Saturday, October 19, 2013

各人任意而行 (Everyone did as he saw fit)

Rev. Cheung    10/13/ 2013
Sermon Text: Judges 17:6
Scripture Reading: Romans 8:5-8;Gal.6:13
讀經:羅馬書八章五至八節; 加6:13
After Moses and Joshua there was no leader of like stature in Israel. For more than three hundred years following the death of Joshua Israel remained as a loose confederate. The book of Judges laments the frequent apostasy of Israel and demonstrates the covenant faithfulness and unfailing mercy of the Lord, The judges were led by the Spirit of the Lord to fight against the foreign powers that threatened to destroy God’s chosen people; and they claimed victory against all the odds.
What kind of parallels we can draw from the history of Israel and the Church of Jesus Christ? The Church is the redeemed people;the spiritual descendants of Abraham. The church is the chosen people in the New Covenant sealed by the blood of Jesus Christ. After the Pentecost the Holy Spirit had led the Church in many battles to victory against persecution, corruption, and apostasy. Throughout more than two thousand years of church history there were many periods of political and religious persecution against the Christian church. The church, empowered by the Holy Spirit, not only survived but flourished and became stronger under persecutions. There were ungodly individuals among the clergy and unholy union of the Church and the State throughout church history that brought shame and corruption to the body of Christ. The church also fell into apostasy many a time but the Holy Spirit brought revival and great reformation to the Church. The Church failed God by not following the teachings of Jesus Christ; but God is faithful in keeping His covenant with His Church. The Bible said, "If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself." (2Tim. 2:13)
Let us take a closer look at the nation of Israel in this long period of Judges that spanned over 350 years. In beginning of the Book of Judges, it describes the initial success of Israel in occupying the Promised Land, but soon after the death of Joshua they failed God miserably. "Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshipped various gods of the peoples around them. The provoked the Lord to anger because they forsook him and served Baal and Ashtoreths."(Judges 2:11-13)The first apostasy is compromising their faith by accepting the practices of the Canaanites. They did not drive out the Canaanites from the land as the Lord had told them to. They began intermingling with them in marriage and adopting their culture and their gods. It was not an issue of cultural exchange, neither was it an issue of inter-racial marriage. It was an issue of compromising in faith. The story of a Moab woman Ruth married to a Israelite Boaz is a beautiful story of inter-cultural and inter-racial marriage that greatly blessed by God.
Ruth was one of four gentile women named in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. This beautiful story began with Ruth's confession of faith that is often recited in Christian wedding ceremonies, as Ruth said to her mother -in- Law Naomi, “Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God." (Ruth 1:16)The historical failure of Israel finds modern application for Christians. In considering marriage a Christian should guard against compromising in their faith in Christ. Paul had said, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.”(2Cor. 6:14) mainly emphasize the point that people of different faith do not go the same direction in their life paths. It will make marriage life so much harder.
In reading through the Book of Judges one cannot fail to notice the recurrent comments on main problem of those days: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.”(Judges 17:6)The writer of Judges was not lamenting that Israel did not have an earthly king to rule over them,he was lamenting that Israel had rebelled against the lordship of God; refused to acknowledge the kingship of God in Israel established by the covenant at Sinai.
They sought the blessings of the gods of Canaan instead of the blessings from the Lord. Everyone did as he saw fit in their religious practice with little regard to God or others. They had no regard to God or others. There was a man named Micah from the hill country of Ephraim. His mother made image and idol with silver and put them in Micah's house.(Judges 17:4-5) Micah had a shrine and he made an ephod and some idols and installed one of his sons as his priest. Everyone did as he saw fit! It was wrong to make a shrine for idols in his house; he had no right to install his son as priest because he was not a Levite.  In doing what he saw fit he had gross disregard of the Law of Moses. Later when a Levite from Bethlehem came to Micah,he offered the Levite good money and benefits to be his family priest to make his religious practice more legitimate. Bethlehem was not one of the 48 designated levitical cities (Joshua 21); and this young Levites was out searching for a place to stay. Obviously the people of Israel were not taking care of the Levites as prescribed by the Law. This young Levite taking the priesthood as a pay job only as evident later when he was offered better benefits and prestige by the Danites, he left Micah and moved on. (Judges 18:18-20)Let us take a good look at Christians' attitude of worship and service. Do we worship and serve God with right attitude acknowledging Jesus as our Lord and King? Or do we take the 'Everyone can do as he sees fit' attitude and refuse to accept the Lordship of Jesus in our lives?
Then there was in those days the issue of moral corruption when everybody did as he saw fit. There is the story of a Levite from the hill country of Ephraim and his concubine. They were travelling and came to Gilbeah in Benjamin to spend a night.(Judges 19:15) an old man took them in his house. While they were enjoying themselves, some wicked men ponder on the door and demanded to have sex with the Levite. The Levite took his concubines and sent her out to them. They raped her till dawn and she died outside her master's door. This incidence brought the Israelites up in arms against the Benjamites; as a result almost the entire tribe of Benjamin was wiped out.
The standard of morality was set by God. When everyone did as he saw fit, no one was respecting God's Law. The standard of morality in the Western societies is based on the Bible. When the Supreme Court of our land decided to keep the Ten Commandments from being displayed in public schools and the school stopped teaching the Biblical principles of morality, we began to see a great change in the moral concept in the society. In these days there is no king in our land; everyone does as he sees fit! Breaking away from God's moral Law is equivalent to entangling oneself in sins. Doing things as one pleases is always a self-centered behavior in rebellion against God. Rejecting God’s moral law will lead us closer to falling into Satan's trap.  Falling into Satan's trap is never the way to experience true freedom. Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31-32)Christians are set free by the truth but the Bible tells us true freedom is not the ability to do whatever to please ourselves. Paul said, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13) To indulge in sinful nature sometimes means to do things as one pleases no regard to please God. Paul gave us an example, “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on the Spirit desires.” (Romans 8:5)  The history of Israel is a warning to the world today.

Lord’s Supper
1Corinthians 11:17-29