Judges 18:19 – “Keep Quiet”

What is it about so many of the priests and Levites we meet in the book of Judges?  Each one seems to be worse than the next.  Weren’t they supposed to be set apart by God for service to Him because they stood athwart the sin and evil they saw during the incident of the Golden Calf (Exodus 32:28-29)?  Didn’t God consecrate them and give them special privileges because of their faithfulness?  How then could they stray so far from God and His design for them?

In the narrative of the Ephraimite Micah, we get a glimpse into the apostasy of – not only the common people of Israel – but of the Levitical class.  Micah stole money from his mother, who then sanctioned his actions.  Through that relational mess, Micah used the money to make a shrine, an ephod (i.e. a priestly garment), and several idols (Judges 17:5).  The thought of Yahweh and obeying His Law never entered this man’s mind nor that or his mother.

A wandering Levite came along, who Micah commissioned to be his household priest, so they could worship using these several items.  This was directly against God’s command that the Israelites not set up altars throughout the land, but only worship where He directed.  But, as the text says, none of this mattered because “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6).  With this outlook, Micah believed that setting the Levite in this position to lead his household worship gave him Yahweh’s favor, as noted in Judges 17:13:

Then Micah said, “Now I know that the Lord will prosper me, because I have a Levite as priest.”

Into this apparently blissful situation, men from the tribe of Dan enter the picture.  Dan had been allotted territory to the west bordering the Mediterranean Sea, but they never fought for it; thus they were without their own God-given territory (Judges 18:1).  These Danite spies recognize the Levite, who informs them of his position in Micah’s house and blesses them in the Name of the Lord, without actually consulting Him for that blessing (Judges 18:6).

The spies returned to their people and related that the town of Laish, which was far north in Israel, was a perfect place for them to conquer the people and settle down.  Laish was in the foothills of Mount Hermon in the area previously occupied by Bashan.  That region was also a hotbed for demonic activity.  Later, when Jesus came, it was nearby that He proclaimed that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church, speaking of that center of ungodliness and to the rebellious spirits surrounding them.

On their way to Laish (which the Danites would rename as the town of Dan – Judges 18:29), the tribe stopped at Micah’s house.  Because the spies knew of the various pagan items of worship that Micah had, they boldly entered his house and stole his possessions to make them their own.  As they did, the Levite – Micah’s priest – stood and watched.  When he asked them what they were doing, we see the response in Judges 18:19:

And they said to him, “Keep quiet; put your hand on your mouth and come with us and be to us a father and a priest. Is it better for you to be priest to the house of one man, or to be priest to a tribe and clan in Israel?”

Rather than object and call out the theft, or to finally realize he was supposed to perform his priestly duties in service to Yahweh, the next verse of Judges 18:20 gives us the Levite’s response:

And the priest’s heart was glad. He took the ephod and the household gods and the carved image and went along with the people.

In other words, the priest kept quiet and actually celebrated the evil that he witnessed; worse, he participated in that wickedness.

This brings us to the church today and the heart condition of far too many pastors in the shepherding of their flocks.  Like the Levite, they want the approval of the world, so they go along with every evil that they witness.  Because they don’t fear God, they seek the blessings of man and actually enable sin.  Somewhere along the way they decided that a true relationship with Jesus Christ couldn’t fulfill them.  Whether these men or women – placed in the position of authority over a church – ever had a true, personal relationship with Jesus, to submit to man’s wants and desires rather than to the commandments of God has certainly obliterated any semblance of intimacy with Him.

The world has told them to, “Keep quiet.”  They are not to stand against the homosexual agenda, the social justice gospel, or the demonic movement known as BLM.  Rather than hold back the tide against these heretical developments, they embrace them, with many becoming integral parts of these activities.  Why?  Lots of reasons.  Some were never saved.  Certainly the fear of losing tax-exempt status for their church comes into play for many.  Others – despite attending seminary, or probably because of that – they’ve never learned the truth of God’s Word.  It was perverted in what they learned, and they disciple their congregations in the same corrupted manner.

Is it any wonder the church is falling away rapidly in the prophetically foretold apostasy prior to the soon-coming Tribulation?

Does it grieve your heart to watch this happen?  It certainly grieves me.

For those of us who see this, what can we do?  I think James 5:19-20 says it best:

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

In other words, in these dark times, let us continue to do the Lord’s work, to proclaim the true Gospel, and to reach out to others in their sin to save them through God’s mercy, if at all possible.

Luke 10:20 – The Most Important Thing

Jesus demonstrated His authority when He sent out disciples in His Name.  When He first sent out the Twelve, they received from Him the power to cast out demons and cure diseases, but in doing these miracles, their primary purpose was to proclaim the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:1-2).  These were His handpicked men who had, up till now, seen Jesus perform similar supernatural acts and wonder at them, but this was something entirely new.  To be granted the ability to do what only God could, must have astounded them!

