A Lesson from Judges

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

  • John 15:1-4

“When they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you become angry with them and give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive to a land far away or near; and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captivity and say, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong and acted wickedly’; and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their captivity where they were taken, and pray toward the land you gave their ancestors, toward the city you have chosen and toward the temple I have built for your Name; then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their pleas, and uphold their cause. And forgive your people, who have sinned against you.

  • 2 Chronicles 6:36-39

The Israelites lived among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. They took their daughters in marriage and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods.
The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord; they forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs. The anger of the Lord burned against Israel so that he sold them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim, to whom the Israelites were subject for eight years.

  • Judges 3:5-8

Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah.

  • Deuteronomy 6:16

“On that September day [9/11/01], life changed for most of us. If only for a while, our perspective on what matters in life crystallized. We had no choice. Many lost their jobs. Many lost their friends. Many lost sons and daughters, moms and dads.
“By some estimates, on the Sunday after the attacks, more than half of the adult population of the United States attended some sort of religious service. As a nation, we searched for answers, looked for hope, and filled the pews of the country for a chance to find both.
“Soon, for those not directly impacted by the event, things went back to a sense of normalcy. We began to work and make money and collect things. But looking back, we remember our search. We remember what we longed for during that period. And now, living in a world of home foreclosures and high unemployment rates, we wonder what we would have found if we had kept looking.”

  • Timothy Willard and Jason Locy, Veneer

I know that I have the Scriptures in reverse order, not just Biblical order but chronologically.  The point is that nothing seems to be new under the sun, and no, I did not use Ecclesiastes in the Scriptures above.

Many years ago, there was a National Day of Prayer event at our church, years before September 11.  I was an elder and I was told that a particular judge might be willing to speak at our little church.  I set it up.  She gave a wonderful sermon on how we needed to repent and return to God.  During the social gathering, the treasurer of the church gave me a check to give to the judge, to cover her expenses, although she had only driven about twenty miles to get to the church.  I argued against it.  This was a judge!  We had never discussed reimbursement of expenses.  The check was for a lot more than that.  But the treasurer insisted.  It was the way this had always been done, and our very left-minded pastor had insisted.

I caught the judge as she was getting into her van.  I thanked her again and asked about her expenses.  She noticed the check in my hand and became very angry.  “Are you about to bribe a judge?!  Did you not listen to anything that I just said?!”  A look of relief came over my face, and I admitted that it was not my idea to ask.  I had listened intently and took heed of her message.  Her mood shifted back to merriment, and we had a good laugh.  A less understanding judge might have had me arrested.

I learned something from that judge that day, but the title is about the book of Judges.

The common cycle throughout the book of Judges is: sin, judgment, repentance, a judges arises, restoration, and the judge dies.  This leads to more sin and the start of another cycle.  In this mornings’ Bible study, I asked a lot of unanswerable questions, but let’s look at September 11, 2001.

The towers came down.  The pentagon was hit.  A plane meant for Washington, DC crashed in Pennsylvania.  And a variety of reactions happened.  As the advertisements for wounded veterans run on television, they interview countless veterans who talk of calling their recruiter that day or within a few days.  American soil had been tainted by an enemy force.

But that next Sunday, all the News outlets reported that the churches were filled, some to more than capacity.  But the quote from Willard and Locy’s book is that over 50% of adult Americans attended.  The surveys show that the USA had 81.6% of the population claiming to be Christian.  The book’s survey stated “religious services.” That could include much of that 18.4% difference.  If half of the 18.4% was in attendance, that leaves roughly half of those claiming to be Christians, 40% of the population, who did not bother turning to God after 9/11.  Yes, a few might have stayed home and prayed, but there was no unified response, no unifying response from a predominantly Christian country.

And then most of the 40% of the USA population who did show up, lost interest within a few weeks, most not showing up for a second worship service afterward.

My parent’s generation filled the pews for a little longer after Pearl Harbor.  The response was much more of a unifying response, for everyone was asked to sacrifice.

So, my questions remain.  How many people repenting is enough to get God to raise a judge so that we can be restored?  But did any of those people after 9/11 repent?

The last Scripture was added because I know of so many who went to church that day or a different day when the disaster was more personal.  They prayed, “God, if you show yourself now, I will believe.”  God did not show Himself.  God does not do parlor tricks.  God does not take orders from us.  Maybe that is why there is only 65% of the USA that claims to be Christian today.

But look at the dynamics.  These people tested God, something God told us not to do.  We are not in charge.  God is in charge.  Maybe many of those people who prayed in that manner also bossed their parents around, thinking from a very young age that they were the center of the universe, and they were in charge.

God answers those who love the Lord, those who trust God.  Jesus is the vine; the Father is the gardener; we are the branches.

The branch does not tell the Gardener what to do, but the Gardener removes the branches that do not bear fruit, and He prunes those that do bear fruit so that they can bear even more.

Everyone knows the old joke.  How many graduates of your college rival does it take to change a lightbulb?  The answer: We may never know for they have yet to be successful.

The Israelites were successful in repenting and crying out to God and getting deliverance.  Will the nations on earth, including the USA, get enough people to repent?  First of all, we need to recognize a word that many are afraid to say, “sin”.  We cannot repent unless we recognize that we are sinners that need to repent.  Or will the growing number of unchurched, atheists, and agnostics continue to grow?  If the tide does not change, we will never know how many it will take?  And when sin goes unchecked, how long will it take for God to bring judgment upon the earth?

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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