Saturday, February 9, 2013

Cry Out!

Cry Out!


Then the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel; and He said, “Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers, and has not heeded My voice, I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died, so that through them I may test Israel, whether they will keep the ways of the Lord, to walk in them as their fathers kept them, or not.”  Therefore the Lord left those nations, without driving them out immediately; nor did He deliver them into the hand of Joshua.” – Judges 2:20-23

Nobody likes to be tested because we all fear failure to some degree.  Yet God tests His children every day.  Sometimes we pass the test, and sometimes we fail.  When we fail, there’s always a retest date in our future.  When we do fail, punishment is also given as Hebrews 12:6 says For whom the Lord loves He chastens [corrects, punishes], and scourges every son whom He receives.”  He chastens us because He loves us enough to purify us.  But repeated failure does cause harder punishment, as He proved with the children of Israel.
In Judges we read of the children of Israel and a repeated test.  The test God outlined in Judges 2:20-23.  God saw that the children of Israel had a problem with idolatry.  They did it in the wilderness when they had Aaron, their priest, take all their golden earrings and make the golden calf even while Moses was with God receiving the Ten Commandments. They repeatedly served idols throughout their time in the wilderness, and God saw it as one of their weaknesses.

So God purposely left idolatrous nations in the Promised Land for the Israelites to be tested.  In Judges 2:20-23 God says “Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers, and has not heeded My voice, I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died, so that through them I may test Israel, whether they will keep the ways of the Lord, to walk in them as their fathers kept them, or not.”
The book of Judges tells the story of the test of Israel, which was a cycle of sin, punishment, repentance, redemption, and peace. The cycle is described with the same words each time, to show the repetition of their sinful state.  Each time, it began with failing the test, and it says they “did evil in the sight of the Lord”, and repeatedly worshipped idols.  God’s punishment followed, as He sold them “into the hands of” an idolatrous nation.  Israel then repents, and they “cried out to the Lord”.  Each time God forgives, and “sent” a warrior to save them.  Thereafter they had a period of peace and rest.

The first failure of the test beginning in Judges 3:7, as they served Baals and Asherahs, which were idols.  God sold them into the hands of the King of Mesopotamia, where they were slaves for 8 years.  They cried out in repentance, and God sent Othniel, Caleb’s younger brother, who defeated Mesopotamia.  Then they had 40 years of peace.
In Judges 3:12 the second test is failed when they once again did evil in the sight of God, and He sold them into slavery to Eglon, King of Moab.  They were slaves there for 18 years before they cried out in repentance.  But when they did, God forgave and sent Ehud, a left-handed Benjamite, who defeated Moab.  Thereafter they had rest for 80 years.

The third failure begins in Judges 4:1 when again they did evil in the sight of God, and He sold them into the hands of Jabin, King of Canaan.  Jabin was a ruthless king, and “for 20 years he had harshly oppressed the children of Israel. But when the children of Israel repented, God forgave and sent Barak.  Barak defeated the army of Canaan, and Israel had rest for 40 years.
The fourth failure begins in Judges 6:1 when again, the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord.  He delivered them into the hands of Midian.  The Midianites oppressed them for 7 years.  But they repented, and God forgave and sent Gideon.  Gideon defeated Midian, and destroyed the idolatrous altars in the Promised Land, and built altars for sacrifices to God.  Israel then had peace again for 40 years.

The fifth test is failed in Judges 10:6 when again, the people of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, serving the idols of Syria, Moab, Ammon, and the Philistines. This time they completely turned their back on God, and God’s anger was HOT against them.  He sold them into the hands of the Philistines and the people of Ammon. To make it worse, the Ammonites crossed the Jordan and fought with the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Ephraim.  After 18 years, in Judges 10:10 Israel cries out to God and says  “We have sinned against You, because we have both forsaken our God and served the Baals!”
But God had gotten tired of Israel’s failing the test!  In Judges 10:11 He answers them, “Did I not deliver you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites and from the people of Ammon and from the Philistines? Also the Sidonians and Amalekites and Maonites oppressed you; and you cried out to Me, and I delivered you from their hand. Yet you have forsaken Me and served other gods. Therefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in your time of distress.”

Oh, that we would hear the words of God here and apply them to our lives!  “Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen” He says, and He turns them over to the sinful state they have chosen.  Romans 1:18 says that the wrath of God is “revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.  The chapter goes on to repeatedly say that God “gave them up” to their sins because they did not “retain God in their knowledge” but “God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. (Romans 1:28-32)” God still gets fed up with our repeated failing of the tests, and eventually leaves us to cry out to the gods we have chosen.  Sometimes His anger burns hot against us.  The test continues because the fire is needed.
When a metal is first extruded from the ground, it is weak because it has impurities in it such as sand, dirt, and minerals.  To make the metal strong, it has to be subjected to fire to burn out the impurities.  When the fire ceases, what is left is a pure metal, much stronger than it was before.  This is the process in which gold and silver, very precious metals, are purified.  In the same way, when God sees our weaknesses and impurities, our failed tests, He subjects us to a different kind of fire to purify us.  The fire will cease when the purification is complete. 

After God had sent to children of Israel to cry out to their idols for help, Israel again turns to God.   This time instead of just in words, their actions followed.  They prayed in Judges 10: 15 “We have sinned! Do to us whatever seems best to You; only deliver us this day, we pray.”, submitting themselves to the wrath of God.  But then they turned back to Him, put away their gods and idols and served Him.  Oh, I love what Judges 10:16 says about God at this point, because this is where His unfailing mercy is seen.  It says “And His soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel. 
God doesn’t punish His children because of His wrath.  He punishes them because the need purifying.  He knows that when we leave our sins behind and truly walk with Him, following the lead of His Holy Spirit, then we will have the joy of our salvation.  The retest occurs because purification must be complete, for our good. 

We have been given the example of the children of Israel to show us what to do when we are tested.  God does not tempt us, but our own lusts and desires lead us into temptation.  Yet, no temptation is given to us that is not allotted to our personal ability to overcome it, and God always provides an escape route (1 Corinthians 10:13).  Don’t wait till you’ve failed the test to cry out – cry out to find the escape! And if you fail, cry out. God will forgive, and He will bring peace.  Cry out, and turn to God.  The oppression and slavery to sin will not end until we pass the test, and become purified by His consuming fire.   

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