Spiritual Bondage Brings Political, Economic Bondage – Judges 3:8-9
We continue out study of what takes place in the nation Israel during this time of spiritual apostasy and political decline and military collapse. We are in the first of several cycles; in terms of large cycles there are six major cycles of disobedience, discipline and deliverance in the book of Judges and we are looking at the very first one which has to do with the deliverance from the judge, the Hebrew term shaphat, refers to a deliverer, not a judge in the sense of a magistrate in the judicial system such as we are familiar with in our system, but it has to do with someone who is a deliverer, a leader. And in some cases that took the course of action of rendering some judgments judicially in the case of Deborah, which we will cover in Judges 5, but it often took the course of military leadership, recognizing the principle that freedom comes through military victory.
We have seen that one of the reasons they are going through this is because the nation failed to carry out God's mandate to completely annihilate the Canaanite population in the land. They reached a point where they were indeed just living, compromising, assimilating with them to the point that they were intermarrying, and that signifies the fact that they had become so comfortable with the pagan way of thinking, the pagan way of life, the human viewpoint thinking of the culture surrounding them they were no longer concerned with the spiritual priorities as laid out by the Mosaic Covenant, as laid out by God, doctrine was no longer number one in their life and they began to just easily slip into the way of thinking of the people that surrounded them.
Judges 3:5-6 tells us that "the sons of Israel lived among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites," and we've seen that this is a standard listing of the various ethnic groups that was sort of a melting pot in the land known as Canaan at that time and was promised to Israel, and that they really formed one cultural group. They perhaps lived in different areas, Canaanites more toward the south, more of the lowlands; the Hittites lived more to the north, the Perizzites lived in the highlands and certain villages, and the Jebusites lived in Jerusalem.
Judges 3:6, "And they took their daughters for themselves as wives, and gave their own daughters to their sons," so the national distinction of Israel as a unique entity unto God, a unique ethnic entity unto God is starting to break down through intermarriage with the pagans. And that leads to religious apostasy, "and they served their gods." And what we see is that this begins a cycle of deterioration of positive volition throughout this period of the Judges. And the first cycle deals with deliverance by Othniel; he is the first of the judges and when we study Othniel we need to remember that Scripture never says anything negative about Othniel and that means that he is set up for us as sort of a standard by which to evaluate all of the subsequent judges, he and his wife Achsah are a model of the lifestyle of what the believer should be in that generation and in that culture. And as we go through the book of Judges we will see a steady and consistent decline from one age or one judgeship to the next.
The next judge is Ehud; Ehud certainly has certain problems in the way he conducts his lifestyle, showing that he has adopted pagan methodology and the methodology of the Canaanites around him in order to accomplish his task, sort of the end justifies the means approach, which is not uncommon in our own generation.
Then we come to Deborah and this is the second time we've seen the emphasis on a woman in the book of Judges. The first is, of course, Othniel wife, Achsah, who demonstrates all of the proper attitudes of respect and deference in authority to her father and to her husband and she demonstrates that she understands the proper role and position of a wife in a marriage situation under the Mosaic Law and as God has ordained the distinct roles of husband and wife and she is a model; she and Othniel become a model of the male/female relationships in society. And what happens by the time we get to Deborah in the third cycle, she goes to Barak and she says you are appointed by God to be the general, the commander in chief and lead the armies against the enemies of Israel. And he says well, I'll go if you go, and we see the feminization of the male and this is typical in pagan societies, the breakdown of male/female distinctions and role distinctions.
This is because once they begin to break down, marriage begins to break down, families begin to break down, and it is a direct assault through human viewpoint thinking on the stability of a nation and the divine institutions. So you see that the male becomes more feminized and the female, in order to pick up the slack has to take on masculine roles in order to bring deliverance to the nation. This is not something positive; you will always run into somebody who doesn't have a clue what the Bible is about, doesn't have a clue about Old Testament theology, and as soon as you bring up the issue from the New Testament that women are not supposed to be pastor-teachers and the women do not have the gift of pastor-teacher, and not supposed to be leaders in the local church, you'll always hear somebody say well what about Deborah in the Old Testament? And Deborah was never a pastor, Deborah never handled the Word of God, she was never placed in that sort of authoritative role; she doesn't serve as a prophet or a priest, she is simply a civil leader that functions because the male leadership has broken down and is in apostasy and in failure.
