Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 3 August 2022:
Judges 2:1-3 — “Now the angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, ‘I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done? So now I say, I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.’”
Though the Jews were in a covenant relationship with God with the promise of His protection and blessings, there remained a terrible and permanent consequence for their disobedience. Rather than remaining obedient, holy, and pure, the Jews chose the easy, and likely profitable (temporarily), path of compromise with the sinful culture around them. They thought erroneously that they could control and contain the sin that they permitted in their land — “Manasseh did not drive out the inhabitants…. When Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not drive them out completely…. the Canaanites lived among them, but became subject to forced labor.” (Judges 1:27, 28, 30) However, as is always the case, when God’s people attempt to compromise with sin, they are ultimately destroyed by it. As Proverbs says, “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned?” (Proverbs 6:27) “The little foxes spoil the vineyards.” (Song of Solomon 2:15) “Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.” (Proverbs 25:26) When we compromise with sin, our light is dimmed, and our salt loses its saltiness. We become unusable in some ways and deny ourselves the blessings of God. We all have allowed wickedness into our homes. Have we torn down the alters in our lives, or have we found convenient ways to keep them there. We must repent and remove the wickedness from our tents.
- Job 22:21-30 — Agree with God, and be at peace; thereby good will come to you. Receive instruction from His mouth, and lay up his words in your heart. If you return to the Almighty you will be built up; if you remove injustice far from your tents, if you lay gold in the dust, and gold of Ophir among the stones of the torrent-bed, then the Almighty will be your gold and your precious silver. For then you will delight yourself in the Almighty and lift up your face to God. You will make your prayer to him, and he will hear you, and you will pay your vows. You will decide on a matter, and it will be established for you, and light will shine on your ways. For when they are humbled you say, ‘It is because of pride’; but he saves the lowly. He delivers even the one who is not innocent, who will be delivered through the cleanness of your hands
Joshua 2:2, 3 — “But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done? So now I say, I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.”
Disobedience has consequences that might be permanent. We are warned over and over in the Bible to not take sin lightly but to respect the holiness of God and to obey wholeheartedly. We must not presume upon God’s mercy and grace.
“God gave the Israelites specific instructions: Drive the Canaanites out of every corner of the land, and obliterate any vestige of their abominable idol worship. This assignment was challenging! Their enemies had formidable chariots. The Canaanites had seemingly impregnable fortresses that were dangerous and difficult to overcome. The Israelites failed to drive all the Canaanites from the land. Much about the Canaanite lifestyle and religion appealed to the Israelites’ sinful nature. Rather than destroying them and their idolatry, Israel compromised. The Canaanites would prove to be a troublesome distraction to the Israelites. Their idol worship would present a constant temptation.
When you became a Christian, God declared war on sin’s strongholds in your life. Sinful behaviors and attitudes were firmly entrenched in your character, but God commanded you to tear them down. The Holy Spirit pointed out areas of your life that were resistant to God’s will. Were you tempted to merely establish a truce rather than obliterating every sin? Is anger one of sin’s strongholds? If so, it will rise up against you in moments of weakness. Is there a stronghold of lust in your life? If so, you will succumb to it when caught off guard. In careless moments, these strongholds will still tempt you to continue your past sinful behaviors.
Do not underestimate the destructive power of sin. If there are strongholds in your life that you have never defeated, the Holy Spirit is still prepared to bring you complete victory.” (Henry T. Blackaby)
Judges 2:4 — “As soon as the angel of the Lord spoke these words to all the people of Israel, the people lifted up their voices and wept.”
Be sorrowful because you are being punished is not the same as being repentant. God knows the difference and knows your heart.
Judges 2:10 — “And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.”
It is critical that Christians effectively disciple the next generation. This is the primary role of parents but also of senior Christians to junior Christians.
Judges 2:11, 12 — “And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals…. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them…. And they provoked the Lord to anger.”
The Israelites compromised with the pagan culture and became more influenced than an influence. The greatest risk to God’s people is syncretism, the blending of belief systems. God is Holy and demands holiness from His people. We cannot allow popular culture to tarnish our fidelity.
Judges 2:15 — “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.”
When we join with the world, we make ourselves practical enemies of God, fighting against His will – “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters (Luke 11:23). God cannot support sinfulness.
Judges 2:17 — …for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them.
The Bible calls the church (us) the bride of Christ. Likewise, the Bible compares our unfaithfulness to God with adultery and prostitution. Do you see your sin this way? Do you see God’s forgiveness from the perspective of an adulterer? Do you understand the magnitude of grace you have received? How do you respond to such love?
Judges 2:18 — For the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them.
In His anger, God still has a heart for the sinner and seeks reconciliation.
Judges 2:19 — “But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers.”