Having been sent out, the disciples became apostles, i.e. “sent ones.”  The text in Luke or the similar accounts in Matthew 10 and Mark 6 don’t tell us much as to the reaction of the Twelve when they returned.  Jesus had warned them that going in His Name would mean persecution because of the hatred that many would heap upon them.  For those who listened and believed, blessings would come, but for those who didn’t, the wrath of God would fall.  Upon their return, Jesus brought the apostles together to a place where they could rest.  Instead, the crowds followed and the feeding of the five thousand ensued.  In the face of the overwhelming need to supply food to so many, the apostles completely forgot everything they’d just experienced.  They had worked miracles, but apparently the thought of something supernatural happening in this instance escaped them.  It took God’s revelation to Peter that Jesus was the Christ (Luke 9:20) after the fact to remind them.  Still, they didn’t truly understand who Jesus was or who they were in Him.

For Jesus to expand the influence that God had sent Him to wield, sometime after sending the Twelve, He appointed another 72 (or 70 depending on the translation) to go to every place in Israel that He would eventually also go (Luke 10:1).  This number ties in with the Table of Nations in Genesis 10 and is likely a foreshadowing and representation of those Gentile nations that would also receive the Gospel.  Whether the number is 72 or 70 depends on how a couple nations are counted, and is ultimately immaterial.  What we subsequently see in Scripture is the Apostle Paul’s missionary journeys in Acts.  God tasked him with going out to proclaim the Good News to the known world at that time.  When we look on a map at how Paul’s three trips progressed, they basically swept from east to west, and at one time or another touched each of the nations in the Genesis 10 Table of Nations.  Eventually, Paul had one nation remaining that he believed God required him to go.  That was Spain, i.e. Tarshish.  It was for that reason that Paul was adamant in his letter to the Romans that he would make it there, stopping by to visit Rome on the way.  The book of Acts doesn’t tell us whether or not he got there, but extra-biblical sources indicate that he did; then he returned to Rome where he was killed.

As with the Twelve, the 72 likewise had God’s power resting upon them.  They did remarkable miracles and brought many into God’s kingdom.  It’s doubtful that their amazement was any more than that of their twelve predecessors, but Luke gives us a glimpse into their reaction upon returning.  Luke 10:17-20 recounts:

The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Look at all they did in the authority Jesus invested in them!  They had such joy (and perhaps a bit of pride in having done such things?).  But, Jesus wanted to make sure their priorities were straight.  He hadn’t given them these abilities to exalt themselves or to provide a show to an interested crowd.  No.  The purpose He had appointed them was to proclaim the Kingdom of God.  The miracles were simply a means of convincing the people that God and His presence were truly in their midst.

As for this set of apostles (for they also should be considered as such), Jesus wanted them to understand the most important aspect of all this for themselves.  Because of their faith and faithfulness, their names were now written in the Lamb’s Book of Life in heaven.  Nothing else mattered.

So it is with us.  God might impart miraculous gifts to some of us who believe because He has tasked us with a certain purpose.  But, we are to remember that these healings, and casting out of demons, or whatever else may occur, are all from the wellspring of God’s mercy and grace.  None of us who may do such things accomplish them in our own power.  Thus, for pride or arrogance to swell within us is an inappropriate response.

We should respond to anything that God gives us with both humility and thankfulness.  In all circumstances, whatever may happen, we should praise Him as the author and finisher of our faith, and the One who has all power and authority in heaven and on earth.  We shouldn’t look at and exalt ourselves in any way; instead we should give all glory to God and what He has done in our lives through Jesus Christ to bring us into the kingdom.

We revere Him, and Him alone, because He is worthy.

Luke 9:57-62 – Costly Faith

How corrupted the Words and teachings of Jesus have become in these latter days!  For anyone who has read the Bible to think that Jesus came to give us our best life now is a mystery.  Well, maybe not.  Satan’s purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy.  Certainly his intent is to cause those who read Scripture to see it not as it is, but as Satan wishes it.  In his hatred of God and all that He created, Satan wants nothing more than to turn people from Him by stealing the truth of God’s Word; by killing their faith; and by destroying them along with him when his time comes to be cast into the Lake of Fire forever.

Jesus did not mince His Words when He spoke about the cost of following Him.  We see multiple times where He warned His disciples that true faith was difficult.  It takes perseverance, a contrary understanding of the world with its pleasures and lures, and a determination to obey Him regardless how costly it might be.

