Renewing Our Commitment!

-Our Entire City Needs Revival!

In preparation for a meeting, in a large city, Evangelist Billy Sunday wrote a letter to the mayor, of that city, and asked him for the names of various individuals that he could pray for that needed spiritual revival. The mayor surprised Mr. Sunday by sending him a city phone book!  “Our entire city needs revival,” he told him.  And, so does ours! And, so does yours! Every day I need God to revive my heart; because, left to my natural tendencies, in my flesh, I will choose the path of least resistance spiritually! I will remain apathetic! And, be honest with me— so will you, right? We all need a fresh outpouring, of God’s Holy Spirit, every day!

-Remove The Spiritual Indifference!

That’s revival! We need God to revive us daily, by removing our spiritual indifference & renewing our commitment to live for Him! Only as God revives us will we willingly rebuke ourselves— and, beat our chests in repentance— over our indifference toward God & His Word! Only then will we renew our commitment to crucify self daily & offer ourselves to Him as a living sacrifice. In 2 Kings, chapters 22-23, we find that nation of Israel in a really bad place spiritually. They’ve drifted far away from the Lord God. They’ve given themselves over to idolatry & the worship of vile, heathen gods! They’re stuck in a deep sinful hole & they’ve been warned multiple times, by various prophets of God, that they were in danger of the imminent judgment of God!

-An 8-Year Old King!

And, it’s with that background that we’re introduced to an 8-year old boy, named Josiah, who becomes king of Judah. Scripture says he “…was eight years old when he became king and reigned 31 years in Jerusalem… He did what was right in the Lord’s sight and walked in all the ways of his ancestor David; he did not turn to the right or the left” 2 Kings 22:1,2.  And, there’s a great verse of Scripture, in 2 Chronicles 34:3 that parallels the story of King Josiah, here in 2 Kings. It says, “In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still a youth, Josiah began to seek the God of his ancestor David, and in the twelfth year he began to cleanse Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherah poles, the carved images, and the cast images.” I hope you can get a picture, in your mind, of what’s going on there; because, this was a GOD thing! In the 8th year, of his reign, while he was still a youth, he “…began to SEEK God…” He was 16 years old! And, in his 12th year, at age 20, he began to “clean house.” Please take that to heart if you’re a high school student or young adult! You can make a difference, in this world, for the Lord!

-Difference Makers!

We desperately need young leaders— both in the church & in the world— who will take their faith very seriously! Who will be intentional about reading & studying the Scriptures! Who will be intentional about prayer! And, about making disciples! And, for those of us, who belong to an older generation, let’s not be too harsh or quick to judge the younger generations! Let’s humble ourselves & admit that much of the Church, that we’ve led, is a mess! It’s a far cry from what Jesus intended for us to be! Let’s listen to those who are younger! Let’s dialogue with them so that together we can seek God’s help in correcting the mess we’ve made of Jesus’ Church! That was King Josiah’s dilemma! He was 8 years old & he inherited a nation the older generations had messed up! So, he sought the Lord God for help to lead a nation to revival!

Signs Of Revival!

-A Shipwrecked Man!

The story is told of a shipwrecked man who somehow managed to reach a small, uninhabited island. To protect himself from the elements & to safeguard the few possessions he had managed to salvage, from the wreckage of his boat, he builds a small hut from which he constantly scanned the horizon, looking for a ship that might pass by and rescue him. One day, after searching for food on the other side of the island, he returned to find his little hut completely engulfed in flames! Nearly everything he had left had perished inside of it! Devastated, his sorrow was turned to joy the next day when he awoke to find a small ship anchored off the island! When the captain came ashore, he told the man, “We saw your smoke signal & came to help!”

-Loss Leads To Rescue!

Ironically, it was the destruction of everything that the marooned man had left that led to his rescue! And, after the fact, he gladly gave up all his stuff in order to be saved from his plight! That story, in many ways, illustrates what it feels like when you’ve experienced a spiritual revival in your life. Like that man, you think you’ll lose some things, that have become precious to you if you agree to give up control & give it all to God.  But, in reality, holding onto all those things, that keep you from giving your life in total to God, has left you shipwrecked, marooned & impoverished. Spiritual revival is different from salvation! Salvation is to make someone alive who was dead, spiritually! That’s what God does, for us, when He saves us! We were “…dead in our trespasses & sins…” Ephesians 2:1-3.  But, God makes us alive when we admit our sinful brokenness & trust Jesus’ work on the cross to save us. If you made that decision, you probably still remember how alive you felt at that moment.

