Judges 10: The Small g gods
This book has been difficult because it holds up such a mirror that reflects the state of the church and our beloved country in the 21st century. It continues to reveal the continuous fascination the nation of Israel has with its surrounding culture and society. A culture and society that is not centered on the true God, but always worshipping something else.
Fact: everyone is a worshipper. The question is who or what thing do we look to for ultimate meaning, purpose and blessing? Listen to Peters reply to the Lord Jesus question: From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. You do not want to leave too, do you? Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know you are the Holy One of God. ( John 6)
When we find Jesus, ( actually when He finds us, for He came to seek and save the lost) we discover Jesus is all we need. The Lord Jesus defines the meaning of life, the purpose and blessing- which are all found in Him. He is all we need and ultimately is really all we have. Everything else is temporary- and vanishes like the fog in the morning.
In the Old Testament we see the true and living God who wanted to live with His people. God wants us to have a real and intimate relationship with Him. He wants us to be able to approach Him, worship Him, love Him and live with Him. The Tabernacle in the OT was the place God dwelt with His people. Everything about it pointed to what was necessary to approach Him and live with Him. All of the sacrifices pointed to the Lamb of God who would come and take away the sin of the world.
Then it happened- 2000 years ago, John writes, God became flesh and dwelt( tabernacled) among us.
The book of Judges shows us we are the problem. And we cannot be our own solution. We need a King or a judge, a leader to solve our problems, just as Israel did. We cannot save ourselves and we are powerless over sin. We need a higher power. As good or as bad as our kings, leaders and judges might be- they are temporary and flawed. The book of Judges points this out clearly. We need an eternal, perfect King- and there is only One.
We need someone to rule over us. WE need a king just like Israel needed a king. We need someone to rescue us from our enemies, from ourselves, from our culture that denies the true God. We need God Almighty! Do we only want His rescue and not His rule? To whom shall we go? Do you believe like Peter, the Lord Jesus has the words of eternal life and believe and know He is the Holy One of God?
Could it be the very problems we are asking God to rescue us from are the very problems God is using to change us? That is a tough one, isnt it? We have a lot of questions, dont we? This is why Jesus said ask and it shall be given to you; seek and you shall find, knock and it will be opened to you.
We live in a restless world. As the song lyrics say: in restless world like this is- love is over before it begins. And what do we want- we want the fairy tale story we all have in our dreams- when I fall in love, it will be forever! So the search begins. Constantly on the move to find something or somebody to bring peace. As a result people become weary and heavy laden, as they have accumulated so much baggage in their pursuit and accumulation, and buying and shopping and marrying and giving in marriage, in eating and drinking, and looking for that special something or somebody that will give them the rest they are looking for.
There He stands with His arms outstretched and invites all of us: Come unto me, all you are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11
So here we are in the story of Israel in a time after Joshua died but before the time of kings. The story is an easy one to follow because of its repetition. It is an account of frequent apostasy which provokes divine chastening. This is inevitably followed by urgent appeals by the people to God to get them out of their trouble, solve their problem. The Lord is moved to raise up leaders through whom He throws off the foreign oppressors.
The people want to be rescued by God, but then sooner or later, forgetting what He has done- they do not want to be ruled by God. Rescue me, Lord- but do not rule me.
What we notice in todays saga is Israel is in the depth of their slavery to idols. Their sin grows deeper and wider. Notice starting in Judges 10:9 we read: Again, Israel did evil in the eyes of the Lord. They served the Baals and the Astoreths, and the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines. And because the Israelites forsook the Lord and no longer served Him, He became angry with them. He sold them into the hands of the Philistines and Ammonites, who that year shattered and crushed them. The Israelites started out embracing two gods, that soon expanded to 5 more gods- 7 gods or idols now enslaved them. This is the nature of sin- it takes you further and deeper and keeps you longer and longer. The alcoholic never intended to become a drunk who could not keep a job. The drug addict never intended to become an addict who would steal or do anything they had to do to get their next fix. The rich miser just wanted a little more.
