The Unlikely Instruments of God’s Justice

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

God rules, and earthly leaders, both good and bad, are still in the hands of the Almighty as he directs the affairs of this world to a conclusion that he has foreordained. Not even Satan in all his ugly designs fails to perform God’s holy purposes. Hang on to that in these evil days: God rules!

Going Deep // Focus: 2 Kings 9:6-8

Then the young prophet poured the oil over Jehu’s head and said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I anoint you king over the Lord’s people, Israel. You are to destroy the family of Ahab, your master. In this way, I will avenge the murder of my prophets and all the Lord’s servants who were killed by Jezebel. The entire family of Ahab must be wiped out.

Sometimes God choses a blunt instrument to carry out his justice. Jehu was just that; he was God’s hammer. He was not a nice man; in fact, he was brutal. He had a tornadic reputation: “The watchman exclaimed, ‘The messenger has met them, but he isn’t returning either! It must be Jehu son of Nimshi, for he’s driving like a madman.’” (2 Kings 9:20). Everybody seemed to know how Jehu was wired. As a commander in the king of Israel’s army, he was a fast-moving tornado looking for a flimsy house.

And God has ordained that tornado to hit the household of King Ahab. Now Ahab was already dead, but he had been wicked beyond the pale, and his surviving wife, Queen Jezebel, was even worse. Furthermore, the children this unholy duo had spawned were evil to the core as well. And after multiple warnings through multiple prophets—Elijah, Elisha, Micaiah (1 Kings 22:9) and others, God’s patience had finally run out. There was going to be a payday for the sins of the household of Ahab, and that payday would come through Jehu.

Once Jehu was turned loose, two kings (King Ahaziah of Judah was in the wrong place at the wrong time and paid for it with his life—1 Kings 9:27-29), one queen, and a whole bunch of priests were slaughtered. Truly, Jehu the Tornado left widespread devastation. He was God’s blunt instrument of justice.

Have you ever considered that in our day some of the ungodly people that get elevated to public leadership may just be God’s kingdom instruments as well? Have you mourned over the election loss of a good person when such a blatantly bad candidate got the job? I have. But while our temporal desires and short-sighted wishes may not have materialized, God is still on the throne. And he is still directing traffic from his eternal perch here on Planet Earth. And the president, or governor, or mayor do not get elevated to office without the permission of God. Yes, even the bad ones. Daniel spoke of this when he and his Hebrew buddies were facing intense pressure because of the demands of a brutal, evil Babylonian king by the name of Nebuchadnezzar:

Praise the name of God forever and ever, for he has all wisdom and power. He controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings. (Daniel 2:2-21)

Even Jesus, looking down the barrel of a Roman crucifixion, told Pontius Pilate, who thought he held Jesus’ fate in his hands,

You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above. (John 19:11)

Keep that in mind the next time you are depressed over the election of a blunt instrument. It may just be God’s way of bringing his will to bear upon a world that has drifted far from his ways. I know it doesn’t sound too hopeful, and it may sound like I am being fatalistic about elections—I am not. What I am simply saying is that no matter what, God rules.

Yes, God rules, and leaders good or bad are still instruments in his hands as he directs the affairs of this world to a conclusion that he has foreordained.

Going Deeper With God: The next time you are upset or depressed about things your leaders are doing, remember this verse that I am suggesting that you memorize today: Praise the name of God forever and ever, for he has all wisdom and power. He controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings. (Daniel 2:2-21)

God Is Still Watching

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

“He did what was evil in the Lord’s sight.” The book of 1 Kings repeats that phrase in describing every king who ruled in the northern kingdom of Israel. In the Lord’s sight—God was watching! Do you think God has changed? Does he not watch what presidents do in their inner chambers, or what they think in their hearts, or what they do to lead a nation either toward or away from him? Of course he does! Thomas Jefferson wrote, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.” Perhaps today we should tremble before God in repentant prayer for our country.

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Kings 16:30

But Ahab son of Omri did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, even more than any of the kings before him.

1 Kings 16 is not a fun chapter to read, unless you are a history addict. Otherwise, it paints a pretty bleak picture of what is going on in Israel during the run of kings described in this chronological narrative. While Israel’s cousin to the south, Judah, was concurrently enjoying forty-one years of godly reign under good King Asa, the northern nation had a succession of five very nasty kings that covered a span of sixty years. To make matters worse, there were evil kings before this chapter, and evil kings after—in fact, the northern kingdom did not have one single righteous ruler. But at the top of the heap of evil was King Ahab, the final king described in this chapter.