There are two types of discipline: internal discipline (self-control), and external discipline (law and authority). God expects Christians to have internal discipline (self-control being the last fruit of the Spirit), not requiring external laws and authority to control them. When people lack internal discipline, they require external discipline to keep them in line. Remove external discipline and you will discover what is truly in someone’s heart. The Israelites revealed their rebellious hearts whenever external disciplines were removed, proving that God could not trust them to obey from the heart. God disciplined the Israelites with foreign enemies to draw them back to Him. What does God have to do to keep you focused on Him and to keep you disciplined?
Luke 8:3 — Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.
Through Joanna, Jesus’ ministry was partly funded by the estate of Herod Antipas, the king of Galilee, executor of John the Baptist and coconspirator against Jesus himself. Little is known about Joanna other than she was the wife of the man who managed Herod’s estate; that she had been healed by Jesus; that her name means “Yahweh has been gracious”; that she accompanied Jesus and the Twelve, and that she was also one of the women who discovered the empty tomb of Jesus on the first Easter morning. Joanna is only mentioned by name twice in the Bible, once here, and once in Luke 24 at the Resurrection.
So, why does the Bible take time the mention Joanna in Luke 8 and to point out that she (along with the other women) provided for the needs of the disciples? I think that this statement would be shocking to a Jew in those days – “How could Jesus surround himself with these unacceptable women, and how could He accept their ‘blood money’ in order to take care of his personal needs and ministry activities?” Remember, this was a time when the Jews would not allow Roman coins with Caesar’s image on them to be brought into the temple as offerings.
- 1 Corinthians 1: “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’”
Joanna, redeemed by God, used her position and resources (which are neither good nor evil) at her disposal to advance the Gospel. Similarly, Paul, exploiting his position as a Roman citizen, traveled to Rome in an Alexandrian ship adorned with a figurehead of two gods, Castor and Pollux. Did that matter to Paul? Of course not! To Paul, who knew and served the One True God, this ship dedicated to idols was nothing more than transportation to fulfill God’s purposes. Likewise, Paul viewed meat sacrificed to idols (imaginary gods) as nothing more than high quality food – what others had intended for this food had no impact on him, unless eating it publicly would cause a problem for someone else.
The lives and experiences of both Joanna and Paul reveal how God uses once unworthy people and unworthy systems to accomplish His redemptive purpose — “What God has made clean, do not call common.” (Acts 10:15) If you are a Christian committed to serving the Lord, there is no ‘secular’ job, assuming your job or activity is a legitimate one, not in itself offensive to God, immoral, unethical, or harmful to others. God has placed you where you are for a reason. Use your position, influence, expertise and resources to advance the Gospel.
Luke 8:8 — He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
Only those who really want to know the truth will learn and accept the truth.
Luke 8:10 — To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that “seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.”
Unbelievers can’t understand God’s word because of their rebellious hearts and lack of Holy Spirit counsel.
Luke 8:13 – And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.
Satan opposes God’s word.
Luke 8:15 – As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.
True followers of Jesus heed His word, grow in Christ-likeness, and bring others closer to Jesus.
Luke 8:16 — No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.
What good is hidden faith?
Luke 8:18 – Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.
Healthy Christians grow in Christ-likeness and influence others.
How a person hears God’s word is critical. A careless approach to God’s word yields no fruit.
If you are not growing your dying.
Luke 8:21 – But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”
The family of God obeys God. God’s family is based on spiritual unity, not blood relation.
Luke 8:25 – He said to them, “Where is your faith?”
Faith requires that you trust Jesus over your own perceptions, experience, and knowledge.
Faith often requires you to do what doesn’t seem to make any sense simply because God commanded you to do it.
Understanding who Jesus is changes your perspective on everything.
Luke 8:28 — What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.
The demons acknowledged and feared Jesus, but they refused to follow Him. God is not interested in believers but rather disciples.
Luke 8:35 – Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid.
Salvation brought total change to a tortured man.
Luke 8:38-39 – The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.
Salvation is not simply so that we can enjoy Jesus in isolation. We are called to share the Gospel with others.
The man freed from Legion probably became the first missionary to Gentiles. Jesus did not want him to just enjoy his relationship with Him but to share it with others.
Luke 8:41 – And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. And falling at Jesus’ feet, he implored him to come to his house….
Jesus ministered to both demon-possessed Gentiles and leaders among the Jews.
Luke 8:43 – And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone.
Money does not solve problems, God does.
Luke 8:48-50 – Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 3 August 22: Exercise your faith by obeying Jesus and sharing Jesus with others regardless of how much it goes against ‘common sense’ and ‘sound judgment’. (Luke 8) Use every opportunity to share the Gospel wherever God has placed you.