Monday, June 5, 2006

2006 - 01 - breaking down our altars

“and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars”

--- judges 2:2 ---


simplicity. it’s where we’re starting this year. simply our Lord Jesus, and what God is saying to us. prayer has gone into these devotional writings and they are purposed to bring prayerful results. Holy is our time with the Lord, and personally, i am tired of treating it as anything less. today, this week, we are going to dig into a story in God’s word that has spoken to me, is speaking to me, and will speak to me. let us simply consider this story and ponder it’s implications for us, individually and as a whole. together, let’s understand what God can do and is doing.

i know it may seem odd, but we’re basing our spiritual journey this season on the book of judges. let me just breakdown the background for this book, and give a brief overview. okay, israelites are coming out of egypt and are making their way into the land that God has promised to them. joshua has been leading them but in the first chapter of judges, joshua dies. now the israelites had been very successful under joshua, defeating many of the nations that opposed their entry into the land. now, let’s put aside the violence for now…think about this. the israelites goal was to inhabit the land that the Lord had promised them, and they are doing good. now they are leaderless, and they are young. the generation of men who had been moving steadily toward their goal had now died and gone away. but at this point they’ve been successful and strong.

so, we see the strength of the israelites is beginning to grow, they are successful. but as we look at them, we should also note that their weakness goes back even deeper into their history. God addresses this very generation of israelites in joshua 24, look at
what God has to say: “long ago your forefathers…lived beyond the river and worshiped other gods.” here is
the israelites weakness: other gods. for ages in their history, they have been tempted to put man-made things
in the space of God in their lives. it goes back to before they were in egypt, during the exodus when they made
the golden calf, and on. God is giving them warning here, telling them that they have a weakness, but they have
a choice.

all of us have a weakness. maybe two or three, or many more. some of us struggle with self-confidence, some of us have attention problems, some of us don’t work very hard, or we worried about what others think of us, or we deal with sin problems like lust, dishonesty, prejudice, hatred, or more. most of us deal with a mixture of allof those things. weakness is not the problem. God acknowledges that we all have weakness in our background.

WEAKNESS IS GOOD, it is a part of God’s plan. weakness sets up a choice for us, and it’s there is where the problem usually lies.

the problem is that we usually choose to focus on this weakness in ourselves, instead of focusing on the God who can help us overcome the weakness. in a way, the weakness becomes our god, our idol. we look to our weakness first to tell us who we are, instead of looking to God. we see everything that happens in our life through the lens of weakness. for example, a person who lacks self-confidence and feels that they are

consistently messing up will make a mistake (serve a double fault), and then say to themselves: “dangit! i suck at serving! “ the next time they step up to the same situation, they focus on the sucking rather than the serving. a person who has God on their throne will look at the same situation and realize that they can still be strong after a mistake because God is the one who provides their strength. they make the choice to focus on God, rather than their weakness.

let me translate a verse for you so that it applies to us. we’ve established that serving other gods is israel’s weakness, and that our weaknesses are similar to serving other gods because we funnel our thoughts through them. so I’m just going to sub the word weakness in for the idea of serving other gods.

“new fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away your weakness, and serve the Lord. but if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether your weakness or someone elses. but for me and my team, we will serve the Lord!” Joshua 24:14-15 (paraphrased)

that’s really powerful to me. just think about us as a team, throwing off our weakness and following God. it would be amazing. gives me shivers!

Or if you’d rather, think about what happens if we don’t.

the israelites, they get very excited about getting rid of the foreign gods and serving only the Lord. you can just see the end of the book of joshua as kind of a pep rally with all these people. joshua says, “God is a jealous and Holy God. you better mean what you say.” and the people cry back “we will serve Him!” they make their decision for the Lord…but…

flip ahead into judges. in a very literal way, the israelites were told to drive out the people of other nations. why? because God knew that if canaanites and midianites and amorites lived among His chosen people, that there would be temptation for the israelites to fall back into weakness. so God commands the people, either drive out the foreigners from among you or in the very least, break down their altars.

the israelites don’t do it completely. judges 1:27 says, “but manasseh did not drive out the people of beth shan or taanach or dor or ibleam or megiddo and their surrounding settlements, for the canaanites were determined to line in that land.” they didn’t drive them out like the Lord asked. later, in judges 2:1-3 the Lord says this, “I brought youup out of egypt and led you into the land…I said ‘I will never break my covenant with you…but you shall break down their altars.’ yet you disobeyed me.” the people did not listen or did not obey. they did not get rid of their weakness.

so what does the Lord do. reading on, “now therefore I tell you that I will not drive them out before you; they will be thorns in your sides…” you see, what happens with weakness that is not driven out before the Lord is that it becomes a nagging pest in your life that you can’t get rid of. God says He won’t even drive it out!

so, let’s face ourselves tonight.

what is your weakness? (your idol? your altar?)
how is that holding you back?
is it really something that you want to be a thorn in your side for life? for even tennis season?

if not then let’s break down our altars tonight.

let me offer some biblical ideas as to how to deal with weakness…

1. call on Jesus authority over your weakness (Matt. 10:1, Matt. 28:18, Mark 6:7, Luke 4:6, Luke 9:1, Luke 10:19…)

2. prayer (Matt 17:19,21, 1 Peter 5:7)

3. displacement, replace weakness with Godly habits and Godly thinking (2 Cor. 6:14, Eph. 6)

4. submission to God (James 4:7)


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