Judges 2:11–3:31, Philippians 1:12–18, Psalm 63–64
If tested, I’d probably be more of a pessimist than an optimist. When evaluating a situation, I see the down side first, even to the point that I need a strong encourager to help me get my eyes off negatives. This is how I feel reading the book of Judges. I also feel judgmental, and must remind myself that I’ve ‘been there, done that.’ I’ve no qualifications to pick on the people of Israel because I’ve made many of their mistakes. At the same time, there is much to be learned from mistakes and from their negative example.
Israel was in the land God gave them. They failed to clear out the pagan idol worshipers of the land and wound up allowing their sons and daughters to intermarry with them. They also worshiping their idols and God was angry.
They abandoned the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, 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 2:13–15)
But He did not destroy them. Instead, the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of those who plundered them. Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the Lord, and they did not do so. Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways. (Judges 2:16–19)
This is the pattern of Judges. It is sad reading, yet so true of God’s people, even after salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. God warns us of the dangers, but we turn our own way. Often, God lets us find out the hard way that we are behaving foolishly. When we start to feel the stress of our mistakes, He allows that, but eventually takes pity and bails us out. Our God is an awesome God.
The NT reading is from one of Paul’s prison letters. The church had fallen into a competitive thing where preachers were striving for ‘bigger and better’ against other preachers. Paul heard about it and wrote this:
Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice... (Philippians 1:15–18)
His focus was in the right place. He didn’t care about the one-upmanship game, only that people hear about Jesus Christ. For him, the preacher’s motive didn’t matter, or their sincerity. As long as Jesus was preached, he was joyful. God had done a major work in this man’s heart. He once was putting Christians in jail and trying to kill them. Our God is an awesome God.
From the Psalms, David writes about his distress. Betrayed by family, hated by those who pursued him, he sought the presence of God, and found it. He said, “So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” (Psalm 63:2–8)
He did not retaliate against his enemies, but trusted God to deliver him. Even though David was not a perfect person, he knew that our God is an awesome God.
Today and tomorrow, I am asking God for grace to finish my last assignments before graduation later this month. I know He will hear my cries because He is an awesome God.