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04 - Government, Kingship, Authority – Introduction [A]
Government, Kingship, Authority – Introduction
The Book of Judges
Judges Lesson #004
February 23, 2021
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.
“Father, we are so thankful for the fact that You have revealed so much to us in Your Word, and that Your Word through the Holy Spirit is the means by which we are matured. We come to understand objective reality, and unfortunately, there are so many times when we fail to realize how important it is to be diligent in studying Your Word because we constantly have to be reminded of reality, brought back to objective truth, and it’s so easy for us to slide backward and to just go the path of least resistance, which is to be influenced by the world around us.
“Father, we pray that You would open our eyes to the truth as we study it this evening, that we may come to a greater understanding of how You speak to history and You help us to understand and interpret the things around us according to Your standards, and we pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
There are so many things that come across either through email or things I see in news reports that I think, well maybe I should comment on that. If I did that. That is all we would do, is comment on these things and try to understand them from a biblical perspective, but this one thing came across my consciousness, a couple of things last week. The headline is “Pew Research Indicates Online Harassment of Religious Americans is Increasing,” and in the course of this, it talks about cyber bullying. They say, according to this survey that 41 percent of American adults say they have been harassed online. Nineteen percent of those say it’s because of their religion. As Pew notes, that’s actually a significant portion of Americans in general.
In 2017, four years ago, only five percent of American adults reported being harassed online for their religious beliefs, and this is only the beginning. This online hate that they talk about, this hostility because of the impersonal nature of social media, that this is only something that’s going to continue and to increase as our culture becomes increasingly pagan and hostile to truth.
When you become hostile to truth, as we studied in Romans 1, you suppress the truth in unrighteousness. When you suppress the truth, you divorce yourself from reality, and the more distant people become in the culture from reality, the more bizarre things are going to be.
I can’t think of anything more bizarre than a man, a male, saying that he needs to be equal with women such that he can menstruate and become pregnant and have children. Yet we see that going on a lot in our culture. How divorced from reality can you get? And that’s just one example of hundreds that I could give. You know about them and read about them just as much as I do, and we just shake our heads, but this is becoming normative and even if it’s a small minority, the news media is reporting on it so that it can become more and more normative.
So, we’re studying about culture. We’re studying about the deterioration of culture in the Book of Judges in the period of the Judges, and I wanted to start tonight simply by looking at Romans 12:1–2 for just a minute. Romans 12 begins the application section of Romans. In the first 11 chapters, he is teaching about sin, about justification, reconciliation, peace with God and then, chapters 6 through 8 talk about sanctification, the spiritual life, how to live on the basis of our new position in Christ, and then chapters 9 through 11 talk about how God is still just toward Israel, and His plans and purposes for Israel will come about.
All of that we might call the didactic or the instructional section, and then you might say, well then what are we supposed to do? And that’s what Paul begins to address in chapter 12, and he says, [Romans 12:1] “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice—and why does he say bodies? He says bodies, not because he’s making a distinction between your body and your soul and your spirit, but because your body is the house of your soul and spirit, and so by mentioning presenting your bodies you start representing your whole self as a living sacrifice—wholly acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” We are to serve God.
Now part of how we do that is what’s he says in the next verse, and this is the prohibition at the beginning. [Romans 12:2] “And do not be conformed to this world”—the word translated “conformed” has the idea of being pressed into a mold, and we all are familiar with the concept of peer pressure. At one point or another, we were all teenagers in adolescence, and we all had to deal with the fact that everybody else was doing it, and we wanted to do it too, and our parents didn’t want us to do it, and so that’s peer pressure.
That’s the pressure to conform to do what everybody else does, and to think the same way and believe the same way. The pressure, as I just talked about from that pupil, the pressure, the hostility, the anger and resentment that is coming from the left is palpable today.
Christians have to either shut up, hide, get out of the way, but we don’t want to know you exist. Don’t talk, don’t speak, don’t address things because either that or you conform and go along with the way we think, and that’s the militancy of the left at this point.
