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I’ve found myself chaffing–a lot–lately over the Lord’s discipline. Don’t you just love it how stuff will come up in your life that causes you to dig deeper–and deeper still, and without knowing it, you’ve come back to the gods that you thought you had knocked down, trampled over and left in the dust? I came to this conclusion in my reading of the first few chapters of Judges this morning; the only thing that I can take comfort in in all of this, is that I am not alone. The Israelites went back to their gods again and again in the dessert and here I am in 21st Century America guilty of the same thing.
Judges 2:6 After Joshua had dismissed the Israelites, they went to take possession of the land, each to his own inheritance. The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel.
Then, Joshua died and was buried.
Joshua 2: 10-22 After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the Lord to anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. In his anger against Israel the Lord handed them over to raiders who plundered them. He sold them to their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the Lord was against them to defeat them. They were in great distress.
Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. Unlike their fathers, they quickly turned from the way in which their fathers had walked, the way of obedience to the Lord’s commands. 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 had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them. But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.
Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and said, “Because this nation has violated the covenant that I laid down for their forefathers and has not listed to me, I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep they way of the Lord and walk in it as their forefathers did.”
Skipping ahead a few verses:
3: 1-2: These are the nations the Lord left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience)…
Can’t we see that the Lord’s discipline is a reminder that he loves us? No, God does not tempt us, but He does test us. He wants our character to be refined over and over again, he wants the sparkly shine to come out all over us, but that is only done through rubbing, through crushing, through trial. To be honest with you, I still haven’t got to the point where I “consider it pure joy” (James 1: 2) whenever I do face a trial. I still cry and scream and stomp my foot and whine and fall down in despair, but God has proven over and over and over again that we don’t want to get to that state of neither knowing the Lord nor what he had done for us. So, he brings us back, he allows us to feel defeated, so that he can prepare us for bigger things ahead. Sanctification is a process, as really long, ongoing and in my opinion, can be a painful process.
There is nothing that I would want less than for the Lord’s mighty hand to be against me. I want his favor, his blessings, his goodness upon my life. I want to live a life that is full of his unspeakable joy and gladness, a life that is content and at peace throughout life’s trials. I think, no, I know it’s possible because I have seen it happen before.
Is there something in your life that God is trying to sanctify you through? It could be a relationship, a work situation, a trial that has you knocked flat on your back. Will you let this obstacle refine you or will you try and kick at it, climb over it or run around it altogether?
Lord, replace my pride with servant hands that are willing to get stained and dirty.
Replace my greed with a desire to give way past when it starts hurting.
Help me to reach out.
Help me to be transparent when everything inside of me wants to crawl under the nearest rock.
Help me to think of others. Period.
You do not owe me, life does not owe me. The only person indebted here is me for the price you paid. Amen.