Judging the Judges (Part 2)

 

  • God saves and preserves His covenant people.
  • His people sin against Him.
  • God judges His people for their sin.
  • His people cry out for help.
  • God gives mercy and restores His people.
  • Repeat process starting at Point #1.

This is what many scholars have called “The Judges Cycle.”  This is exactly the pattern we see repeated throughout the period of history covered by the Book of Judges.

 

Early on, we read, “And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals” (2:11). “So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel and he gave them over to plunderers who plundered them” (2:14).  “Then the Lord raised up judges who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them” (2:16).  “For the Lord was moved by 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 . . . they did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways” (2:18-19).

So right away, we learn some massive truths:

  1. God is good and merciful beyond compare.  “All day long I have held out My hands to a disobedient and contrary people” (Romans 10:21).
  2. People are sinful to the core and unable by their own volition to break sinful habits.  “Everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34).
  3. God judges sin.  “For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine; I will repay.’ And again, ‘The Lord will judge His people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:30).
  4. Our rescue from the bondage of sin relies solely upon God’s mercy.  “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His mercy” (Titus 3:4).
  5. The deliverance of human judges is insufficient; We need a better Judge / Deliverer!  “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:12-14).

There is a whole lot of gospel in the Book of Judges!  God give us eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts to love and obey the gospel truth being so obviously fore-shadowed in Judges.

But the question that should haunt us as we read the first few chapters of Judges is “How did all this happen in the first place?  What brought about this crazy Judges Cycle anyway?”

Stay tuned . . .

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Judging the Judges

Recently a friend and brother in Christ began texting me some questions on things he had been reading in the Book of Judges.  After rejoicing that my brother was reading Judges, and praying that the Lord would increase his tribe in the church I pastor, I set out to provide a few responses to his inquires.  Responses, I trust, that were faithful to God and His Word.

The Book of Judges is not the easiest to sort out.  Let’s face it.  It was a crazy time in Israel.  It was an in-between time in Israel.  The Promised Land had been conquered (at least most of it) under Joshua’s leadership.  The nation of Israel was a theocracy – a people under the Kingship of God Himself.  But humanly speaking they were organized tribally, like a confederacy of sorts.  And they were a people under Law-Covenant.  No earthly kings or prophets were yet reigning or proclaiming in the nation of Israel.  And yet there were challengers and challenges rising up against them (those pesky Canaanites not conquered by Joshua) seemingly at every turn.  So, yeah, it was a different epoch of history for sure.  And keeping this all in mind will help us rightly interpret the events and people of the Book of Judges.

The Book is named “Judges” because of the men (and a woman) whom the Lord raised up during this period of history to defend Israel from her oppressors and rescue her from God’s own righteous judgment.  These “judges” acted more as military leaders, and sometimes as civic leaders.  God used them to restore peace to His people.  Some are famous.  Think Samson.  Others obscure.  Think Shamgar.

Rather than pontificate on all the daily news events around the globe (goodness knows there are plenty of bloggers out there giving us amazing biblical insight into all of that), I want to just use this blog in the weeks ahead to help my few readers grapple with this Book of the Bible called Judges.  I want to help us rightly judge the Judges.  Learn to appreciate the truths and treasures God has tucked away in the sometimes insane folds of this Book.  Soak up truths about God, about mankind at his worst and best, about the Law Covenant, about redeeming grace, and about the Gracious Redeemer.  It’s all there, plus some!

May God grant us the eyes to see wondrous things in His Word.  Even in the Book of Judges.

 

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Urban Evolution?

Earlier this week, on the CBS Morning Show, a segment featured a new book titled Darwin Comes to Town. The author discussed the thrust of a book in a segment you can see here:

https://www.cbs.com/shows/cbs_this_morning/video/gcum75ud_Z6H5NnLhfIYKdo5W9Z1Nm0K/urban-ecologist-on-how-cities-speed-up-evolution-process/

While I am sure the author is a man of educational “letters,” I just have to ask the obvious question: Where, pray tell, is any real evolution happening before our very eyes as you so boldly claim?  

Decades ago Wendy’s commercials asked, “Where’s the Beef?”  Well, I am asking, where is the evolution?  

What you will hear Mr. Schilthuizen present as evidence of “evolution before our very eyes” is the same old tired stuff of Darwin’s Galapagos finches.  O look, finches’ beak sizes vary depending upon rainfall amounts.  Yes, that’s called “adaptation.”  Not evolution.  When that finch turns into a non-finch of any kind, let me know.

