As he did with Israel, God wants to be our sole Lord and King. Yet he recognizes that we need a controlling moral authority in our lives with skin on. So he has ordained leaders to watch over us. No longer are they kings, but they are shepherds, pastors, spiritual leaders, mentors and accountability partners. And the charge that God has given them is to watch over our souls as those who must give account to God someday for the way we live our lives. So joyfully, willingly, gratefully come under their authority—that is God’s path for you to thrive.
Going Deep // Focus: Judges 18:1
Now in those days Israel had no king…
I have selected only a portion of a verse for today’s devotional. The rest of this chapter is the same song, twenty-ninth verse of what we have seen over and over again in Judges. We have been treated to the depressing fare of what happens to a people when they have no controlling moral authority: they do what seems right in their own eyes. And that is never—never—pretty.
So rather than going into the particular details of the sad account of Judges 18, let’s just say the spiritual anarchy that we saw in Judges 17 had continued on into this chapter. In fact, chapter 18 literally continues what began in chapter 17. It is a strange mixture of idol worship openly disguised as worship of Yahweh. It is stunning how easily Israel actually thinks that their surrender to idols made by man’s hand is simply a legitimate representation of their worship of the Lord God.
Back to the opening line: we are told that Israel had no king. They would get one soon enough; Judges bridges the time gap between Moses and Joshua to the start of the inauguration of the Israelite monarchy, beginning with King Saul and carrying forth under the Davidic dynasty until the nation is sent into Babylonian exile. And while a king to control the nasty impulses of this nation seems to be the spiritual antidote to what ails them, an earthly king will be God’s concession to them. God himself wanted be their sole king; that is his ideal. Yet hopelessly flawed by sin, God would graciously send them a man who would hopefully be that controlling moral authority. But God warned them: some kings would be good and godly; others would not. And when they were not, Israel would rue the day they begged God for a king.
Now how about us? Like Israel, God wants to be our sole Lord and King, but he knows we need a controlling moral authority in our lives with skin on. So he has ordained leaders to watch over us. No longer are they kings, but they are shepherds, pastors, spiritual leaders, mentors and accountability partners. And the charge that God has given them is to watch over our souls as those who must give account to God someday for the way we live our lives. The writer of Hebrews made this appeal:
Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith…. Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit. (Hebrews 13:7,17)
Now we live at a time where we have been conditioned to bristle at the thought of submission to anyone. We question authority. We do not like the idea of being accountable to anyone who might call us out for our behavior. As a result, far too many of us live unexamined lives. But if nothing else, Judges show us the ugly truth about having no king, which is living without any controlling moral authority: we do what is right in our own eyes. And like we find in chapter after chapter in Judges, that is never a pretty picture.
I would make an appeal to you that it is God’s will for you to voluntarily and joyfully submit to a spiritual leader. Slowly, carefully, prayerfully re-read Hebrews 13:7 & 17. It is for your own good that God has ordained people to watch over your souls. So important is it that God will even hold them accountable for how well they do their job with you. It is a blessing to you that you submit to them—submit not as a doormat, which is a misreading of the biblical word; but rather to line up under their oversight, which is the true meaning of submission. If you will, believe me, you will thrive under the humble, godly, servant-hearted leadership of an anointed leader.
Israel had no king, and it was disastrous. What about you? Who is the controlling human authority in your life representing God to you? If you can’t answer that, you may be in trouble. If you can, come under their loving leadership willingly, gratefully and joyfully.