Thoughts on Judges and Ruth

RuthThe Lord graciously and mercifully demonstrated kindness to Gideon by allowing him to overhear his enemies recount a dream which became a portent of the victory to come.  The Bible records the response of Gideon with the words he worshiped (Judges 7.15).  He sincerely and genuinely attributed worth to God.  We need more of this and less of what passes for worship in our day.

Ephraim had to be a puffed up people in the time of the Judges.  Gideon began to subdue Israel’s enemies and had to assuage Ephraim with the following ingratiating words:  “And what was I able to do in comparison with you” (Judges 8.1)?  Then, many years later, another judge named Jephthah confronted the same kind of ire.  Ephraim threatened to burn down Jephthah’s house because they were not asked to go up against Ammon.  Funny thing is that he had asked Ephraim to help him and they did not.  So Jephthah squared off against Ephraim in a battle between brethren (see Judges 12.1-7).  42,000 Ephraimites died.  Ephraim stands for all those people who want a share in the glory of God’s work after the fact …or perhaps even all the glory in their own work.

People who depend upon their own strength will finally get to the end of themselves.  Samson thought he would just go out and take care of a menacing threat in the same fashion as he did other times.  Only “he did not know that the LORD had departed from him” (Judges 16.23).   Samson lost his ‘outsight’ that day but gained some insight.  Perhaps one last heroic opportunity for him?  But alas, Samson simply want vengeance for losing his ‘outsight’ (16.28).  We had better glorify God’s strength and acknowledge our weakness.

The idolatrous man treats God like a lucky rabbit’s foot (Judges 17-18).  “You have taken away my gods which I made, and the priest, and you have gone away.  Now what more do I have?  How can you say to me, ‘What ails you?’” (18.24)

“It cannot possibly get worse!”  We’ve all heard this …maybe we’ve said it.  Judges 19 tells us just how bad it can get.  What characterized the Canaanites and made them ripe for thorough judgment at the hand of God through Israel now characterized Israel!  A Levite threw his wife, a woman he claimed to love, out like one tosses scraps out to hungry dogs – all to save his own skin from perverts.  Is it any wonder that the woman left him in the first place?  The rawness of Judges 19 only thoroughly convinces me more that we have the very words of God before us!  God is great and glorious; we are contemptible and in need of great mercy!

The darkness of the closing chapters of Judges gives way to the bright hope introduced by the Book of Ruth.  The Levite’s callous heart toward his wife touched off a civil war in Israel that just about wiped out the entire tribe of Benjamin (see Judges 17-21).  But the tenderness of Boaz introduces a theme of redemption that will culminate in his Descendant, the Lord Jesus Christ (Ruth 1-4).

“Sit still, my daughter, until you know how the matter will turn out; for the man will not rest until he has concluded the matter this day” (Ruth3.18).  Loving and leading …stillness and surrender – marriage the way it was meant to be!

Worldliness – Chapter 4

51qp2VlKXFL._SL175_“Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15)

Materialism is the dependence upon and stockpiling of stuff.  Consumerism (materialism) has powerful sway of us.  We remain ignorant of the warning Jesus gives in Luke 12.15.  Materialism is a problem in the human heart.  It is not so much the stuff around us as it is the stuff within us.

Coveting is desire stuff too much or desiring too much stuff.  Stuff can be a tremendous resource for God’s purposes.  However, covetousness is a form of idol worship (Eph 5.5; Col 3.5; Lk 16.13).  It’s not that we have stuff; it’s that our stuff has us.  The availability of stuff ignites covetousness.  We must battle this at the level of our desires.

God’s remedy for sin stands before us in the Person of Jesus Christ.  Covetousness is powerful but no match for a benevolent Savior.

Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” ’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16–21)

The rich man, inspired by he own genius, comforts his soul.  But the only audit that truly matters is God’s.  His new name in eternity is fool.  He is completely impoverished.  Every object you see is confined to this world.  You cannot take it with you.

Four Chains Binding Us to Stuff

  1. My stuff makes me happy (Lk 12.19).  But stuff stokes desire and doesn’t satisfy.  Discontentment forges chains which binds us.  Purchasing becomes a very elusive pursuit to happiness.
  2. My stuff makes me important (the ‘I wills’ in Lk 12.16-21).  Pride and covetousness are intertwined.  This is inevitable and destructive.  We obtain our desire and then feel superior.  Our purchase is a sacrifice of worship we offer to ourselves.
  3. My stuff makes me secure (Lk 12.16).  The prosperity in our lives is a test of trust.  95% of believers who face the test of persecution pass it; 95% of believers who face the test of prosperity fail it.  Prosperity moves us away from depending upon God.  It fosters false security.  But where we fail, Jesus succeeds.  When we are tested, we can go to our Savior.
  4. My stuff makes me rich (Lk 12.16).  But you can measure wealth by what fits in your barns.  We accumulate more than we need to become blind and bloated by our prosperity.  Don’t make decisions that protect yourself or keep the best for you.  The stuff we own can soon own us.  We are not rich but impoverished.

