Like Other Nations

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“But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel.  And they said, ”No!  But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations…”  (I Samuel 8:19, 20).

The Israelites have a story like no other nation.  They were slaves.  They wandered in the desert for 40 years.  They walked between walls of water on dry ground not once but twice while following a cloud.  They ate bread that fell from heaven.  They drank water that came from a rock.  As they wandered in the desert for 40 years, their shoes never wore out.  Above all else, they are called “God’s people.”

The Israelites will never be like any other nation.

They have a story and a history that is rich with the hand of God seen in many ways.  The hand of God was obvious to all the nations surrounding them. This is what Rahab told the two spies that were spying in the city of Jericho.  “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you.  For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond they Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction.  And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the LORD your God, He is God in heavens above and on the earth beneath.” (Joshua 2:9-11).

If God who had done all these wondrous, magnificent, and mighty acts on behalf of the Israelites which had struck fear in the hearts of the nations surrounding the Israelites, why did they want to be like all the nations?

They had the Creator of the Universe leading them.  They had God who divided the waters of the Red Sea directing their steps.  They had Jehovah Jirah who provided for their basic necessities.   They had God who is rich in love and mercy protecting them and fighting for them against their enemies.  They stood out among the nations.  “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God.  The LORD you God has chosen you to be a people for His treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 7:6).

Why would these people want to be “like all the other nations?”  They were unique, special, and chosen.

They wanted a king who would “Judge them and go before them and fight their battles.” (I Samuel 8:20).  It seemed God had done this for them and yet they were not satisfied with the leadership God had provided them.  They were not satisfied with the care that God had provided them.  They wanted what they thought they were missing out on.

Rather than enjoy the uniqueness of their nation, they desired to be like everyone else.

As the history of Israel is traced throughout Scripture, this desire to be like all the other nations caused them great heart ache, captivity, wars, separation of families, slavery, and death.  The blessings that God had so richly bestowed on them vanished in the presence of their desire to be like the other nations.

People of God cannot be like other nations and a treasured possession of His too.

Today, in our culture many strive to be like the world in the way they dress, the way they talk, and the way they live their lives.  Rather than strive to be set apart before God, they strive to be the same as the world.

God did not call Christians to sameness, He called us to uniqueness.  “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness in His marvelous light.”  (I Peter 2:9).

As Christians God has called us to be different.  If we live like the world, we have lost our uniqueness.  The whole purpose of being different is so that we can proclaim the Excellencies of God.  If we live like the world, God’s excellencies cannot show through our lives.  As the Israelites followed the king, the great and awesome works that God had done to bring them to the Promised Land stopped.

God allowed the Israelites to have a king.  He gives us each a choice.  We either follow Him or live like the world.  Those around us can see how we are living.

“Choose you this day whom you will serve…” ( Joshua 24:15).

Freedom or Servitude

Delores CarrA pen could not write a letter without a person composing the words.  A paintbrush could not paint a beautiful masterpiece without an artist.  A piano could not play beautiful music without a musician.  A house could not be constructed without the construction worker putting all the pieces together.  A piece of work no matter how small or how grand needs someone to orchestrate it and put the pieces together.  Even a car built with many robotics and computers still needs a person to engineer the robotics and the computers.  This translates to the world around us as we look at the intricacies of our world and the intricacies of our bodies, it seems we forget how complex the natural world is, and get caught up in how grand we are as humans.  We often forget that there was a world before us and there will be a world after us, so why do we get so enamored with ourselves? “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21).

Deborah’s humility shines through these two short chapters in Judges.  She does not take any credit for herself, nor does she seek the approval of others.  Rather she spends time communing with God.  We are not told of her intimate relationship with God, rather we see the fruit of her intimate relationship with God.  She is consulted for her wisdom by many as she sits under a tree and the people of Israel come to her for wise council regarding the things of God. (Judges 4:5). She receives a message from God regarding the battle that is to be fought between two tribes of Israel led by Barak against Jabin, king of Canaan. (Judges 4:6).  She has faith in the message from God and goes out into the battle with Barak to help bolster his faith.  (Judges 4:9). She takes no glory in herself as she sings a song of praise and worship to God in Judges 5 with Barak regarding the victory over Jabin given to the Israelites from God.

Deborah realizes she is a pen, a paintbrush, and a violin in the hands of her Master and Creator, God!  She takes no glory in her abilities, but rather gives the glory to God through her song of praise in Judges 5.  Just as the paintbrush took no glory when Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel, so Deborah took no glory in the salvation of the Israelites from the Canaanites.  Yet today in our culture so many take glory for their accomplishments.

Frank Sinatra sung a song about this very thing called, “I did it my way.”  One of the verses contain these words:  “I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway, and more, much more than this, I did it my way.”  God also speaks to this in His word in Proverbs 16:9 “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”  Two opposite thoughts: God’s way or our way.  Deborah illustrates what happens when we seek God’s ways and God’s wisdom, even the enemies of the Israelites were defeated.  The cycle in Israel during the time of the judges was idolatry, forced servitude, pleading with God, and salvation.  If the people of Israel would have submitted only to God and served Him with their whole hearts, there would have been no servitude.  If the people would have given up their way and followed God’s way, they would have enjoyed living in the “land flowing with milk and honey” as they had been promised by God during their years of slavery in Egypt.  Rather than enjoy these blessings by serving God, they decided to live life their way.

The question for each of us is, “what path will we choose?”  If we choose to follow our own desires and our own path without consulting the Lord and His direction for our lives, we will end up like the Israelites in servitude.  If we choose to live life like Deborah, we gain our freedom.  Deborah desired no glory for the victory over the Canaanites, yet she is remembered in the pages of scripture as a faithful follower of God and a leader of the Israelites to freedom.

Questions:

  1. Read Judges 4 and recount the events of the battle between Israel and Canaan.
  1. Who would receive credit for subduing the commander of the army of Canaan, Sisera according to Judges 4:9, 21?
  1. Who received credit for subduing Jabin, the king of Canaan, and subsequently the nation of Canaan? (Judges 4:23)
  1. What does Deborah call herself in Judges 5:7?
  1. What is said about Jael in Judges 5:24-27?
  1. Why did God use these woman in these roles?
  1. Do you think Barak’s cowardice as seen in Judges 4:6, 8 is indicative of the cowardice of the other Israelite men?
  1. Would following after God and serving Him have provided the men of Israel more courage? How?
  1. What caused the 10,000 men of Israel to have courage to fight Jabin, Sisera, and the Canaanites?
  1. Do you lack courage? Whose way are you following?  Do you need to make some changes in your life?  If so what changes?