You see, the way Darwinian scientists use the terms “adaptation” and “evolution” interchangeably is a sort of verbal form of the optical illusion.  They are hoping we mere mortals are dumb enough not to notice their semantics hocus-pocus.  They also use the word “evolution” to mean different things.  Sometimes they mean micro-evolution, among the same species, which is more often called adaptation.  In fact, Mr. Schilthuizen does use the term “adaptation” repeatedly but then shifts the whole paradigm by claiming adaptation among pigeons and lizards proves “evolution.”  What he means is that because a lizard has adapted to an urban environment by producing more sticky substances on its feet to cling to concrete buildings, that somehow proves that we humans all came from lizards.  Because pigeons have adapted their feathers for shedding certain harmful substances in large cities, this shows before our very eyes that pond scum organized itself (after creating itself spontaneously) and became a fish which became a frog which became a monkey which became me.  But the pigeons are still pigeons.  And the lizards are still lizards.  Surely top scientists can do better than this if they are looking to convince me of molecules-to-man evolution?!

Adaptation within species does not and has never proven Darwin’s theory.  It only proves God is a genius without compare.  He has created all creatures with amazing genetic variation that enables them to adapt to a plethora of environments and to survive many challenges that threaten their existence.

And the only reason we humans can even have these discussions on TV stations and internet blogs is because we, unlike any other creature, are made in God’s image.  Give glory to the Creator!         

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10 Ways to Discourage Your Pastor

Every pastor I have ever known has experienced discouragement.  And many of the “great” preachers / pastors in church history have battled seasons of depression and melancholy.  Spurgeon being the classic example here.

We pastors are human and our calling baptizes us daily in trench spiritual warfare.  Sometimes our discouragement is unwarranted.  A pity party for which we must humbly repent.  But sometimes our discouragement arises out of holy zeal for God and a desire to see His kingdom advance and His people grow more like Christ.

Discouragement sometimes comes at the hands of the flock we shepherd.  Sometimes, though thankfully very infrequently for me, members purposely discourage a pastor.  But most often it’s unintentional.  The vast majority of church members do not want to discourage or disappoint their pastors.  At the risk of sounding too depressed and negative, I have compiled a list of ways members discourage pastors.  My hope is that you may recognize if you are personally involved in such activity, even if unwittingly, and ask God to help you change your ways.  While no church member should feel it his or her duty to be 100% encouraging all the time (after all, pastors sometimes need rebuked too), I trust true followers of Jesus do strongly desire to encourage and build up their pastors.  So, contemplate the list below, then do the opposite!

So, here are ten sure fire ways to discourage your pastor:

  1. Sleep while he preaches.
  2. Do not take the sermon to heart and do not discuss its truths or applications with anyone throughout the week.  Just show up, hear the sermon, then go about your week as if it never happened.
  3. Do not ask the Pastor any questions about the sermon, and do not ever ask for resources to help you further study a specific doctrine or truth from the sermon.
  4. Ignore or neglect the pastor’s heartfelt pleas as he leads the church.  Calls to prayer?  Don’t show up.  Call to fast?  Laugh it off as you gobble down a steak.  Pleas to engage in disciple-making?  Pawn it off on others.
  5. When it is obvious your pastor’s heart and soul are truly “all in” for a certain biblical ministry or emphasis or vision for your church, do not follow where he leads.  Better yet, vote “yes” on his vision but then do nothing personally to make it become a reality.
  6. Do not follow through on your commitments.  Be inconsistent, especially in your worship attendance and participation.
  7. Rarely if ever invite the pastor and his family over for dinner, or coffee and dessert, or take him out to lunch.  But definitely expect him and his family to host every single member and guest that comes through your church doors.
  8. Expect him to do everything and know everything and oversee every single ministry effort, all the while staying disengaged from ministry and church life yourself.
  9. Do not pray for him daily.
  10. When your primary preaching pastor is on vacation, do not attend the worship service.

While I have experienced all nine of these (plus others that didn’t make the list), I confess I am truly blessed to serve Corydon Baptist Church, a flock that loves me and my family and has encouraged me more than any church body I have ever had the privilege to serve.  I offer the list not to grumble, but just to help us all, me especially, keep learning by God’s grace to encourage people who love Jesus and want to see Him exalted in His Church.

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Dark Hearts and School Violence

What comes out of a person is what defiles him.  For from within, our of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.  All these things come from within, and they defile a person (Mark 7:21-23).

The flags of our nation are once again at half staff as we mourn 17 more precious young lives lost.  Gunned down by an evil mad man in yet another public school shooting.  Just a few weeks ago it was Marshall, KY.  Now Broward, FL.  And before that it was Sandy Hook, and so on, all the way back to the “original” in Paducah, KY.

There really are no words to describe what those parents and students must be dealing with right now.  No politician’s or even pastor’s words can really heal these wounds.  We mourn.  We are saddened to our core.  We are so sorry.  And we want all this to stop.

But nobody, it seems, knows how to stop it.

Predictably, politicians retreat to their respective corners and begin scrapping over gun rights or gun control.  And, although I am personally a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment, I do not think it is helpful to castigate every person who thinks there ought to be some measure of controls over who gets a gun and what types of guns they can get.  That’s a reasonable conversation to have and at times like this we really must be willing to at least talk about those things and consider one another’s viewpoints.  While some gun control lobbyists really do want to strip law-abiding citizens of their constitutional rights, that’s just not true of everyone who wants to see some controls put in place.  Again, we all just want to see these killings stop.

