Friday, February 18, 2011

One Word

A few of my friends and I centered our New Year’s resolutions on single words. We each looked at our goals, current circumstances, and needs and then chose individual words to express our desires for 2011.

Terra Hangen, from California, wants to “shine” for the Lord this year. Leslie Wilson, from northeast Texas, wants to “abide” in the Lord. Trish Berg, from Ohio, wants to remember that all of life is “worship.” I coined a word, “minute-grace,” as I try to live in the current moment each day, reflecting God’s care. Brenda Nixon, from Ohio, wants to be “salt,” backing up her choice with Jesus’ words, "Let me tell you why you are here. You're here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth." (Matthew 5:13, The Message).

This week, as I studied the Bible book of Judges, I was reminded about the word “obey.” If only the Israelites had chosen to focus their lives on the word “obey,” life could have been easier. Did you ever tell any children, “Just do whatever is right in your own sight. No rules. No boundaries.” God knew best when he gave the Israelites good commands, commands that would guard their souls.

If I’d been told, do whatever pleases you when I was in junior high, I’d not have done homework. I would have eaten Sugar Babies, Junior Mints, and drank Coca Cola until my heart raced from glucose gluttony. And I definitely wouldn’t have cleaned my room.

What would happen in our communities if each person did just as they pleased? What if your family members took care of only their needs and didn’t consider any others in your home? Chaos would reign. And your household would steadily slide into a murky world of selfishness.

That’s the gist of what happened to the people of Israel after the godly leaders Moses and Joshua were gathered to their fathers. Moses had set up a system of judges for the Israelites. So that rule was in place, and during the 300 hundred years when judges ruled, God also appointed specific judges to direct the Israelites.

When each of those appointed judges died, the people “returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them.” And, “they refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways” (Judges 2:19). A summation of those recurrences is seen in these words: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit” (Judges 21:25).

Joshua had led a generation to follow the Lord, and he challenged them to “fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness.” He further charged them, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” gods of stone and wood or the living God. Then Joshua declared allegiance to God, “As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:14-15).

When I read the book of Judges, I read with deeper understanding now that I’m an adult. As a child, I heard the stories of Israel’s judges: Samson, Deborah, Gideon, Ehud, and others. Full of meaning, their stories were too complex for full understanding when I first heard them in Sunday school.

Such as when the tribe of Judah captured the enemy king Adoni-Bezek and Judah’s soldiers cut off his thumbs and big toes. As a child, I only considered the horror of that dismemberment. But, there’s more to the story than that. Even the wicked king who now lacked toes and thumbs saw the justice in what has happened to him, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off have picked up scraps under my table. Now God has paid me back for what I did to them” (Judges 1:7).

The book of Judges records a song of Deborah after her win over an enemy. In that song she gives a formula for victorious living: godly leaders doing their job, and people willing to follow. Leaders, shoemakers, bakers, business owners, and parents – all adopting one word “obey.”

That’s when songs abound. Will you sing along with the ancient and godly Judge Deborah? Will you join Brenda Nixon in her quest to bring out the “God-flavors” of the earth as she lives as “salt”? If so, your days will be filled with potency and power like never before.

Index Scripture for Week Seven: “May they who love you be like the sun when it rises in its strength” (Judges 5:31).

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