Each of the kings—Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, and Ahab are each described with the same exact phrase: But he did what was evil in the Lord’s sight.” For Ahab, the writer adds, the evil was “even more than any of the kings before him.” Literally, things were going from bad to worse for Israel—with both king and people willingly participating in increasingly blatant, unspeakable sinful practices that caught the eye of God.

And therein lies the operative phrase in this chapter: “in the Lord’s sight.” The persistent, in-your-face-sinfulness against God could not be ignored, and divine judgment was building in the counsel of the righteous Godhead. Judgment would come to each of these wicked kings, who would all die an ignominious death; and a day of reckoning like no other was building that would ultimately take the nation of Israel into exile from the land of promise God had given their ancestors, a homeland to which they would not return.

God was watching! Do you think God has changed? Does he not watch over the earth today like he did back then? Does he not watch what kings and presidents do in their inner chambers, or what they think in their hearts, or what they do to lead a nation either toward or away from him? Of course he does! And while it took two hundred years for devastating judgment to come to sinful Israel, it came. It will come to nations today, as well. It may take similar lengths of time, but there will a payday someday. Perhaps the next day of reckoning will be the final payday, the Day of the Lord, but judgment comes to nations that deliberately rebel against the rightful ruler of all the earth.

What is true for nations is true for persistently sinful people, too. While modern people do not want to hear of it, God is a just and holy God. He never winks at sin. He will not withhold judgment, for to do so would impugn the very character that makes him God. It is a sobering reality, but it is reality. And those who embrace the reality of judgment are the ones who will escape it.

But what is equally true about this just and holy God is that he also longs to forgive the sins of people. He lives to offer reprieve for our sin. And he has made a way for total forgiveness through our acceptance of the propitiatory sacrifice of his Son, who died on the cross to take away our sins. And the thing that he has built into our existence to continually and powerful remind us of this is his patient delay in executing judgment and his daily kindness in providing us with life. Romans 2:4 says,

Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?

Every time you read a harsh chapter like 1 Kings 16, I hope you will remember that. God is “being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” (2 Peter 3:9) It is true: God’s certain judgment reminds us of God’s patient kindness.

So remember, God is watching. That is what a loving God does!

Going Deeper With God: Make sure you offer your life to God for cleansing today. And pray for your nation, that God’s patience will lead it to repentance!

Man Up!

ThanksLivingThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Gender is under assault in our culture: manhood is emasculated, femininity ridiculed or clownishly sexualized, and childhood obliterated. Christians need to stand against that demonic doctrine by offering living proof of the Creator’s brilliance in designing us male and female, and by giving our children the path to grow into biblical manhood or womanhood in loving, protecting, nurturing, stable homes where God’s Word is honored.

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Kings 2:1-4

When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son. “I am about to go the way of all the earth. So be strong, act like a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go and that the Lord may keep his promise to me: ‘If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.’”

Most of the commentaries you read on 1 Kings 2:2 skip over the line, “act like a man.” There are likely many reasons for ignoring it, but in the modern era where great energy is expended and demands are made to neutralize gender difference, my guess is one of those reasons is that pastors and theologians want to avoid any hint of political incorrectness.

But if God is unchanging—which I believe, and the Word of God is true—which I believe, and if scripture speaks with relevance, sensitivity, grace and fairness to every age and culture, including ours—which I believe, then what about this line? Did God through King David just tell the king-elect, Solomon, to “man up”? Yes he did! The Apostle Paul said similarly in 1 Corinthians 16:13,

Be alert, stand firm in the faith, act like a man, be strong.

Now if you use a modern thought-for-thought translation of the Bible, like the NIV or the NLT, which I think are wonderful options for reading God’s Word, they leave out the phrase, “act like a man.” As an aside, that is why it is not a bad idea when you study a passage to compare translations, like the ESV or the HCSB, which are excellent word-for-word translations (see https://www.biblegateway.com as an excellent online option for side-by-side Bible translations). But the point I want to make is that in the Greek text, the word for man is there—it is andridzomahee, which most definitely refers to masculinity.

So does the Bible recognize gender differences? Yes—God made us male and female, and we are to celebrate God’s design. No matter what a our crazy culture insists on today (believe me, it will be different tomorrow, and worse!), God’s Word is unchanging, perfect in all its way, and will lead us to “prosper in all you do and wherever you go,” as David said to Solomon. God has built in to humanity differences that are existential. If you don’t believe me, just hang out with me while my little grandsons are at my home. Boys are very different, intrinsically, from the little girls my wife and I brought into this world.