Luke 9:57-62 lays out one such instance where Jesus described what this kind of life might look like:

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

In these verses Jesus gave three examples of what it may mean to truly be one of His disciples:

  1. Some of His followers may not have a permanent home like the majority of people; rather, by committing their lives to Him, God might require them to live out of suitcases or with people groups foreign to them.
  2. Human beings naturally want to be with their family and friends, not all of whom are saved.  In the Kingdom of God, there are only two kinds of people: those who belong to God, and those who don’t.  Jesus describes those who do not know Him as dead.  And for all intents and purposes, they are.  If the Holy Spirit of Christ doesn’t animate them and give them life, then their spirit is dead, and their body will eventually go to the grave with no hope of resurrection to life eternal with God.  Sometimes in our walk with the Lord, we have to go a different direction from those we love.
  3. Once someone commits to follow Jesus, that must become the most important thing in his life.  If it doesn’t, the likelihood that he will fall away is great, as Jesus’ Parable of the Sower illustrates.  Another example is Lot’s wife.  She had been delivered from God’s wrath upon Sodom and Gomorrah, but her heart still longed for the world and its lifestyle.  For that, she paid the ultimate price.  She looked back and became a pillar of salt.  As Jesus implies here in verse 62, she was not fit for the Kingdom of God.

We see the cost of following Jesus most clearly through the lives of believers in the 10/40 Window.  In this region of the world, many of those who have come to faith, face the very real threat of death every day.  In Muslim, Hindu, Communist, and animist societies the beliefs of family and friends may vary significantly from faith in Christ.  That may cause great hardship as tensions boil and suspicions fester.  Those around a believer may feel threatened by his faith in Christ and come against him.  He may be beaten, robbed, tortured, or killed.  His family may disown him, or they may be harmed because he won’t turn from Jesus.

The astounding fact is that those who truly love the Lord cannot be shaken.  Believers bought by the price Jesus paid for their sins know their eternal fate should they turn away.  They know the value of this free gift offered to them.  But, their lives can be hard.

Jesus came to give us life and that more abundantly (John 10:10).  This does not mean that our abundant life happens here in this world through its riches and by fleshly gratification.  To believe that is to believe another gospel.  Paul put this principle into writing in at least two different places in his epistles.

In Galatians 1:8 he said:

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.

Similarly in 2 Corinthians 11:4 he wrote:

For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.

The true Gospel isn’t easy.  It speaks of great joy and spiritual abundance in the Lord, and of the hope and certainty of life everlasting.  None of this depicts a life following Jesus as one that is easy or that elevates our worldly experience above the eternal.

We must be careful by being discerning.  Let us know the Word of God by reading and studying it so we recognize the true Gospel from one that is false.  Let’s follow Jesus as He declared, not simply as man with his carnal worldview would have it.

Judges 10:16 – God Grew Weary

In the time of their oppression from various foreign powers, Israel stubbornly and foolishly resisted turning to Yahweh for deliverance.  Judges 10:6 describes this:

The people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines. And they forsook the Lord and did not serve him.

This resulted in God once more giving the people essentially what they asked for, the fruit of their choices, as seen in the next verse, Judges 10:7:

So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of the Philistines and into the hand of the Ammonites.

From this situation, Yahweh and His children had a dialogue (how this occurred is uncertain as the text doesn’t tell us) in which the Israelites cried out to Him and He answered.  They acknowledged their unfaithfulness, and the Lord reminded them how He had saved them time and again.  Despite this, they returned to the pagan gods of their oppressors rather than to Yahweh.  From this, in disgust, God says in Judges 10:14:

“Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress.”

God is tired of their unfaithfulness.  They are so bound and determined to serve any god but Him, He’s fine with that.  Since they love these foreign gods so much, the ones over the nations that severely distress them, then by all means they should go back to them.  Let these gods bring deliverance.  His people certainly don’t need Yahweh.

(With the free will that God has given us, the choices we make are often contrary to His will and what He would have us do.  When we persist in following our own way despite His continued intervention in our lives, He finally sits back in annoyance and lets us do what we will.  This is the circumstance this Scriptural passage is conveying.)

Apparently, the people get a clue and determine that perhaps the foreign gods won’t bring them relief.  (Again, you have to wonder: Why would the Israelites think that the gods of their enemies would deliver them from those enemies?  That’s truly convoluted thinking, yet that’s exactly what they were doing.)

This leads to Judges 10:16:

So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord, and he became impatient over the misery of Israel.

The people knew this was part of the deal in serving Yahweh.  They had to turn from their idols and pagan gods; so they finally did, and actually served the Lord as He had commanded.  During this time, they were still oppressed.

This oppression brings us to an intriguing statement in the text: and he became impatient over the misery of Israel (ESV).

The two words, impatient and misery, are key.  The ESV translation of impatient is the Hebrew word qatar (Strong’s #7114) variously meaning “to be short;” “grieved;” “annoyed;” or “to reap,” seemingly in a disgusted manner.  The KJV puts it as: ”and his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel;” while the NASB translates it: “and He could no longer bear (or endure) the misery of Israel.”

The word misery in the Hebrew is amal (Strong’s #5999) meaning “trouble, labor, or toil.”

