The Proof Of His Love
What is it about peace and prosperity that causes us to lose our minds, to surrender spiritual santity to the whims and dictates of depravity? Why do we seem to think and reason with such greater clarity only when life is difficult and demanding? Unfortunately, it is during those times when everything is going well that our natural appetite for personal destruction seems to be at it’s strongest. Deep within the heart of fallen man is a proclivity towards apathy and apostasy. We do well for a while during those seasons of tranquilty but eventually, given enough time, we begin to drift back in the direction of indifference. Priorities begin to decay. Principles fall into decline. Promises made in the heat of the battle become forgotten. Personal devotion to the Lord our God diminishes until He has become all but a distant memory and the sin that once seemed shameful is embraced once again.
Undisturbed. For 40 long years Israel had known only peace and prosperity. Tranquilty had covered the land. In Judges 4-5 Deborah and Barak delivered the nation from Canaanite oppression. The people turned from their idolatry and returned to God. The very end of Deborah’s song in chapter 5 resounded throughout the nation for almost an entire generation, “…let those who love Him be like the rising of the sun in its might.” Not a bad picture. For the next 4 decades the sun of divine favor and blessing would shine upon the people of God. The enemy had been defeated. Evil had been vanquished. Idolatry had been forsaken. Times were good. Life was good. The land and the people were free from terror and tryranny. Everything was quiet. Everything was undisturbed.
But “then.” Human nature arose once again and “the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” God’s people abandoned their Lord. They returned to the idolatry that they have previously forsaken. Baal once again became the recipient of their fear and worship. Seems almost silly except for the fact that not a one of us hasn’t followed that same destructive path at some point. Life is good. Everything is going well. But then something happens within us. The feelings of repentance that once moved us begin to wane. Spiritual passions that once burned so strongly begin to dissipate. It doesn’t happen overnight but small compromises start to rule the day. We begin to neglect His Word. We shrink back from prayer. Our commitment to worship and fellowship is ignored. Things that were removed start to return. A little here and a little there and before we fully realize it we awaken one morning to find ourselves distanced from God. The sin we had forsaken has once again become habit. The old habits have returned like some stubborn infection. Our spiritual fire has become all but extinguished in guilt, apathy, and indifference. God is abandoned and something else has taken His place. Sure, it’s not Baal. But the sad truth is that something else now holds the position the Lord once held in our lives.
That was Israel in Judges 6. God’s response? “…and the Lord gave them into the hands of Midian seven years.” Sounds harsh, doesn’t it. In the early days of my faith I viewed this reaction as a divine punishment. God was angry. God was mad. God was ticked off and He had decided to show His people just exactly Who they were messing with. “Time to teach them a thing or two,” was what I imagined God thinking at the moment. But as the years passed I have come to realize that what He did was not an expression of anger. Yes, God is righteous. Yes, God is holy. Yes, God hates sin. But God is also love. And He loves each and every one of us in a way that we can scarcely begin to fully understand. The Midianites were not an act of divine retribution. They were not God’s revenge. The Midanites were proof of God’s love, proof that even when His people walked away He would never leave nor abandon them.
See, God is all about redemption. God is all about restoration. God is all about our return to Him and His subsequent act of renewal. And it all begins with what the Bible refers to as repentance. The Israelites had lost their minds during the undisturbed years. They had turned away from God and turned towards sin. And somewhere in the process they had forgotten that the wages of sin is death. They had forgotten that when you sow to the flesh you reap destruction. But fortunately, although they were living like they had forgotten God, God had not forgotten His love for them. And so He graciously sent the Midianites to remind Israel of their need for Him. The Midianites drove Israel first into the mountains. And in time those same Midianites drove Israel to their knees and back to their God.
We should count ourselves fortunate that God loves us enough to correct us when we get off course. We should be thankful that He loves us enough to discipline us when we run astray. Forget punishment. God isn’t that petty. Not when it comes to His children. The consequences that you currently face? See them for what they truly are. They are proof that God loves you. In fact, He loves you enough to get your attention and remind you that there really is no life apart from Him. Stop fighting. Stop running. Stop hiding. Turn around and turn back to Him. He’s not mad. He’s not angry. And He’s not waiting to punish you. Rather, He stands there with a heart full of love and arms wide open to welcome you back. Doubt it? Just remember the cross. It wasn’t the nails that held Him to the cross. It was His love. What greater proof could you possibly need?