While I might argue that gun control is one of the key causes of such shootings (after all, public schools are “gun free” zones that all but ensure students have no real defense or ability to be protected from evil killers), I should not resort to unkind name-calling or pigeon-holing when making my case to others who see it differently.  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  That’s to characterize followers of Christ even when we enter the political sphere!

Matt Bevin, Governor of Kentucky, recently expressed his deep sorrow over these shootings and pointed a finger at the home lives and culture our children are being raised in.  Specifically, he went after violent video games that glorify killing people, as well as music lyrics that encourage violence.  I have a genuine respect for Governor Bevin.  I believe, as best I can tell, that his Christian faith is true and he seeks to live it out as he leads the government of Kentucky.  And I agree with him that allowing our children and young adults (I dislike the term “teen”) to play certain games or listen to overtly filthy music is not good.  What we put into our hearts, through our eyes and ears and other senses certainly can exacerbate the resident evil in our hearts as fallen sinful humans.  And Bevin is right to subtly call out parents (though he did not do so explicitly).  I personally wonder when parents will be charged for these crimes alongside the children that perpetrated them while living under their roofs?  That might at least jolt some of our citizens to the reality of how broken our homes are in this country.  Fifty years of the sexual revolution and what do we have to show for it?  Divorce.  Single-parent homes.  Out-of-wedlock births.  Kids raising themselves or being raised by so-called “professionals.”  Drug addictions among all ages.  And “sex ed” classes in our public schools sometimes as early as elementary school being developed by Planned Parenthood that glorify all kinds of sex among all kinds of people with no boundaries, no right or wrong!

Darwin’s theory owns our public schools.  And if you think that theory only stays in the “science” classroom, think again.  If we teach our children they are animals, then why are we surprised when they act like it?  And when they do act like it, we have more professionals who excuse it away with psychological labels.  Mental illness.  If we could just get these kids who make threatening posts on Facebook into counseling or mental institutions, this would all go away.  At least that’s what some propose.

And again, I respectfully disagree.  Genuine mental illness plays a very small role in these shootings.  That’s what makes it so hard to stop!  These killers do not come with tags – “Future Murderer.”  And while sometimes, as it appears in the present case of Broward, FL, the killers do make alarming statements on social media, do we really think it viable to arrest every person who makes such posts?  And who then gets to decide which statements are alarming enough to get one arrested?  That is a very slippery slope.  Surely we freedom-loving Americans can see at least that much.  Most introverts don’t murder people in cold blood.  Most people who make stupid social media statements don’t either.

But I feel sure we all want this to stop.  Only the most depraved among us could celebrate school shootings.  So what to do?  The myriad issues are insanely complex.  My short analysis above hasn’t scratched the surface!  Politically and practically, I would advocate for the “Israeli Model.”  In Israel, all schools lock the doors and have armed guards.  There are no school shootings in Israel.  When we truly want to protect people, we do it with high level security measures, and our success rate is very high.  So, Americans are going to have to decide whether their children are important enough to protect with high level security measures.  And I suspect until schools start locking doors, arming and training guards, and scanning students who enter their doors, more and more parents will choose the homes schooling option.  At least in our homes, we can shoot back.

But truthfully, political and practical solutions can always only take us so far.  Because they do not address the human condition.  The human heart.  Not the organ pumping blood.  Our minds and our wills.  Only Jesus Christ can give us the true diagnosis of our condition.  God in the flesh knows exactly why 19-year olds kill 15-year olds.  And why moms do heroin while their toddlers play nearby.  And why dads abandon their wives and kids.  And why teachers believe the lie of evolution.  And why politicians and far too many pastors are too cowardly to address the true heart of the matter.  The heart of the matter is our fallen, sinful, hearts that hate God and His ways and love to exalt ourselves as ultimate.  Jesus diagnosed our deepest problem and need with crystal clarity.  We murder and lie and have sex however we want and brag about ourselves and look down upon others because we are sinners at our very cores.  We are depraved at the level of our minds and wills.

And there’s only One Heart Surgeon able to literally transform us at that deepest level.  His Name is Jesus.  And His gospel, His good news is that He came to live the perfect life we could not.  God the Father was pleased with Him.  Jesus died the horrible death we deserved because of our resident evil.  He rose from the dead to prove He is our Divine Savior who can give eternal life to all who trust Him alone for deliverance from the guilt of sin and for righteousness that satisfies God.  Jesus saves!  Jesus turns murderers into lovers of God and mankind.  Just ask the Apostle Paul.  And until this nation once again proclaims salvation in Jesus Christ alone from every street corner, every classroom, every pulpit and podium, there simply will be no permanent, lasting solution to our violent, hateful hearts.  Why not cry out to Jesus today for salvation from the wrath of God that is certain to come upon you if you remain in your sins?  Why not beg Him for healing in your heart?  And why not trust Him not just to make you right with God in this life, but to one day make good on His promise to make all things right and give you everlasting life with God?

Even so Lord, come quickly!  For then and only then will all our evil finally stop.

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