A man finally gets what he wants only for it to become the source of his destruction.  Don’t allow covetousness to chain your heart to that which is passing away.  The Holy Spirit empowers us to resist the seductiveness of riches found in this fallen world.  “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)

Jesus is the King of the Kingdom.  We must hunger for God more than stuff.  The Gospel is the key to seeking that which never passes away.  How do we cherish Gospel freedom by being on guard against the bondage of covetousness?

We must post a guard of gracious resolve:

  1. Consider the true riches you possess in Christ (2 Cor 12.9).
  2. Confess covetousness and repent (1 Jn 1.9; James 5.16).
  3. Express specific gratitude (1 Thess 5.16, 18).  Gratitude subverts greed.  It is not a feeling or based upon circumstances; it is a recognition of our dependence upon God.  God is always good and right in His dealings with us.
  4. De-materialize your life (1 Tim 6.18-19).  It is painful.  Take stock of your real needs and give away the stuff you don’t need.  Grace doesn’t make things easy, but it does make hard things easy.
  5. Give generously (Lk 16.10).
  6. Guard and guide your children.  Dig covetousness out when it appears in your children.  Don’t accommodate children to bring peace.  Defend children when it comes to branding and advertising.  Teach children to share.  “Let Johnny have it first and enjoy the act of sharing.”

Is your happiness so closely tied up with what you own?  Is Jesus Christ enough?  Perhaps he will put you in a place where you have nothing and no one and find out that He indeed is.  Jesus is not merely enough; He is abundantly more than we could ask for and think of.  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you…” (1 Peter 1:3–4)

 

Worldliness – Chapter 3

51qp2VlKXFL._SL175_We are subjected to music in every public setting imaginable.  This music has consequences.  God created us to be musical beings.  It should be involved in our times of worship here in this world (Eph 5.19).  It will be a part of our eternal worship (Revelation).

The author maintains God likes all kinds of music.  No single genre of music is better than all the rest in reflecting the glory of God.  Music is more dangerous than we realize.  Listening to music without discernment is dangerous.

Melody, harmony, and rhythm are the three major components of music.  Music by itself is unable to communicate specific doctrine.  But music does greatly affect our emotions.  Listening to a playing music alters how are brains and bodies function.  Whether or not people choose to acknowledge it, music moves us in both negative and positive directions.

Music tends to move us more if our minds are focused on it.  Many times music in the background goes unnoticed by us.  However, music is a carrier.  It gets its meaning from that which surrounds it.  Music carries content, context, and culture.

Music conveys content (lyrics).  Philippians 4.8 should dictate content in the music we write and listen to.  Christians must know what songs mean and what the words are saying.  Tuning out words and simply enjoying the music will lead to a more worldly form of worship on Sunday.  Music with ungodly lyrics will bring us to love things God hates.  We are foolish to repeatedly expose ourselves to lyrics which are seductive and filled with sin.  Profanity, sensuality, rebellion , and other worldly attitudes must not even be named once among believers.

Music conveys context.  The past shapes the way we view music.  A traditional hymn may evoke memories of church during childhood for some and rigid formalism for others.  Some find it difficult to separate the music they hear from their particular background.  Music is so influential that it can carry us into a worldly context.

Music is different in many cultures.  Cultural associations and meanings may change.  While we can relate to our culture without being worldly, we must realize that every culture is worldly.  Many of the songs at the top of the charts are filled with ungodliness and worldliness.  Music and its associations do not create sin in our hearts.  These simply reveal what is already in our hearts.  The sensual man listens to sensual music.  The man filled with self-pity listens to melancholy music.

Jesus gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, (Galatians 1:4)  This present evil age has its musicians.  What might be fine for some will be sin for others.  Two significant questions:  1) Does the music you listen to lead you to love the Savior more or cause your affections for Christ to diminish?  2) Does the music you listen to lead you to value an eternal perspective or adopt a mindset of this present evil age?