That leads to Gideon; Gideon is sort of the center point of the book. Up to that point the judges are more positive than they are negative; from Gideon on they're more negative than they are positive. Gideon is afraid to trust God, afraid to follow God's will, but he finally does trust God.
He's followed by Jephthah; his thinking is so muddled with human viewpoint type thinking about God that despite the fact that he is empowered by the Holy Spirit to bring the nation to military victory, after God promises him that Jephthah comes along and says well Lord, if you give me victory I'll sacrifice whatever comes out of the door of my house first to greet me when I return. That's typical of the kind of bargaining that goes on in any kind of pagan approach to religion. You see it today in the health and wealth gospel that is promoted in many denominations, that God if I give You ten bucks You'll return it a hundredfold the Scripture says, so the pastors try to fleece the sheep by telling them whatever you give to the church God will restore it to you tenfold so that's the best investment procedure you can ever get in, so everybody give around $10,000 and God will restore it to you a hundredfold so you'll have a million dollars. It's just bargaining with God, God I'll do this is You do that. And that has nothing to do with prayer or spiritual life and Jephthah shows the extreme. And when he returns home his daughter joyfully ran out of the house to greet him and he was therefore by virtue of his oath, and he followed through with his oath and offered her as a burnt offering, the Hebrew word always means a burnt offering in Scripture and he offered her us as a burnt offering, a sacrifice to God which show how pagan the leadership has become because of their adoption of human viewpoint thinking.
And then the last judge is Samson who is caught up in all sorts of sexual sin and he can't control his own passions, his own sin nature, shows very little spiritual interest and yet he still at one point in time does trust God. Now the thing that we learn from this of a positive view is that all of these judges are mentioned in Hebrews 11 as heroes of faith. What that tells us is that God understands our weaknesses so much that when we just show a little bit of faith and trust God at that critical moment then that has a tremendous impact in history and in the angelic conflict. So too often we get the idea that God expects us to be perfect and yet we look at the heroes that God mentions in the Scripture and He paints them not only warts and all but He shows how warty they really are. And we're no better and I've always found that a great sense of encouragement that when I fail that I'm not the first person in the history of Christianity or in the history of the human race to fail in the spiritual life because we all still have a sin nature and God is a God of grace who still deals with us in grace. So this is the outline of the book.
Now the next stage is given in Judges 3:7, "And the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and they forgot the LORD their God, and they served the Baals and the Ashtaroth." What we see in this verse that is so important that I took a lot of time to dwell on is the concept of forgetting the Lord. We have to understand that in the framework of the book of Judges the argument is that as the nation became apostate they basically abdicated their personal freedom and they became more and more enslaved, not only to their own sin nature but in divine discipline, God had to bring them under the dominion of foreign powers and foreign armies. What we see from this is that the political collapse and political failure and military defeat was not the result of a poor military policy from the administration of Israel. Remember the executive branch in Israel is God; it is Yahweh, the covenant God of the Mosaic Covenant.
So it's not the fault of a poor military policy, it's not the fault of a poor economic policy or lack of an oil policy or all of these other things that we hear so much about in the news, that if we just fix this or fix that that we will solve the problem. Those are symptoms; those are merely symptoms of the real problem and if we don't fix the real problem then all of the other things, it doesn't matter how conservative, it doesn't matter how liberal, it doesn't matter how socialist or how communist your policy is, if you don't have it right spiritually you're going to fail always. And that's what this is pointing out is that the underlying causative issue in history is not political philosophy, it is not economic theory, it is not military might. The underlying issue in history is always positive volition and when a culture has negative volition the consequences ultimately are national collapse and failure.
And this is what is happening here is the mechanics are that they forget the Lord and this means a lot more than simply a momentary lapse of memory; it's not just sort of a passive neglect, a temporary amnesia like forgetting where you put your car keys this morning, or maybe getting so busy one afternoon you forget that you have to go to Bible class at night and all of a sudden you go I'll never make it tonight, I just got too busy. That happens; this is not what happened in Israel. This word is best understood when it's viewed in conjunction with a similar verse in Judges 2:11 which says that…everything is the same but the verb is different and there it says that they forsook, they abandoned the God of the covenant, the 'azav is the word in Hebrew and it means to depart, to abandon, to forsake. And that's how it's translated in the New American Standard in verse 12, "Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of Yahweh and served the Baals,  and they forsook the LORD." In Judges 3:7 it says "The sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgot the LORD their God," so the term "forgot" and "forsook" are parallel, and that's what forgot means, the Hebrew shakach, and it means to set something aside, to render it to oblivion, to intentionally disregard something, to disdain it and to reject it. It is a very strong meaning in this context and it indicates that this is a volitional decision on the part of Israel.
