Thursday, September 23, 2010

How Hard Can It Be?

Bear with me, I need to talk through the Judges lesson that I am attempting to write at the moment. I have lived and breathed with these judges for over a month now, and they are beginning to drive me crazy.

Well, not so much the judges, although they deserve their own piece of my frustration. But the people of Israel are so... bullheaded!

The book of Judges covers the period of Israel's history between Joshua's leadership during the conquest of Canaan and Saul's ascension as the first monarch. And while the names and places change from chapter to chapter, every story for hundreds of years has the same elements:

Sin. God's people never fully conquer the Promised Land. They allow the native Canaanite peoples to continue to live among them. Soon they start allowing their children to intermarry with them; then they begin to put up statues and worship idols like their neighbors.

Punishment. Eventually God calls a stop to their disregard. Keep in mind, the people committed to follow him. They agreed to his leadership of their nation! So when God stirs up one or the other of the surrounding nations to attack the Israelites, all is fair. But apparently when they get attacked, it takes God's children some time to recognize that this is God trying to get their attention. The people are oppressed for anywhere from 7 years to 20 years each time.

Seriously, it takes 7 to 20 years to figure out they are being punished for their faithlessness? Is it that difficult to notice a connection between their oppression and the fact that they are so far from living like God's holy people that they are almost indistinguishable from their pagan neighbors? Big duh.

Restoration. Eventually they get the message, and call out to God for relief from their misery. I have no idea what they do leading up to this point each time, perhaps try all the other foreign gods first? When they keep getting no answer, do they keep looking elsewhere for assistance? However it happens, they finally get so miserable that they come crawling back to the one place they know they can get real help: the God they committed to follow.

Once he agrees to restore them, the Lord raises up a leader to help these tribal groups come together and overcome the enemy. The enemy is never meant to crush them; only to bring them back to restored relationship with their God.

Sin... Unfortunately, the people only remain faithful to God for the remainder of their generation, until the death of the judge who led them to rescue. Does this mean they did not experience true repentance? It sure begins to look like it.

This seems so undignified. I would think they would prefer to learn quickly, to save a little national pride. But they don't seem to be very good students of history.

How hard can it be to stick with God?

Unfortunately, I begin to see that the people pretty much represent human nature. We all have a tendency to draw near to God in times of difficulty, then to charge off in our own direction the moment we have a bit of restored equilibrium.

After the fall, pride began to dominate our nature. The last enemy to be destroyed may be death, but I am convinced the one right before it will be pride. Pride runs strong within us, perhaps as the primary attribute of the Father of Lies.

Pride whispers in our minds that we know better than God. And it leads us away from God so quickly the moment we start to listen to the whisper.

This pride in our nature keeps us in constant need of walking close to God. The people of Israel could never seem to grasp this, but I hope and pray that I can be sensitive enough to learn from their national failures, to closely follow the path he has marked out for me.

How hard can it be? It can be very hard.

With a little discipline, perhaps I can make a better showing than the Israelites. Fortunately, I am comforted by the knowledge that God never gave up on his people. And I know he will never give up on me.

1 comment:

  1. Love it!! Good thoughts. You should save these musings for a future publication ... like your own book!! Luv you! Mom


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