But does the Bible promote male superiority? Not a chance. You will never find that in scripture, including here, and if you do, you are fundamentally misreading God’s Word—and that misreading is a grievous error. It just so happens that in the two instances I’ve quoted where men are told to “act like a man,” the conversations happen to be with men. If the speakers were talking to women, they would say, “now act like a woman.” Similarly in scripture, sometimes people that are being childish are called out for “acting like a child” or “acting like an infant.” Nothing more is meant to be read into the author’s words. Simply put, men are called to biblical manliness in the sense that they are to courageously and confidently pursue the mission that God has assigned them. That is what it means to “man up.”

So what were David and Paul saying to the male listeners standing before them at that moment? Simply this: the walk of faith to which you are called is not for the feint of heart, so be courageous; put on your big boy pants and do the right thing. If you do, God will bless you. If you don’t, you are going to get run over. If you won’t, then get out of the way.

We are at a time in our culture where maleness is being emasculated, femininity is either put down or clownishly sexualized and childhood is being obliterated. As Christians, we need to stand against that demonic doctrine by offering living proof of the Creator’s brilliance in designing us male and female and then giving us the path to grow into biblical manhood or womanhood through the process of childhood in loving, protecting, nurturing homes that honor God’s Word. We will be going against the grain if we live out this orthodoxy, but it will be the only way to save our kids and our culture. And it will take from us, male and female, what both David and Paul called forth:

Now man up!

Yes, man up, and put mature courage on display before a watching world!

Going Deeper With God: The best witness to God’s design in a culture that has “exchanged the glory of God” for caricatures of the divine design (Romans 1:23) is to display through your daily life God’s ideal for human beings. Today, with God’s help, being living proof of an all-wise Creator.

The Vindication of God

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Yes, we love our enemies, as Jesus said we should. But our love is balanced by our longing for the day that will God step in to vindicate his name and avenge his people. That is why when believers throughout the ages and around the world read stories in scripture where God actually executes justice, they say, “yes!” While we don’t see that every day, and while we patiently wait for God’s sovereign timing in bringing righteous judgment upon the nations, it is right and fitting that we long for the day when God arises and his enemies are scattered—permanently!

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Samuel 5:1-3,6

After the Philistines captured the Ark of God, they took it from the battleground at Ebenezer to the town of Ashdod. They carried the Ark of God into the temple of Dagon and placed it beside an idol of Dagon. But when the citizens of Ashdod went to see it the next morning, Dagon had fallen with his face to the ground in front of the Ark of the Lord! … Then the Lord’s heavy hand struck the people of Ashdod and the nearby villages with a plague of tumors.

The world that God so loves is a world that doesn’t love him back. It is ruled in this present age by a god who has blinded people’s eyes to the truth so they won’t believe. Thus they reject God, they go their own way and stubbornly persist in ways of living that is contrary to the call of their Creator. Yet the Creator stubbornly persists in loving what he has created—a love demonstrated at its greatest when he sent his Son into this hostile world to redeem it:

Jesus came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. (John 1:10-11)

Not only did the world miss him, and dismiss him, they killed the Son of God. But of course, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit knew in advance that the world would reject his love and crucify Jesus on the cross, yet God entered the world anyway. Such is the persistent, stubborn love of God for his world.

And of course, as followers of the Son, we know that this is the hostile condition of the world to which we have been sent as Christ’s ambassadors. It is a world that by and large continues to miss and dismiss him—and often becomes hostile and hateful toward those of us who represent Christ. We understand and accept that this is the brutal way they play the game. Yet we too, persist in the Love of God for a world we are trying to reclaim for God’s glory.

At the same time, we long for the day when God vindicates his name. We hope for the time when God steps in and calls those who have mocked him, reviled his Word, flaunted their sin and abused his people. While we patiently surrender the right to defend ourselves and fight back, our sense of a just God provides us moments when we dream for the vindication of God and his people. Of course, we do not long for anyone to come under the terrible and eternal judgment of God, but we also do not want the horrible things that have been inflicted upon the saints over the ages to go unpunished. And so we cry out,

How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? (Psalm 13:2)

How long, O Lord? How long will the wicked be allowed to gloat? (Psalm 94:3)

O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you judge the people who belong to this world and avenge our blood for what they have done to us? (Revelation 6:10)

Yes, we love our enemies, as Jesus said. But we also long for the day that God vindicates his name, and avenges his people. And when we read a story like the one in 1 Samuel 5 when the god of the evil Philistines actually falls before the Ark of the Covenant, we says, “yes!” And while we don’t see that every day, and while we patiently wait for God’s sovereign timing in bringing judgment upon the nations, it is right and fitting that we long for the day when God arises and his enemies are scattered—permanently!