Here is what we notice in these verses: more gods, more idols. They have now embraced the gods not only of Baal and Astoreth- they have added the gods of Aram, Sidon, Moab, Ammonites and Philistines. Remember an idol never grows smaller- it always starts out small and continues to grow larger demanding more of ones time and efforts. More and more and more . Finally God became angry and sold them into the hands of the Ammonites and Philistines. Sold them. The language of slavery. Their idols, their sins, now owned them. Paul wrote: Dont you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to sin which leads to death, or to obedience which leads to righteousness? ( Romans 6) Have you ever been enslaved to sin, which you might have described as a bad habit? Nicotine enslaves; alcohol and drugs enslave; pornography and sex enslave; the love of money enslaves; and the list the enemy uses to enslave us is endless. This is how the enemy devours. Notice the results of these idols, these gods of the Ammonites and Philistines. God sold them to the Ammonites and the Philistines who that year shattered and crushed them.
When a slave has been sold to another master, if that master turns out to be cruel one, they have no hope except for a better master to purchase them from their current evil master. They have been bought with a price and they are not their own. They need a redeemer. A rescuer.
But here God finally says enough is enough. I will no longer save you. Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them save you when you are in trouble. ( Judges 10: 13)
Our Redeemer demands repentance which comes from godly sorrow. Paul explains in 2 Corinthians 7: Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. Godly sorrow results in true repentance which will experience the grace of God. Godly sorrow is focused on God and the sorrow is over the wickedness of sin and the heartache it caused God. Worldly sorrow is self-centered and the sorrow is over the pain and consequences the sin has caused the individual.
God says let the gods you have chosen save you out of your problem.
When we come to God and want Him to fix the problem our sin got us into- do we want God or only what God can do for us? Do we want Him as our problem fixer or as our Master? Are we sorry for the consequences our sin has created in our lives or sorry for the pain it has caused God? Do we have sorrow for our sin, rather than just the consequences of our sin?
I believe you cannot separate real repentance from genuine faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God and those who come to Him, must believe that He is. And that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Did you notice the object real faith seeks is not that we get rewarded with what we ask for- the real reward is God Himself- not what God can give us, fix our problem, get us out of our mess.
Before we see what Israels response is to Gods harsh statement, lets review the events that led up to their increased idolatry and sinfulness. We are looking at a nation that has slipped down a slippery road to ruin and decay. This is a nation in decay. Where does it start?
A NATION IN DECAY.
There are three deficiencies in Israel that gave evident this nation was decaying spiritually:
- Israels lack of gratitude to the Lord. In verses 1-5 we read of two men, Tola and Jair who led Israel in 45 years of peace and prosperity. However, we read when Jair died after his 22 year reign- again Israel did evil in the eyes of the Lord. Do we as a nation pause at Thanksgiving to thank God for the abundant way in which He has blessed our country throughout its history, or is it simply a long weekend of food, football and family capped by the biggest shopping day the whole year? When we are full of good food- do we thank the Lord for the good land He has given us? I will praise Gods name in song, and glorify Him with thanksgiving. ( Psalm 69:30) Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise, give thanks to Him and Praise His name. For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His mercy continues through all generations. (Psalm 100) Do you realize thanksgiving, thanking and recognizing that all good gifts come from God is a strong defense against selfishness and idolatry? When we begin to think and believe and thus behave as if we have done it ourselves- then pride comes before a fall. Selfishness is a stronghold that comes from idolatry. We throw away enough food every day in America to probably feed millions. People living in poverty would be amazed at the abundance we enjoy and of the money we spend each day. Forty five years of relevant peace and prosperity in Israel led not to worship and thanksgiving of the God Almighty whose hand had provided it- but to selfish idolatry as their idols increased more and more. America has enjoyed more prosperity than any other nation on the earth. We have had prolonged periods of peace- in that our land has never been attacked by foreign invaders until 2001. I wonder how our gratitude to the Lord compares to Israels gratitude to the Lord in the 1200BC?