From these definitions, it appears we’re being told that God had labored excessively with Israel.  Yet, for all His work in trying to reap a good harvest, it left Him disgusted, and grieved that so little had come of it.

Reaping, in a sense, is the operative word in this phrase.  God has put such effort into the crop which is Israel.  He hopes and desires a good outcome, i.e. a plentiful harvest.  When that fails to appear, it’s like the farmer who has put his hand to the plow day after day, applied the sweat of his brow and the strength of his arms, and wearied himself in his toils.  When all this work results in his crop failing to produce – it’s all simply dried husks – how grieved he must be at that time of reaping!

This is God’s response to the situation.  In the book of Judges, it happens over and over.  Regardless, Israel is God’s Chosen People.  They are His special heritage, and He can’t give up on them.  Ultimately, this stubborn people will realize they cannot live joyfully or abundantly without Yahweh.

The narrative of Israel throughout Scripture shows us that God is incredibly forgiving in His love.  However, this doesn’t keep Him from being thoroughly disgusted with those who should know better; who should follow Him and obey all His commands because of the mercy He’s shown through all the generations.  No other god is like Him.  There is no god besides Him.  Yet, in our human condition, whether the people of Israel or those who call themselves Christians, we all have the tendency to stray from God’s amazing grace.

How pleased God is then, when we actually  love Him in return, and demonstrate that love!  Given all this history of Jews and Gentiles, can you imagine the blessings God would pour out if we embraced being His children?

Here’s the secret: He does, because He desires to be a loving, generous Father.  When we turn from our sin to Jesus, this paves the way for us to have life, and to have it more abundantly (John 10:10).

Judges 9:56-57 – Lethal Curses

Throughout the Old Testament, we see various curses being pronounced; some are by men, some by God.  What we also typically see is a fulfillment of those curses.  So, are curses real, and something we should be concerned about today?

The account of Gideon with his victory over the Midianites ends poorly.  God raised up Gideon, who considered himself least in the eyes of his family.  He was also part of the smallest clan of his tribe of Manasseh (Judges 6:15).  Regardless, through Gideon’s exploits, his enemies proclaimed that he had the impressive stature of a king (Judges 8:18).  Gideon recognized that none of this was his doing; rather it was by the hand of Yahweh, and he gave Him all credit for this great victory when Israel wanted to glorify him, as seen in Judges 8:22-23:

Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you.”

Unfortunately, Gideon then made a wrong decision.  Aren’t poor choices the bane of us all?  In the afterglow of victory, Gideon directed all the people of Israel, who had participated in their conquest of Midian, to give him gold from the spoils of the enemy.  Taking the golden earrings and crescent ornaments, Judges 8:27 informs us what Gideon did:

And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was 1,700 shekels of gold, besides the crescent ornaments and the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian, and besides the collars that were around the necks of their camels. And Gideon made an ephod of it and put it in his city, in Ophrah. And all Israel whored after it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family.

Forgetting Yahweh’s command not to make anything by hand that would represent Him in any way like an idol, Gideon made this golden ephod, i.e. a priestly garment.  This became a snare as the text says.  Why?  The people whored after it.  This item which represented their victory became an idol.  With idols, there is almost a sexual lust associated with them.  In other parts of the OT we also see that the Urim and Thummim were attached to the priest’s ephod and used for Godly divination (Exodus 28:28-30).  Perhaps, Gideon and others consulted the ephod but not in the presence of Yahweh.  This might also have been part of the snare it represented.

A quick aside concerning the crescent ornaments used to make the ephod: The Hebrew word for these items is saharonim, meaning moon or crescent.  The enemy they had taken these items from were Ishmaelites (Judges 8:24).  Arabs today are descendants of Ishmael and Esau, with most of them being Muslims.  Gideon defeated Midian in the time frame of about 1191 BC.  Mohammad lifting up the god Allah did not happen until about 600 AD, around 1800 years later.  Yet, from the legacy of Ishmael, Mohammad apparently took this crescent moon symbol that is representative of Islam today.

All this is background for the discussion of curses.  Gideon had many sons with many wives.  One was Abimelech, who killed all his brothers except one in his desire to rule Israel (Judges 9:5).  Jotham, the brother who escaped, went to the top of Mount Gerizim to decree a curse on Abimelech and the town of Shechem, which had enabled him.

Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal were the two opposing mountains upon which Joshua carried out Moses’ instructions to declare God’s blessings and curse upon Israel (Joshua 8:33; Deuteronomy 28).  Interestingly, Mount Gerizim was the place of blessings, while Mount Ebal was the one of curses.  Jotham reversed this and proclaimed his curses from Mount Gerizim.

The curses came about.  Abimelech died a violent death and Shechem paid the price for supporting all of Abimelech’s wickedness.  We see the conclusion in Judges 9:56-57:

Thus God returned the evil of Abimelech, which he committed against his father in killing his seventy brothers. And God also made all the evil of the men of Shechem return on their heads, and upon them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal.