-Have You Lost Your 1st Love?

Over time, however, you may have lost that “1st Love”— to use the phrase, from Revelation, that described a backslidden church (Rev. 2:1-7).  Perhaps you were once on fire for Jesus! He was you “1st Love.” But, other things— perhaps college & careers & marriage & kids & houses & stuff—began to crowd Jesus out of that 1st place position, in your life, that He once held! So, you live with a divided heart & divided loyalties! The vibrant life you first experienced has been replaced with a sort of “dullness” toward spiritual things that you were once “alive” over! If that describes you then you are in need of REVIVAL! You need to be “restored” to the spiritual fervor you previously enjoyed! You need to be REVIVED spiritually!

-Revivals Are Nothing New!

Revivals are not a new thing! Because God’s people have always been prone to backslide in their faith— dating back to the Israelites under Moses; to, the times of the judges and the kings; and, to the Church today— God has found it necessary to bring revival to His people! We are sinfully depraved & broken & incapable of doing God’s work without the help of His indwelling Holy Spirit! We regularly need His reviving work in our hearts! All of us! We all need a fresh outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit! Daily! We need God to revive us by removing our spiritual indifference & renewing our commitment to live only for Him! Only as God revives us will we willingly rebuke ourselves; and, beat our chests in repentance over our indifference toward God & His Word! Only then will we renew our commitment to crucify ourselves daily & offer ourselves to God as a “living sacrifice” Romans 12:1-2. We’ll say more about this next week!

When Someone Curses You!

-Discerning God’s Work In Our Lives!

Over the last few posts, I’ve commented on the difficulty we have of identifying; or, discerning when & where God is at work in our lives! We struggle to see Him behind the difficult & painful experiences of life! But, God does, in fact, use those experiences to grow us and sanctify us! In fact, God may use someone’s cruel words to humble us! That’s the main point of this post! Perhaps you recall that when King David’s son, Absalom, betrayed him, David was forced to run for his life. As David; and, all of those who remained loyal to him, were fleeing the city, they came to this place where there was a hill above them! And, up on that hill, a man named Shimei began to curse David!

-David’s Response To Being Cursed!

Shimei was from the family of Saul & he must have believed some conspiracy theory that David was responsible for King Saul’s death; because, he throws stones at him! I love the loyalty of Abishai, one of King David’s men, when he asked David permission:  “My lord, the king, let me go cut off his head” (1 Samuel 16:9). And, clearly, David would have been within his rights, as king, to have Shimei executed because it was a capital offense to curse the king! But, David shows restraint! He shows great humility:  “The king said, ‘If he is cursing because the LORD has said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?” (v.10). 

-Does God Use The Cursing Of Others?

It seems that David is thinking more about the wrong he had done to others (his sexual sin with Bathsheba & his murder of her husband) than the wrong that Shimei was doing to him.  “Don’t touch him,” David says to Abishai, “Don’t cut off his head! It may be that God has sent him to remind me of my sin.” So, how do you respond when someone curses you or speaks cruel words to you? Do you return evil for evil? Or, do you recognize it as God’s work in your life? Will you humble yourself & ask God to show you if there’s any truth to your opponents words?

-The Mysterious Way God Works!

If there is anything to be learned from this whole story— of Absalom’s & of David’s running for his life— it’s that God often works in mysterious ways! Not just in our lives; but, through the “events” that become part of the story of our lives! There’s another gem, to uncover, in this miniseries! What we see is that God sometimes uses someone’s wise counsel against them! But, how can that happen? It can happen only by the providential hand of God! Ahithophel had been one of David’s trusted counselors!

-Confidence In God’s Sovereignty!