Now what happens in this sort of context that we saw before is when you begin to forget God what you have to do, either in an unsophisticated way or in a sophisticated manner, you have to rewrite history; you have to get away from history and you have to become the enemy of history and you have to change history into myth, otherwise you will be confronted by the historical reality of God's work in the past. It's been approximately 40-45 years since the nation of Israel crossed the River Jordan on dry land as God parted it as He had the Red Sea. It's been about 40-45 years since they conquered Jericho, Ai and all the various tribes under Joshua. It's been 80 years since the Exodus and what they have to do is forget that God worked in history. See, God always works in history; history is the arena of God's work, it's not subjective, it is not in the arena of emotions or impressions or intuitions, it is always in historically verifiable acts in history. And what happens is to get away from this man has to attack history. And this has happened under liberal theology since the mid 1700s and has been a concerted attack to try to discredit the historicity of Genesis 1-11 and the historicity of the gospels. If you can pull that off then Jesus is no longer a historically objective figure, that salvation is no longer based on a judicial imputation of sin on Christ on the cross in 33 AD on a Wednesday afternoon when the Romans crucified Him but it is merely a matter of how it affects your life. It becomes a psychological factor rather than a real historical redemptive work in people's lives. And it comes about because we forget history.
Now one of the things that has happened in the shift in history, and I quoted this last time as we looked at the doctrine of history, is a statement by Ferdinand Braudel who is a French historian, and he wrote: "Men do not make history, rather it is history above all that makes men," note the last phrase, "and absolves them of blame." This is one example of where modern history is going when you take your kids to school and they sit in history class and their teachers teach social science; those teachers went to college somewhere and their college professors were influenced by their college professors, and they were influenced by men of stature like Braudel and others and they are teaching from a view of history today that renders man volitionally negligible.
And once human volition and human personality is no longer the issue but the causative factor in history is weather or geography or natural resources or some other non-human factor other than volition, then man is no longer responsible for his decisions and what happens in history so you don't even study personalities any more; you no longer study the great men of history, you no longer study the great generals and the great military battles, you no longer cover the great statesmen of history because they're just blips on the radar screen; what really matters is structures that were going on at the time, the physical structures and other things like that because man is really irrelevant, he's just another part of the machine, another element, another cog in the machine of nature and so man is just a victim of what goes on around him. Volition no longer matters and therefore spiritual decisions are no longer relevant to the course of a nation. So then once we adopt that frame of reference in our society and we come to a political year like this one, in an election, nobody focuses on spiritual issues because that's been rendered irrelevant, that's merely something subjective. So in its place you put something within the realm of nature and that is elevated to the position of the absolute that is the causative factor in history.
Once you remove the objective and we have used this chart to demonstrate this, that the Creator is above the line and there is a Creator/creature distinction according to Romans 1. And we have seen in our study of Romans 1 that what happens in pagan cultures is that man rejects the Creator and he suppresses the truth in unrighteousness. He knows that God exists but he rejects that in negative volition, and so he substitutes the worship of the creature for the worship of the Creator. This is in Romans 1:18-21. That means that man, once he eliminates the Creator from the picture, all that is left is what is below the line, human reason, human experience, or empirical investigative techniques, scientific data, individual historical events, values, feelings, impressions or intuitions. So therefore meaning does not come from somewhere outside of that box, meaning must come from something inside the box, and since there's no overriding principle by which to make a universal judgment, your decision or your impressions are no more or less valid than the other person's reason or use of scientific data. One culture's value system is no better or worse than another culture's value system. And that is where we are today in what is called multi-culturalism as a function of post-modern thought.
And once you eliminate the top line, you get the Creator/creature distinction violated, where all you're left with is that which is in the box in the bottom, that you can only validate things by something in that box. Some people will validate it through scientific data and therefore you have the rise of Darwinian evolution and by rejecting the Creator in any sort of universal criterion all they're left with is data but they have to generate the interpretation of that data from within their own frame of reference. And as a result of the rejection or reaction to the enlightenment and the rationalistic empirical approach to life in post-modernism the emphasis is now on feelings, impressions, and intuitions.
