Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 18 Apr 18:
1. Judges 3:1 — “Now these are the nations that the Lord left, to test Israel by them, that is, all in Israel who had not experienced all the wars in Canaan.” God will leave you with adversaries to test you and to develop your ability to handle adversity.
2. Joshua 3:2 — “It was only in order that the generations of the people of Israel might know war, to teach war to those who had not known it before.” War is a terrible thing. It is a consequence of unchecked sin. God knew that there would be war and He ensured that His people were ready for it. Much of the Book of Numbers deals with the conscription and training of a military force for Israel. The call to arms, “whoever was able to go to war,” appears fourteen times in the first chapter. God brought the Jews of Exodus out of Egypt for a purpose – to seize the land He promised them. Chapters 1-4, 10, 13, 26, and 31 delineate their mobilization plan: an order of battle (2:1-32); an alert system (10:7-8); an order of march (10:14-28); reconnaissance, intelligence gathering (13:1-21), and debriefing (13:26-33); a roll call of eligible males (26:1-51); a deployment for battle (31:3-6); and the division of plunder (31:11-54). A military establishment and a battle plan were crucial to the survival of Israel (as they are today). A godly nation not only has an inalienable (it cannot be transferred) right to self-defense, it has an inalienable responsibility to be prepared for war. Preparing for war comes at a price, and as we will read in the Bible, there has always been an internal resistance to pay that price – “In Judah it was said, ‘The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall (Nehemiah 4:10 – complaints about military mobilization while attempting to rebuild the defensive wall).’” We will see in our readings that failure to prepare for warfare has devastating consequences. Already in Judges, we have seen that the Israelites did not drive out the Canaanites who had superior military technology (iron chariots – Judges 1:19), and in today’s readings the people of “Israel cried out to the Lord for help, for [the Canaanites] had 900 chariots of iron and… oppressed the people of Israel cruelly for twenty years (Judges 4:3).” Also, often the consequences of not going to war are far worse than the consequences of war itself. Of course, there are wrong times to go to war, further highlighting to requirement to have godly leadership — “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time for war, and a time for peace (Ecclesiastes 3:8).” In developing our national doctrine for defense, our Founding Fathers were guided by their knowledge of the Bible. From that knowledge, they understood that just as a nation has an inalienable right and responsibility to self-defense, so does a person. They understood that a person could not abrogate that right/responsibility or transfer it, especially not to the government, hence the right to bear arms. Remember when Lot was captured during a battle in Sodom, Abram rescued him with 318 men that he had personally trained (Genesis 14:14). No person can take away another person’s God-given right to self-defense; no person can abrogate their God-given responsibility to self-defense.
– Psalm 144:1 — Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.
3. Judges 3:4 — “They were for the testing of Israel, to know whether Israel would obey the commandments of the Lord,” The test is whether or not, in the face of personal adversity, you will obey God, not whether or not you can get what you want. Sometimes you will have to lose the human contest of wills in order to remain faithful to God’s commands.
4. Judges 3:6 — “And their daughters they took to themselves for wives, and their own daughters they gave to their sons, and they served their gods.” The primary purpose of marriage is for two people to learn to have unity in Christ and to raise up godly children. (Malachi 2:15) God commands His people to marry other believers who will walk with them in fellowship with Christ and who will partner in Christian parenting. Marrying an unbeliever contradicts God’s plan for marriage, hinders the Spirit’s work in the life of the believer, and sets the next generation up for failure.
5. Judges 3:7 — “And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. They forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth.” The spiritual decline of the nation started in the homes when parents turned from God and did not teach their children to obey God. As the family goes, so goes the nation.
6. Judges 3:8 — “Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia.” God will intentionally use other people, often bad people, to teach you a lesson.
7. Judges 3:10 — “The Spirit of the Lord was upon him, and he judged Israel.” Holy Spirit power is required for real leadership. If the leader isn’t following Jesus and being guided by the Spirit, the people are in trouble. A leader led by the Spirit will have to take people not led by the Spirit where they don’t really want to go because they don’t know any better. If you are going to be a leader, you will need to learn to lead difficult people. You can’t be a shepherd if you can’t stand the smell of sheep.
8. Judges 3:12 — “And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” God uses politics, economics, ecology, and circumstances to punish those who stray from Him.
9. Judges 3:14 — “And the people of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.” God’s discipline may be long-lasting. It will take as long as it takes to make the change needed in your heart.
10. Judges 4:4 — “Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time.” Women play significant roles of leadership in the Bible.
11. Proverbs 18:1 – “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” Prideful and selfish people avoid close relationships. Loving Christians put relationships first and don’t keep others at a distance.