But, he had swung his allegiance to Absalom against David. In an interesting side story, his betrayal came most likely because he was Bathsheba’s grandfather; so, he had observed David’s sin. He had reason to be bitter! He had observed David’s abuse of power & when he had the occasion to turn against him, that’s exactly what he did! And, when Ahithophel spoke, it was as though God was speaking (v.23). In ch.17, he gave Absalom a sound military strategy to defeat David. But, in God’s Sovereignty, Absalom rejected it & accepted the counsel of another! “Since the Lord had decreed that Ahithophel’s good advice be undermined in order to bring about Absalom’s ruin, Absalom and all the men of Israel said, ‘The advice of Hushai the Archite is better than Ahithophel’s advice.’” (v.14) God is Sovereign! He is in control of the affairs of your life; so, if you find yourself on the run, like David, trust God’s plan even if it seems unorthodox.

When Someone Betrays You

-It Can Be Devastating!

Betrayal can be one of the most devastating experiences anyone can go through! But,  just try and imagine if that betrayal came at the hands of your own flesh & blood. That was Israel’s King David’s experience when his own son, Absalom, turned against him (2 Samuel 15).  Absalom had the appearance of a movie star! Scripture describes him as having a handsome appearance from the soul of his foot to the crown of his head. And, the conditions, in Israel, were ripe for a rebellion. David was living in seclusion; perhaps, over the public guilt of his sin with Bathsheba & the subsequent murder of her husband. Domestically, David’s home was a mess.

-Setting The Stage!

When another of his son’s, Amnon, raped his own half-sister, Tamar, it was Absalom who came to her defense & murdered Amnon (his own half-brother). So, David banished Absalom and refused to see him; until, circumstances forced David to bring Absalom home. But, there was no fellowship between them! It was a very broken father-son relationship between them1 So, the rift grew & Absalom became committed to a plan to betray his own father & usurp the kingdom away from him. Every day he got up early & sat at the gate of the city to undermine the authority of his own father, the king, who was consistently a no-show when it came to judging the people—  “How sad the king won’t see you! If only I were king I’d rule with justice over your case.

-He Stole The Hearts Of Israel!

And, the text, of Scripture, says he, “…stole the hearts of Israel.” He masterminded a coup to overthrow his father, the king! And, how did David respond? He experienced a personal revival of his faith! As he’s forced to abandon his throne & run for his life, something inwardly beautiful begins to happen in David’s heart.  I wish I had more time & space to develop this; but, let me just show you one example. When David realized that Zadok, the priest, had brought the Ark of the Covenant with them, in their mad scramble from the city, look at David’s response:  “Then the king instructed Zadok, ‘Return the ark of God to the city. If I find favor in the Lord’s eyes, He will bring me back and allow me to see both it and its dwelling place’” 2 Samuel 15:25.  He wouldn’t make the same mistake the previous King, Saul, had made when he turned the Ark into some kind of “good luck charm”, brought it into battle; and, lost it to the Philistines! Saul used the Ark as an idol!

Confident In God’s Sovereignty!

No, David’s confidence was in God’s Sovereignty & providence! The next verse David says:  “if He (God) should say, ‘I do not delight in you,’ then here I am—He can do with me whatever pleases Him.” With God’s help, David is getting his spiritual act together again! This is a spiritual revival! He’s revisiting God’s grace! Absalom didn’t know about “grace.” He assumed that because David let God down, that God would let David down as well! That’s how every religion, based on works, thinks! But, that’s NOT how God works! He may discipline us— and, He was disciplining David— but, He never forsakes His own! So, when someone betrays you, how do you respond? Do you get angry with God & blame Him for your circumstances? Or, do you trust God’s intentions & His Sovereign control? Do you trust His promise that He will never leave you? When people disappoint you; and, they will, use it as an occasion to return to the Lord!

Seeing God At Work!

-We Minimize Sin’s Damage!

It seems like one of the most difficult things, for us to discern, is when and where God is at work in our lives!  In our own little world—that we’ve created in our own little minds—we tend to think of God’s work, in our lives, as little more than a “clean-up on aisle 7.”  No harm! No foul! Our sin is just a little “spill” that God cleans up for us! But, in fact, our brokenness & our sinful depravity runs so deep that God’s work, in us, requires major surgery; not, just a little “clean up.” We minimize the extent of the damage that sin has done to us!

-Missing God’s Construction Signs!

