jordan to fight against Judah also, against Benjamin, and against the house of Ephraim, so that Israel was severely distressed.  Judges 10:7-9 NKJV
God once again allows Israel's enemies to overtake her.  For eighteen years the people of Israel were oppressed.  They had Ammon crossing the Jordan and attacking on one side and the Philistines attacking from the other.  They were overrun and oppressed and life was miserable.  
And the children of Israel cried out to the LORD, saying, "We have sinned against You, because we have both forsaken our God and served the Baals!" Judges 10:10 NKJV
And like before, Israel turns again to God.  This is where God usually raises up a deliverer.  This time things are different.
So the LORD said to the children of Israel, "[Did I] not [deliver you] from the Egyptians and from the Amorites and from the people of Ammon and from the Philistines? Also the Sidonians and Amalekites and Maonites oppressed you; and you cried out to Me, and I delivered you from their hand.  Judges 10:11-12 NKJV
God reminds the people of Israel of all the times in the past that He has delivered them from.  God brings up all the nations that He has defeated before Israel, which was also a reminder that each time they eventually forsook Him all over again.  God is now going to say some very tough words.
Yet you have forsaken Me and served other gods. Therefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in your time of distress."  Judges 10:13-14 NKJV
In other words, sleep in the bed you made for yourself.  Thank God He will never say that to us.  Thank God that He will never leave us or forsake us.  God is telling Israel that perhaps this time those other gods they seem to love so much can save them. 
And the children of Israel said to the LORD, "We have sinned! Do to us whatever seems best to You; only deliver us this day, we pray." So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the LORD. And His soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel.  Judges 10:15-16 NKJV
A few things we can get from these verses.  First, Israel repents when they realize that God is serious this time.  Secondly, they used the "please save us this one time" ploy in trying to garner favor with God.  And finally, we see the heart of God taking no pleasure in chastising His people. 

I think there is an amazing parallel between Israel and those of us in Christ.  We all tend to get ourselves into trouble from time to time and each time we get ourselves into trouble it is because we have forsaken the Lord.  Anytime we choose our way over God's way, we are choosing our own wisdom and desires over His.  That is, we usurp His authority over our lives and place ourselves on His throne.  Each time we do, when we get in trouble, we cry out to God for help.  Sometimes it takes us time to get to that point, and sometimes God will let us lie in the bed we made for some time, but God will always work it out for us in the end.  He may not always eliminate earthly consquences for our mistakes and rebellions, but He will give us the grace to get through them.  

Also, just like the people of Israel, we never really learn our lesson.  Once God has gotten us through one crisis, we often create another.  We forget the perils of following our own way and again suffer the consquences for our actions.  I find it amazing how hard headed we all can be, including myself.  We seem to have some kind of spiritual amnesia of what it is like to be under the chastisement of God and the consquences of our own actions.  At least in Israel's case, it was a whole new generation that tended for fall away.  For is, it can be barely a new day in our own lives before we are crying out to the Lord again.  But God, whose mercy is renewed every day, answers our prayer for deliverance time and again.  I will never understand why God picks me up out of my own mire, but I love that He does.  

We also see that God will allow us to live under the consequences of our actions for a time at times, even after we have confessed.  Sometimes He wants us to take the first step in repenting of our actions.  That is not to earn His favor, as some would teach.  We already have the favor of God.   In fact, it is that favor that allows us to call out to Him and it is the Holy Spirit that gives us the strength to step out in repentance.  Some teachers teach that we do not need to repent or even confess because we already have God's favor and forgiveness.  Truth, however, teachers that it is by God's grace and forgiveness that we can even repent and confess our sins.  So why would God allow us to wallow in our mire for a time?  Simply, to teach us a lesson.  If God removes the consquences or chastisements too soon, we will not completely learn the lesson God wants us to learn.  No matter how hard things may seem, we must always remember that God allows us to go through things for our own good. 

And that brings me to my final point.  God takes no pleasure in seeing us suffer.  Even when it is suffering because of our own actions, God takes no pleasure.  When God chastises us, it grieves Him to have to do so.  It literally breaks His heart to have to teach us lessons we should already know.  It pains God to chastise us.  I am sure we all know the cliche of a parent saying to a child he is about to discipline "This will hurt me more than it hurts you."  I believe that for God, it is true.  I believe that God not only suffers in our rebellion, but suffers all the more when He has to watch us suffer in the consquences or when He has to make consquences to show us the error of our ways.  God  takes no pleasure in our pain, but endures it because He knows that through that pain we will grow. 

God would so much rather we live in the knowledge that He knows what is best and He only wants what is best for us. God wants so much for us to just trust Him and not get caught up in our own sinful desires.  Some think that God is a tyrant, but that is just as immature as a young child who thinks their parents unreasonable for not letting him do something wrong or dangerous.  God does not want to run our lives, He wants to give us life and life more abundantly.  Sadly, we miss that point.  We go off on our own.  We get ourselves into trouble.  And we cry out to God for deliverance.  Just like the people of Isael, we plead, bargain, and promise that this will never happen again if only God helps us out this one time.  I love something that Jesus said when talking about Jerusalem and all the pain it went through by its repeated rebellions against God.  We often ask why God has forsaken us, but it is always that we have forsaken Him.  We often ask why God allows us to suffer, but for the most part that suffering is because we have left our Comforter.  We often cry out to God asking why He did not save us or protect us from something that has befallen us, but usually it is because we have strayed from our Protector.  Cling to God always and even if you do go through hard times, the grace of God will always see you through. 
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen [gathers] her brood under [her] wings, but you were not willing!  Luke 13:34 NKJV

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