I remember the first time I had a conversation with a liberal some ten years ago, and this person made the comment that he didn’t really think that everybody ought to have free speech, and I was just stunned, absolutely stunned, but this is becoming normative position from the left.
They think it’s okay for them to have free speech. You go back to the 60s and 70s, they could say whatever they wanted to; they wanted to exert their civil rights, and they wanted to have that freedom, but for somebody to speak against them now that they are in a stronger position, well, we can’t have that. We can’t let an alternative view come forward. That is their way of pressing us into the world system.
So, Paul says here in Romans 12:2, “Don’t be conformed [or pressed] into the mold of the world.” I talked a lot about what this word “world” means from the Greek word KOSMOS; it refers to an orderly system of thinking, and Satan has numerous, orderly organized systems of thinking the various philosophies of the world. The various religions of the world are all different facets and manifestations of the same hostility toward God manifested by Satan. His hostility toward God. His arrogance, and that is at the root of all of these different systems of thinking. But the way in which that is manifested that we see it on a day-to-day basis, rubbing shoulders with it is what we really talk about in terms of our culture.
Now there’s all the general culture that we could say of Western civilization. We could talk about the general culture of America, but we all know that America has numerous subcultures. You have the subculture of the South, the subculture of New England, the subculture of the West Coast, the subculture of the middle of America. You have all these subcultures, and we have groomed numerous ethnic subcultures, at least the media wants everybody to fit into their little identity groups.
So, if you’re black, you all have to think and march to the same tune. And if you’re Hispanic, everyone has to think alike. And if you’re a woman, how in the world can you be a woman and vote for a Republican? And that’s the message they keep putting out there, and that’s so demeaning to everybody, to put everybody in their little subcultural pigeonhole. So, we have a variety of cultures and subcultures.
Every business has a culture. You work for a Fortune 500 company, you may work for a company that’s involved in finance, you may work in the oil and gas industry, you may work in the travel industry or for one of the various, different transportation, airplane companies: United or American, or one of the others, and each business has its own subculture. Everybody that goes to work for one of these subcultures is expected to conform. Back in the day, there were certain dress codes that some companies had; there were certain things you could say, could not say, certain ways you had to dress, all those things, and that’s all conforming to a particular culture.
But there’s another round of culture and that is a culture that is either informed by Scripture, or culture that is informed by everything that is hostile to Scripture. There’s no alternative. There’s no middle ground. That’s okay; there’s no neutrality. You’re either, aligning yourself up with the divine view of Scripture or you are hostile to Scripture—what does the Scripture say: friendship with the world is enmity toward God. Where do you find an area of neutrality when you can just sort of exist and not be bothered by all of this? There is none. Friendship with the world—trying to go along and get along with the world without feeling that conflict—is hostility toward God.
Jesus said that He came to bring a sword, and to divide our fathers against sons, and children against parents, and siblings against one another. This is not the sweet Jesus of peace and light that the liberals love to talk about. Truth divides, truth separates, truth makes a difference. Ideas are important and ideas have consequences. Bad ideas have bad consequences. Good ideas have good consequences.
That’s part of the background of the framework that I want us to be thinking about as we study in the Book of Judges, because as I pointed out in the previous three lessons that we’ve gone through in terms of the introduction to Judges, what happens in this time period of roughly 300 years between the end of the conquest and the passing of the conquest generation to the beginning of the Book of Samuel, is that during that 300 years, Israel goes through just a horrible time of spiritual, moral, and physical anarchy, political anarchy, and they go through the all of these terrible cycles of disobedience to God and the consequences of that.
The problem is that when they begin, they have generally produced a godly culture, a culture that has been in conformity to the law of Moses, and because they were obedient to the law of Moses in that generation, in contrast to their parents’ generation, the Exodus generation that was disobedient to God, this generation receives God’s blessing. They had victory over the Canaanites who inhabited the land, and God blessed them.
What happened in the subsequent generations is that they became increasingly like their neighbors. They’re a perfect example of what happens when believers are conforming to the culture around them. And there are so many examples that we can use because today we live in the world where evangelicalism is such a mirror of the antinomian, morally relative culture around us that they don’t stand out as distinct, standing for the truth of Scripture anymore. That’s not anything new.
