Judges 2:16-23 (Part 3)
The Lord Rescues His People

Yesterday, my wife, is in charge of our local community outreach ministries of our church. Among the responsibilities of her volunteer position is to coordinate and lead all the community outreach events that our church puts on each year. One of the events that our church started within the last two years is the First Responders Appreciation Luncheon. It is going to held this year on Monday, September 11th. On that day, we will provide free lunch in a drop-in style to all the policemen, firemen, and emergency medical technicians of the local municipal, district, and county governments. It is an appropriate day to hold this first responders luncheon. For all that is nice about the event and the goodwill that it develops between our community and our church, the reason I bring it up is that it was a memory trigger to me about the special significance that September 11th now holds in our national psyche. First responders will all remember that day how their brothers in arms gave their lives up in New York and Washington and how alert citizens on a plane gave their lives in a field in Pennsylvania. We think about all the everyday working citizens of our country gave their lives that day. All in all more lives were lost as a result of the September 11, 2001 attacks than were lost in the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Holding the luncheon on that date will be an appropriate thank you for how they sometimes put their lives on the line on a day to day basis without the television cameras around. They just do it because they are called to protect and serve. It is also an appropriate way to honor the memory of what happened on that day 16 years ago.

It was a horrendous day full of fear, despair, and anger. We all remember where we were that fateful September day. Like my grandparents generation and some of my parent’s generation all remember where they were when they heard of the attacks on Pearl Harbor, my generation and some of my children’s generation will remember exactly where they

As we look back on the events of 16 years ago, one of the things that was a result of the September 11th attacks that was noticeable to all was the spike in church attendance. Virtually every church in America that was not some small, rural family church experienced a spike in attendance on the Sundays following the events that occurred on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. That following Sunday, virtually every church in America was packed to the rafters with people seeking solace against the fear and helplessness that the attacks brought to our national psyche. There was a collective realization that we are not invulnerable in the United States. We might be the greatest nation on the planet but we too can be brutally attacked just like any country in the Middle East. On that Sunday, typical church attendance at an average church doubled. However, the spike in attendance was to be short-lived. What was thought to be a spiritual awakening in America brought on by a national tragedy was simply a blip on the radar of the general decline in church attendance in America that began in the early 1970s. George Barna of Barna Research expressed amazement at the outcome of the study. He went into the project expecting to see a lasting spiritual impact following the attacks, he said, and was very surprised to find that people had gone back to the way they were spiritually before Sept. 11.

Sixteen years later, our collective nation seems farther away from God than we were even before the September 11th attacks in 2001. Just think of the things that have transpired since then that we now find acceptable behavior as a nation now. Transgenderism and gay marriage and lawsuits against Christians for refusing to participate in gay marriages, openly gay pastors being appointed bishops in traditional mainline denominations, a city passing an ordinance about using the bathroom that you feel like using instead of what your true, unmistakable gender actually is, a state reacting by passing a bathroom bill being passed and a state being vilified in the press and public opinion for having the temerity to pass such a law, and how we now more than every worship the idol of tolerance of anything, and yet express intolerance for those, Christians, who do not want to worship the anything goes “religion” of today’s tolerance. We are now a nation that worships tolerance and thus worships nothing since everything goes. We are intolerant of anyone who stands on biblical conviction. We have strayed from God. That temporary return to God that occurred for about six weeks after 09/11 is now a distant vision in the rear view mirror of our drive away from God as a nation. We await the next cataclysmic event in our nation’s history to see the next temporary return to God. Those that do not understand history are destined to repeat it, as the old saying goes. We are the nation of Israel as spoken of in the Old Testament beginning here in Judges. But yet we do not see it. We say that is not us. But it is!

It is this thought of how we turn to God in times of crisis but return to our normal ways when the crisis is over that I thought of this morning when reading through this passage this morning for one final time before we move to the next passage. Let’s read it together now:

16 Then the Lord raised up judges,[a] who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. 17 Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the Lord’s commands. 18 Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. 19 But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.

20 Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and said, “Because this nation has violated the covenant I ordained for their ancestors and has not listened to me, 21 I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. 22 I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the Lord and walk in it as their ancestors did.” 23 The Lord had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua.

In this passage, we see some of the indications that throughout this stage of Israel’s history, they went through seven cycles of (1) rebelling against God, (2) being overrun by an enemy nation, (3) being delivered by a God fearing judge, (4) remaining loyal to God under that judge, and (5) again forgetting God when that judge died. When you think about it, we tend to follow the same cycles – remaining loyal as long as we are near those who are devoted to Him. But when we are on our own, the pressure to be drawn away from God increases by Satan through thoughts or through those we hang around with. We are often like the sheep that strays from the pack and then gets picked off by wolves. We must determine to be faithful to God despite how easy it is to be led astray. We must recognize the need to maintain contact with other believers.

Are you hedging your bets with God? Do you hold him at arm’s length unless there is some spiritual crisis in your life? Do you run to God when things don’t go your way? Are you USING God? Are you living your life as you wish and just flirting with God and only getting serious with Him during a crisis? In Scripture, Israel was the same way. We are the same way in America in general. We often are that way individually?

It is time to quit playing? God is real. Heaven is only for those who are holy. Hell is a real place for those who are not. You know that God is real and that we keep putting off dealing with Him? It is not a game that we hedge our bets with by keeping God nearby but not close. One day we each will have our judgment day. Then it all the bluster about the Bible being antiquated and out of date will not matter. We will find the truth and reality that that is a God who judges. There is only one way to God and that is through Jesus Christ. It will be too late then to have God close but not too close. Heaven is reserved for those who full on, no holes barred accepted Christ as their Savior and Lord and lived for Him despite what the world says about those Christians. Heaven is for those who are covered in the holiness of Christ and for no others. Plain and simple. At our judgement, we cannot be spiritual only at crisis times. Our judgment is the final crisis. Where will you stand? Come to Jesus now for real and not just some national crisis-induced spasm.

Amen and Amen.

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