“So the children of the Lord did evil in the sight of the Lord” Judges 3:7
“Therefore the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel…..” Judges 3:8
“When the children of Israel cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer…” Judges 3:9
“So the land had rest for forty years” Judges 3:11
“And again the children did evil in the sight of the Lord.” Judges 3:12
Human nature. It is a phrase oft used to describe a multitude of things. For some, our human nature is such that we are basically loving, generous, giving people who are led astray in some way or another by our environment. When we do evil, we are somehow acting against our basic nature. For others, human nature describes certain aspects of how we behave but attach no judgement to that behaviour. It is human nature to be competitive or it is human nature to have the best. It is basically human nature that has us looking out for number one (ourselves) first.
So we come to the book of Judges and the people of Israel who, when following the Lord under the human leadership of Joshua, completely conquered the promised land. The people who in conquering the land, time after time, they destroyed armies many times their size and strength. After conquering the promised land, the bible tells us that generation served the Lord and they were at peace and prospered. Then Joshua dies along with the generation that was with him, who directly witnessed the power as well as the mercy of the Lord. Then something changed. Their environment didn’t change. it wasn’t as if, as they were correctly serving the Lord, a drastic drought or great enemy came against them. No, first they turned from the Lord and started doing evil in the sight of the Lord. What was the evil that they were doing? They turned from worshiping the Lord and started worshiping the local gods: Baal and Asherahs.
And here’s where human nature kicks in. For we might understand that those who had not had the opportunity to first hand witness the power and the mercy of the Lord might not grasp the all encompassing need to worship Him. Yes their parents taught them of the Lord but they lacked the experience. What they knew was peace and prosperity but not the way in which it was derived. So they strayed. Okay, I can understand that. However, once they get to witness it themselves. Once they experience first hand the anger of the Lord, then cry out to Him and are delivered and then are brought into His rest. Surely they will not stray again. Well, I’m starting the fifth chapter of Judges and already this pattern has repeated itself three times. And, having read the book before, I know that it will continue. And should we think that this is just an aberration of this particular time. Centuries later, after David and Solomon have ruled, there comes a time that is captured in the books of Kings and Chronicles, where this same pattern is repeated over and over again. There would seem to be some aspect of our nature as humans that brings about this repeated behavior.
Fast forward to today. As we read this we might be tempted to judge these people harshly. To call out to them: “You Fools!”; believing that we would never behave in such a way. Wise was Jesus to give us this warning: “Judge not lest we be judged”. For I, at least in those times when I am honest, can see this behavior in myself. I am in need. I declare that Jesus Christ is my savior and in faith I call out to him. I am blessed greatly in the response. And sometimes (sadly not all the time) I give thanks for what God Almighty had done for me. I feel a sense of peace and prosperity. Then it happens. The gods of this world intrude. With my new prosperity, I deserve to live the good material life. Bring on the new!……gadgets, vehicles, homes, lavish dinners out. I deserve and am wise to use only my judgement in wielding my new power!……do as I say (don’t look to closely at what I am doing), I have no need for your opinion, shut up. Look at me! Want to be me! I should have all that my eye sees and my mind can conjure. Gradually, insidiously, I turn away from the One True God and serve the many earthly gods: money, power, prestige, selfishness. Invariably, when I turn from God, I plummet. My sense of peace and well being flee from me. My decisions are wrong and bring about hurt and pain. I find myself lost. So I cry out to Jesus and He hears me and rescues me. And I am once again blessed. And the behavior, sometimes to a greater or lessor degree, will repeat itself over and over again.
And here is the amazing triumph over the tragedy; the God Nature versus Human Nature. Human nature has a saying: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Human nature says, once you have done something against me the first time, I should stop trusting, respecting or believing in you. Human nature says you deserve what you get. But not God Nature. First our Heavenly Father isn’t fooled. He knows our nature is to stray. He knows that we are going to sin. How many times should I forgive a person; Jesus disciples ask: seven times? No, Jesus responds; seven times seventy times. Even then, I believe Jesus nor God is putting a true number of times on forgiveness. Jesus Christ didn’t die just to deliver us from our first 10 or even 100 sins.
So what is to be our response? Just keep sinning? Can we not see that the turning away from God is not hurting God but is tragically and repeatedly destroying ourselves. But if that is our human nature then what can we do? Jesus Christ tells us. We must be born again. We must be born again into the spiritual realm of God Nature. Our human nature must die only to be resurrected into His Nature. How can we accomplish this? We as humans can’t. But remember that all encompassing promise made by Jesus Christ. With God, all things are possible. May it be that we strive for a new trend. The trend that comes from being with and in God’s Spirit through Jesus Christ. And when our human nature tries to cause us to fall; know that we have a Savior who is there to catch us.
Our most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we confess that we at times believe we can live without You. We confess that we bow down either in desire or fear to the gods of this world and our own making. Forgive us Dear Father when we are forgetful of Your blessings and take credit for them ourselves. Strengthen us Merciful Father, to be victorious in our battle against our own human nature. Wonderful Father, pour out Your Spirit upon us, testifying to us and giving us the will to subvert our will to Your Devine Will. That our lives might be a lasting testimony to the world of Your Glorious Nature and a Blessing to Your Most Holy Name. In Jesus Christ we pray. Amen