In church history, in every generation, the church has always mirrored the culture around them because the people who come to the doors of the church are the people who are coming out of the culture that surrounds them. And so, as a consequence of that they bring those values with them to church—that’s their baggage.
When you live in a world that is predominantly based on human viewpoint, that’s going to be reflected in the church. It is only after a period of about really 1,500 to 1,700 years that you have in Protestant Europe, a culture that is dominated by biblical values; that’s the majority view.
One of the things that I read in Erwin Lutzer’s book, “We Will Not be Silenced,” was he references a professor at Dallas Seminary that he had and that I had many others had back in the day. Robinson talked about the fact that in America, we had a home-field advantage. When we went out on the field to plays as Christians, the majority the people in the stands were on our side, but that’s not true anymore.
We no longer have that home-field advantage of the majority of people. The majority of people in the stands are against us, and not for us. Things have radically changed, and so all of this is really a study in how a culture, how a people, how individuals are transformed from being spiritually mature and obedient to God, to living a life that is at best, just an imitation of the pagans around them, and at worst they’re doing more, they’re out-paganizing the pagans, and so that’s one reason we’re studying this particular book.
It’s been four weeks as of tonight, since we been in Judges; a whole month has gone by, and it’s been somewhat of an active month for those who are listening to this in the future and have no awareness of the time that goes between different lessons. Well, it’s been a whole month, and that’s one reason we’re going to do a little more review tonight.
The last time that I was here on a Tuesday night for Judges, I was going to be tested the next morning to see if I could test negative for COVID, and I got the results late that Thursday afternoon on I think it was January 28, and that meant that I could fly the next day to go to Kiev. So, I did, and I missed the next two Tuesday nights and last week due to this perfect winter storm that hit Texas and wiped out our power, water supply, everything else that we had no church last week, so it is been four weeks.
So, I don’t know about you, and I’m not going to test you and say what did I teach the last time because I had to go back and listen to the last 20 minutes to figure out how far I had gotten in my notes last time because I had about fifteen pages of notes, and I had no idea where I had stopped. So, we need to have a little review and get our heads back into this particular game.
Tonight, what we’re looking at when we get there is this theme of government kingship and authority in the Book of Judges and in God’s plan for Israel. The key verses that we see in Judges talk about this in Judges 17:6, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” This is a verse many, many people go to. People think of these as the thematic verses, and they are in the Book of Judges. There’s debate by some scholars over this, but this is a thematic verse, and when it states that there was no king in Israel, there are a lot of scholars who will say, “Well this is written as an apologetic for the Davidic dynasty,” and that may be some underlying theme that’s going on there. But the point is that the king in Israel was supposed to be God. It was set up as a theocracy in the Mosaic Law. God was the king.
Now God made a provision, as we saw in the previous lesson, for a king that there would be a future king, but God recognized that when that started, and He states this in Deuteronomy 18 that there would be a time when they would say: “we want to have a king like all of the other nations.” I spent some time talking about that the last time, but this is the idea they have rejected the authority of God. And when a person, when a group of people, when a family, when a business, when a nation, when a culture rejects God as the ultimate authority, it is on the path to self-destruction.
That’s what we see illustrated again and again in the cycles in the book of Judges. It is a rejection of authority, the rejection of a divinely established authority. And so, this is repeated again and again and twice it says Judges 17:6 and later again, it will say, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” It is a statement of moral relativism. It isn’t simply the result of a postmodern worldview. As I went through the review, I showed that moral relativism began in the Garden of Eden and has been the characteristic of all sin and all rebelliousness toward God ever since.
So, we started off looking at the outline for the Book of Judges. The concept of a judge is not the idea of the judicial magistrate, which is the idea that comes to our heads when we think about a judge. The Hebrew word for judge is shofet, and it has more to do with being a tribal leader or tribal chieftain, a leader in a particular region, and they had military functions and they had some judicial functions. Deborah is making people come to her to resolve certain differences and conflicts, so there’s an odd range of responsibilities and activities among these judges.
