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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Company matters!

5-6 But the People of Israel made themselves at home among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. They married their daughters and gave their own daughters to their sons in marriage. And they worshiped their gods.
(Judges 3:5-6)

The book of Judges is full of story after story of God seeing the ease at which Israel embraced the culture around them and the sin that so easily engulfed them.  The stories all begin with some evidence that the people became intrigued by the worship of the land, the images that were the gods of the native people, or the way of life the natives to the region pursued.  In all cases, Israel did not stand strong, leaving their pure worship of God and embracing some other form of religious exercise in turn.  

It all is summed up in the verse above:  "But the People of Israel made themselves at home...."  There is no worse place to be than "at home" in what God has instructed us to avoid!  Two things occurred in the nation that set them up for this failure.  First, their ancestors died.  Those that had seen firsthand the miracles of God in delivering them from enemies stronger than them were now all dead.  There is much to be said about what our elders can teach us.  They have experienced what we have not - in that experience is a wealth of strength!

Second, they had not fully driven out the native peoples, so there was a continual influence of their ways of life on the young nation of Israel.  Whenever we fail to "drive out" what God has declared unclean, we run the risk of being "contaminated" by that which we have frequent contact with.  There is no secret that bad company corrupts good people!  The company we keep really does matter!

In order to counteract the messes Israel got themselves into, God sent various individuals to bring deliverance over and over again to the nation of Israel.  These men and women were referred to in the book of Judges as "saviors" - simply because their mission was to rescue the people from their position of bondage to the Philistines, Canaanites, and other native peoples who remained in the region.  Repeatedly, Israel would drift into some form of worship that embraced the culture of the region, or be engaged in inter-marrying with the native peoples, and then they'd be so engulfed in their sin that they did not even realize their bondage.

That is how sin works.  It begins with the small stuff!  Then almost without our noticing it, the small stuff turns into big stuff!  The small stuff matters!  If not dealt with in a prompt manner, the little compromises we make will encourage us to engage in even more compromises.  The stories of the book of Judges all end with words such as, "The land was quiet for forty years," or "The land was quiet for eighty years."  As long as there was someone looking out for Israel's well-being, the land was quiet.  As soon as that "savior" passed away, the people drifted back into the compromising!

We would do well to take a lesson from these stories.  They are more than stories that give us a little light reading.  There is truth buried there that can set us free - if we will dig a little deeper and listen to the heart of God in those stories.  

1)  We need a Savior because we don't recognize the sorry state of our human condition because the compromises have become so common-day to us.  There is no evidence of God in our lives when the testimony of God's grace has become so entangled with the world's culture that God's grace is no longer pre-eminent!

2)  We need to stay focused.  The first opportunity to begin to drift into things that will become "drawing forces" in our lives usually occurs whenever we lose our focus.  What we keep our eyes on becomes the object of our journey!

3)  We have no idea of the gravity of the first compromise we make!  It only takes one step to be on a slippery slope headed downhill at a pace that would make heads spin!  

4)  We need to be aware of the company we keep.  Relationships must be examined to see what influences they exert in our lives.  If the graces of God are brought out, developed, and encouraged, then that relationship is something God declares "good".  If it never gives us opportunity to grow in God, then we might want to reconsider the influence of that relationship.

Just a few thoughts from the stories of Judges today!  Enjoy!