God honored Jotham’s curse.  The curse was a real thing.  You’ll recall that after Joshua’s victory over Jericho with his destruction of the city, he also decreed a curse.  The man who rebuilt the city would do so at the price of losing his firstborn son (Joshua 6:26).  We’re told in 1 Kings 16:34 that this curse was fulfilled.

What are we to think of curses in our present day?  James 3:5-12 warns us how powerful the tongue of man is:

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.  How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

The tongue can be the source of much good, but also much evil.  We ask God to bless us and we bless others in His Name.  But what about those who curse, whether in the Name of God or effectively by some other deity?

If we utter a Godly curse, let’s say in the vein of an imprecatory psalm, that’s seemingly acceptable, as long as our heart still desires that the object of the curse ultimately come to know the Lord Jesus.

However, many curses are decreed in these dark times with malicious intent.  There were numerous accounts during President Trump’s tenure of witches and satanists casting curses upon him.  Were they effective?  Because so many Christians were praying for him, perhaps not to the extent these wicked people desired.  Yet, God may have allowed them to come to pass, which could have been a contributing factor in the 2020 election with all its fraud, cheating, and deception.  Of course, none of this would have happened without God’s sanction.

We hear of many other curses; those uttered by voodoo practitioners, sorcerers, and warlocks.  Because they tap into demonic spiritual powers, there can be no question that they are often effective.  Sometimes that effectiveness comes simply through the psychological fear these people wield.  But, I have no doubt that actual physical harm from these curses also happens.  The spiritual war Paul defines in Ephesians 6:12 continues, and will do so until Jesus returns.

The most important thing we can take away from all this is that God is in control.  He will allow or disallow any of these curses to have effect.  Most importantly, those of us who are bought by the blood of Jesus Christ have nothing to fear.  With the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, we are sealed by God.  We live and move in the power and authority of Jesus Christ.  If cursed, we can respond that the Name of Jesus protects us, and that curse has no ability to penetrate the armor with which God has shielded us.

These are dark times.  Certainly the curses of the evil one and his followers will increase.  Despite that, we who believe in Jesus can rest assured that we are in the palm of God’s hand, and He will not let any fiery darts of the enemy come near.

Judges 6:31 – Contending for Baal

Why is it that those who follow other gods feel they have to protect their god; that he cannot do the work of protecting himself?  I’m thinking specifically of Islam right now with the followers of Allah, but this certainly applies to every other god.  All of them apparently need their followers to act in their name because they seem incapable of defending themselves.  We’ll come back to Allah, but first let’s look at the most prominent Old Testament example of this scenario.

For anyone who has read my commentaries in the past, you’ve seen me explain the origin of the gods of other nations.  Briefly, following the Tower of Babel where Yahweh commanded men to disperse throughout the earth, they gathered instead to build the tower to exalt other gods and themselves.  Yahweh wasn’t pleased at this disobedience.  He scattered mankind into nations and confused their single language into many.  Most notably, God placed His divine sons over all these nations (Deuteronomy 32:8 – ESV).  Their job was to point people back to Yahweh who had decided to raise up Israel and solely deal with her as His unique inheritance (Deuteronomy 32:9).  God’s sons (bene Elohim) rebelled in disobedience and appropriated the position of gods over these various nations.  From this we have the condition that remains with us today where the nations follow their own gods and the people are subject to them.

This condition is the basis for our spiritual warfare.  Satan seems to be the leader of these rebellious spiritual princes, and they act in a semi-coordinated effort against God and His creation.  The war intensified when Jesus came to seek and save those who were lost and to restore the nations.  For believers in Jesus Christ, we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).  It’s an intense daily battle that we face; one that will only end with the 2nd Coming of Jesus.

This brings us back to the original question: Why is it that those who follow other gods feel they have to protect their god; that he cannot do the work of protecting himself?

Gideon, in the work that the Lord commissioned him to accomplish, faced this issue.  Yahweh instructed him to tear down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah pole where his tribe of Manasseh and other Israelite tribes worshiped.  Once he did this, the men of the town were outraged and sought to find who did this act (Judges 6;30).

Notice in this account how enslaved these people were by Baal and Asherah that they would kill Gideon because he had destroyed the means of worship to these pagan gods.  In the place where these people sacrificed, Gideon built an altar to Yahweh and sacrificed to Him.  This was a direct assault on these pagan gods, i.e. one the Biblical writer makes a point of noting.  This is a polemic – that is, a strong written or verbal attack; something that is quite common in the Biblical text.  Here’s the thing: these men are Israelites who are supposed to have been following Yahweh; yet, they’re ready to kill to defend these foreign gods!

As they build up their anger and ready themselves to apprehend the perpetrator of this “atrocity,” Gideon’s father poses a key question in Judges 6:31:

But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down.”