There are three basic divisions in Judges. The first two chapters and six verses give us the foundation for the starting point, and in chapter 1 there is basically a record of the military conquests. It does not make for exciting reading. The writer just states what happened with just little hints here and there of his evaluation.
But then when you get into chapter 2, we get God’s evaluation and the writer’s evaluation of what has taken place. So that’s the introduction and it is going to show how Israel went from spiritual victory to being worse than the Canaanites, and the Canaanites were really bad. The Canaanites were practicing child sacrifice; the Canaanites practiced all of the sexual rites of fertility religions, and they were just so horrible that God had announced their future judgment to Abraham. But God, in His grace, was going to give them almost 400 years to bring their sin to fruition. So, this is what’s happening.
There is incomplete obedience by Israel and compromise with the culture around them, and the spiritual failure which leads to these various cycles of discipline, which are exemplified in what is known as the as the section of the leaders or the deliverers. It’s the paganization of the leadership, and so we go through all the different judges: Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, Gideon, Tola, Jair, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, and Samson. He’s the worst.
Each one gets progressively worse. It’s a deterioration so that when you get to the end. Samson is worse than the Philistines, and there’s nothing good said about him in Judges. You have to go to Hebrews 11 to find out that yes, he did do a couple of things where he trusted God, and so God elevates him and gives him some praise along with Gideon and Barack and Jephthah, and for that we’re thankful because that helps us to understand God’s grace.
Then there are these episodes at the end which show the paganization of the priests and paganization of the people. Now the events that are covered in Judges 17–21 actually take place sometime within the history of Judges 3:7–16:31, and there’s debate about this—you’ll see because too many scholars take that as something that happened at the end—I don’t think it did. And so, these comments about “everyone’s doing what’s right in their own eyes,” relate to this entire era, not just in relation to those specific events that come at the end.
So, we see a deterioration of positive volition toward God in the Book of the Judges. It starts with Othniel. Then you have the cycles that I’ll go into in just a minute, and so each one is further down the slide into paganization. And in the cycles, you have the disobedience of Israel and that leads to divine discipline and then finally they cry out to God for deliverance and then they are back to being disobedient again. So, this sets up the framework; that’s what we looked at in the first lesson dealing with the overview of the Book of Judges.
Then in the second lesson the focus was on context because we all know, and I drilled this into you all again and again and again, that everything must be interpreted in light of context. If you take the text out of context, you’re left with the con job and that is exactly what happens in Washington, DC all the time. They take the text out of the context of the Founding Fathers and the literal meaning of the Constitution and the law, and so we get conned all the time over and over and over again.
The context of Judges fits within a certain historical framework. It’s in the post-conquest period, the period following the time of Moses where he leads the Exodus generation through the wilderness. Moses dies. He’s not allowed to enter the land because of his disobedience to God. Joshua is appointed by God to be the leader in his place. Joshua then takes the 12 tribes across the Jordan River into the Promised Land and follows the orders of God in carrying out his military mission to take control of the land of the Canaanites.
There are many different ethnic groups in the Promised Land, but the Scripture addresses them all under this general category of the of the Canaanites. And so, this is the immediate context. That’s what precedes it. What comes after. It is as we looked at in the previous class, we looked at 1 Samuel 8, where the last judge is Samuel, and the people come to him, the elders of Israel come to him, and say your sons are just horrible, they’re rebellious, they are taking advantage of everybody, and we want don’t want them to rule over us, and we want to have a king like everybody else.
These are just exactly the same words that God had predicted back in Deuteronomy 18. This irritates Samuel, as we saw last time, and Samuel goes to the Lord and the Lord says, well don’t you get upset; they’re not rejecting you; they’re rejecting Me. That’s what gives us a hermeneutical key to the fact that the king being rejected—that’s where it states in Judges that there’s no king in Israel—is that they have rejected God as their king, and now they want a king like all other nations.
