Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 22 August 2022:
Judges 21:4-12 — The people went through the proper religious rituals but still pursued their own solution to the problem that they had originally caused by doing things their own way.
Judges 21:17-24 — Israel failed to reach its goals with one immoral act; so they tried another.
Judges 21:19 – So they said, “Behold, there is the yearly feast of the LORD at Shiloh, which is north of Bethel, on the east of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah.” And they commanded the people of Benjamin, saying, “Go and lie in ambush in the vineyards and watch. If the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, then come out of the vineyards and snatch each man his wife from the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin. And when their fathers or their brothers come to complain to us, we will say to them, ‘Grant them graciously to us, because we did not take for each man of them his wife in battle, neither did you give them to them, else you would now be guilty.’”
During a time dedicated to the worship of God, Israel executed an immoral, ungodly plan in order to achieve the worthy purpose of restoring a tribe – a good thing done a bad way. God expects His people to do the right things for the right reasons in the right way at the right time. The ends do not justify the means.
Judges 21:25 – In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
“Hebrews 13 features specific guidance on how Christians are to live in light of the perfect atonement offered by Jesus. This guidance touches on many ethical matters, including marriage, sex, covetousness, and idolatry (vv. 4–6, 9). That raises the question of how Christians are to establish ethical standards and make ethical judgments. We will now take a short break from our study of the book of Hebrews to consider this question.
From the beginning, human beings have engaged in the study of ethics, attempting to determine the basis for what is right and wrong. Although there has been much disagreement over what constitutes the standard of ethical judgments, most ethicists have believed that there is some objective standard to which human beings are accountable. That began to change with the eighteenth-century Enlightenment and the philosophical movements that followed it. The Enlightenment represented a confidence in the power of human reason unaided by divine revelation to solve our problems. However, this confidence eventually gave way to despair when people discovered that human reason has limits. We cannot know everything. Instead of returning to divine revelation, however, ethicists began to say that the limits of human reason mean that we cannot know the objective standard for ethics even if one exists. Eventually, this bore fruit in modern ethical relativism, which says that there is no universal moral standard, that what is right for one person may not be right for anyone else. Today, most Westerners would confess moral relativism.
Although such relativism is a new development in the West, it has appeared in human history before. We see in Judges 21:25 that during the era of the judges, everyone in Israel did what was right in their own eyes, and this because there was no king. There was no human king because there was no human monarchy, but there was also no divine King because while God ruled over Israel and the world even then, the Israelites did not obey His law. His moral standards were seen as optional; they did not believe they were obligated to keep His objective moral law. Functionally, they rejected His kingship over them. So, they did whatever they wanted. Without belief in a fixed, transcendent standard of right and wrong, they had no reason to do otherwise.
Modern America is not the first culture to have embraced moral relativism, denying that there is a fixed, objective, transcendent standard of right and wrong. Israel during the time of the judges also embraced moral relativism. The book of Judges depicts a recurring cycle of events in which the ancient Israelites sinned, God handed them over to their enemies, the Israelites cried out for deliverance, and God delivered them. At the end of each cycle, the whole process would start over again. The concluding verse of Judges explains the reason for this trouble: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg. 21:25).
Here we have an important insight into human nature, particularly fallen human nature—without a king, people will quickly descend into doing whatever seems right to them. The absence of the king in the period of the judges was twofold. First, there was no human king, no representative of God’s righteous rule to direct the people. More importantly, there was no king in the sense that the Israelites did not acknowledge or obey the one, true King, namely, Yahweh, who created all things.
Yahweh, although He had a special relationship to Israel, was not only the God of Israel. He gave a law to Israel that contained many commandments designed only for the ancient Israelites, but as the New Testament shows us, His law also contains transcendent norms designed for all people (Rom. 2:14; 13:8–10). In fact, even the culturally bound rules in the law of Moses reflect transcendent principles.
If there is only one God and He has a law, it is not only Christians, Jews, Muslims, or people in any other religion that are bound by this law. Everyone God creates is answerable to His law. God and His law are the universal basis for ethics—not just for Christian ethics but for human ethics. This law reflects the very moral character of our Creator, of our King, and we cannot please Him or do what is right if we do not know His law.