In the context of spiritual warfare, this is a pertinent point.  Why is it that Baal can’t defend himself?  Why does he need these humans to protect him and take revenge for these actions against his sacred name?  Isn’t he capable?  Is he not strong enough – particularly against Yahweh whom Gideon has exalted in Baal’s place?  As Joash, Gideon’s father said: “If he is a god, let him contend for himself.”

Apparently, that quieted the men, as they took no further action against Gideon.  They saw the logic that Joash brought to the situation.  Let Baal and Yahweh duke it out; why should they do Baal’s fighting for him?

Of course, we know that Baal is simply a divine being and not God.  He has no power and authority over his creator.  He cannot contend for himself.

But, look at those all over the world who think the same way as these ancient Israelites.  Muslims follow Allah.  This pagan god has deceived his followers.  They think they have to defend him when someone has done something they consider blasphemous that profanes his honor.

Allah’s adherents believe they have to take revenge in his name.  They have to do their god’s work, to fight and kill for him.

However, the same question applies to Allah as it did for Baal.  Can he not contend for himself?  Why do Allah’s followers have to save him?  Is he not mighty in the heavens to fight against and destroy God the Father of Jesus Christ?

Of course, true Christians know the answer.  There is none like God.  He is above all things as Creator of the heavens and the earth and all that inhabits them.  Allah – like Baal and the multitude of other gods – are pretenders to the throne.  They cannot contend for themselves.

Psalm 2 describes the situation and the ultimate end:

Why do the nations rage

    and the peoples plot in vain?

The kings of the earth set themselves,

    and the rulers take counsel together,

    against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,

“Let us burst their bonds apart

    and cast away their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs;

    the Lord holds them in derision.

Then he will speak to them in his wrath,

    and terrify them in his fury, saying,

“As for me, I have set my King

    on Zion, my holy hill.”

I will tell of the decree:

The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;

    today I have begotten you.

Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,

    and the ends of the earth your possession.

You shall break them with a rod of iron

    and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

Now therefore, O kings, be wise;

    be warned, O rulers of the earth.

Serve the Lord with fear,

    and rejoice with trembling.

Kiss the Son,

    lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,

    for his wrath is quickly kindled.

Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Indeed.  God sits in the heavens and laughs at those who contend against Him, while all who take refuge in Christ Jesus are blessed.

Awaken Prophecy Update 3-31-21: CCP in America

Awaken Bible Prophecy Update 3-31-21: CCP Infiltration in America

Discussion:

* Epoch Times Infographic on Chinese Communist Party infiltration in America

* CCP advisor’s truth-telling regarding China’s plans

* CCP infiltration in Black Universities

* CCP digital currency for totalitarian control

* Christian end-game

 

 

Sources:

* The Epoch Times:

https://www.theepochtimes.com/

* Geller Report – CCP manipulation:

https://gellerreport.com/2021/03/comm…

* CUSEF infiltration:

https://www.theepochtimes.com/chinese…

* Rickards re: CBDC digital currency:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ce…

* Voice of the Martyrs – Richard Wurmbrand – Tortured for Christ:

https://www.persecution.com/

* Curtis Bowers – Agenda Weekly:

https://agendaweekly.com/

 

 

Judges 3:1-2 – To Test Israel

Now these are the nations that the Lord left, to test Israel by them, that is, all in Israel who had not experienced all the wars in Canaan. It was only in order that the generations of the people of Israel might know war, to teach war to those who had not known it before. (Judges 3:1-2)

Yahweh knew the heart of the people of Israel.  He understood how wayward His children were and how inclined they were to follow other gods.  He had made a pact with them.  They were to obey everything that He commanded and follow Him unquestionably.  In all that God had done to deliver and maintain the Israelites, this was not unreasonable.  But, He had seen them turn from Him numerous times, even immediately following a supernatural event.  Frankly, He knew they couldn’t be trusted.  So, He determined to test them.

Once they had taken the land of Canaan for their own possession – just as Yahweh said they would with Him going before them – the Israelites got comfortable and neglected to teach the next generation about all that He had done as their God (Judges 2:10).

When they’d fought their enemies to claim the land in the first place, they didn’t drive out all their foes.  These nations remained as slaves under the Israelites.  In this condition, God allowed these peoples to grow strong, to rise up, to contend with Israel, and to overcome them.  He brought testing upon His people, and He did it through the mechanism of oppression and war.

The question the Israelites had to answer to God’s satisfaction was: Would they rely on Him in obedience, or follow the other gods of the pagan nations?  Judges 3:7 succinctly spells it out:

And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. They forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth.

Obviously, no; they turned from Yahweh.  The allure of foreign gods was too strong.  Their eyes were dazzled by the bling; their itching ears were scratched.  They failed the test.

In their failing, God allowed them to experience persecution and tribulation so they would eventually remember Him and cry out for the salvation only He could provide.  But, they had to experience war so that God could teach them about Himself.