The effect of ignorance is compromise.  God gave us music to make us happy and holy.  We must have discernment and examine the music we listen to or we will be influenced by a godless culture.  Does your music tempt others to sin?  How are you demonstrating love for others by the music you listen to?  He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed. (Proverbs 13:20)

Don’t worship at the altar of innovation and creativity rather than the foot of the cross.  Listening to music whenever you want is a form of bondage rather than liberty.  Obsession over cutting-edge music keeps us from Bible study, prayer, personal reflection, and serving others.  What does the time you invest say about the hold music has over you?  Music is more than a hobby, it has become an idol for many.  Passion for music increases while passion for Christ wanes.

For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame— who set their mind on earthly things. (Philippians 3:18–19)  Why would we associate ourselves with music loved by enemies of the cross

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)

  1. Evaluate your current intake of music.
  2. Evaluate the quality and quantity of music intake.
  3. Ask spiritual authorities to help you discern if this is a problem.
  4. Delete or throw away music you’ll listen to only if you backslide.
  5. Listen to music with others …your family.  Share it.
  6. Make music rather than listen to it.  Obey God’s command to sing.
  7. Go on a music fast.  It may show you the hold music has over you.
  8. What about the financial resources you commit to music?

Music that stands the test of time is worth giving our attention to.  The author believes we should experiment with different genres of music.  This betrays the fact that he believes that there is something redeeming about these genres.

Music is a precious gift but it makes a terrible god.  Jesus died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. (2 Corinthians 5:15)

Worldliness – Chapter 2

51qp2VlKXFL__SL175_We are saturated by a perpetual media lifeline.  We live in the ‘mediasphere’.  We cannot take the pervasiveness of media too lightly.  It is having a devastating impact on culture today.  Everyone is influenced chiefly by television.  In television we live and move and have our being.

The world in which we live has the same desires of the flesh, desires of the eyes, and the pride of life as the world of John’s day.  We are no different.  Our calling as Christians is to resist the seductive calling of this fallen world.  To do this, we need to sharpen our biblical discernment and wisely evaluate our media intake.

The hazard is thoughtless watching of media.  We don’t gradually drift into holiness.  We take countless steps and each step matters.  A lifestyle of careless viewing reveals an ignorance of the media’s power in temptation.  Critical thinking leads to costly action ….to work.  Our minds must be engaged to travel against the cultural current.  It is a battle.

Is pop culture as deadly as persecution and plagues?  Yes, because it lulls us into apathy and passivity.  Christians must watch on purpose.  We are not immune from the danger of thoughtless watching.  We have a conscience that must be re-sensitized not desensitized.  Ignoring your conscience may lead to shipwreck when it comes to your faith.  We are “speaking lies in hypocrisy, having [our] own conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Tim 4.2).

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)  Our battle is with the flesh.  “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” (Galatians 5:17)  Our hearts are deceitful and our flesh is tempted.  “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12)   “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2)

Legalism and liberty often come to the fore in this discussion.  Those stricter than us are legalistic; those more lenient are libertines.  The risk lies in our motivation not in having standards.  Are you lowering your standards while not reaching anyone in the culture?  You don’t need to immerse yourself in the latest entertainment to reach people for Christ.

We live before the face of God.  He watches everything.  This is the fear of God …our beginning place.  A fool excludes the reality of God (Ps 14.1).  We watch media in God’s presence.  We are accountable to Him in all things – including our entertainment.  God is holy; we are not.  We are in trouble.  Our eyes have lusted, our imaginations have trespassed, and before the face of God we find grace.  Grace that leads us to desire obedience.  Obedience must be motivated by grace.

The first three chapters of Ephesians doctrinally lay out the grace of God for us.  Commands do not come until Paul writes three chapters of grace.  Then this command:  “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,” (Ephesians 4:1) Then, we come to Ephesians 5:

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.” (Ephesians 5:1–14)

All that is good, right, and true pleases God.  God’s grace leads us to live out these verses.

The more subtle the message, the more demand for perceptive viewing and critical thinking.  God plainly identifies what is displeasing.  Paul’s world and our world has much in common.  But we were once darkness and now we are light.  We are to no longer take part in the unfruitful works of darkness.  We are different people and must live different lives.

Avoid impurity in light of Christ’s love and sacrifice (5.1-2).  There shouldn’t be even a hint of sexual purity in our lives.  Does a program tempt me to be sexually impure?  I shouldn’t have a hint of it in my life.  Fallen people sin sexually.  But the visual and verbal details of immorality should remain in secret.  We learn nothing by learning the lurid details.