So, we have to look a little bit at what the other nations had for kings. That gives us the immediate context Joshua and the victorious conquest at the beginning sets us up for what’s being described in Judges 1. That is that sandwiched before Samuel, when you see the last judges, Samuel and the rejection of Samuel and God is going to give them a king after their own heart.
Then when Saul is such a failure, we studied this in our study of Samuel, then God, after giving them a king after their heart, God will give them a king after His heart. And it’s all a picture of God’s grace and salvation. Because it’s only when you have a king who is obedient to God that you’re going to bring about social order, and what saves Israel from the chaos and the anarchy of their paganism is the Davidic king. The first King David, and that is a type of the coming of Christ. Christ is the One who will bring that order in when he comes and establishes His kingdom.
What I did then was to take us through the broad context of the Pentateuch going through Genesis and Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy where in both Leviticus and Deuteronomy God lays down the plan of operation in the covenant, that there’s going to be a blessing and for obedience and there are going to be judgments for disobedience. The promise is that if they are obedient to God, God will bless them with incredible prosperity, productivity, peace, and many other things that you can’t really draw a straight line of cause and effect.
God will take away the ravenous animals, like the wolves who would attack the sheep, the wild bears and lions who would also attack the cattle. Those wild animals would disappear, not because they were hunting them down, not because they were trying to annihilate all of the wild animals in the land, but simply because they were obedient to God. God was going to take care of it, and then God said, and if you’re disobedient to me, then they’ll come back and they will be destructive to your herds and your flocks.
In our enlightened society, we have been working for the last thirty or forty years to repopulate our agricultural areas, and areas of cattle and sheep up in Wyoming and Montana, bringing back the wolves, bringing back the bears and all these other things. We’re getting ahead of God in the process; we want to destroy ourselves. So, we see the same kinds of things happen again and again and again.
The conclusion of all of that was that these historical books that we’re looking at in terms of what we called them in our English Bible. The English Bible divides it from the five books of Moses and then the historical books, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Ruth, and then Samuel and Kings—these are the historical books. But the way that the Israelites, the way the Jews organized it was you had the Law of Moses, the Pentateuch, the Torah. That’s followed by the Nevi’im, the early prophets. Nevi’im is the Hebrew for prophets. So, you have the early prophets and the latter prophets.
So, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings are written by prophets, and the role of the prophet is that he’s like the Attorney General for God. He is the one who is going to defend the Law of God against those who are the lawbreakers, and so he’s going to bring the case God has against the people for breaking the Law, for violating the Law.
So, what we see in these historical books, in the early prophets as well as the latter prophets, what we see here is the case that Israel has violated the Law, and God is going to be true to His promise of blessing and His promise of judgment.
This is an illustration of what happened, so it gives us an understanding that history is indeed God’s story; it is His story, and it is the outworking of God’s plan and purposes in human history. The key to understanding what is happening in the Old Testament with Israel is understanding what God promised in the Law and putting those spectacles on when we read through the Scripture. So, this is what I emphasized in the second lesson and pointed out that God doesn’t tell us everything that happened during that time.
We look at it from the Fall of Adam in Genesis 3 to the time of the Flood, and almost 2,000 years goes by. God only tells us about three or four specific incidences that happened during that time. That’s not a whole lot. That’s like looking at the time from when Christ was on the Earth and the incarnation to today and picking four episodes, and using those four episodes to describe the trends of that whole period. But that’s what God is doing in Genesis 3–9 period.
Then you go into the subsequent period after the Flood, and it’s all a focus on God calling out a special people, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Then the people of God are moved to Egypt and during their time there, they go from a position of favor to disfavor, and they become enslaved by their Egyptian overlords. Then God is going to redeem them, which He does through the series of ten plagues, at which point he takes them out of Egypt. And through various miracles takes them down to the area of Mount Sinai.
In Exodus 19:5–6a, He makes this particular point; He says, “Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” So, this is the divine call for the nation of Israel and His purpose.
This is what is going to be then developed in the remainder of the Pentateuch and the historical portions in Numbers. Then we’re going to see it reiterated in Deuteronomy, and as we went through this study of that context, through the Pentateuch.