I had the quote last time from an Oxford professor of history which exemplifies this. He says: "To me the test of a good history book is not so much whether the past is verifiable reconstructed," in other words its accuracy is irrelevant, facts, then, are unimportant for him, they're irrelevant, they're dull and of course there is no such thing as absolute truth in his thinking. He goes on to says: "It doesn't matter whether it's verifiably reconstructed and cogently expounded; it's whether it is convincingly imagined and vividly evoked." In other words, now the point is that what makes history important is how it makes me feel. And we see the same kind of thing going on in the church, it doesn't matter what the Word of God really says, it's not my job to come and sit and study the Word of God day in and day out and have my thinking changed and really force myself to think objectively about life in terms of God's values, but what's important is how I feel. The accuracy of what is taught is not important; it's whether I feel like I had an encounter with God when I came to church this morning. And how many times I've heard that from people; pastor, I felt like I met God this morning. Well, I'm sorry but you should feel that way all the time, but it's not even feelings, it's the study of God's Word that matters and you're using a false criteria, you're using nothing but subjectivity to determine truth.
So what we have seen in our study of history and these particular words in the text is that once a nation gets away from history and objective historical data and they have shifted away from that, then they can forget God and rationalize God out of their thinking and the result is that they go into spiritual collapse in the nation. This is exactly what has happened in the nation Israel. In Judges 3:7 we realize that this generation has forgotten God because they are anti-history, it really wasn't God that brought us across the Jordan River, maybe that really didn't even happen, that's just the legend. It really wasn't God that brought us out of Egypt, …this shows you the tendency of the fallen human mind to rewrite history is that within just a few weeks of the Exodus event, when the very people who saw God part the Red Sea were at Sinai and Moses is up on the mountain they're building a calf idol to worship and they're attributing to that calf idol, that bull idol which is an idea they had they brought with them from Egypt, they are already rewriting history, it wasn't this God, Yahweh, who parted the Red Sea, it was the golden calf that parted the Red Sea. You see, our tendency is always to get away from the objectivity of history because that always confronts us with the reality of a personal God who is righteousness and just and has a standard that we should live up to.
What happen is that according to Romans 1 as soon as we are rejecting God and suppressing the truth in unrighteousness, then we are, according to Judges 3:7, is that we exchange the worship of the creature for the worship of the Creator and we begin to worship idols. Now they may be the concrete idols of the ancient world or they may be more sophisticated idols of our thinking as we have today. For example, in the New Testament it emphasizes that greed or materialism lust is idolatry. You're worshiping money. That's why Scripture says that it is the love of money that is the root of all evil, not money but the love of money. Materialism lust is the root of all evil, and that's a form of idolatry. You are looking to something in the realm of the creation, in this case money or what money can buy, to provide what only God can provide, which is stability, happiness, peace and prosperity, because prosperity is a matter of the soul, it is not a matter of physical possessions or a bank account.
So what happens in Judges 3:7 is that the Israelites reject the Lord their God and instead they serve…and the word here is 'abad that we have studied; it's a term that not only means to worship, it also means to work or to serve, it indicates in some cases even slavery and it indicates their obeisance to the idols of the Canaanites and what happens according to Romans 6 is that once you get into carnality you are a slave to your sin and when you are worshiping idols, in other words, whenever you are out of fellowship, whenever you are not living according to the standards of God's Word, under the filling of the Holy Spirit, you are a slave to the sin nature, once you become a slave to the sin nature then all other forms of slavery will sooner or later follow because you have already adopted the mental attitude and the way of thinking of a slave and not the way of thinking of a free person. We'll look at that in detail in just a little bit.
So they are basically enslaving themselves from a divine perspective to idol worship. Now I want you to notice something about this. It says that "they served the Baals and the Ashtaroth." Now the Baals is a general term, in the Hebrew it's Baalim, it's a plural word and this was the second god in the pantheon of the Canaanites. The high god, comparable to Jupiter in Rome and Zeus in Greece, was the god El, that's a generic term for god. It's brought over and utilized in Hebrew, it's just a generic term for God like our word God can refer to just about any kind of supernatural deity. El has a son by the name of Baal; now just as Saturn or Uranus has a son named Jupiter or Zeus in the Greco-Roman system, El has a son, Baal, and sooner or later El disappears from real significance in the mythical structure. Then Baal is a male god and he is the storm god and the god of war, and his counterpart who is sometimes said to be the wife of El is Asherah, but in other literature she becomes the counterpart of Baal. Now this indicates the sexual nature of these pagan religions and the way in which sex plays a role in their ultimate view of reality. In Christianity there is no sexual distinction in the Godhead; God is not male or female. God is God.