Let no one deceive you with empty words.  The wrath of God is indeed coming upon the sons of disobedience (5.6).  God prescribed stoning for adultery in the OT (Lev 20.10).  This seems extreme to us because we don’t have a healthy view of the blazing holiness of God (Hab 1.13).  We also see immoral people prosper in our media and, thus we are deceived.  Where is God’s wrath in immoral, romantic movies?  Maturity is not steering clear of immoral acts only; it extends beyond our thoughts and deeds and even to our words (Eph 5.4).  Foolish talk mocks and ignores the Word of God.  Crudeness and filthiness should not proceed out of our mouths, but it also shouldn’t come into our ears through films we watch.  What we say and what we listen to reflects upon our holy God.  Grace changes us from the inside out.

We have a high and holy view of sex as God’s good gift.  We don’t want to see it cheapened into a joke that degrades sex.  Sitcoms, stand-up routines, and comedy movies lead us to laugh at what we should weep over.  Thank God for sex; don’t joke about it and demean God’s good gift.  Watch what you watch.  Steer clear of impurity.  Christ died for the impure sins of impure people.

How do we decide what we will watch?  Hopefully not by the world’s rating systems.  The rating system doesn’t use a biblical criteria to evaluate films.  And what about the stewardship of our time and the motivations of our hearts?  Ask these questions:

  • Am I skipping or delaying something important to watch this right now?
  • What are my other social and entertainment options besides going out to watch a movie?
  • How much time have I already spent on media today?
  • How much time have I spent on spiritual disciplines, building relationships, or serving in my local church?
  • After investing the time to view this, will I look back on it as time well-spent?
  • Why do I want to watch this program or film?  What do I find entertaining about it?
  • Am I seeking to escape from something I should be facing by watching this?
  • Am I seeking comfort and relief that can only be found in God?
  • What sinful temptations will this program or film present?
  • Do I secretly want to view something in it that is sinful?
  • Am I deceiving myself by saying, “I’ll fast-forward over the bad parts”?  Am I telling myself, “I’ll just visit this website once, and I won’t click on any other links I find there”?
  • Am I watching because I’m bored or lazy?  What does that say about my heart?
  • Am I watching because others are …to be relevant or fit in?
  • How have my online relationships impacted my face-to-face relationships?  How has it impacted my soul – for better or for worse?
  • What motivates me to create and maintain a blog or a Facebook/Myspace presence?  To impress others?  Am I being sinful and proud?
  • Is sin identified as sin in this film?  What is being glamorized?  Who are the heroes?  Is sin glorified and rewarded?  What is humorous in this work?  Is violence used gratuitously to entertain?  Is sinful self-sufficiency honored?  Does it portray materialism as the good life?  Does it help me to understand my culture without tempting me to sin?  Does it reflect truth, beauty, and holiness?
  • What’s my speech like online?  Does it reflect grace?

Discernment is hard work but worth it.  Watching something might be acceptable, but is it beneficial?  “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.” (1 Corinthians 10:23)  What if your standard is that which is beneficial rather than that which is permissible?

To forewarned is to be forearmed.  How do we view entertainment for the glory of God?  Act as if you standing before the face of God because you are.  “Abstain from every form of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:22)

Promoting an evil message is presenting sin in a favorable light.  An evil method is employing sin itself to entertain (e.g., reality programs with slander and gossip).  Turn to the Lord and away from sin even when no one is watching.  View proactively.  “I will behave wisely in a perfect way. Oh, when will You come to me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me. A perverse heart shall depart from me; I will not know wickedness.” (Psalm 101:2–4)  Grab the remote or click the mouse when something worthless appears.

View with accountability.  God has given us families and local churches to support us.  Defeating temptation requires exposing temptation.  Television viewing usually occurs in private and is not talked about in public.  Many do not know about the quantity or quality of our viewing habits.  We remain ignorant to the devastating impact to our media viewing habits because we rarely invite others to help us.  Turn to Christ for repentance and to a brother or sister for accountability.  God’s help often comes in the form of a fellow believer.

Parents must keep children accountable.  Internet filters and monitored computer use is a must.  We must be aware of when, where, and what our children watch.  We cannot be passive.  If we have been, we must repent and ask our kids to forgive us.  Kids who sin in this area must confess their sin and ask parents for accountability.  Accountable viewing is a blessing and not a burden.  It is protection and not legalism.

We are free to pursue entertainment within biblical parameters.  “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)  This verse affirms; it does not restrict.  It leads us to view with gratefulness that which is God-honoring and God-glorifying.  “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17)

If I cannot thank God for whatever I am watching, I shouldn’t watch it.  But if it is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, and of good report, we should thank God for it.  We can watch television and movies and glorify God in the process.  But remember the ‘mediasphere’ will dictate watching less than we actually do.  Each step in the right direction counts.