It’s part of our brokenness that we’re blinded, by our brokenness, so we can’t even see how badly broken we are! We exaggerate how good we are & how far we’ve come in our faith! So, it’s easy for us to miss the “construction signs” when God is at work in us! He uses your marriage to work on you! He can use your job! He can use medical issues & a lot of other things that we may not think about! That’s what this post is all about— seeing God at work in our lives! Not just in the big things or the obvious places; but, sometimes in the corners of our lives! Places where we wouldn’t necessarily think of Him as working!

-We Need Spiritual Eyes!

If we’re looking at life strictly through the eyes of our human flesh we won’t see everywhere that God is at work! We need spiritual eyes! We need the help of God’s Holy Spirit to remove the blinders from our eyes & unstop our ears to hear what He’s telling us.  Without His help, we cannot see the work that God is doing, in us, through the events in our lives! It may feel, at times, like He’s distant! Like He’s left you on your own to figure things out! But, He hasn’t & He never will! He’s using the difficulties and pressures you face to bring to the surface all the areas of your life that He’s working on in you!

-Signs God Is At Work!

And, I can tell you that He’s at work, in you, every time you’re angry or agitated or you have a heightened sense of frustration! So, take a deep breath! Bow your head & ask Him to show you what He’s doing; and, to support you even as He works! Don’t ever make the mistake of separating out the secular part of your life from the sacred! Let me tell you what I mean by that— don’t ever assume that there’s like “church” & that’s God’s part of your life; but, God’s not involved with the rest of your life! All the earth is Holy Ground! There is no secular! God rules over everything! He’s in all the details!

-God’s Providential Blessings!

And, that’s, in part, what God’s Holy Spirit intends to show us in many of the Old Testament stories! We don’t have all the doctrinal details laid out for us in the same way we do in the New Testament. God’s Spirit intends to help us wrestle with these stories & reveal the truth in a way that might not be obvious at our first reading of the passage. We see how God uses someone’s betrayal, against us, to return us to prayer! The pain of the betrayal, in your life, can be so painful that God may use it to get your attention & get you re-focused on spending time with Him! David experiences the betrayal of his own son, Absalom (2 Samuel 15). Absalom had the appearance of a movie star! In fact, the Scripture says he, “…had a handsome appearance from the soul of his foot to the crown of his head.” When Absalom betrayed David & forced him to run for his life, God used the experience to return David to his spiritual roots of prayer!

It Just So Happened!

-It Was No Coincidence!

So, the Old Testament book of Ruth begins with the sad story of Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi. Because of a severe famine, Naomi’s family moves away from Israel, their homeland. But, when her husband and 2 sons die, in a foreign land, Naomi decided it was time to return home! Her daughter-in-law, Ruth, determined to go with her! When it was time to look for work, Ruth found a job gleaning barley for a farmer, who just “coincidentally” happened to be one of Naomi’s relatives!  It reads, in ch.2:3, that “…she happened to be in the portion of land belonging to Boaz, who was from Elimelech’s (Naomi’s deceased husband) family.”

-Speaking Tongue-In-Cheek!

Whenever you come across a phrase like that—  “…happened to be…”— that’s the Bible speaking kind of tongue-in-cheek because there are no coincidences in the universe! None! God is Sovereign & Providential over everything that happens in our lives. So, this is just part of God’s “emptying” of Naomi in order to “make room” for Him. To fill her with Himself! Naomi says this about Ruth’s “chance” meeting of Boaz:  “May he be blessed by the Lord, who has not forsaken his kindness to the living or the dead.’ Naomi continued, ‘The man is a close relative. He is one of our family redeemers” (2:20).  Now, a “family redeemer” sounds foreign to us because it’s not part of our culture; but, it was a provision that God put in the Law of Moses.

-The Family Redeemer!

In the book of Leviticus, the “family redeemer”— or, the “kinsman redeemer” some translations say— was a male relative who had the responsibility to act on behalf of a relative who was in trouble; or, in danger; or, had an urgent need! So, here in Ruth’s story, Boaz was the family redeemer who steps into Naomi’s life! He redeems or buys back everything she had lost because of her husband Elimelech’s death. That included the land her family inherited when they entered the promised land; and, it also meant he would care for all of Naomi’s needs & he would marry her daughter-in-law, Ruth; and, raise up a family to pass on the inheritance to! That was the law, custom & culture of Israel’s family redeemer!