God created sex to be part of the created order for animals and for mankind and for mankind to serve as both pleasure and for the multiplication of the race and development of the race from one generation to the next. But what happens in pagan religions is they always start breaking down sexual distinction, because the gods that they create are basically a reflection of their own thinking and then once you create this mythology then it serves as self-justification and rationalization for further perversion. So you have as your ultimate reality male/female distinctions in the godhead and in all of your gods. And not only that but there is rank immorality among the gods; in this case El tends to be supplanted in many of the myths and Baal takes Asherah as his wife, she is also in some things his mother and that indicates incestuous perversion that then becomes justified by your religious system. You also see in this whole scenario that by using this kind of system you start breaking down the significance that God established for male/female roles in Genesis 2:18.
Man was created in order to serve God and in order to guard and to serve God in the Garden and the woman was created as his helper; she is not the one in authority. What we see in the curse is the woman is going to have a tendency to want to usurp the authority of the male. But the Scripture teaches that the male is the one who is responsible and ladies, what's really tough is when that male is in your opinion failing, and that's tough. And it's not just you, everyone of us is under authority; guys, we all work for some boss that we can do the job better and the guy was a loser, but we have to submit, it's authority orientation, you have to submit to authority. Everybody is under authority and the degree to which the authority is able to fulfill their role is not the issue. The Bible never says obey whatever the authority is when they're doing it the way you think they ought to be doing it, because then you're setting yourself up as the absolute authority and God did not allow you to do that; God just says you have to have authority orientation and so whether or not the authority is behaving the way you think they should or not your responsibility is to obey and to submit to that authority.
And once you start breaking down in this kind of a religious system your male/female distinctions then it works itself out in the culture in many different ways. Asherah has about seventy different children according to the mythology of the Canaanites, and she is often called the mother of the gods and she has all of these god-children are produced from different fathers. So you see that the pattern set up by the religious system is going to be anti-marriage and anti-family. Now this is going to be very important when we come back to look at this in a few minutes in terms of some analysis, that the very religious system that they have is anti-marriage and anti-family and Asherah was called the procreatress of the gods and she is called also the procreatress of god the son, who would be Baal, and she was considered the consort of Baal. So you see all of this is really a satanic counterfeit to destroy and attack the true God of the Bible.
Now what happens today is that we see something very similar happening as a result of the feminist movement that really got going again back in the 60s and you see this in relationship to language, and especially the popularity of the use of non-gender specific language. And these new translations that are coming out today where they talk about God as a woman, or they just use some sort of neutral term to refer to God as the great person or the great one or some Bibles even go so far as to refer to God as a she, and it's an attempt to completely restructure our culture's thinking in order to move us to some sort of matriarchy. Now one of the things that is interesting is that underlying a lot of this feminist jargon is the idea that there is some sort of matriarchal, ideal matriarchal society in history. And this is promoted by a lot of feminists and you'll hear it in college and university classrooms.
A couple of weeks ago in the New York Times book review there is a book reviewed called The Myth of Matriarchal Pre-history, Why an Invented Past won't Give Woman a Future and it is reviewed by a woman by the name of Natalie Angier [sp?], and she clearly admits that she's a feminist but she says look, we have to be honest there is absolutely no historical information that there ever has been a matriarchal society that worked, you can't find evidence of any prehistoric matriarchal society anywhere and inventing it just doesn't help the cause. That's what I'm pointing out with modern history, is facts don't matter, just invent something to give yourself a rationale for your behavior and yet if you go out and poll a lot of people they would think oh yea, there have been successful matriarchies in society. Never once has there been according to her review a successful matriarchy anywhere, at anytime in history. It doesn't work; it doesn't work because women were not designed by God to be the leaders and to be the initiators in society. He did not create their soul to function in that way and whenever a woman begins to function in that way it causes a lot of soul damage, it damages marriage as well.
The same thing happens when men refuse to function as leaders and take initiative in the home, they become feminized and the result is that when you get most families and most men and most women functioning that way in a culture then the culture begins to fragment from the inside. And so what happens in those pagan cultures is what happened in the ancient world, they start developing myths that will justify their perversion of the God-ordained roles, and that's exactly what we see happening today and it's being taught to your children and they're being brainwashed with it in their social science classes.