The object lesson wasn’t just for Israel; it has been for mankind through the ages and for us today.

God knows the heart of His people in the church.  Some are strong believers; others quite nominal.  From the example of our brothers and sisters in the 10/40 Window across the world, we’ve seen how living in the midst of foreign gods either strengthens Christian faith or roots out those who don’t truly believe.  By experiencing persecution and suffering, i.e. tribulation, the true church has grown strong, even as it must endure while underground.

China is a prominent example.  Before Mao’s Great Leap Forward, it is estimated that there were perhaps 100,000 believers in China.  The oppression and persecution accompanying this Marxist-Communist regime that developed drove the church underground.  If a believer hasn’t spent time in prison for his faith, others are actually wary of how true a believer he is.  The resulting growth of Christianity in China has many estimates declaring that the church now comprises well over 100 Million believers.

Another example is Iran.  When Islam overthrew the Shah and subjected the people to Sharia Law, the nation entered a very dark time.  Since then, depression rates, alcoholism, drug use, and suicide in the population are among the highest in the world.  Allah and his prophet Muhammad do not satisfy and fill the void in people’s hearts.  In this dark place, Christianity has shined a light that has given people immense hope.  Because of the underground activities of a faithful few, Iran now has the fastest growing Christian population in the world.

I believe these examples of what has happened in other nations, and how God has worked through very dark conditions, is a template of sorts for us in America.  The American church grew fat and lazy, spending its time and money on the trappings of religion, but not following the heart of God.  In order to shake up the church, God has allowed the current political and social circumstances to rise so as to test those who call themselves Christians.

This is a time of winnowing.  We are in the middle of an intense  spiritual war.  Those who truly believe are doubling down in their faith.  Those who are on the fence must make a decision: follow the world or follow Jesus.  In addition, God is giving non-believers a very real purpose to turn toward Him with all the fear and disruption that has come upon the world.

The wheat and the chaff are separating.  Before long, God’s process and purpose will be completed.  He will have determined those who are truly the Bride of Christ and those who are not.  Whatever His timing is for this, once it’s completed, He will Rapture His true church.

Just as Yahweh rescued His people Israel during the time of Judges when they finally called out to Him, He will do the same for us after this coming period of tribulation (not The Tribulation) has run its course.

Judges 2:19 – They Turned Back

Many people consider the book of Judges the saddest in the entire Bible.  It chronicles the  persistent apostasy of Israel despite God’s continuing mercy upon His children.

Yahweh had given the land of Canaan to the Israelites.  He promised He would fight for them to drive out its wicked inhabitants.  But, they had a responsibility; they were to take the land in partnership with God.  He expected them to obey Him and follow in all His ways.  In return, He would uphold His end of the bargain.  Initially following Joshua’s death, Judah inquired of the Lord, and He defeated their enemies.  However, following that period, Judah and the various other tribes lost Yahweh’s favor.  Nine times in the first chapter of Judges we see that the tribes did not drive out the inhabitants of a particular area (e.g. Judges 1:21,27,28, etc.)  Of these nine instances, the text tells us that God was with Judah, but they could not drive out those who lived in the hill country because of their iron chariots (Judges 1:19).  We’re not told specifically why, but it may be that those iron chariots loomed larger in Judah’s eyes than the mighty right hand of Yahweh.  Regardless, Israel failed in its half of the partnership and the Canaanites and others continued dwelling among God’s people.

This caused God – in the form of the angel of the Lord, i.e. the 2nd Person of the Trinity – to rebuke Israel for their disobedience.  As an aside, why identify this angel with God Himself?  Because He made that connection.  When the angel spoke, He said that it was “I” who brought them out of Egypt and did all these other great things, but they did not obey “My” voice.  This is God speaking in that physical angelic manifestation.

Interestingly, the people all wept that they had lost God’s favor, but did they do anything about it?  Nope.  Judges 2:10 tells us what happened:

And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.

The generation that was rebuked and wept went its own way and never taught their children the commands of their God.  This new generation did evil in God’s sight by following other gods (Judges 2:11-12) and got what Yahweh had promised: defeat (Judges 2:15).

This began the cycle of Judges.  God raised up various rulers to deliver Israel.  In seeing God’s work for them, they followed Him for a time while the judge was alive, then fell back into apostasy.  They never owned their faith.  In fact, in this process Judges 2:19 describes what happened:

But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways.

They became more corrupt and doubled down in their worship of pagan gods!

In the New Testament portion of our reading, we see a connection between the lack of true faith and the hard hearts of the people with those whom Jesus interacted.  He was speaking of John the Baptist and explaining how John was the messenger spoken of in Malachi 3:1:

“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming”, says the Lord of hosts.

This messenger was the forerunner of Jesus Messiah, the One whom all Israel was awaiting to deliver them.  However, consider the response of the religious elite in Luke 7:30:

but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him [John].