One of the things I pointed out is that over and over and over again human beings rejected God’s absolutes and opted for determining their own absolutes from the fact that Eve is tempted by the serpent, and instead of listening to God, she is going to make up her own rules. We see Cain making up his own rules, and we see all of the people on the Earth making up their own rules. So God has to wipe them all out in the Flood.
Then we see Nimrod coming along and establishing his kingdom in Babel, and then we see the people in Babel building a tower to reach to the heavens. Again, they are expressing an animosity toward God, and God comes down and He will scatter them by confusing their language.
What they’re doing is they’re making up their own rules. We see this time and time and time again. So moral relativism is essentially the creature telling the Creator how things ought to be. It is the height of arrogance, and this happens again and again.
What we see in all of this is that man wants to be the ultimate determiner of what is right and what is wrong, and each individual is going to determine what is right in his own eyes. The result of this is it destroys individuals, it destroys marriages, it destroys families, it destroys women as women and men as men. It is self-destructive and we see this pattern repeated again and again as we go through history.
Then when we come to Joshua, we see God’s victory over the Canaanites. The basic lessons we learn in all of this is number one, that God is in control. God determines right and wrong, and that can’t be changed. This is rule number one, and if I were facetious, I’d say that rule number two is, you can’t change rule number one. But human beings want to change rule number one all the time. As a result, God’s grace provides the only solution to that failure.
We cannot earn or merit God’s grace; He gives it to us freely. He provides the solution, and we are to simply trust in Him.
Third, we saw that salvation was not by the Law. This was an error in the Scofield Reference Bible and many dispensationalists had that idea. But in the Old Testament, they weren’t saved by the Law. It was not a means; it was to show that they couldn’t be saved by the Law; nobody could keep the Law. It was to demonstrate their sinfulness, not to give them a path to salvation; it was given to a people who were already redeemed. By the time of Exodus 19:5–6, God has redeemed Israel, and He’s giving them the Law to teach them how a redeemed people were supposed to live.
So, Judges is written against that background, and it’s written to provide a dark illustration of what happens to the human race and to a nation, and to families and businesses when a nation acts independently of God and tries to make up their own rules. The human race cannot be independent of God and have any measure of stability or happiness. It will be self-destructive.
The second thing we saw is that Judges also shows that again and again they can turn back to God and God will forgive them, and God will deliver them. The forgiveness of God knows no bounds, but we have to turn back to God. And so, God delivers them and forgives them, but this cycle continues again and again.
Third, we saw that Judges is also written to show us God’s grace, that no matter how rebellious, no matter how depraved the nation became or the leaders were, God always met them where they were. He did not say, “Okay you have to repent; you have to reform your life, you have to get out of all that sin you got yourself into, and then we’ll talk.” God doesn’t do that. He meets them where they are and God gives them grace and deals with them in grace, but there are still consequences to their actions and to their sin.
Fourth, Judges was written to show that God is always faithful to us even when we are faithless.
The key verse again, Judges 21:25 is, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” So, what I want to do is go through at this point, just a few general principles that we see.
First of all, the thesis of Judges is that the rejection of the Word of God, the rejection of God’s revelation destroys not only a person’s spiritual life, but corrupts a family, it corrupts a business, it corrupts a culture, a country, a nation. It corrupts the world, and there’s only one solution and that is to turn back to God.
So, the Book of Judges records the paganization of Israel. It shows how Israel goes from being spiritually focused on God to where their lifestyle is worse than the worst of worst: the Canaanites. They are as bad as anybody can be, and they [Israel] begin emulating the Canaanites almost from the first verse in Judges 1. In fact, it’s about verse five or six. So this is a picture of what happens when believers reject God, reject the truth of God’s Word, reject doctrine and succumb to the pressure of the world system around them, yielding to human viewpoint thinking instead of standing firm with the truth of God’s Word.
We are being pressured in so many different ways today. Just think of the pressure that is coming upon Christians and is being responded to positively by many evangelical churches where they are affirming homosexual lifestyle, they are affirming same-sex marriage. They are affirming that there’s absolutely no distinction in roles between men and women, and women can act like men, and men can act like women. They’re all fine with that. This is known as progressive Christianity, and it is not progressive at all. It is regressive because it’s regressing into pagan thought and self-destruction.
