How many of us here read through Judges this past week?
I wonder what you learned about God’s SAVING MISSION from reading this book of the Bible?
The book of Judges covers a history of about 400 years. Israel has entered the promised land through the leadership of Joshua and conquered vast portions of the land. After Joshua died Israel continued the conquest of Canaan. But Judges chapter one makes it clear that they didn’t complete the job. Their job was to cleanse this entire land of all the Canaanites living there. God didn’t just send Israel into Canaan to give them an inheritance, He was also punishing the sin of the Canaanites. Did Israel do it? No! Instead, we find in chapter one of Judges that as each tribe took possession of their inheritance in the land, they either did not or could not drive out all the Canaanite people living there. But they did occupy and rule territory there and grow stronger. Well then, after they took possession of the land and when they grew stronger, did they then obey God’s instructions? No! Instead, the Israelites subjected the Canaanites to forced labor and lived with them in the land. Did they convert these enslaved Canaanites to worshipping the Lord? No! Instead, believe it or not, Israel themselves became entangled in the worship of the Canaanite gods! Israel became like them! The Israelites intermarried with these idol worshipping Canaanites and began to worship their gods with them.
Can you believe that? Instead of these conquering Israelites converting the Canaanites to the Lord, those Canaanite slaves brought the Israelites into their wicked idolatry! What an ironic twist! We are all just a generation away from apostasy from the faith. We are either sharing our faith in Christ and trying to save others or we are becoming like those around us, losing our relationship with God in the process! It has never been possible to be neutral in relationships with others and also follow God’s will and plan for your life. That’s still true for Christians. We are either fighting the good fight of faith by sharing God’s word to offer salvation, or we are becoming like the lost around us. If so, we will see our future generations joining with the unbelieving lost. My mom and dad were not scholars. They never finished college. But growing up, I witnessed my parent’s faith at home and they often invited others into our home to do Bible studies on how to become a Christian. My dad would show Jule Miller’s Visualize Bible Study film strips, and I got to turn the knob when the record player dinged indicating it was time to go to the next slide. My mom did online Bible studies with foreign students for years. She and Dad went to Albania on mission trips and even took in a young Albanian girl whom they had taught and baptized and sent her to Mars Hill Bible School to finish high school. I am a product of my parent’s example and faith. I know that if my children and grandchildren see me sharing my faith with them and others, it will help them keep their own faith. 2 Timothy 2:2 gives us a spiritual principle. Jesus’ example to us was of someone who shared the good news of the kingdom of God with others. When we follow Him we do that too. When we don’t do that, we are not following His example or His commission, and therefore are actually not following Him. All the apostles shared the gospel with others and taught us to follow their examples. When did this become an optional part of the Christian life reserved only for a few?
What we read about in the early chapters of Judges is repeating history based on spiritual principles of faith. These principles still work today. Our walk with God requires us to love Him first, and love others as we love ourselves. If we honestly believe God will punish the unbelieving lost and give eternal life to the saved how can we live among those who are lost without at least trying to save them? Where’s the love in that? Hiding our faith from others is a symptom of the lack of faith in us.
Judges tells the story of 400 years of Israel’s fall away from God into idolatry, God sends oppression by enemies, Israelites cry for deliverance, God sends a rescuing Judge to save them and deliver them from their enemies, and then, when the Judge dies, the cycle begins again. Only, with each cycle, Israel falls farther away from God and becomes more wicked. They begin looking more and more like the very Canaanites God sent them to conquer and destroy! The final stories of Judges reveal this clearly.
Chapters 1:1 through 3:6 give us a summation of the entire book’s contents. The rest of the book gives us brief sketches of each of the 15 Judges until chapter 17. From chapter 17-21 we get a look at how idolatry has become mingled with and embedded in even the worship of the Lord, God. The final event told in Judges gives us a degrading flash back to Sodom and Gomorrah, only these are God’s chosen people, the Israelites. A civil war breaks out over it and the tribe of Benjamin is decimated, leaving only 600 survivors.
Four times we read in these final chapters:” In those days Israel had no king” and the first and last time, this phrase is added, “everyone did as he saw fit.”
When we become Christians, we are called out of this world’s darkness into God’s light. Just as Israel was called out of Egyptian slavery into God’s presence in the wilderness. There is a need for us to have times of isolation from the lost and equipping time with God’s word and true fellowship and life sharing with God’s people. God didn’t just take Israel out of Egypt to Mount Sinai, give them the law, and then send them back to Egypt or even into Canaan. He took the time to shape them and humble them and teach them to fear, trust and obey Him. God loved them and taught them to love Him. We can’t learn that very well when we spend our time engaged with and being entertained by the world’s music and movies and idolatrous influences. Our homes are THE places God expects us to train up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Our church services and Bible classes are not designed nor intended to replace the work of parents in the home. As followers of Christ, we are no longer to live like those who are lost in sin and darkness. We are to walk in the light, as Jesus, the light of the world, walked. We are called to hold out the word of life and light to one another and to those lost in sin and darkness. When we do engage the world, it is not for fellowship, but for spiritual battle. This is a war. We battle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and rulers of darkness and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. We must be armed and ready to face the enemies we encounter. We must be. Our job is not to make peace with the devil, but to rescue those the devil has taken captive to do his will. To think we can befriend this world is to disobey God. God’s word clearly states, “Do you not know? Friendship with the world is to be an enemy with God.” James 4:4.
One lesson we learn from Judges is how easy it is to fall away from God into idolatry. It takes almost no effort on our part. We simply follow the crowd through the wide gate and walk the broad path that leads to destruction. Nothing to it. But the price is very high. It will cost us our souls and most likely the souls of our children. God’s way is LIFE, not just here and now, but eternal life.