-Better Than 7 Sons!

So, Boaz marries Ruth; and, they have a child, Obed, who fathered Jesse, who fathered Israel’s King David, who’s genealogy ultimately included our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ! The story of Ruth ends with these words spoken to Naomi by her friends: “Praise the Lord, who has not left you without a family redeemer today. May his name become well known in Israel.  He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. Indeed, your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.”

-God’s Providential Blessings!

At the start of the story, Naomi said she was empty! Then, God emptied her of all the competing loves, in her life, that had become idols. But, God didn’t leave her empty! He never does! He fills her back up! That’s one of the great truths of Ruth’s story—God fills us up through His providential blessings in our lives! He’s always blessing us! Even, like Naomi, when we don’t see it! Sometimes, He has to empty us first of all the competing loves & interests  before He can make room to fill us with His blessings! We see His blessings only after we’ve emptied ourselves of all self-interests and quit making demands of God! When we submit to His Sovereignty & we humble ourselves & admit He knows best, then we are ready to receive His blessings! Only then will we see that Jesus is our “family redeemer” ready & able to save us!

Bitterness Toward God!

-What’s Right In Your Own Eyes?

The opening line in the Old Testament book of Ruth reads like this:    “During the time of the judges, there was a famine in the land.” So, Ruth needs to be read, in the context, of the book of Judges. In other words, the events take place at that time when, “…everyone did what was right in his own eyes…” Literally, people did whatever they wanted! They lived by the popular philosophy, of our day, called “moral relativism”; which, means that the famine was about more than a lack of food, water & the necessary provisions of life! There was a famine of “faith” in God & there was a famine of “moral character.” That’s the backdrop of Ruth’s story!

-A Redemption Story!

It’s a story about redemption! That is the overarching theme in Ruth’s story. In the opening verse, of the 1st chapter, we see that the famine prompted a man, named Elimelech, to leave Israel— with his wife, Naomi, and their 2 sons— and, move temporarily to the land of Moab. It appears, from the story, that Elimelech died shortly after their arrival; but, for whatever reason (perhaps because the famine raged on) Naomi continued in Moab & raised her 2 sons, who married Moabite women. Sadly, both her sons died; and, Naomi is left with only her 2 daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah. Naomi heard that God had provided for the needs of His people, Israel, and the famine had ended (v.6).

-Wherever You Go, I Will Go!

So, she set out to return to Israel by herself, encouraging her daughters-in-law to stay in Moab. But, Ruth was determined to go with her. In v.16, Ruth speaks those famous words to her mother-in-law, Naomi:  “For wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you live, I will live; your people will be my people and your God will be my God.” When Naomi & Ruth return to Naomi’s home town, everyone recognizes her:  “Is that you, Naomi?” But, notice her bitter response:  “Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara, for the Almighty has made me very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty…” (v.20).

-Struggling With Bitterness?

If you’re struggling with bitterness, over the circumstances in your own life, Ruth is the book for you! If you look at all the junk going on in the world & you want to blame God, Ruth is a good book for you to read. Ruth was bitter with God:  “…the Lord has brought be back empty…” What the story reveals is that Naomi had competing gods in her life! So, God has to empty us of all our competing gods in order to break us & make us willing to bow to Him alone! Left to ourselves, we fill our lives with competing gods, from birth.  And, what are some of our false gods?

-The False Gods We Worship!

We are prone to worship the false gods of “safety” & “happiness” & “leisure” & a “pain-free life.” We worship the “gods” who make our lives bright & cheery; and, become satisfied with those things which will not last! And, like Israel, we choose those temporary pleasure gods & reject the God who offers eternal life! So, God has to remove some of those “other loves” in our life to create the space & capacity necessary to genuinely love Him! To truly worship God, with our whole heart, we have to denounce all the competing loves & interests; and, trust God’s Sovereign providence over all areas of our life! Naomi had some competing gods in her life from which she need to be delivered! At the end of the 1st chapter, they arrive in Israel at the time of the barley harvest. So, Ruth gets a job, working to glean the barley for a farmer who “coincidentally” was a relative to Naomi! Come back next week for the rest of the story!