- Israels lack of submission to the Lord. ( vs 6-16) Israel seems to either have revised its own history or forgotten what God had done for them. By now they should have figured out if they reviewed their history- that God blessed them when they were obedient and chastened them when they were rebellious. Are we still the kind of people who first settled this country? Are we still the kind of people who realized above all else- In God we Trust? When God chastens us as individuals and as a nation do we cry out to Him for deliverance? Does our leadership call for us to pray and fast that God restore us? Remember what is was like in those days after 9/11? Churches were filled. Billy Graham was a mainstay on the news shows; David Letterman could not find anything to make fun of with his glib, smart sense of sarcastic humor. America was afraid. And they were desperate enough for a while to promise even God anything if He would protect us. We tend to forget God when we can sin and get away with it. When everything is good, economy is good, stocks are up, cotton is high, and the living is easy do you know what happens when we do not thank God for His generosity? We become self- contented and comfortable and comfortable living, often produces weak character. God had given Israel victory over seven nations, and now Israel was worshipping seven different pagan gods . No wonder God is angry with them. What foolishness to worship the gods of your defeated enemies. Do you realize as a Christian when you revisit sin, you are worshipping the gods of the enemy which our Lord defeated at Calvary! It is one thing to abandon God, but I fear the day when God abandons us. The greatest judgment God can bring on a nation or individual is to let them have their own way and not interfere. This is when the scoffers come and say where is your God now? Look at how we live in such pleasure without His interference, doing exactly what we want. And there was no king in Israel ( or America) and everyone did as they saw fit in their own eyes. God gave them over to the lusts of their heart, just like Paul speaks of in Romans 1.
- Israels lack of adequate, good, godly leadership.
I believe Scripture and the story of Judges among others bears out the following principle: When Gods people are submitted to Him and serving Him, God sends gifted servants to instruct them and lead them. But when their God-given appetites turn to the world, the flesh and the devil to satisfy, God judges them by giving them up and over to their sins and by depriving them of good and godly leaders.
Now let us look and see if Israel has godly sorrow or worldly sorrow. But the Israelites said to the Lord: We have sinned. Do whatever you think best, but please rescue us now. Then they got rid of the foreign gods among them and served the Lord. And He could bear Israels misery no more.
Do with us as You, God think best. This shows a heart change, godly sorrow. No longer focused on the condition of comfort and saying we want You, God, even if it means we will go on suffering. They are seeking God, not just what they can get from God.
I am reminded of those three Hebrew young men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abebnego who replied to the king: O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, we want you to know king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. ( Daniel 3)
I notice it all of these scriptures where other gods are mentioned it is always with a small g. Today, just as in the days of Daniel, and the days when the nation of Israel was bound in slavery to Egypt, they were are all small gs that bound them. We are coming to and perhaps already there in America where we must decide which God we will serve- the small gs that have bound us or the One and Only God with a capital G. ( Like River City- we have trouble with a capital T- and it calls for God with a capital G. )
We are being called on to compromise our beliefs. To hold our tongue. To go along- to get along. These three young men were called on the carpet for not going along with the companys policy. The CEO King Nebuchanezzar was going to have them fired- literally. Not too hard to imagine that scenario today in the times of small gs we live in today.
I see the signs of true repentance, true godly sorrow in Israels statement to God. Do with us as you think best.
Are you now in a situation and circumstances you are continually praying about, worrying over, and in anguish about? Can you trust God enough to say to Almighty God who has all knowledge, power- Do with us and our situation as you think is best, Lord. Notice also the Israelites rid themselves of the small gs the idols of foreign gods among them and served the Lord. True repentance involves turning around. Turning from the idols and sin they served to serve the Lord.
Are you prepared to say to the Lord- Do what you think is best, Lord? Or do you want to leave it to the small gs?
God evidently responded to true repentance for where sin abounds, grace abounds more and God could not bear Israels misery any longer.Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14