God has always tested the faith and commitment of his people. For example, he tested Adam and Eve’s obedience to his one command. As you know, they failed miserably (Genesis 3:6). God tested Abraham when he asked him to offer his only son Isaac as a sacrifice. Abraham passed his test (Genesis 22:12). God’s “Teach-Test Principle” is stated explicitly in Judges 3:1-4. The book of Judges records one failure after another. An interesting pattern emerges: (1) Israel turns her back on God, and lapses into idolatry, (2) God responds by allowing some neighboring pagan nation to defeat and enslave Israel, (3) in response to her servitude, Israel cries out to God, who then raises up a judge or deliverer to liberate Israel from her captors, and (4) this liberation is followed by a period of relative peace until Israel again turns her back on God, lapses into idolatry and this whole cycle repeats itself (Judges 3:7-11). Six times Israel followed this cycle of sin, servitude, supplication, salvation, and shalom. The faces changed– different oppressors, different judges– but it was essentially the same old story.
You would think that Israel would learn her lesson, wouldn’t you? (Or, you’d think that God would run out of patience!) But before we are too tough on Israel, we should take a good look at our own lives. “Oh God, if you will just forgive me this time, I’ll never do it again. Or at least, I promise to try harder!” And you do pretty well—for a week! But sin always leads to servitude. The Israelites were in bondage to the idols they worshiped, and to the consequences of the immorality which flowed from that idolatry. They just couldn’t seem to resist the temptations that were out there. We’re just like Israel. But we must remember that there is always a price to pay. What you sow, you reap (Galatians 6:7-8). Yes, we reap what we sow (1), we reap later than we sow (2), and we reap more than we sow (3). God wants us to learn something from Israel’s mistakes, lest we repeat them with similar consequences (1 Corinthians 10:6, 11-13). The types of temptations you face are common to all, and the intensity of the temptations you face are endurable. The book of Judges teaches us that sin leads to bondage, but if you are a Christian, you have the resources you need to break free.
God is merciful and quick to forgive. In the book of Judges, Israel turned her back on God six times! And six times God forgave her. Peter, thinking himself magnanimous, once asked Jesus if he should forgive “up to seven times”? Jesus replied, “No—seventy times seven! (Matthew 18:21-22). Jesus was saying, “Peter, you must not put limits upon forgiveness.” God keeps on forgiving and forgiving and forgiving—and so must we. Israel didn’t deserve God’s forgiveness; none of us do. How? Just cry out to God, as Israel did (1 John 1:5-9). If you have placed your trust in Jesus Christ as your sin bearer, your “relationship” with God is secure. For the Christian, sin is no longer a barrier to heaven, but it is a barrier to fellowship with God. Just agree with God that you have sinned against him, and that you trust your Father to forgive you. Living in fellowship with God should be our normal experience. Can you imagine how different your life would be if this were your daily experience? God is gracious and forgiving. So confess your sins to Him, and begin to walk in the light of His Word and you will enjoy fellowship with Him. Don’t stay locked in that cycle of sin that you have been in.
Application / Challenge
- If you are not a Christian, if you have not placed your trust in Christ as your sin bearer, start there. That is where you need to begin. Let us know by getting in contact with us by emailing Pastor Doug with your contact information and we’ll be back in touch about next steps.
- If you are a Christian but your experience is much like that of Israel of old – sin, guilt, and bondage – you need to embrace the truths that you have learned today:
- God is gracious and forgiving so when you blow it, don’t run from Him, run to Him!
- Confess your sins to Him, and begin to walk in the light of His Word and you will enjoy fellowship with Him.
- And remember: you don’t have to stay locked in that cycle of sin that you have been in. Memorize and meditate on 1 Corinthians 10.13: “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.