Sunday, April 26, 2009

Living Out Judges 3

Now these are the nations which the LORD left, to test Israel by them (that is, all who had not experienced any of the wars of Canaan; only in order that the generations of the sons of Israel might be taught war, those who had not experienced it formerly). These nations are: the five lords of the Philistines and all the Canaanites and the Sidonians and the Hivites who lived in Mount Lebanon, from Mount Baal-hermon as far as Lebo-hamath. They were for testing Israel, to find out if they would obey the commandments of the LORD, which He had commanded their fathers through Moses. The sons of Israel lived among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and they took their daughters for themselves as wives, and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods. - Judges 3:1-6

Reading this passage, it struck me the parallels between the situation that God put the Israelites in (and their response to it) and the situation the Church is in today and our response to it. First, look at the purpose given for God allowing the other nations to remain in the land: to test His people, to examine them to see if they will obey Him, and to teach them warfare. The Lord expressly says He didn't drive out all those *-ites so that His chosen people would have to learn how to fight, and to test their obedience and devotion to Him. Of course, the rest of the book of Judges is an up and down account of how the people repeatedly failed this test, then remembered the Lord their God and cried out to Him, and He raised up a man (or in one case a woman) through whom He would rescue them.

But look here in this introductory passage at what the immediate response of the Israelite people were to these foreign, pagan tribes they were dwelling amongst. In a word, accommodation. Or perhaps better, assimilation. They failed the first purpose that God put them into the situation for - to learn warfare - because the didn't see these nations as their enemies, as being opposed to their God. So rather than engage in battle with these pagan nations, they embraced them. They did what was expressly forbidden by God - intermarrying with them, becoming of one flesh with them. And ultimately abandoning the worship of the One True God and serving the pagan gods of the nations. In other words, failing both purposes that God had for the situation.

So consider the parallels with the Church today. We are God's chosen, covenant people, dwelling in lands alongside any number of pagan nations. We called and commanded to be separate from the unbelieving peoples around us, to be "in the world, but not of the world." This has been the struggle of the church of Jesus Christ for 2000 years. And I daresay, God's purposes haven't changed. But what is our response, especially in postmodern America? The same as the Israelites was. We aren't learning the art of spiritual warfare, since we fail to see the pagan influences in our culture as contrary to the holiness and righteousness of our God. So rather than engaging in opposition in obedience to our Lord, we engage in accommodation in obedience to our culture. We embrace the pagan culture and peoples around us, become unequally yoked with them in so many ways, we even bring their influences into the church. And we unwittingly serve their gods, the gods of materialism and tolerance and selfism. In short, we fail the test.

Now, I'm not saying we are to take up arms against the unbelieving people around us, that's clearly forbidden by Christ. Nor are we to live in cloistered communities behind high walls, completely disengaged from the world around us. We are rather commanded to love those people and pray for them and be a witness unto them of the glory and greatness and holiness of our Lord, and of His grace and mercy in Christ. But when we accommodate and assimilate, we completely lose our ability to do this. We become as them, we are indistinguishable from the world around us, we have nothing to say to them. The Gospel of Christ becomes just another alternate lifestyle choice to be taken or discarded. And especially when we begin to tailor our understanding of God, His revelation to us in His word, and the doctrines of our faith to accommodate the pagans around us, we not only have nothing new to say, we are in effect saying the same thing the pagan culture says. And we are worshipping their gods.

It's time that we reclaimed our purpose as God's people. For we are "A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." - 1 Peter 2:9

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