The third thing we saw was that human government and the authority of human government is established in the covenant with Noah to restrain sin. So, there is a divine purpose in government to restrain sin and evil in a culture and to exercise judicial restraint. God understands the sin, the evil of the human soul, and the need to have a strong authority in order to restrain sin. When that authority is no longer oriented to restraining sin, then what happens is sin becomes more and more acceptable. The term for this is antinomianism. NOMOS is the Greek word for law, and antinomianism means you’re against law, you’re against norms and standards, you’re against rules or against the standards of morality and that anything goes.
What happens in the perversion of a pagan culture is those that don’t go along with the moral relativism violate those norms and standards, and then they come under the tyranny of moral relativism. There is a tyranny of antinomianism, and that is what Christians in this country are beginning to experience. The left has given themselves over completely to antinomianism, to a rejection of moral absolutes, to redefining all of the institutions of society, and if Christians don’t go along with this, then they become the enemy, and they have violated this new norm and standard. So now they are attacked by the antinomian left, and what do we call that? We call that self-righteousness.
It’s legalism, but it’s a legalism based on antinomianism, not a legalism that is based on morality. It’s based on immorality and an amorality. So this is what is happening in our culture today.
The fourth point is that in Israel, this government took the specific form of a theocracy. Theocracy. Now that is a word you will hear bandied about also by the left in this country, that you Christians, you evangelicals, you Christians on the right, what you want to do is impose a theocracy. You want to impose your values on the rest of the country, and you want to have a theocratic government.
Number one, they don’t understand what a theocracy is in the first place. Number two, that has never been the case of Christians in this country. When you go back to the period of the Puritans coming here from England in the 1600s, they weren’t trying to establish a theocracy. They had a Bible that gave them the norms and standards for living, and that’s how they lived, but 99 to 100% of the people here all believed in the Bible, so they weren’t trying to impose a theocracy on anybody.
When you get into the 18th century and the American war for independence in establishing our nation, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution are not establishing a theocracy; they are establishing a representative republic. They’re not establishing a democracy either, but a representative republic. They were not imposing a religious view on the society. But the problem is, if they’re leftists and they’re looking at somebody who believes in morality that comes from God, then in their view, what is happening is you are wanting to impose that on them. And so, they’re going to call that a theocracy. But by this point, we’ve entered into the realm of irrationality because you no longer have the historic definitions for terms.
What happens in Israel is God is the Ruler, but they’re rejecting Him as the King. But He will deliver them through these specific leaders that are His representatives to show the judges who are raised up by God in times of national crisis when the people turn to God to deliver them. And so that is their particular role.
Now under point five, under the theocratic government established by God in the Mosaic Law, Israel had been given a code of standards for how to live and how to deal with all of the various issues in life, and this gave them freedom. Freedom is not the absence of standards and the absence of Law: that is anarchy. Freedom is having the stability of absolutes and the standards of Law, the rule of Law so that people can count on a justice, a righteous justice that will be enacted for all people and that in living within that framework, there is true freedom and liberty. This is what was understood by our Founding Fathers.
Israel was given this code for freedom, and it was unique in the ancient world. This is why God tells them in Deuteronomy, He says when you obey the Law, people will come to Israel from all over the world and see the difference between what’s happening here, and what they’ve experienced, and they will know that you are following Me, that I am your God and this is the result of your relationship to Me. So, this was going to transform them and make a difference.
Point 6. Under the Mosaic Law, Israel had the right to possess property, to enjoy property, to profit from property. Each individual had property rights; otherwise, the command, “Do not steal” has no meaning whatsoever. You can only steal it if people have personal property. They had the right to possess property, to enjoy its blessings, to benefit and to profit in business transactions unhindered by an overreaching, overpowering government. So, they could improve their lot from generation to generation. There was no property tax because the idea was that one generation could accumulate property and wealth and then that would be passed on to the next generation. There wasn’t a penalty assigned for accumulating wealth and property through our property taxes or inheritance taxes.
