God with us in our opposition of Him
The song of Deborah and the ten commandments
Judges 5 and Exodus 20
A question that is going on in my mind is the many excuses we make in our world regarding morals, ethics and values. After the death of Joshua, there was no succession plan and the people were without a leader. Of course the Lord was leading them but somehow, it seems, the people did their own thing if there was not strong leadership.
Here is a quick summary of the story in the book of Judges.
Israel continues to conquer Canaan after the death of Joshua, but fails to completely drive out the Canaanites as God commanded. Those that remain behind turn Israel toward the worship of their idol gods, especially Baal and Ashteroth. That breaks Israel’s covenant, but God steps back and lets Israel learn from its mistakes, leaving them with no divine leader.
The last five chapters of Judges actually take place during one of these times, and they’re not pretty. Israel becomes a barbaric nation ruled by whomever the biggest bully on the playground happens to be. There’s rape, murder, genocide, and mass kidnappings aplenty in these chapters. Once God allows Israel to be conquered by oppressors, they realise how much they need Him, so they turn from their idols and ask for His help again. He sends it in the form of warriors and champions called judges.
Each time God sends a judge, he or she leads Israel to battle against its enemies, and with heavenly help they restore peace and prosperity. But like clockwork, as soon as that judge dies, Israel turns to idolatry again. This happens with a few minor judges—Othniel, Ehud, and Shamgar—before Deborah steps in.
Deborah, the only female judge, is a prophetess who, along with her general Barak, defeats a Canaanite king and his general, Sisera (with a little help from Jael and her handy hammer). She and Barak are so happy about this, that they sing a victory song that lasts a whole chapter. Then they die, and the people fall to pieces again, worship other gods, get conquered, and come crawling back to God for help.
This time, he calls a man named Gideon to deliver Israel. Gideon rallies Israel around him and leads them to battle against Midian. But God decides that he wants everyone to know that it was He, and not some big army, that saved Israel, so he instructs Gideon to whittle away his army to just 300 men. With God’s help,Gideon’s army defeats the Midianites and brings peace to Israel once again… until their next stumble.
Israel continues the vicious cycle through several more judges (most notably Jephthah, whose honour-bound sacrifice of his only daughter is one of the more depressing episodes in Judges, which is saying a lot) until we arrive at the main story: the story of Samson and Delilah. Passion! Deceit! Animal abuse! Samson’s superhuman strength, fierce temper, and weakness for women build up to a fateful liaison with Delilah and a tragic, redemptive climax unlike anything else in the entire Bible—and maybe in all of literature and is both the chronological and narrative climax of the book.
The last five chapters (17-21) occur chronologically sometime during the first chapter. Read them between chapters one and two so that the story of Samson and Delilah is the last thing you read.
What had these people missed and how can we learn from this ?
They missed the ten(der) commandments of God – Ron Mehl. The love letter that Moses brought down the mountain and called them to follow. Remember that as he came down they, along with Aaron, had created for themselves a gold statue to worship. Nothing had changed with the Israelites worshipping the foreign gods of Baal and the Canaanites. As a people we still have other things, mostly in our world which draw us away from a true worship of God.
So I know I am taking you back a bit but remember we are in Lent and instead of giving up chocolate or coffee, let’s rather find ways to give into the ten powerful ways of God (Ten Commandments Ex 20 ) and find ways to love Him, ourselves and others more.
Today, let’s reflect on what we have already looked at:
The Ten Commandments are not ten conditions for God to love you. They are not a ten ‘to-do’ list to ensure that you get to Heaven.
Essentially, the Ten Commandments have nothing really to do with salvation. The Hebrew people were already saved when God gave them the Ten Commandments. The Bible says that He heard their crying out because of their suffering and He decided to save them from their slave drivers. A Hebrew person does not think of salvation as going to Heaven one day, a Hebrew person thinks in terms of living ‘slave driver free’ today. God brought these people out of slavery and into freedom and said, “Listen, I didn’t free you from your slave drivers just so you could proclaim that you’re free, I have a much bigger purpose for you and it is this; I freed you from slave drivers so that you could be a kingdom of priests, in other words so that you could take on the responsibility of showing others what the kingdom of God can be.”
