MLToday: [Judges Chapter Ten]: Surviving Prosperity. In this chapter we find the people of God enjoying 45 years of quietude and blessing. Unfortunately this engendered lax attitudes toward serving God and problems resulted. Finding God when your life is falling apart is a natural response to pressures and trouble. Maintaining fidelity to God is another matter when you have few problems and everything is coming up roses. In this chapter we gain insights in how to wake to righteousness and avoid the problem seasons altogether by walking in humility before God.

Today: [Judges Chapter Ten]: Surviving Prosperity. In this chapter we find the people of God enjoying 45 years of quietude and blessing. Unfortunately this engendered lax attitudes toward serving God and problems resulted. Finding God when your life is falling apart is a natural response to pressures and trouble. Maintaining fidelity to God is another matter when you have few problems and everything is coming up roses. In this chapter we gain insights in how to wake to righteousness and avoid the problem seasons altogether by walking in humility before God.

[Jdg 10:1-18 KJV] 1 And after Abimelech there arose to defend Israel Tola the son of Puah, the son of Dodo, a man of Issachar; and he dwelt in Shamir in mount Ephraim. 2 And he judged Israel twenty and three years, and died, and was buried in Shamir. 3 And after him arose Jair, a Gileadite, and judged Israel twenty and two years. 4 And he had thirty sons that rode on thirty ass colts, and they had thirty cities, which are called Havothjair unto this day, which [are] in the land of Gilead. 5 And Jair died, and was buried in Camon.

Verses 1 – 3 of this chapter would be the ancient equivalent of a slow news day. Nothing is happening so there isn’t much to say. Broadcasters despise this. Rather than reporting what they consider hard news they have to trot out animal handlers, or report on silly things because there just isn’t that much happening. In fact the rule of Tola and Jair were very significant for the very reasons nothing much is said of them. They ruled Israel between them a total of 45 years. Can you imagine summarizing 1970 to 2015 in two paragraphs and not having much more to add other than to talk about Jair’s sons and the asses they rode on? In the previous chapter we dealt with Israel’s first king illegitimately chosen by the name of Abimelech. This was a difficult time with many deaths and great upheaval. It is one of the longest chapters in the book of Judges and covers only three years!

Jair judged Israel with the assistance of his 30 sons who ruled from 30 cities called Havothjair “unto this day”. What day was this written. The book of Judges was compiled and written by the prophet Samuel during the early reign of king Saul. These cities were actually on the east side of Jordan where many of the invasions of foreign nations came from. Apparently these cities were intended to be a barrier from invasion and kept Israel’s enemies at bay while the western tribes in the Promised land enjoyed peace and tranquility under just and godly leaders.

We often see times of upheaval and difficulty and wonder if things will ever be different. Jesus himself said:

[Mat 24:6 KJV] 6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all [these things] must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

These things never last and the lull between them doesn’t often last either. Jesus knew there would be doom and gloomers arise after him with alarmist sentiments who would keep the people of God upset. He understood that Christianity would lend itself to apocalyptic, doomsday teachers and prophets and He was warning against it. In the day of the 24 hour news cycle the very definition of information and news is negative. If it’s not bad – its not news. If it’s not bad we will find some that is. Let’s look to Jesus’ words and choose not to be troubled and not to allow anyone else to trouble us either whether it be FOX, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, CBS or ABC.

6 And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim, and Ashtaroth, and the gods of Syria, and the gods of Zidon, and the gods of Moab, and the gods of the children of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines, and forsook the LORD, and served not him.

In a time of peace idolatry will be on the rise and public morals will decline. The 1920’s otherwise known as the roaring 20’s things were good and morality took a sharp decline. When the stock market crashed and the country stood in bread lines to eat the people returned to God. This is seen even in fashion. In economic good times dress is casual, ties are seldom seen and fashion tends to the flamboyant. In a down turn dress is more conservative, ties are more narrow, and colors more muted in tone. The people turned to idolatry because they thought they could afford it. They thought that they didn’t need God as much and their prosperity prompted boredom and boredom foster alternative lifestyles and religions.

Who was the false god Baalim? Baal means “dominative father” and also “husband” or “owner”. People want to belong. In our increasingly secularized society commercial brands have become a substitute for religious identity. The marketplace and conspicuous consumption have encroached on the mountain or sphere of religion claiming the fidelities of the people once reserved only for God himself. Brands like Apple, Starbucks, and Harley-Davidson have turned their product lines into the touch stones of a commercial culture promising their customers far more than mere computers, coffee and transportation.

The goddess Ashtoreth was the god of sexuality. In legitimate religious expression the idea of eternity motivates believers to morality and altruism with eternity in view. Life should count for something. You can’t just live for yourself. You should serve the greater good for after death there is a reckoning. In times of relative prosperity and little religious fervor the need for security and coping with own’s mortality provokes a turn toward the worship of youthfulness and sexualization even of our youngest children. We elevate the youthful and attractive on every screen and billboard but warehouse our aged behind closed doors and gated compounds out of sight out of mind. The problem is more than just salacious objectification of the opposite sex. It is hiding from our own mortality and the broader consequences of answering to God one day for the conduct of our lives.

Israel was no exception to this problem. How did God deal with this? He sent an unnamed prophet to call the people out of slumber and to return to Him.

