Judges 1:1-18 (Part 2) – Once the Boundaries of Morality and Law Are Not the Same…

Posted: July 23, 2017 in Book of Judges

Judges 1:1-18 (Part 2 of 3)
Judah and Simeon Conquer the Land

Recently, I don’t know if it was the Supreme Court of Florida or the Supreme Court of our land that released a ruling that states in the absence of a law to the contrary, the Constitution does not require us to provide assistance to someone who is about to be harmed or to prevent harm that is about to befall them. The case in question is about Florida teens who watched, filmed, and made derogatory remarks as man drown in a retention pond. According to the court, we are not bound by the constitution to render aid to others when they are in peril. That is the scary thing here is there seems to be a disconnect now between what is moral in our country and what is legal. The boundaries the two, morality and legality, once reflected one another. Our society once had moral boundaries that were equivalently reflected in the laws of our states and country. Further, I think it used to be that the legal boundary of behavior was far beyond (as a final backstop) what we as our country’s citizens considered to be the moral boundaries of life.

This particular court ruling in a case is reflective of the fact that our nation has lost its inside-the-law moral boundary and now we depend strictly on the law to establish the bounds of our behavior. To film a man dying from drowning, making fun of him as it happens, and not offering assistance as he screams for help is not legally wrong according to the court ruling but man is not ever morally wrong? Establishing as a legal precedent that we have no legal obligation to assist others when they are in peril will be used going forward in a myriad of ways. Surely, many states will rush to pass Good Samaritan laws but the precedent in this case will be used to challenge every one of those laws. Since the constitution is silent even in an implied way through case history since the beginning of our nation under it, there is no constitution guarantee or requirement that we help others in peril. I bet that the framers of the constitution if asked this specific question, they would have said “are you kidding me?” Do we have to write something like that into the constitution? That’s a given. But we live in a different world now where we have to be legally spurred to do what is right and what is moral. There are no moral boundaries to our behavior any more.

We can blame the teenagers for failing to render aid and yes they should be roundly criticized. They were of old enough age to know the reality of the situation and yet they failed to render aid to another human being. That’s just wrong and though they may not be judged by the law, God will certainly judge their behavior. However, the teenagers actions are simply reflective of the moral drift of our society in which we have become a self-centered, self-seeking nation. We have guaranteed people’s rights to self-determine their sexual identity in contrast to what is right and natural. We have so taken our individual rights to do whatever we please that we no longer have moral boundaries. We are free to determine what our own morality is now. What is right for me is OK. It used to be that we had a right to self-determination as long as my exercise of my inalienable rights does not infringe upon the rights of others. No longer. We have taken to the extreme that my rights are valid even if they infringe upon your rights. Now, we have become our own legal bubbles. My reality is what I define it within my bubble. The fact is that we have taken that right away from God as the external force that defines for us what is right and what is moral. We have become our gods. Thus, these Florida teens have learned from the society in which they live that they can define for themselves what is right and what is not right for them do.

God is not a mean guy with a magnifying glass and we are ants. He does not without cause punish us. He executes His righteous judgment upon our sins by allowing the consequences of our sins to play out in our lives. He withdraws His blessings from nations that do not honor Him. He is in the process of withdrawing His hand from us. We have drifted so far away from Him that we now we have court cases about whether we should help someone in need or not. This moral drift reminds me of what this Book of Judges is a chronicle of. This passage is the just the beginning of the evident moral drift of Israel away from God.

This passage made me think of that recent court case because in both that case and in this passage, we see the beginnings of moral decay, the beginnings of the drift away from God. Let’s read through this passage together now, Judges 1:1-18:

1 After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the Lord, “Who of us is to go up first to fight against the Canaanites?”

2 The Lord answered, “Judah shall go up; I have given the land into their hands.”

3 The men of Judah then said to the Simeonites their fellow Israelites, “Come up with us into the territory allotted to us, to fight against the Canaanites. We in turn will go with you into yours.” So the Simeonites went with them.

4 When Judah attacked, the Lord gave the Canaanites and Perizzites into their hands, and they struck down ten thousand men at Bezek. 5 It was there that they found Adoni-Bezek and fought against him, putting to rout the Canaanites and Perizzites. 6 Adoni-Bezek fled, but they chased him and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and big toes.

7 Then Adoni-Bezek said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off have picked up scraps under my table. Now God has paid me back for what I did to them.” They brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there.

8 The men of Judah attacked Jerusalem also and took it. They put the city to the sword and set it on fire.

9 After that, Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites living in the hill country, the Negev and the western foothills. 10 They advanced against the Canaanites living in Hebron (formerly called Kiriath Arba) and defeated Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai. 11 From there they advanced against the people living in Debir (formerly called Kiriath Sepher).

12 And Caleb said, “I will give my daughter Aksah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher.” 13 Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, took it; so Caleb gave his daughter Aksah to him in marriage.

14 One day when she came to Othniel, she urged him[a] to ask her father for a field. When she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, “What can I do for you?”

15 She replied, “Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water.” So Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.

16 The descendants of Moses’ father-in-law, the Kenite, went up from the City of Palms[b] with the people of Judah to live among the inhabitants of the Desert of Judah in the Negev near Arad.

17 Then the men of Judah went with the Simeonites their fellow Israelites and attacked the Canaanites living in Zephath, and they totally destroyed[c] the city. Therefore it was called Hormah.[d] 18 Judah also took[e] Gaza, Ashkelon and Ekron—each city with its territory.

In this passage, we see that the Canaanites were all the people who lived in the land of Canaan (known the Israelites as the Promised Land). They lived in city-states where each city had its own government, army, and laws. One reason that Canaan was so difficult to fully conquer was that each city had to be defeated individually. There was no single king who could surrender the entire country into the hands of the Israelites. Combine that with the tendency of the Israelites to bend God’s commands to their own needs and taking the easy way out, we find that Israel would not fully realize its conquest.

For example, the maiming of Adoni-bezek was another example of taking a shortcut that demonstrated Israel’s partial obedience to the Lord. Enemy kings were supposed to be executed, not simply humiliated. This defeated king recognized God’s righteous punishment more clearly than God’s people acknowledged God’s commands. When we understand what God tells us to do, we run great danger if we don’t carry out both the letter and spirit of God’s commands.

God knew the greatest threat to Israel was not Canaan’s city-states’ armies but its religion and culture. Canaanite religion and culture idolized evil traits: cruelty in war, sexual immorality, selfish greed, and materialism. It was a “me first, anything goes” society. Obviously, the religions and cultures of Israel and Canaan could not coexist.

As we will see in the book of Judges going forward, Israel no longer was different from the lack of morality around them, they became just like the Canaanites and wondered why God had withdrawn His hand of blessing from them. Are we headed in that direction as a nation today? We have long thought in the American collective psyche that we are the New Israel. God’s people doing it God’s way and being blessed mightily for it. Israel thought that too. But we and the Israelites began defining for themselves what is right and what is moral. When we have to have a court case where we must define whether it legally wrong to not provide assistance to someone in peril, then, we as a nation have left our collective moral boundaries in the dust and we have become the nation of Israel found in the book of Judges.

Let us pray for our nation to return to God. Not just pay lip service prayers to that. But really, really, really, pray for it. Pray fervently. Don’t just say that “this is what the world is coming to!” and throw up your hands in a sort of Christian ivory tower kind of way. Let’s beg God to send a new Great Awakening to our nation. We need it. PRAY FOR IT!

Amen and Amen.

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