Calling All Actors To Repent!

-Who Is A Hypocrite?

It’s from the Greek term for “actor” that we get our word “hypocrisy.” We think of a “hypocrite” as one who acts in a manner different from one’s stated belief. In ancient Greek theatre, the “hypocrite” was an individual who “wore a mask”—someone pretending to be someone he’s not! Hypocrisy is called sin in the Bible; and, usually shows up in a person’s life in one of two forms: first, to profess belief in something while acting in a manner totally contrary to that belief; and, second, to look down upon others for their sin while at the same time committing the same or worse sin.

-Hypocrisy Condemned!

The Prophet Isaiah condemned hypocrisy, saying, “The Lord says, ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men’” Isaiah 29:13 The Apostle Paul wrote that “love must be without hypocrisy” Romans 12:9; while, the Apostle John said we cannot say we love God if we do not love our brother in 1 John 2:9. In our day, there’s been a misuse of the word “hypocrisy” by many claiming that it’s “hypocrisy” to call out; or, take a stand on sin. But, it’s only “hypocrisy” to call out a certain sin if we’re guilty of committing it.

-When Is It Hypocrisy?

It’s not hypocrisy to call sexual immorality sin unless we’re living in sexual immorality ourselves. That would make us an “actor”; and, in need of repentance! If we’re “in Christ” we’re called to live holy lives (1 Peter 1:16); to “hate what is evil” and “cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9). We must live our lives in such an honest way that we avoid that label of “hypocrite.” So, with God’s help—through the work of His Spirit—let us commit to rooting hypocrisy out of our lives! Let’s leave “acting” in the movie theatre; and, bring honesty & truth into our Church!

-Is Christianity Invalid Because Of Hypocrisy?

Christianity does not stand or fall on the way Christians have acted throughout history or are acting today. Christianity stands or falls on the person of Jesus, and Jesus was not a hypocrite. He lived consistently with what He taught, and at the end of His life He challenged those who had lived with Him night and day, for over three years, to point out any hypocrisy in Him. His disciples were silent, because there was none. Since Christianity depends on Jesus, it is incorrect to try to invalidate the Christian faith by pointing to horrible things done in the name of Christianity”—(Quote from: McDowell & Steward, Answers To Tough Questions Skeptics Ask About Faith)

Thank You God For Pain!

-Enslaved By Our Idols!

Did you know that God will allow our idols to enslave us in order to drive us back to Himself? It’s true! In the Old Testament book of Judges, it says that God, “…sold Israel to their enemies around them, and they could no longer resist their enemies. Whenever the Israelites went out, the Lord was against them and brought disaster on them, just as He had promised and sworn to them. So they suffered greatly” (2:14).  You may find that disturbing that “…the Lord was against them”; and, that He “…brought disaster on them.” Or, perhaps you can relate! Have you ever felt like God was against you & that He was bringing disaster into your life? Well, He might be! But, if He is, it’s only temporary & He means to use the disaster to encourage you to repent, over your sin, and return to the Lord!

-All Idols Are Frauds!

That’s what He did with Israel! He meant to show them that their idols were all frauds! That the idols that they bowed down to would never satisfy or deliver them! Only God can satisfy and deliver! We see the pattern in the next chapter of Judges:  “The Israelites did what was evil in the Lord’s sight; they forgot the Lord their God and worshiped the Baals and the Asherahs. The Lord’s anger burned against Israel, and He sold them to Cushan-rishathaim…” (3:7).  When their idols failed to deliver, v.9 says, “Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord. So the Lord raised up Othniel…as a deliverer to save the Israelites.”  So, from an application standpoint, we need to look at pain & struggles differently!

-Ask God To Reveal Your Idols!

Some times, we need to thank God for pain! When you’re facing difficulties, in life, ask God to reveal any idols that you may be depending on— money, health, education, leisure, etc.— and, confess it as sin if you’re guilty! And, then, turn back to the Lord! It’s His goodness that leads us to repentance! Otherwise, when we fail to repent, God’s absence from His rightful place in our life can lead to shocking moral depravity! There’s a story, in Judges 19-21, that is one of the most unbelievable in all of Scripture.  A Levite, who was supposed to be a religious leader in Israel, has a concubine! Do you know what a concubine is? She’s someone who voluntarily enslaves & sells herself to a man primarily for sexual pleasure— kind of a “friend with benefits” as has been popularized in our own immoral culture! So this Levite has broken some of the clear commands that God had given Israel, through Moses, way before they even entered Canaan land. The concubine didn’t have an equal status as a wife; so, when she got angry, with her situation, she left the Levite & went home to her parents. After awhile, he goes to see her, they make up and return home!