In the book of Isaiah it says it this way, “It is but a light thing that I called you to be my servant, but I’ve also called you to be a light to the gentiles in order that you might be My salvation to the earth.” God is saying, “Don’t just have salvation; be salvation. Don’t just have it, be it. Demonstrate before you announce.” God didn’t call the church to be a group of people who are on their way to Heaven one day, God actually called the church to be a group of people who were unswerving in the goal of bringing Heaven to Earth to people today. That is where our credibility is found. That is where our credibility is kept – not in proclaiming to the world “we’re in and you’re out.” Nobody cares about a statement like that. Actually, that’s offensive. It’s very ineffective when your style of witnessing is, “Hey. Guess what? I’m in and you’re out.” That doesn’t work. Do you have a right to do that? Yes. Is it profitable? No. The most powerful witness in the world is actually a demonstration of God’s power. Feed the hungry and then tell them what you’re about. They’ll listen because you’ve met their need. We’re to be demonstrators of who God is to the whole world, and with that in mind, God gave us a way to live.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Gal 5:1
- Put God first.
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15, NIV)
Set apart Christ as Lord in your heart. That’s another way of saying, Put God first.
Our number-one task as believers is to make sure that nothing — no “god” – person, object, task, duty, or pleasure — comes before Him in our priorities, in our plans, and in our affection.
Hard work and good teaching and a willingness to stand in the gap for the Lord aren’t enough. This is a relationship, and the Lord is very, very concerned with the condition of our hearts toward Him.
King Solomon would have known the first command from boyhood. And I would guess it was very much on his mind when he wrote these words: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6, NIV).
- Worship God only.
Would God be saying something like this to us? “I’m committed to you and you alone. I would never leave you and run to another. Would you please do one thing? Don’t put anything between you and Me. Don’t carry other images close to your heart. Don’t surrender My place to another.”
What then are those “images” in our world today that would rise up to challenge our love relationship with the Son of God?
- Use God’s name with respect.
We live in a day where the air is blue with profanity. You can hardly watch a movie, pick up a novel, or even listen to the radio without hearing God’s name taken in vain. One of the definitions for the word profane speaks of “debasing or defiling that which is holy or worthy of reverence.” It’s an attack against something holy. It’s an attempt to take something exalted or revered and jerk it down from its pedestal. When I profane something, I try to yank it down to my level, so I can reduce it to being nothing more than I am.
What does it mean, then, to profane the Lord God? It is nothing less than a denial of His holiness and majesty and power. It is an attempt to somehow pull God down to a common level and make him equal with me.
Perhaps you say, “Well, I don’t do that. I don’t talk that way. I don’t swear. I’m a Christian, and I would never talk that way.”
But there are other ways to use His name in vain — socially acceptable ways to profane Him. I have been guilty of them in my life, and perhaps you have, too. And one of those ways is to be very, very casual or careless in our prayers. The Lord cautions us against “vain repetitions.” Vain means empty. It means saying things over and over, without conviction.
Why would God say, “Don’t take My name in vain”? Because He loves you and me so much. The problem with most people is that they think they can get by with it because they say anything they want to and “nothing has happened.” Yet when you read the Scriptures you discover something about sowing and reaping, and it is this: You never, never reap in the same season you sow. But God’s Word is true. And using His name in vain will affect your life.
“But the things that come out of the mouth, come from the heart, and these make a man unclean’” (Matthew 15:18, NIV).
The bitter, hurtful, or profane words that come out of my mouth are a sign to me that something is terribly wrong in my heart.
Is God concerned with what you say? Yes. Because He knows that there is something greater than what’s wrong with your mouth. It’s your heart. He knows that it is out of the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks.
- Remember God’s Sabbath. – rest
If you consistently dishonour the Sabbath principle in your life, somewhere along the line, the bills will come due. Things will begin to break down in your life. The breakdown may be physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, or marital. I can’t tell you what form His discipline will take, but I know that God loves us too much to allow our self-destructive tendencies to go unchallenged.
He wants time with me.
He wants to walk with me.
He wants to share His heart with me. He wants a relationship.
Remember what David sang about the Lord:
The LORD is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still water.
He restores my soul…
He makes me lie down! If you don’t lie down and rest, if you don’t seek out those quiet pastures and still waters with your Shepherd, it’s not beyond Him to make you.
I wonder if the Sabbath isn’t the day when you and I get to stop and remind ourselves…
of who God is.
These last 6 are so important for our own well being. First four about our relationship with God and last 6 about our relationship with others.