7 And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hands of the Philistines, and into the hands of the children of Ammon. 8 And that year they vexed and oppressed the children of Israel: eighteen years, all the children of Israel that [were] on the other side Jordan in the land of the Amorites, which [is] in Gilead. 9 Moreover the children of Ammon passed over Jordan to fight also against Judah, and against Benjamin, and against the house of Ephraim; so that Israel was sore distressed. 10 And the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, saying, We have sinned against thee, both because we have forsaken our God, and also served Baalim. 11 And the LORD said unto the children of Israel, [Did] not [I deliver you] from the Egyptians, and from the Amorites, from the children of Ammon, and from the Philistines? 12 The Zidonians also, and the Amalekites, and the Maonites, did oppress you; and ye cried to me, and I delivered you out of their hand.

We need to remember our history. Not the revised history that meticulously excises all references to God or religion but the true history that is only found in the generational anecdotes of our elderly. Go sit for 25 minutes with an believing elderly relative or godly neighbor and get a snapshot of what spiritual values were fifty, sixty years ago. Remember the spiritual history of times gone by. Rehearse revivals and previous outpourings of God and know that what happened in the past will happen again. Seek to position yourself to be a part of the solution and not part of the problem. Make choices to withdraw and extract yourself from the habits, lifestyle and personal philosophy that reduces you to being a mere slave of fashion, pop culture and the 24 hour news cycle. Take custody of your own life, values and your mind. You mind is a temple. The images you allow secular society to implant constantly in your mind will become the defacto idols that shape your thinking.

13 Yet ye have forsaken me, and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more. 14 Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation.

What are our other gods? Look at how you spend your time, money and resources. In America and the UK our populations worship at the idol of the political. We honestly think that if we get the right politician in office things will be better. Our idea is that a good economy makes for a good life and that only a particular political leader can make that happen. This sets up our culture to receive the charismatic godless leader that will come one day to solve all our problems. Over the course of my lifetime political ideology has become less important when it comes to getting elected by the people. The people are looking for a charismatic leader who inspires the confidence of those who shape the economy. This is exactly the social climate the brought about the rise of Adolf Hitler. In the mid 30’s if Adolf Hitler had died he would have gone down as one of the greatest economic reformers and political leaders of our time. We have to come to our righteous mind and think again for ourselves in the context of a biblical world view. In looking at world events and the issues in our own personal lives remember the words of Zecheriah:

[Zec 4:6 KJV] 6 Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This [is] the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.

Not by Might: Armies will not solve our problems. Those that live by the sword will die by the sword. Period. There are no caveats or justifications. There is no just war in a society that mocks God and defames His word. God did not create man to kill his fellow man. War is the ultimate response of a people who have abandoned God and taken matters into their own hands. Every conflict that men enter into they think that God is on their side and they are right in doing what they do. Isaiah boldly expressed the ultimate heart of God where these things are concerned:

[Isa 2:4 KJV] 4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

Not by Power. This is political influence. Political parties will not solve our problem. The answer is not to elect a conservative. The conservative parties of the west have poked their finger in the eye of the liberal political groups for years. They claim they are the party of God and country while they grind the faces of the poor, fail to deliver on issues like abortion and prayer in schools then wipe their mouth claiming they did no wrong and it’s someone else’s fault. The church has become the political pawn of a deceitful, dishonest political machine that dares to name the name of God as its moral foundation. I have heard sentiments for decades that you cannot be a good Christian unless you are a republican or conservative. God’s favor will never be upon a body political that uses His people for their own ends. Politics will not save us. It is only “…by My Spirit says the Lord….”

15 And the children of Israel said unto the LORD, We have sinned: do thou unto us whatsoever seemeth good unto thee; deliver us only, we pray thee, this day. 16 And they put away the strange gods from among them, and served the LORD: and his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel. 17 Then the children of Ammon were gathered together, and encamped in Gilead. And the children of Israel assembled themselves together, and encamped in Mizpeh. 18 And the people [and] princes of Gilead said one to another, What man [is he] that will begin to fight against the children of Ammon? he shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.

The people repented. Not by merely being sorry for their sin but for humbling themselves and being teachable. Notice that though they humbled themselves they actually had to be TOLD to put away their idols. Idolatry and contaminating influences become such a common part of life that we can’t identify them anymore. We lose the context and clarity by which we could separate ourselves from ungodliness because there is no comparative choice anywhere to be found. Open your heart and your mind and be willing to make changes in your lifestyle and habits that may seem odd and unnecessary by those around you.

God responds to humility. The people weren’t getting it right but their hearts were smitten before God. He plainly told them they were idolaters and named their idols but they were so entrenched in their lifestyle choices they didn’t get it. They couldn’t understand that they actually needed to take measures that from the standpoint of prevailing culture seemed completely unnecessary. God had mercy on them in their ignorance. In our day we are no less ignorant. Things are the way they are because of what we are doing. If we want something different we must do something different. We must make a visceral and radical connection between what God says and what we do. When this is done our time management will change. We will spend our time and money differently. We will look different and act differently. Our dumpsters will be full of things that no longer fit our lives because of a requalification of our commitment to Christ. In the midst of it GOD will SEND deliverance!

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