Monday, May 25, 2009

Java with the Judges- Wrap Up

Here we are in our final wrap-up of Java With the Judges. Whadidya think?

What characters stand out to you?
Which passages of Judges struck you at your core?
What timeless truths have you gleaned through this study?
How has God revealed His nature, or the nature of mankind, to you?
Did you find a new role model?
What would you like to continue studying deeper?

Java with the Judges encouraged me to begin looking at the habits of my flesh. My eyes were opened to a few areas in my life, both minor and major, in which I operate on "auto pilot" and allow my flesh patterns to dictate my behavior. I end up frustrated/angry/irritated by circumstances that (surprise, surprise!) can often be traced right back to me. It's as though I am standing beside a pond, grumbling because the water splashed up, when I was the one tossing rocks in the pond to begin with!

Circles, spirals, carousels, concentric rings and spheres kept coming to mind.
I listened to Life House's song, Sick Cycle Carousel, a lot during the first weeks of Judges.

Trying to break out of the cycle of thinking only about circles (ha!) I prayed God might give me another mental image of what was going on in the time of the Judges; and a parallel to my own experience.

Nothing profound came to me until I mowed my lawn for the first time this spring. Our home is situated on old farm land, and there's enough grass here that we have to use a riding mower. There's a certain direction in our yard, that every time I mow that way I can feel the rise and fall of each of the farmer's old furrows and hillocks. I often wonder what sort of crop was sewn along these bumps that now threaten to jostle me off the seat of my John Deere. It brings to mind images of long days spent in back-breaking labor in the sun-- breaking the sod, poking holes in the dirt, counting out seeds, covering and tenderly nurturing what's been sewn, watching the sky for rain, trying to keep critters and disease at bay, and eventually rejoicing in a harvest.

This land has been tended for a long time; much longer than I've been around on it.

So it is with the book of Judges. Israel already had a history before the time of the Judges. They recounted to each other the stories of being chosen as God's people, His deliverance from slavery to Egypt, His provision for them as they wandered in the desert. They even had accounts of God's wrath against His people that chose to go their own ways in gross and egregious fashions. And yet... here we are in Judges watching the people of Israel continuing to make many of the same poor choices their forefathers made.

I think of Samson, in particular, who seemed to think that being a Nazarite (a chosen amongst the Chosen) meant that he was entitled to special treatment. His extreme strength, his position as a judge of Israel, his go-get-'em spirit somehow warranted him permission to seize whatever shiny thing caught his attention. And when he screwed up, he believed he had a never ending supply of get-out-of-jail-free cards. He was God's golden boy, after all, right?

Whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap.

Tend To It
Acrylic on Canvas
12 X 12

It's easy for me to think that Samson got off scot-free, but the reality is that he paid a price for his arrogance. Israel paid a price for the lustful seeds Samson sowed and nurtured. Like the furrows I bump along on my riding mower, Israel has had to bump along over the seed beds of their ancestors for centuries. Their ancients tended the spiritual fields of the nation, but the question is, what kind of seeds were they planting? God-honoring, righteousness-seeking seeds? Or self-focused, defiant, thumbing-their-nose-at-God seeds?

Israel planted many seeds of sin, and even though they were God's chosen people, that didn't absolve them. Those seeds eventually ripened and came to fruition such that the entire nation reaped and harvested some pretty ugly stuff. Some of that painful harvest was the discipline of God, but some of it was just plain natural consequences. If you plant a bitter herb, you ought not expect a sweet flower to grow up in its place.

So, what kinds of seeds am I tendng? The season of harvest is approaching.

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