In the next verse what we see is: Judges 3:8-9, "Therefore the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Cushan-rishathaim, king of Mesopotamia; and the children of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim eight years." Now one thing that's important to note here is a couple of key words. First of all, as we have seen, "the anger of the LORD" does not mean that God had an emotional reaction to Israel's disobedience. We have seen that this is a phrase that is an anthropopathism. An anthropopathism means that this is the attribution to God of a human emotion in order to give us an analogical frame of reference for understanding the policy and the procedure of God. It's based on an analogy. And some people will say well, now can you say that? One reason we can say that is the Hebrew that is used here isn't even a literal phrase like anger; it's also an anthropomorphism which has to do with attributing human form to God.
Remember God is a spirit, He does not have legs or arms or eyes or nose, we don't know what God looks like because we know that no man has seen God at any time, the only begotten Lord Jesus Christ is the one who revealed Him. And in the Hebrew the phrase is 'aph charah and it means His nose burned. It is a Hebrew idiom for anger because when a man gets angry, a human being gets angry, sometimes their face turns red or their nose turns red and so that was their idiom for expressing anger. But this itself is an anthropomorphism and God does not have a literal nose and it doesn't turn red. So we know that since the idiom itself is an anthropomorphism and not even directly literal it is also an anthropopathism which indicates the fact that God in His integrity is rejecting their behavior, His righteousness sets the standard of His integrity; His justice is the application of that standard. And when God's righteous standard is violated then God's justice must condemn mankind for his disobedience and this is a function of the justice of God because now God's righteousness has been violated by Israel's apostasy and consistent disobedience so His standard is laid out in the Mosaic Law that if they disobey and get into idolatry and engage in this behavior, then God will discipline them through national collapse and bondage to foreign powers.
So this is exactly what happens here, that God's justice and righteousness kicks into action and so He must bring divine discipline against the apostate nation, so "He sold them into the hands of Cushan-rishathaim, the king of Mesopotamia; and the sons of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim for eight years." The word for sold is the Hebrew word makar, here it's the qal imperfect and it means to sell into slavery. It is the same word that is used over and over again in the Scripture to indicate the selling of someone into slavery. This is a free people; remember at this time in human history no culture existed that was more free than Israel. If you got down to Egypt the Pharaoh is god, literally he is viewed as god, god incarnate and everyone in Israel that is not part of the royal family is virtually a slave; you have those that are formal slaves and those that weren't, but virtually everyone in Egypt was subservient to the Pharaoh. If you went to the northwest you would go to the Assyrian and Mesopotamian cultures and there the king was not viewed as a god but he was the prophet, he was also the priest, he was the voice of god, he had that same level of authority. If you went to the Hittite Empire you would have the same sort of thing. And the kind of authority that these leaders had in those ancient civilizations was much greater than the Ayatollah Khomeini or Joseph Stalin or Saddam Hussein would ever dream about having today. They had just absolute authority over everyone in their society and there was very little revolt against it because of the religious stature and the religious status that was attributed to them.
Israel doesn't have any of that, when any traveler would come to Israel they would see that God is their king, there was no autocratic kingdom or empire, they did not have a heavy taxation upon them like these other countries had and the people had real freedom. But what happened is when the people caved into spiritual freedom, God made them political and economic slaves of oppressors to indicate and to teach that no matter what happens in your physical life if you are not right spiritually with God it doesn't matter. So they are sold into slavery, not because they had a bad military, that was just a symptom; not because they had a bad economic policy, that was just a symptom; not because of any other factor but their religious apostasy.
And then it says that "the sons of Israel, he cold them into the hand of Cushan-rishathaim, king of Mesopotamia; and the sons of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim for eight years." That means that they were in subservience to him and it is the word 'abad and in this context it should be translated "enslaved," "they were enslaved to Cushan-rishathaim." Now at this point we need to stop and look at the doctrine of spiritual freedom and political freedom.
The first point; political freedom without spiritual freedom is a thousand times worse than spiritual freedom without political freedom. That means it doesn't matter how great the nation is, how wonderful the constitution, how much freedom there is in a nation, if you do not have spiritual freedom then you are in the worst system of slavery ever. That's what Jesus was indicating to the Pharisees in John 8 when He said that they were slaves but if they would know the truth, "the truth would make them free." Political freedom, therefore, without spiritual freedom is really useless. It's a thousand times worse because the bondage, the domination of your sin nature is worse than any kind of physical, political, economic slavery you can ever imagine. That's the divine viewpoint framework for looking at freedom.