What’s the connection with Judges?  They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways.  –  The Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves.

The Israelites of old followed the god Baal (Judges 2:11).  The Pharisees followed the god of legalism.  They didn’t accept the baptism of John, which was one of repentance.  Their god was their own righteousness in the Law.

Scripture details how people of all ages fall away from God when they ignore Him and His commands.  It shows our desperate wickedness and great need for Him.  The Bible clearly teaches us that when we stray from the Lord, we lose His favor and our blessings.  He allows our enemies to live in the land and ultimately consume us.

The only hope the Israelites ever had was to love God in return for His amazing love for them and to be obedient to His Word.  That also is our only hope today.

Joshua 24:15 – Choosing Poorly

Both Moses and Joshua – righteous leaders of Israel – knew the dangers that would come upon God’s children if they reverted to their old ways of following other gods.  They warned the people with Yahweh’s very Words numerous times, yet they were quite aware how deceitful the hearts of men were and their inclination to follow any other god.

Joshua reminded them in Joshua 24:3 what Yahweh did to bring them into the Promised Land:

“And you have seen all that the Lord your God has done to all these nations for your sake, for it is the Lord your God who has fought for you.”

Don’t be foolish, he says.  Remember how you got here.  And, he tells them in Joshua 23:7 how it’s critical in their recollection and subsequent actions…

“that you may not mix with these nations remaining among you or make mention of the names of their gods or swear by them or serve them or bow down to them.”

Doing so has a cost, which he outlines in Joshua 23:12-13:

“For if you turn back and cling to the remnant of these nations remaining among you and make marriages with them, so that you associate with them and they with you, know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you, but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good ground that the Lord your God has given you.”

The book of Judges will show us how they quickly forget these admonitions, even as Joshua 23:16 expresses exactly what would happen:

“if you transgress the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them. Then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly from off the good land that he has given to you.”

Let’s take that lesson and apply it to the church in these latter days.  Various Scriptures warn of what will happen, such as 1 Timothy 4:1:

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons.

The list is long as to how this is playing out.  Here are numerous examples without too much explanation.  In no particular order, this is how churches are falling away today into apostasy:

  • Approving of and marrying those “living together in sin” without proper repentance and separation
  • Ecumenicalism: the joining of various churches with different beliefs, resulting in “faith” that approves of the lowest common denominator and even falsehoods contrary to the true Gospel; e.g. Evangelicals returning “home” to the Roman Catholic church with its many unbiblical doctrines
  • Welcoming homosexuals into church without any expectation of change, i.e. come as you are, stay as you are
  • Chrislam: Christianity in syncretistic joining with Islam with their widely divergent beliefs; e.g. Islam does not believe that God has a Son
  • Placing lesbians in the pulpit, i.e. putting those in direct disobedience to God’s commands in positions of leadership over vulnerable and naive flocks
  • Embracing of the social justice gospel for salvation versus the true Gospel; this includes emphasis on “creation care” that holds to a climate change agenda with belief in a Gaia Mother Earth god
  • Partnering with organizations such as Black Lives Matter that at their core follow a doctrine of demons
  • Adopting the cancel culture and wokeness to be relevant rather than staying true to God’s Word to seek truth and rest in it; a recent example is Wheaton College with its intent to dishonor the work and martyrdom of Jim Elliot among the savages (yes – savages!) of the Auca tribe, who were among the most violent people groups in the world before receiving the Gospel

I’ve probably missed some examples; feel free to add your own.  The point is that the church has forgotten the lessons of Israel.  It has mixed with other nations (Joshua 23:7) and forgotten how Christ died for our sins, i.e. how God fought for Israel even as He did for us (Joshua 23:4).

Rather than being in the world but not of the world, the church wants the world to love it, exactly the opposite of what we’re told in 1 John 2:15:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

With the church loving the world, what does John say results?  Whether speaking of an individual or the collective body of the church, the Father is not in them.  Again, this has a cost.

We are in the Laodicean-Philadelphia dispensation, as it were.  Apostate churches abound.  The wolves have by and large consumed the hens.  Conversely, a faithful remnant remains, one that’s seemingly growing smaller by the day.

Just as God promised to uproot the nation of Israel from their land, He is doing so to the church.  If a church isn’t following God, it’s preparing its people to enter the Tribulation.  An uprooting is happening; it is growing.  Before long, the true church will be removed in the Rapture when Christ comes for His own.  The remaining apostate church will completely embrace what the world tells it is true.  This church, along with all others on this planet will perish.  Only those who find the truth of Jesus during the coming seven years of horrendous upheaval precipitated by God’s hand will survive, some through death, others by persistent faith.

This world is doomed to extinction.  However, we who love the Lord have the New Heavens and New Earth in our future.  How glorious will that be?  While we wait for Jesus to come for His true Bride, let’s do all we can to bring some of the lost with us.