God’s Ways or My Ways (Judges 19)

my-way-gods-way-sign

In today’s chapter we really see how low the morality of Israel became without a Judge or a king. We know that Israel had gotten bad in the past, but we weren’t shown exactly how much. Here we meet another Levite that left his home to find a new place to live and landed in the hill country of Ephraim. This man had taken a woman to be his concubine. She was unfaithful to him and ran away to her father’s house in Judah. After four months had passed, the Levite traveled to get his concubine back. He stayed in his father-in-law’s house for three days, and decided to leave on the fourth. He was convinced to stay another day. So on the fifth day he finally left. When night was approaching, the Levite’s servant suggested staying in Jerusalem until morning. The Levite said no, because Jerusalem was not an Israelite city; so they continued on to Gibeah (which was an Israelite city). They took refuge with an elder man, who was also from the region of Ephraim. Then the story turns into one that reads like the story of Lot and his family during the destruction of Sodom (Genesis 19:1-29). The  men of Gibeah came to the man’s house and demanded that he give them the Levite so they could have sexual relations with him. The man refused, but offered his own daughter and the Levite’s concubine. The men refused them and insisted on the Levite. The Levite then forced his concubine out into the crowd, and they took her and abused her throughout the rest of the night. In the morning she was released, but when she reached the house, she died.

The last two chapters start with the same phrase, “Now in those days Israel had no king.” (18:1, 19:1, NLT). This phrase can be taken in two different ways. At first, you can take it at face value. When it says “Israel had no king” it could literally mean there was no king, no central governing body to rule over the people. The second way you can take it is that Israel did not follow any sort of king. If you remember from a few chapters ago, Gideon told the Israelites, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son. The Lord will rule over you!” (Judges 8:22, NLT). This would mean that the Israelites were not even listening or obeying God.

As terrible and tragic as this chapter is, I think it paints a very good picture of what our lives can be like without God. When we remain in sin, we run our lives into the mud. We ruin them because we are looking out for ourselves, with little or no care for the cost. But Jesus changes this for us. He gives us the opportunity to be reconnected with God, and learn to live good, godly lives.

We read in John’s letters, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:7-10, NASB). Since we know God, we know how to love, and Jesus calls us to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:23, NASB). This love that we share will not let us step on or hurt others to keep us in a better place. Rather it forces us to humble ourselves beneath all others in order to serve them, and build them up into a better place.

So I ask you a simple question. Are we more likely to act like the men of Gibeah and serve our own wants and desires, or do we put ourselves aside in order to help others? We all know what the right answer is, but try to be honest about it. I know that there are times the mantra “Gotta look out for #1” pops into my thoughts. It’s also the way the world teaches us to be. But this is a time where we must question, do we do what the world teaches us, or Christ?

Also in this series

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 84-87

Don’t Be False (Mark 13)

Poster ad from the video game Bioshock Infinite
Poster ad from the video game Bioshock Infinite

Today’s chapter was a little hard for me to find something to talk about. Mark 13 talks a lot about the end times and the return of Christ. This isn’t something that I like to spend a lot of time on in discussion simply because people can get insane over the topic of the “End of the World”. But Jesus did say something that is important for us to remember, even not during the End.

Jesus says “false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead [you] astray, if possible” (13:22 NASB). This relates to a post I made earlier. In that post I told you to be careful about what you say. In this one, you must be careful of what others say.

Jesus knew that without him to guide the disciples (and us later on), they would fall prey to people preaching about Christ, but didn’t fully understand. Something that arose in the early church was a heresy called Gnosticism. It was a belief that the physical world was evil and should be done away with, and we should only focus on the spiritual world. This belief influenced many early Christians to the point that many of the disciples had to fight against it, and Paul wrote several sections of his letters that allude to Gnostic beliefs in the Church.

In today’s world, Christianity gets put in a bad light, which I think is sad. Yet we knew it was going to happen. Jesus warned us that we would get persecuted, and honestly, the Church has been persecuted since day 1. But today, it is because of some members of the Church, not outside influence. There is a lot of hate going around in Jesus’ name. Hate that is unfounded, because Jesus preached a life of love.

This isn’t to say that God doesn’t hate things. He does. He hates sin. Sin is very simply the act of deciding that you know better than God, and you are going to decide what is right. I’m not sure how imperfection trumps perfection, but I am even guilty of the behavior. We all are. But some of this hate goes towards the people. God doesn’t hate the sinner, He hates the sin. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NASB).

So I guess my focus for today is that we not only be careful what we say and do, but also what are Christian brothers and sisters are doing. It is our duty as mature Christians to help those who aren’t as far along as we are. We must help the world to see the love of Christ and show that love through our own lives.