Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 13 April 21:
Note: Here is a short video overview of the Book of Judges: https://youtu.be/kOYy8iCfIJ4
Judges 1:1 — “After the death of Joshua, the people of Israel inquired of the Lord, ‘Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?’”
The Israelites begin the book of Judges well by inquiring of the Lord before making important decisions. After verse 1 in Judges, the Israelites do not “inquire of the Lord” again until the end of the book while facing the catastrophic consequences of their sin as a people: “The people of Israel arose and went up to Bethel and inquired of God, ‘Who shall go up first for us to fight against the people of Benjamin (Judges 20:18)?’” At the beginning of the book, a united people inquire of God who should lead them to fight their enemies. At the end of the book, having drifted far from God, the people ask who should lead them to slaughter each other. They approached God neither in a position of obedience nor of love.
The Book of Judges reveals what happens when God’s people disobey God and compromise their holiness. It also reveals what happens when a nation rejects God’s commands. Judges is highly relevant to us today – consider carefully what you read. At the beginning of the book, God’s people, from a position of great national strength, are inquiring of the Lord as to how to have dominion for His glory. By the end of the book, “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25), though still claiming to be religious, and lawlessness tore the nation apart. Spoiler alert: The Book of Judges does not end on a high note.
Today we read how, after a long period of triumph under the leadership of Joshua (because the Lord was with them), the Israelites disobey God by allowing the Jebusites, Canaanites, and Amorites to live among them rather than driving them out completely as the Lord had commanded. They chose the easy path of compromise rather than the harder but blessed path of disciplined, wholehearted obedience to God. As soon as God’s people chose to be led by their own desires and self-proclaimed ‘wisdom’ rather than the “voice of God,” God no longer supported their efforts (Judges 2:3). At that point, all their religious activities were more than meaningless, they were deceptive and offensive to God (Judges 2:5).
After just one generation, the people “did not know the Lord.” The national decline was shockingly fast – “And the people… did what was evil in the sight of the Lord… and they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers…. And they provoked the Lord to anger…, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And He sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. Whenever they marched out, the hand of the Lord was against them for harm, as the Lord had warned, and as the Lord had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress (Judges 2:11-15).” God in His mercy and grace raised up leaders (Judges) to steer the people back on the course of obedience to God, but “they did not listen to their judges…; they did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways.” Therefore, the nation remained under God’s judgment.
When the people abided in God and obeyed Him, they were loving, unified, strong, and blessed. As the people drifted further and further away from God, their love grew colder and colder as did their trustworthiness, and all relationships depend on trust. Hence, the book of Judges culminates with the people destroying each other –
- 2 Timothy 3:1-5 — But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
- 1 John 3:6, 9, 14, 15, 24; 4:12, 16 — No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him…. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God…. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death…. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him…. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us…. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us…. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
Of the Old Testament, the New Testament says, “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did…. These things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come (1 Corinthians 10:6, 11).” What will we learn from Judges? How will we apply what we learn?
Commit yourself to the road less travelled, which makes all the difference, the way of Christ –
- John 14:6 — Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
- Matthew 7:13, 14 — “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
- John 10:9 — I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.
- John 14:27 — Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
- John 16:33 — I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 13 Apr 21: Today, consider where sin in your heart and behavior might be negatively impacting your relationships with God and with others, causing disunity and unneeded sorrow. Pray that God will help you to abide more fully in His love and more abundantly produce the fruit of His love in your relationships with others.
- John 17:11, 22, 23 — And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one…. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.