The Book of Judges
Rector’s weekly letter to the congregation for March 31, 2019.
What a mess society gets itself into when individuals and nations abandon the Lord and decide to follow their own whims to live by on planet earth. The book of Judges is stark testimony to that fact. After the conquest of the land under Joshua, each tribe faced the gigantic task of mopping its territory to rid it of any remnants of Canaanites. The Canaanites put up a formidable resistance, and some Israelite tribes relaxed their resolve and made do with the portions of land they had captured and condoned the stay of the remaining inhabitants.
This was a direct disobedience of God’s directive. God had instructed that all the inhabitants of the land were to be driven out. He warned that “…if you fail to drive out the people who live in the land, those who remain will be like splinters in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will harass you in the land where you live” Numbers 33:55 (NLT). The inhabitants of the land had become so wicked and incorrigible, practicing all kinds of wicked behaviors such as burning their children in worship of their gods. Their co-existence with the new nation would jeopardize the training that God intended to give to the Israelites before sending them out into the world as His missionaries. The Canaanites had degenerated to the lowest of the lowest of waywardness and were a danger to the very existence of humanity itself. However, in the end, the Israelites incorporated the Canaanites, even going as far as intermarrying with them (Judges 3:5 – 6).
Descriptions of military conquests in Judges (and indeed in the whole of the Old Testament) must be understood with the mind of the times in which they were written. The language of the conquest of those days often used exaggerations for emphases, such as saying that they killed men, women, and children. On closer reading of the text, one finds the report that they killed so many fighters. Women and children would not be among the fighters. The statement just means that there was total victory over the opposing army.
The Book of Judges describes seven cycles of rebellion against God by the Israelites. The cycles took the following order: Sin, Servitude, Supplication, Salvation, Serenity. It is amazing how each time the Israelites cried to God, after a period of apostasy, God would send them a leader, a judge, to lead them to fight the enemy. But it was a terrible time of lawlessness in Israel because there was no king to enforce rules and regulations. Everyone did as he/she saw fit. And the judges were sporadic leaders that God appointed for a particular task at a particular time, and except for Samuel, none of the other judges had jurisdiction over the entire Israel territory.
The Book of Judges teaches us that God cannot stand sin and will punish it, and sometimes harshly, to arouse our attention when we become stone deaf to His calls for repentance. We also learn from the book that given time, humans will lose touch with the vision of the founding fathers and mothers of any enterprise, unless personal devotion to that vision is consciously and constantly practiced, and intentionally taught to posterity so they catch it in their own spirit and personalize it, and commit to pass it on to the next generation. This is true of nations everywhere, Christian denominations, and organizations like YMCA, YWCA, Boy Scouts, and others. So many centuries down the line, the enterprise begins to accept morals and practices and beliefs that would astound the founders of the same and cause them to ask, “What happened. How did you descend into such a despicable state so strange and foreign to the original vision we left behind?”
The Case for Christianity
by Lee Strobel (2014: 14 – 17)
Can We Prove God Exists?
It is interesting how one can grow up believing things as fundamental as God’s existence, and yet feel wholly unprepared to defend those beliefs when put on the spot. That’s a normal experience—not something to feel bad about. Let it motivate you to think more deeply about your faith, and thus it will be used for good.
What trips up many Christians is the overreaching nature of the question itself. Prove is a strong word — one that sets the bar at an unrealistically high level. From my legal background, I can tell you that prosecutors almost never use that term alone. Instead, they attach it to four other important words. They’ll say, “I’m going to prove beyond a reasonable doubt” that such and such happened.
In Scripture, we’re told to “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). Giving an answer requires some forethought, but it’s a lot easier than proving something.
So our first response to a friend asking this question might be, “No, I can’t prove God exists, but I can offer some good reasons to believe in him.” If your friend protests, ask him if he can “prove God doesn’t exist.” He’ll quickly see that he doesn’t have proof either.
What are some positive reasons we can give for believing in God (outside of quoting Bible verses, which most nonbelievers won’t accept)? I asked that question of one of the leading defenders of Christianity, Dr. William Lane Craig, when I interviewed him for The Case for Faith. Here’s a short version of his response.
Reason #1: God Makes Sense of the Origin of the Universe
“Both philosophically and scientifically,” Craig said, “I would argue that the universe and time had a beginning at some point in the finite past . . . This is commonly known as the Big Bang, and it is accepted almost universally by scientists worldwide. But since something cannot just come out of nothing, there has to be a transcendent cause beyond space and time which brought the universe into being.”
Reason #2: God Makes Sense of the Complexity of the Universe
“Scientists have been stunned, Craig declared, “to discover that the Big Bang was not some chaotic primordial event, but rather a highly ordered event that required an enormous amount of information… [The universe} had to be fine-tuned to an incomprehensible precision for the existence of life like ourselves. That points in a very compelling way toward the existence of an Intelligent Designer.
Reason #3: God Makes Sense of Objective Moral Values
“A third factor,” Craig explained, “is the existence of objective moral values. If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist. Then morality is just a matter of personal taste…to say that killing innocent children is wrong would just be an expression of taste…But we all know deep down that objective moral values do exist,” he continued, “so it follows logically and inescapably that God exists.”
(To be continued)