- Respect your parents.
Notice that this command is the only one of the Ten Commandments with a promise attached:
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12).
Here again, so very clearly, we can see that the motive — the operative principle — behind the Ten Commandments is God’s abiding love for us. They truly are the tender commandments.
Why should we honor father and mother? So that we might live. So that we might not be weighed down or taken captive by bitterness. So that we might not come to destruction. So that we might enjoy God’s good gifts to us through the days of our lives. The Lord is saying, “Would you do this? Would you honor the father and mother that I gave you? And if you do, things will be well with you. If you are careful to do this, I will honor your life, I will bless your life, and I will extend your life. Because I love you, however, I must also warn you:
if you violate this command, it will affect the whole fabric of your life.”
Some might respond by saying, “How should I honor my parents?” Others have to get by the “why” before we can get to the “how.” Why should I do this?
God wants to protect us from destructive thoughts and attitudes right now. And right now, if I settle this matter of honouring my parents, I can be a different person. A son or daughter who forgives from the heart can be a different kind of parent to his or her own children. An honourable parent. A parent free from bitterness. A parent — and a child — that the heavenly Father can bless and use in unimaginable ways.
No, God doesn’t close His eyes or ignore the pain parents sometimes inflict on their own children. He places great value on the home and holds mothers and fathers accountable for their parenting. In Matthew 18:6 (NASB), the Lord Jesus said very sternly, “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
The Lord understands the hurt and the pain many children endure, and it does not escape His notice. He takes it very, very seriously. He knows that when a person is abused or neglected at home, it affects him or her greatly, down to the very core.
His Word still teaches us: “Honor your father and mother…that it may go well with you.”
- Don’t hurt other people.
Such a simple statement but so much hurt is going on in our world and we are breaking not just a covenant but the heart of God.
- Be faithful in marriage/ relationships.
We need to remember that God desires for us to be in a safe place in our relationships and for that to happen we need to be faithful first to Him and then to our partners.What If I’ve Already Failed?
I think I could safely say that we have all failed in this command. Is there anyone who has never allowed an impure, adulterous thought to linger on the screen of the mind? And the Lord tells us that if we have committed adultery in our mind, it is the same in heaven’s eyes as if we’d already followed through on the act.
So what can we do?
Make a decision to repent and confess your sin to the Lord Accept His forgiveness
End the relationship now.
Praise God for His mercy!
And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (John 8:9-11).
And so, today, Lord, help me to be faithful to my life partner — this wonderful person You have given me to love — in every word, every thought, every deed. In Jesus’ name, amen.
- Don’t steal.
This doesn’t need a lot of expounding but maybe we need to ask how we are stealing – time, opportunities, finance and God. He requires simply that we bring an offering to say ‘Thank you’ and are we doing this ?
Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What shall man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6, NASB)
And so today, Lord, because You have given me everything I need for life and godliness, I will not take anything unless it is from Your hand. In Jesus’ name, amen.
- Don’t lie.
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Exodus 20:16
WORDS THAT WOUND, WORDS THAT HEAL
Why would God include this command, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor,” as one of the Ten? What does this command have to do with God’s love for us? It amazes me to realize that out of ten commandments, three concern the use of our tongue: taking His name in vain, killing by the words we speak, and now by bearing false witness.
For the Lord to say, “Be very, very careful what you say about people,” illustrates how well our God knows us. He knows the danger and potential for harm in an undisciplined tongue. He knows the unspeakable damage it can do. As Solomon noted, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21).
- Don’t want what others have.
The fact is, God knows exactly what you and I need. He knows when we need what we need. He knows how much we need of what we need. And He has a way of seeing to it that I receive what I need, at just the right time…not my time, perhaps, but the right time.
Psalm 23 tells us that He is our shepherd, that He will lead us, and that we will have no lack. Hebrews 13:5 (NIV) says, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’”
Why would the Lord say these things?
Because He knows what coveting and greed will do to a human life. He understands the devastation it will bring, and in His love He would spare us from that.
The Israelites lost sight of this during the time of the Judges and then of the Lord and this is where it all went south.
We need to keep in mind the love letter our Lord has written to us and hold it close to our hearts so that it will go well with us our children and our children’s children.
Hallelujah! God’s own Son came down from heaven so that I could trust in Him and depend on Him to help me do what I could never do.
For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:34).