Nonetheless, in whatever evil days we may happen to find ourselves in, let us remember that the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, speaks of the blood of the righteous crying out to God for vengeance. It speaks of the innocent blood polluting the ground on which that blood is shed, and it speaks of a God who promises to repay the blood of the innocent on the hands of the murderers, even to hold the jurisdiction of murderers responsible if they do not atone for the righteous blood found in their territory. Since God cares so much about atoning for the righteous blood of innocent victims, we ought to care greatly about the issue as well. For there is much in this world that needs to be avenged, and no one is better at vengeance than one who is all knowing, all-powerful, and knowledgeable of what goes on everywhere, rather than relying on our own weak arms to avenge us. (Nathan Albright)

Yes!

Going Deeper With God: As an act of worship today, read Psalm 68 aloud.

Intentional Parenting or Unintentional Consequences

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

The ultimate parental dereliction of duty is to allow the children to parent themselves. Your children need a dad and a mom who will give them definite direction in the way they should go. And the promise of scripture is that when they are old, they will not depart from it. That is quite a risky promise, but it is God’s, not mine.

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Samuel 2:12-13, 22

Now the sons of Eli were scoundrels who had no respect for the Lord or for their duties as priests…. Now Eli was very old, but he was aware of what his sons were doing to the people of Israel.

Eli was the high priest of Israel as the period of the Judges was coming to a close. Arguably, there was no higher public role than his. Yet there was a job more important than being the Chief Spiritual Officer of Israel, and that was being a dad to his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas.

Now while these two were grown men and Eli was very old at the time of this story, it is obvious that many years had passed where Eli had been derelict in his parental duties. Hophni and Phinehas were very wicked men, even though they were priests of the Lord like their father.

The story of this family doesn’t give any details of their upbringing, except that as we have already seen, this was a time in Israel’s spiritual journey that God had been moved to the margins and people were doing whatever they thought best. (Judges 22:25) We don’t know what had happened, or what had not happened. We don’t know if Eli had been off shepherding Israel but not shepherding his own home. We don’t know if Eli was simply lazy as a dad, or if he had a pushover personality, or if his sons were just bad apples, or all of the above.

What we do know is that when we get to these early chapters in 1 Samuel, Hophni and Phinehas were abusing their spiritual authority. They were cheating people out of sacrifices that were meant to the Lord, they were seducing women who came to worship, and were using their role to benefit themselves, and they had deeply offended the Lord, who was now ready to end not just their ministry as priests, but their very lives:

Eli said, “You must stop, my sons! The reports I hear among the Lord’s people are not good. If someone sins against another person, God can mediate for the guilty party. But if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede?” But Eli’s sons wouldn’t listen to their father, for the Lord was already planning to put them to death. (1 Samuel 2:24-35

Now like many parents, Eli had a heartfelt concern for his sons’ wicked behavior. But unfortunately, like many parents, his concern was not matched by action. And his dereliction of duty only allowed their evil to grow worse, until it reached the point where God had determined to slay them. Keep in mind that God didn’t predetermine that these two would be evil—that is not what the writer is telling us when he says, “they wouldn’t listen to their dad, for God was planning to kill them.” What he is saying is that because of their deliberately evil actions, the Lord allowed their hearts to grow beyond repentance. In other words, God had given them what they were determined to have, and now they would harvest the wild oats they had sowed.

Of course, the over-arching purpose of this story is to connect the increasingly lawless times of the judges with the arrival of the Israel’s monarchy. Interestingly, scripture takes quite a bit of space to do that, using Judges, Ruth and the early part of 1 Samuel to make sure we know how awful society will get when God is not at the center. The account of Eli and his evil spawn is yet one more story that adds to this indictment.