12. Proverbs 18:22 – “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” Increasingly, popular culture has a negative view of marriage, and more and more people are giving up on marriage. However, God says marriage is good. Marriage is ordained by God as the most important institution on earth and to serve as a model of Christ’s love for His church. Marriage is the schoolhouse for Christian character development, the primary place where people learn to bear another’s burdens in love. You will have to learn to deny self, take up your cross, and follow Jesus to make a marriage thrive. When two people choose to obey Jesus’ command of love in a home, there is unity in Christ, fulfillment, and the fullness of joy.
13. Romans 6:1, 2 — “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” True Christians don’t debate about obedience to God because obedience is the natural response to salvation. The love of Christ compels them to obedience. They don’t use grace as an excuse to continued sin or to make light of sin; quite the opposite, grace empowers them to obey and makes sin much weightier — “How could I trample upon the blood of Jesus?”
14. Romans 6:2 — “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” If Christ is our Lord and savior, we absolutely cannot allow sin to reign over us, obeying ungodly passions (Romans 6:13). God has given us freedom from sin, and calls us to present ourselves to Him as “instruments for righteousness; to do anything else would be the greatest treason and an unspeakable offense before the Creator (Romans 6:14). As Jesus said, it is impossible to serve two masters. We are either slaves to Christ or slaves to sin. “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:22, 23).”
15. Romans 6:12-14 — “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” Genuine love has the restraint on us that mere laws never could. Those who proclaim that they don’t live by the law but rather by grace, as a means of justifying their sin, might question whether or not they were ever really overcome by grace and crucified with Christ. We are not saved by works, but faith without works is dead.
16. Romans 6:15 — “What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!” Paul is desperate to make the point.
17. Romans 6:19 — “Having been set free from sin, [you] have become slaves of righteousness.” Before you were a Christian you were a slave to sin. You were trapped in sin and unable to do otherwise but sin (Rom. 7:15–24). When God saved you, He freed you from sin, but you now remain a slave, bound to righteousness. With salvation through grace alone comes an obligation to do what honors God. Contrary to what some preach, grace does not mean that you are free to do whatever you want. You have become a “bondservant” of Christ, and your life is no longer your own (Rom. 1:1). When you accepted forgiveness and grace from God through Christ, you forfeited the right (you never really had) to live a self-guided life based upon your own “natural” desires and understanding. You forfeited your right to demand justice for offenses committed against you. As a slave to righteousness, you can no longer act selfishly. You are obligated to live a holy life, honoring your Master. Righteous living is not optional for a Christian.
– Sin has no control over a corpse. Temptation can present itself enticingly and persistently, yet a corpse will not succumb! Before you were a Christian you were keenly susceptible to sin. Sin held you in its grip. When you became a Christian, your old self died (Gal. 2:20). Sin now has no more control over you than temptation has over a cadaver.
– God’s grace is a further motivation for us to resist sin. It was God’s grace that enabled Jesus to endure mocking, beating, and crucifixion at the hands of those whom He had come to save. It was grace that led God to forgive our sin despite our rebellion against Him. It is this same grace that God expresses toward us each time we sin against Him. Knowing this grace, we cannot continue to practice sin (Rom. 6:1–2). We cannot presume upon God’s forgiveness by committing further offenses.
– You are no longer the helpless victim of your sin. The victory has already been won. God does not have to win a victory over your sin; He already has! You only need to apply His victory to each area of your life. If there is a sinful habit, an ungodly attitude, or an unrighteous relationship that you need to put to death, claim the victory of Christ’s resurrection today. Then you will be free to experience the abundant life that God intends for you.”
18. Romans 6:22 — “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” How should this reality impact the way you live today and every day?
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 18 April: Today, check your heart — is it hard for you to obey God in certain areas? What does that say about your heart? Do you obey because it is your passion or because you know you are supposed to? Pray for a heart the obeys out of love and not out of fear of consequences or out of a sense of duty. Love does not need rules to control behavior. Love fulfills the law of God naturally, producing the fruit of love. If you are struggling with obedience, you are struggling with your heart and your relationship with Jesus. For example, if forgiving is difficult for you, you have not fully realized the significance of the price Jesus paid for you and the significance of the grace you have received. If giving freely is a problem for you, you have not learned to fully appreciate what Christ has given to you and what He has promised for you. If anger is a problem for you, you have not learned to appreciate God’s mercy. If fear is a problem, you haven’t learned to trust God enough because you don’t know Him well enough as trustworthy. Read John 17 again. Jesus wants you to “know Him” and to be “one” with Him — this is eternal life. Check the motives behind your actions today. Are you motivated by love or by fear, pride, and duty?