Point number two; when we quit living in the light of spiritual freedom based on Bible doctrine our days of freedom are numbered. And that means that once a nation goes into apostasy unless there is a true repentance which means a change of mind towards the gospel and positive volition toward Bible doctrine it will not be long before that nation goes into economic and political slavery. And you see, this is the overall rationale for the entire book of Judges. You see, it culminates in the argument of 1 Samuel 8, when the people finally came to a point in saying we don't want God to be our king any more, we want a king like everybody else, we want a health care policy like every other nation, we want socialism like very other nation, we want to have unionized everything like every other nation. You know, that's just what we're doing today, we want to be like every other nation, we don't really want to have freedom any more, we want to sell ourselves into some sort of economic and political bondage for the sake of security. And this is what happens in 1 Samuel 8 and they say we don't want a king that's absentee, that's God, we want a physical king like everybody else.
And God said okay, this is what's going to happen. He's going to quadruple your taxes; he's going to put a heavy burden upon you in order to support his bureaucracy and to support his lifestyle. And as a result of increased taxation you are going to lose freedom. The founding fathers of this nation understood that; that's why they made such an issue about taxation without representation. The amount of money that the government takes out of your pocket in taxes, whether it's gas taxes, income taxes, no matter what it is, directly affects your degree of freedom. What most people don't realize is you work between six and seven months a year and 100% of what you make from January 1 to somewhere between July 1 and August goes directly to the government. For six to seven months out of the year you are a slave of the United States government; not one penny you make during the first seven months of the year is yours. Now it really is, but they're taking it from you.
Now just think what you could do if they only took 10% or 12%, let's say just the amount of money you made from January to the middle of February was all that went into taxes; just think how much more cash you would have, just think what you could do with all that. That's freedom. You could invest it, you could provide a secure future for yourself, you could build a business, you could do all kinds of things. That's why God points out that taxation is related to freedom and the underlying issue is a spiritual capacity for freedom. And if you're not living on the basis of doctrine then you're destroying your capacity for freedom and once you do that you will advocate personal responsibility and you will give it to the government. So when we quit living in the light of spiritual freedom based on doctrine our days of freedom are numbered.
Point number three; unbelievers and believers in carnality live in soul slavery and soul slavery leads to economic, military and political slavery. Unbelievers and believers in carnality live in soul slavery, that's Romans 6. Romans 6, almost the entire chapter is talking about the fact that as a believer you have been freed from the dominion of sin but every time you give in to the sin nature you are saying okay, I'm going to put myself back in slavery to the sin nature. So unbelievers are born in soul slavery, and believers in carnality put themselves back in a status of slavery to the sin nature and that eventually leads to economic, military and political slavery.
Point number four; when the majority of the people in a nation live in soul slavery it will not be long before the nation lives in political slavery. And that's exactly what Israel experienced. When a majority of the people live in soul slavery they no longer have capacity for freedom, they can no longer understand what the issues are, they are no longer willing to accept personal responsibility for their lives and the more they live in soul slavery the more they will expect someone else to take care of them and the eventual result is that they will end up giving more and more power to a central authority. You see, that's the argument of Judges, is there's no central authority at the beginning of Judges and this whole period ends up in economic, military and political disaster and collapse and the people demand a king in 1 Samuel 8 and God gives them a king because they have rejected doctrine the only thing that's going to bring political stability is a strong central government. So there's a political thesis here and that is the absence of doctrine leads to the necessity of strong central government; the less doctrine there is the less capacity for freedom there is, the more you need to have a strong central authority in order to control things because once you get away from doctrine, people get away from accepting personal responsibility for their lives and when people no longer have a capacity or understand the importance of personal responsibility for their decisions, then anarchy will result unless a strong government steps in.
