Friday, January 7, 2011

An Empty Throne (Part 1)

I have just finished reading the book of Judges this morning after about a week of concentrating on it and I would like to share with you what I have learned from it. As you know, the book of Judges was written about a time when Israel has already gotten into the promised land. This book of Judges, however, records a sorry state of Israel right after Joshua's generation. 

I'm sure we're all familiar with Joshua's declaration in Joshua 24:15 as he said this: "...choose this day whom ye will serve... but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." The Joshua generation was wonderfully faithful! I love how the bible describes them as a people that served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and even all the days of the elders that outlived him. This was a generation of people who declared themselves, "We WILL serve the LORD, and we WILL obey His voice." This was a generation of people which had known exactly what the LORD had done for Israel and had been faithful in obeying God's commands.

Unfortunately, though, by the time Joshua was dead, the people of Israel forgot the instructions of the LORD pertaining to their taking of the Promised Land. Instead of conquering the land completely, the tribes of Israel failed greatly by failing to drive out the Canaanites as God specifically instructed. This paved a way to the people's desertion of their faithfulness to God.

The first and second chapters of the book of Judges recorded how the many tribes of Israel allowed themselves to just live together with the inhabitants of the land that God had given them. Because of this, Israel was led to compromise their faith, eventually forgetting about the Lord God, thus leading to the worst case scenario where the people of Israel turned their hearts to the other gods of the dwellers in the Promised Land. 

"And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that [were] round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger." (Judges 2:12)

In all the chapters of the book of Judges, we see that Israel didn't have a king that led the people as one. Each tribe of Israel went on their own way and did what they thought was right in their own eyes. The throne of the king was empty and without this godly leader, a generation arose which does not know the LORD.

"And the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites: And they took their daughters to be their wives, 
and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgat the LORD their God, and served Baalim and the groves." 
(Judges 3:5-7)

Because the people of Israel turned to other gods, God became angry and allowed them persecution in the hands of their enemies. But God didn't forsake Israel all the way. The "judges" that arose during this time were 12 individuals (on different spans of time) that were lifted up by God's own faithfulness to His people to help deliver them out of the hand of their enemies. Sadly, though, Israel's people had a vicious cycle of falling away from God after a short period of serving Him as their Lord when they were delivered from their enemy. 

Israel was stubborn and if we really sit and think about it, we are just like them in every single way. Look at their hearts and compare it to ours...

  • Israel thought they could still please God even if they did not set themselves apart from the ungodly things/people around them.
    • Aren't we just the same? Don't we try to convince ourselves that it's okay to mingle with the world and that we'll NEVER be in danger of compromising our lives as to living like the world? We go to church on Sundays, after all. So, we watch the same movies and TV programs as the world does, listen to the same music as the world does, play the same games as the world does, dress like the world and talk like the world. In the end, we really don't find ourselves any different from the world (and its evil) at all.
  • Israel cried unto God only when they were already oppressed beyond measure! After being saved from their difficulty, Israel again and again (and yet again) fell away from God.
    • How so much like them are we. We easily forget God and go merrily on our evil ways until we feel oppressed and hopeless from all the tribulations that befall us. We happily skip to the world's beat until such time our trials become so great. THEN, we call unto God like He's a 911 operator. Our prayers are mostly patterned this way: "Hello, God? I have an emergency. Please help!". Then we fall unto our knees to worship Him and call upon His name. We cry our hearts (and eyes) out for God to help us in times of our need. When the going gets so tough it becomes so easy for us to fall on our knees and to set a time for prayer to ask for God's help. And when God, with all His mercy and faithfulness, extends a helping hand, we easily say with our hearts and the way we live, "Thanks, God! By the way, see 'ya!"
  • The children of Israel could easily forget about God and the things that He has done for them.
    •  If only we are any better... but our hearts are so like Israel. We are as forgetful as them when it comes to the goodness of God and the awesome works of His hands in our lives. We tend to easily forget that it is Him who blesses us with the things we have in this life. It is Him who upholds us and gives us victories over trials. We forget that it is God Himself who promotes us, who gives us our talents and our skills. We forget that it is God who gives us all good things, and we act like "we just did it our way." Alas, our hearts easily forget like that of Israel. We easily become prideful and think of ourselves highly. We then would consider our successes as something that WE have accomplished by our own strengths and abilities. We easily forget about God's greatness and His mercy, that are the only reasons why we are still waking up each morning in each new day. Oh, but we are so much like Israel... stubborn, forgetful Israel.
  • Israel lived in those days without a king. There was an empty throne and every man did that which was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25)
    • Don't we love the life motto that echoes this fact about Israel's state? We have embraced with open arms the last two lines of the poem by WIlliam Ernest, "I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul." We all are enticed about the idea of "being our own boss." We love to do things our way. We cringe at the idea of looking up to the One who is Sovereign and we despise the truth about His requirement to follow only HIS statutes. We live our lives with an empty throne in our hearts, thus we find ourselves doing everything wrong but considering it right in our own eyes. 

An empty throne leads to lives lived without guidance, without sovereign wisdom, without the fear of judgment. Let us acknowledge then the need for a king to rein in our lives, and not just any king for that matter, but the King of kings! Let's sit and think about this, shall we? For the book of Judges only shows destruction of lives whenever there is an empty throne.

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