-Shocking Moral Depravity!

On the way home, they spend the night in an Israelite city. The text says, “…perverted men of the city surrounded the house…and demanded of the owner that he, ‘Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him” (19:22). When they couldn’t  have the Levite, they took his concubine, raped & abused her all night, leaving her for dead! So, the Levite took her home, cut her up into 12 pieces & sent her body parts throughout the 12 territories of Israel! Shocking, right? I can’t even come up with an English word that adequately describes that story! God doesn’t sugar-coat the atrocities that sinful men are capable of! God’s absence from our lives; or, from the conscience of a nation, can lead to shocking moral depravity. Let’s learn to be thankful when God interrupts our sin with some pain to get our attention! And, then, let’s confess our idols as sin and repent!

The Moral Relativism Problem!

Doing What’s Best In Your Own Eyes!

The deadliest accident in aviation history occurred on March 27, 1977, when 2 Boeing 747 passenger jets collided on the runway of Tenerife North Airport on Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands. There were 583 total fatalities. The crash left behind many unanswered questions. It was a foggy day; and, the pilots, of the 2 planes, could not see each other. But, for some inexplicable reason, one of the pilots began his takeoff without clearance from the control tower. The other plane was in the way & he was unable to avoid it; so, 583 people died! Every pilot is taught one very basic lesson at the beginning of their training— in an air traffic control zone, you NEVER do what seems best in your own eyes! You always do what the control tower tells you to do.

-Acting On Your Own Can Be Disastrous!

The reason is simple & obvious— the controller knows things you can’t possible know or see. They have more accurate information & a better perspective to guide the plane safely to its destination. Acting on your own can be disastrous! While that seems like an obvious principle for aviation, it ought to be an equally obvious principle for living out your life. Our Creator God ought to be our control tower! Unfortunately, we live in dark times. Our country & the world appear to be stuck in a dark moral vacuum where no one seems to believe that there are moral absolutes of right and wrong anymore. People are committed to a philosophy of “moral relativism”; which, simply means everyone does that which is right in their own eyes. 

-Losing Your Spiritual Compass!

The Old Testament book of Judges offers us a vivid picture of what happens when a society does what’s right in their own eyes & it reads like the daily paper or nightly news in our own country.  Judges unpacks the story of a spiritually deteriorating nation; and, provides us an example of what our own lives will become if we fall away from God’s Word & lose our spiritual compass. Look at how the book begins:  “The people worshiped the Lord throughout Joshua’s lifetime and during the lifetimes of the elders who outlived Joshua… after them another generation rose up who did not know the Lord or the works He had done for Israel. The Israelites did what was evil in the Lord’s sight. They worshiped the Baals and abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers… they went after other gods from the surrounding peoples and bowed down to them. They infuriated the Lord” Judges 2:7-14.

-The Beginnings Of Apostasy!

For Israel, the apostasy began slowly as it always does! Sin always seems harmless when we’re just looking at something that’s enticing; but, the look leads to partaking; and, then a commitment to hiding the sin! To wearing a mask & pretending we’re not guilty! Sin’s most effective strategy against us is to gradually introduce small compromises, sinking us into moral collapse. I had a Bible College professor who used to say, “You don’t just wake up one day & say, ‘Hey, I’m gonna kill somebody today!’ You don’t just wake up one day & say, ‘Hey, I’m gonna sleep with someone I’m not married to.’” Sin takes over gradually. A small compromise here & a bit more there! Before Achan coveted & stole he began to calculate the possibility of how he could get away with it (Joshua 7). The compromise began in his heart; and, it was gradual. He failed to take those 1st thoughts captive & denounce them; and, because he didn’t control them, they eventually controlled him! Let the sin take control & then you begin to justify it! That’s the sin talking!