Point number five, if your spiritual life isn't built on Biblical truth, on doctrine dominating the soul then it is absorbed in paganism. There are only two options, according to James 3:13-15, you're either thinking in terms of worldliness, cosmic thinking, you're thinking like an unbeliever, which is demonic thought, or you're thinking according to God's thinking, according to doctrine. It's either human viewpoint or divine viewpoint and when you're out of fellowship, even if it's similar to divine viewpoint because it comes from the sin nature it's human good and it's ultimately destructive. So if your spiritual life isn't built on Biblical truth where doctrine is dominating the soul and the filling of the Holy Spirit then it is absorbed in paganism and if it is in paganism you are already a slave mentally and government policies, programs and political parties can't ever free you or give you security. So when you go to the polls in November don't think that's going to solve the problem. It might put a Band-Aid on things, it might not; if we're under divine judgment then whatever you do won't matter, and always remember that leaders reflect the core values of a nation and we usually get exactly what we deserve. And if we are under divine judgment then it doesn't matter how we vote because the leaders we put into place are so corrupt, their mentality is the mentality of slaves themselves because they are in carnality and so they will vote policies and plans that are consistent with their slave mentality and the culture just goes into further and further decline.
Point number seven; when the remnant of believers in a nation is so reduced that their invisible spiritual impact is negligible then that nation goes out under divine discipline; that nation will collapse internally and they will usually get overrun militarily or they will have to throw out whatever government they had that gave them freedom and substitute for it a government of tyranny, a strong government.
Before I go any further, I want to give you a little framework for understanding how to evaluate politicians and how to vote from a Biblical perspective. It's not a matter of political party or political theory; it's a matter of Biblical truth and what you have to do is pick somebody, whether it's local government or national government, whose policies and thinking most clearly aligns with Biblical reality. The first divine institution is human responsibility. If we throw out human responsibility and we go along with all kinds of patterns of irresponsibility and victimology and everything else and it's not really their fault, it's society's fault or someone else's fault and we need to solve the structures of society and then people will straighten up, then you know that's false because that's attacking divine institution number one. The second divine institution is marriage; Genesis 2:18. If they have policies that attack marriage, such as having a system of taxation where a married couple pays more in taxes, where two people married and working pay more in taxes than they would if they were single, then that is an attack on marriage because it is better to be unmarried than married.
I had an accountant friend tell me many years ago how surprised I would be if I knew how many people in churches who were sound Christians who were not legally married because they had gotten divorced, he told me that there used to be a deal out of New York that would take you out into international waters every December 31st and on December 31st everyone would get divorced at one minute to midnight because that affects their tax status for the previous year. And then at one minute after midnight they would have a mass marriage and everybody would get married again. And thousands of people did this every year for tax purposes. And there are tens of thousands of Christians in this country who aren't legally married because they would have to pay so much more in taxes than if they were single, so they just tell everybody they're married, perhaps they were legally married at one time and just quietly got a divorce and continued to live together so they don't have to pay thousands and thousands of extra dollars in taxes. See, that destroys the integrity of the family.
The family is the third divine institution, Genesis 1:28; marriage and the family are the context in which all education and spiritual values are transferred from one generation to the next, and when that's destroyed there's no context for growth any more or for stability in the nation. Then there's the establishment of human government in Genesis 9:6 with the institution of capital punishment. Now we all know that there are many times in life that the government fails and government policies, though they are theoretically correct, they may be applied in an unjust or injudicial manner. That is true, I think today; I think it's true that there needs to be a hard look at how some things are going on in the judicial system in relation to capital punishment. That does not mean you do away with capital punishment, that means you fix the system. But don't you think God, in His omniscience knew in eternity past that men would screw it up? Nevertheless, He still gave man the responsibility; He didn't just suggest it, He authorized it and mandate it, so that means we have to do it and try to do it in as just a manner as possible.
Then the fifth divine institution is that of national distinctions in Genesis 11:7-9; this was some 200-300 years after the flood, after the establishment of human government when man tried to unite against God at the tower of Babel and so God created all the different languages so that man would have to divide up into different groups. Now once you get a politician or a political party or a nation that starts attacking these divine institutions you know you're in trouble. We can't get into internationalism or globalism because that violates divine institution number five. When human government begins to break down and doesn't protect freedom any more, and forgets that their sole responsibility lies in two areas, and that is to protect from enemies in the country, which means provide a good police force, and protect from enemies outside the nation, which is a strong military force. Then when they get into other things then government is breaking down. When they institute policies and laws that make it hard for families to survive, where both parents have to work so they're never there to take of the kids or to teach the kids that's an attack on the family. Marriage then breaks down because of the pressure and you have a high divorce rate and when they institute all these policies and then try to absolve people from the responsibility of taking care of their own lives, then you have breakdown. That's Biblical. You violate these institutions your nation will eventually collapse and you will go into slavery.
We haven't finished with out study of Othniel so we will come back and wrap that up next time.