Yet while that is the general theme, we can still extract some very important life applications from these accounts—including this one. One of those applications for me is the recognition that my highest call and chief mission in life is to honor Christ by being an effective father. Furthermore, the fruit of my mission will be seen in my kid’s and grandkid’s lives as they reach adulthood—it will be reflected in their own reverence for the Lord and the values of godliness they choose to live by. As they follow God of their own accord, that is the greatest tribute to what kind of dad I have been

Now that won’t happen just by virtue of being a parent to your children. It will be the result of intentional parenting and a determination to be the kind of mom or dad that honors God—especially the kind that honors God by insisting that your children give him the respect that is due.

Eli didn’t. He let his boys parent themselves until it was too late. The good news is, you can be different, especially if your children are still young. And if they are not, then start with where you are and exert the godliest influence you can. And with God’s help, your sincere efforts will have an effect.

The ultimate parental dereliction of duty is to allow the children to parent themselves. Your children need a dad and a mom who will give them definite direction in the way they should go. And the promise of scripture is that when they are old, they will not depart from it. That is quite a risky promise, but it is God’s, not mine.

Going Deeper With God: Have you ever shared your spiritual values with your children, or grandchildren? If you haven’t, look for an opportune time to tell them what you believe and why you believe it. Believe me, it will leave an impression.

The Refugee Opportunity

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

As Christians, we have a much higher calling to current issues, and it is not national, it is eternal. It is to view all of life through the lens of scripture and to filter all that we think, feel, say and do—or don’t—through the values of God’s kingdom. Case in point: what do you do with refugees that have flooded your city? Of course, there is a rightful political and legal response, but the kingdom response that you and your spiritual community embrace must always be redemptive.

Going Deep // Focus: Ruth 2:10

Ruth fell at the feet of Boaz and thanked him warmly. “What have I done to deserve such kindness?” she asked. “I am only a foreigner.”

Keep in mind that as you read scripture, there is always the historical context that you should seek to understand and the primary theological meaning that you should seek to apply. Beyond that, we can find profound and practical secondary applications within most, if not all, Bible passagens. The book of Ruth is primarily a historical story that connects the time of the Judges to the arrival of the Davidic dynasty, and ultimately shows us the lineage of the Son of David, Jesus the Messiah. It is also a moving account of Boaz, who fulfills the Mosaic law of the kinsman-redeemer by marrying his deceased relative’s widow, Ruth. Boaz is an Old Testament type of Christ. Beyond that, this is a beautiful account of love, loyalty, friendship between Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi and between Ruth and her prince charming, Boaz.

Yet there is still another practical application that is so relevant to our national discussion these days: what to do with refugees from the under-resourced world who are flooding western Europe and North America. Like so many refugees today, Ruth was a Moabite who fled to Israel in order to survive unfortunate conditions in her homeland. Unfortunately, our national response to refugees fleeing their homeland to ours is not so much a discussion these days as politics have taken over, sides have been chosen, and opinions have been set in concrete. We no longer discuss the plight of the refugee, we scream at the other side. And all the while the refugee suffers the indignity of being forced from their home.

Of course, nations have laws that should be made and enforced. If they don’t, what good is government? And of course, as citizens of a free country, we should engage in political debate and feel free to express our opinion—hopefully with respect, in an informed way and with an openness to hear opposing views. We need good laws to keep us safe and prosperous. If the rule of law goes by the wayside, so shall our nation.

Having said that, as Christians, we have a much higher and more eternal calling and it is not national, it is kingdom. It is to view all of life through the lens of scripture and to filter your all that we think, feel, say and do—or don’t—through the values of God’s kingdom. Case in point: what do you do with refugees that have flooded your city? Again, there is a rightful political and legal response, but what is the kingdom response that you and your spiritual community should embrace?

For me, and I think there is a very clear answer as we read and apply the story of Ruth and Boaz. Simply, we should act with compassion and kindness toward them. That is what Boaz did for Ruth. How so? Notice several ways that he responded redemptively with this refugee named Ruth:

  1. Boaz, at a base level, was aware and willing to engage. Ruth 2:5 says, “Then Boaz asked his foreman, ‘Who is that young woman over there? Who does she belong to?” He didn’t turn a blind eye to this destitute foreigner; he didn’t bury his head in the sand or pretend it was the Israeli government’s job to take care of her. He was morally curious.
  2. Boaz protected her. In Ruth 2:9, Boaz said to Ruth, “I have warned the young men not to treat you roughly. And when you are thirsty, help yourself to the water they have drawn from the well.” When people come from a foreign culture to our land, they are at their most vulnerable; they are likely to face unscrupulous people who would take advantage of them; they are likely to experience angry, hateful people who would say and do things to them that are unkind and discouraging.
  3. Boaz encouraged her. In Ruth 2:12, Boaz offered these uplifting words to Ruth: “May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.” If you have traveled to a foreign country, you know how vulnerable and helpless you feel, knowing neither language nor customs. Having a national speaking encouragingly in an authentically kind way is a life-giving gift to you. And it doesn’t cost the nation a cent!
  4. Boaz personally engaged in her plight. He did more than speak kindly and inclusively, he gave of himself and his resources: “At mealtime Boaz called to her, ‘Come over here, and help yourself to some food. You can dip your bread in the sour wine.’ So she sat with his harvesters, and Boaz gave her some roasted grain to eat. She ate all she wanted and still had some left over.” (Ruth 2:14)
  5. Boaz went the extra mile. Boaz didn’t just do his duty; he went above and beyond the minimum to generously offer the maximum. Ruth 2:15-16 tells us, “When Ruth went back to work again, Boaz ordered his young men, ‘Let her gather grain right among the sheaves without stopping her. And pull out some heads of barley from the bundles and drop them on purpose for her. Let her pick them up, and don’t give her a hard time!”

Truly Boaz was a foreshadowing of the Redeemer, Jesus Christ. He expressed incarnational involvement, offered unmerited favored, showered undeserved kindness, gave unrequired inclusiveness and expressed open-handed generosity. The point is, that is what God has done for you in Jesus. But the point also is that what God has done for you should now be what you do for others, especially the most vulnerable among you.

May you be an agent of redemptive lift in the refugee debate!

Going Deeper With God: Do you have an immigrant in your neighborhood. Show up at their doorstep with freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. Invite them over for a barbecue. Get engaged—that is what God did for you.

Don’t Let Them Forget God

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Let’s not let them forget God! As moral relativism increasingly influences our culture, people will do what seems right in their own eyes, but it will always be so wrong. Perhaps we can be the voice of reason by fiercely committing to and vocally defending the Bible, the only source of what is truely right, even as our culture wishes the Word of God would go away. It won’t, thank God!

Going Deep // Focus: Judges 19:1

Now in those days Israel had no king…

I know, this is the same exact sentence that begins Judges 18. It is not a mistake. It is the third time in three chapters that the writer uses the same sentence to describe the moral condition of Israel during this time. And each time, the sentence is followed by a story that disturbs our sensibilities. In this case, what follows is arguably the most revolting story in the Bible. I won’t even retell it—you can read it for yourself—but it is brutal and disgusting. But pity poor me, trying to come up with an edifying devotional from it.

To unpack that phrase in more detail—in those days Israel had no king—and would refer you back to the devotional I presented for the previous chapter. Just to summarize, we are being given a picture of what life was like in Israel when they had abandoned any controlling moral authority that kept them between the lines of social civility and moral uprightness. Things got increasingly ugly.

The writer of Judges has prophetically summed up our twenty-first century world in this statement that he has used three times at this point. Then, in the very last line of his book, he adds to it: “There was no controlling moral authority to govern peoples’ lives, so everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” (Judges 21:25)

“What was right in their own eyes” reflected a philosophy of moral relativism, which is simply put, public and private life without the presence of a “controlling moral authority”. Unfortunately, both in the day of the Judges and in our day, without fail moral relativism produces personal, cultural, economic and global chaos. Alexander Solzhenitsyn presciently described it in his now famous Templeton Address, “Men Have Forgotten God”. He lamented, “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”

“The failings of human consciousness, deprived of its divine dimension, have been a determining factor in all the major crimes of this century…Yet we have grown used to this kind of world; we even feel at home in it.”

He was describing the atrocities that took place in Eastern Europe. He might as well have been describing Judges. And sadly, he is describing what will a happen in an American culture that, like the aforementioned cultures, embraced relativism as their philosophy of life. When we have no controlling moral authority—a God who decides what truth is, who determines how man should live and who holds him accountable for it—each of us will begin to do what seems right in our own eyes.

We will do what we think is right, but it will be so wrong!

All that to offer this reminder: you and I can perhaps be agents of change by simply and fiercely committing to a source of truth that is unchanging, the Word of God, and unapologetically calling our culture to God’s standard, even as it has forgotten God.

The prophetic drift of this fallen world is inexorably toward forgetting the Almighty Creator and Ruler of us all. Let’s not let the world forget God without a fight.

Going Deeper With God: Tell someone about your belief in God’s truth today. Even if they don’t believe, they need to know that you do.