People may deny that there is a fixed standard of right and wrong for everyone, but if they really believed this, they would not get upset when their property is stolen or when someone hurts one of their loved ones. They get upset because they expect all people to abide by a standard that exists outside of us. They know that God demands certain things of all people, and this awareness is a point of contact where we can begin pointing people to the Lord.” (Ligonier Ministries)
Listen to this lecture by Dr. R.C. Sproul on Christian ethics: https://www.ligonier.org/learn/series/christian-ethics/ethics-and-morality
Luke 21:1-4 – “Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, ‘Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’”
It takes both love and great faith to give abundantly, to give because you really have a heart for others and because you trust God to provide for your needs in the future. Hoarding is motivated by selfishness and fear, not trusting God with your future provision. According to Psychology Today, “For decades, surveys have shown that upper-income Americans … are particularly undistinguished as givers when compared with the poor…. lower-income Americans give proportionally more of their incomes to charity than do upper-income Americans…. ‘Empathy and compassion appeared to be the key ingredients’ in the generosity of the poor.” God’s people should have an abundance mentality and give generously whether they are rich or poor, since we all share in the immeasurable riches of Christ. True faith holds nothing back and trusts God completely to provide for the future. If you won’t give abundantly from what you now have, you likely won’t give if you have more later, nor can God trust you to be faithful with more if you won’t be faithful with little.
- 2 Corinthians 8:3 — For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means….
Sneaking a peak at Job 31, we read that people said of Job, “‘Who is there that has not been filled with his meat?’ [Because] the sojourner has not lodged in the street; [because Job always] opened [his] doors to the traveler.” (Job 31:31, 32) In his great love and faith, Job demonstrated a concern for even strangers which was inconvenient, costly, and risky. Figuratively speaking (or actually), how many strangers feast abundantly at your table? What does your love for others reveal about your God?
Luke 21:8 – And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them.”
Many are deceived by false Christianity.
Luke 21:12, 13 – “But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness.”
Both, churches and governments will persecute true followers of Christ. God allows Christians to suffer so they can witness to their persecutors. Most of the time Christians aren’t called to face great tribunals for their faith but rather they are called to face local accusers in daily encounters.
Luke 21:13. 14 – “This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer.”
Our nation is turning away from God, and judgments will come. This is your opportunity to witness. Be like the poor widow and give your all to Jesus during these times. Don’t overthink it, just proclaim Jesus to the best of your ability without holding back, and trust God with the outcomes.
Luke 21:16 – “You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death.”
Godlessness divides families. How much does your faith depend on the approval of others, particularly those very close to you? Remember this was one of Job’s tests – “Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.’” (Job 2:9) What did Jesus say? “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37) Jesus was not suggesting we shouldn’t love our families; He was pointing out that we cannot truly love our families without loving Him first and foremost – all love flows from Christ. Our calling is to draw our friends and family closer to Christ, understanding that in their distance, they cannot and will not love as they ought and will persecute us. We mustn’t be surprised by this and must love them all the more – “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…. do good to those who hate you…. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27, 35-36)
Luke 21:17 – “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake.”
Are you willing to be hated by all for Jesus?
Like 21:29-36 — We must be careful not to get caught up in the worries of the world and miss God’s activity all around us. We must have the eyes to see the signs of the times and what God is doing.
Luke 21:34 — “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.”
Some Christians try to ignore the growing ungodliness around them while others fall into deep despair and defeatism, neither group having much of an impact on the culture. Don’t conform to sin or feel defeated by sin, but stand boldly and joyfully in the face of sin without compromising your holiness or your message. Now is your time to witness!
Luke 21:36 – “But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
God does not intend to take His people out of these hard times but rather intends to give them the strength to endure through them. Don’t worry today but pray that you will have the strength to face the challenges ahead without compromising your holiness or your message.
- John 17:11, 14, 15, 21, 23 — 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…. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one…. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world…. that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me…. 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.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 22 August 22: Today, commit to using what God has given you, your wealth, resources, talents, skills, abilities, passions, and unique opportunities to demonstrate the love and grace of God and to bear witness to the truth of the Gospel. Pray for the love and faith to give in inconceivable ways as a testimony to God’s immeasurable grace. “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25:40)