How Did They Forget?

Judges 3-4 and John 5

As I was reading through Judges chapters 3 and 4 I had visions of Chuck Norris. If he was armed with just one wooden pole with a metal tip (an oxgoad) could he take down 600 men like Shamgar did to save Israel? (Judges 3:31)

And, have you ever seen Forged in Fire, a competition between craftsmen who make handcrafted weapons and then put them through various tests to see which will be judged the best? I bet the judges would be impressed with the 18 inch double edged sword left-handed Ehud made that sliced through King Eglon’s belly until even the handle sank in surrounded by fat and the blade came out the back. A pity to have to leave such an impressive sword behind as Ehud cleverly escapes with his life and then leads an impressive rebellion against Eglon’s Moabites. 10,000 Moabites were killed that day and Israel victoriously rules over them for the next 80 years. (Judges 3:15-30)

And it’s hard to decide who should get the Wonder Woman award of the Bible. Both Deborah and Jael are incredibly strong and worthy candidates. Deborah, the wise judge of Israel who is bolder than Barak. She agrees to ride into battle alongside the captain of the army who wouldn’t go without her. And when the exhausted commander of the enemy army thinks he’s found safe haven in the tent of Jael, he sleeps, and she drives a tent stake through his temple and into the ground. Those, are some strong, brave ladies! (Judges 4:8-22)

God did indeed provide some very tough, courageous, wise, strong and capable men and women to fight for Israel when they were in need, surrounded and afflicted by their enemies, if they called out to Him. But, what got the Israelites into these messes over and over again? Hadn’t Joshua helped them clear the land and give them rest? The problem is – they didn’t stay faithful to the Lord. “They forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs.” (Judges 3:7b NIV).

How could they forget God? After all that God had done for them, over and over again through the generations. What caused their falling away, over and over again? The verse immediately preceding explains what happened. Judges 3:6 says (with my added pronoun descriptions), “They (the Israelites) took their (the unbelievers they lived amongst) daughters in marriage and gave their own (Israelite) daughters to their (the unbelievers they lived amongst) sons, and served their (the unbelievers they lived amongst) gods.” They forgot God because of who they chose to marry. Their spouses brought false and foreign gods into their marriage, into their homes, and before long into their hearts and minds and children and future generations, too. You can’t become one with an unbeliever, or a false god worshiper, and have it not negatively impact the way you love and serve the One True God. And when they served false gods it wasn’t long before God’s anger brought devastation, invaders and great trials upon them.

We all know what to look for in the perfect mate – we’ve watched the Hallmark Channel, too! She/he makes me feel special and happy, has a great sense of humor, would make a fantastic mom/dad, loves all the things I love, makes me want to be a better person, has a lot of social media friends, is super polite and friendly, has a great shoulder to cry on, shares my political and moral persuasions, even my parents like this one, has a great work ethic, we agree on the correct number and kinds of kids and pets, is so much fun to be around, is talented and smart, is quite romantic, will be a great provider, is kind to the earth, speaks my love language, is a fabulous cook and likes to clean toilets, is even good-looking, doesn’t mind my (fill-in-the-blank), and we are madly in love soul-mates.

Nope. Not a good match. Don’t tie the knot. Try again.

This time, first and foremost look for and insist upon one who loves and serves the One True God, just like you.

Period. That’s the most important. It is not a negotiable. It is not a character trait you just hope develops with more time. It is not worth the risk when the wrong spouse so easily leads to forgetting and falling away from God. It’s not worth the risk of falling into God’s wrath. “Don’t be unequally yoked with believers”, Paul said (2 Corinthians 6:14). Moses said, “Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughter for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you.” (Deuteronomy 7:3-4). If she/he isn’t serving the One True God they are serving false gods, even if you don’t know what those gods are named, just yet. It will leak unto you and your children and the generations that follow. Save yourself the heartache. Don’t even look at, date or consider as a mate one who doesn’t make the grade in God’s number one trait for your soul-mate spouse – he/she most love the Lord your God first and most.

I want to end today with a quick look back at what we started with today…God sending some very tough, courageous, wise, strong and capable men and women to lead and save His people. I suggest that the toughest, most courageous, wisest, strongest and most capable of them all is Jesus. These are not the adjectives most often associated with Jesus. We first think of him as a gentle, loving, humble, innocent, accepting, nice, merciful, meek, forgiving, helpful servant, a king who rides on a donkey and is crucified. And while those are not wrong, they don’t reveal his full character. Jesus was tough. We have only read the first few chapters of John and we have already seen him make a whip (impressive skill to have), overturn the moneychangers’ tables and forcefully clear the temple courtyard of the dirty animals and greedy, irreverent men. He wasn’t a wimp! He has questioned Israel’s teachers (and will use some pretty rough descriptions for them). He was wise and discerning and told it like it was. He has called out the Samaritan woman by pointing out how many husbands she has had. He wasn’t blind to sin and sinful lifestyles. And in today’s reading of John 5, after he heals the invalid of 38 years, he says, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” (John 5:14). He didn’t accept sin. He called people to repent and leave behind their sinful ways. And, when they did, he was full of forgiveness. Jesus is tough on sin and chosen by God to offer salvation to God’s children. But not all will receive it. Jesus is no gentle push-over. Are you ready to meet the real Jesus?

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Judges 3-4 and John 5 .

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