Point number seven. Freedom includes and is really based on authority and respect for authority. Freedom without authority is anarchy, and authority without freedom is tyranny. You cannot have one without the other. You have to have freedom and authority. You cannot do without authority. When you want to throw off the authority, then that becomes antinomianism and all you end up doing is coming up and inventing a new form of authority. So we have what we end up with is the tyranny of moral relativism and the tyranny of antinomianism.
Point 8. Absence of despotic monarchy in Israel not only meant a high degree of personal freedom, the value of the individual and individual responsibility going back to the first Divine Institution, but it also stood out as a unique and powerful witness to the God of Israel and to His care and provision for the people. He wasn’t trying to take it all away from the people. You didn’t have a religious system that was in it for the money that was trying to fleece the sheep. It was designed to give them the freedom to be prosperous and to enjoy the blessings of God.
The ninth point is that under this environment of freedom, Israel could achieve spiritual success, which would bring them material blessing, military victory, and agricultural bounty as a testimony to the grace and power of God. These were the blessings that God gave them, that if they were obedient to God, that God would bless them richly in terms of their crops in terms of their herds, in terms of all that they had, God would bless them. But if they were disobedient to God, then it would be just the opposite. And God would take everything away from them, including the land if it got to that.
Point number 10. Failure to follow the divine mandates led to a cultural decline where Israel resembled their pagan neighbors, and there was no discernible difference in the way they thought or acted. Sadly, that is true of so many Christians today. You cannot discern that they are Christian by the way that they act, by the way that they think, by the way that they talk. They have no idea what the Christian life is all about, and they have completely compromised with the world system and so they don’t look any different from anybody else. There’s no testimony or witness on their behalf.
Point number 11. Only Bible doctrine, that is, only the teaching and the instruction of the Scripture, provides a framework to maintain the proper balance between freedom and authority. That when you do not have doctrine, what you want to do is emphasize one or the other, and you will destroy both.
Only doctrine provides the capacity for freedom, and when a nation is divorced from truth, the truth of Scripture, the instruction of God, then the spiritual and moral anchor that gives stability to a culture will be cast adrift and it will lead to the collapse of that nation, that culture, and that those people.
So, what we’re seeing in Judges is just that it is not a pleasant thing, but we will get great insight into what is going on in our own nation, in our own world as we see not just the United States not even just Western civilization. But we see these things sweeping the world.
The idea of recognizing and accepting same-sex marriage is all over the world with some few notable exceptions, but it’s happening everywhere. This moral relativism has infected so many nations and so many peoples around the world that we are really headed to a major collapse because we have destroyed the one thing that gives stability to any culture.
We as believers, have a great responsibility to stand firm because when things collapse, we get that privilege of being someone who is standing firm and has stability in their life and still has joy and happiness and peace and tranquility despite everything falling apart around them. That will be attractive to some, and we will be able to stand as a great witness to God’s grace and God’s provision.
But we’re only going to be able to do that if we have really fortified our souls with the Word of God because if things get really, really bad—and they have many times and in the history of Christianity where Christians have lived in in horrible cultures and horrible situations—it’s only by standing firm with the Word that we’re going to be able to be that kind of a testimony.
But we have to really know the Word to be able to stand firm, and that’s why we keep coming to Bible class is we need to be reminded of God’s grace; we need to be reminded of God’s provision, and with all the garbage that comes into our soul each and every day, we need to have something that flushes that out every single day.
Otherwise, it’s not long before we start thinking like the pagans around us. And so being here and listening online again and again week in and week out is the key to stability in our Christian lives growing as a believer and being an example of God’s grace to those around us.
As Paul puts it in Philippians 2, we’re to shine as a light in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation, and those terms clearly define what’s around us.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study Your Word this evening. We pray that You would give us great insight as we go through the study of Judges. Understanding the dynamics of paganism, antinomianism, the dynamics of Your grace and Your provision, understanding that there is stability only in You, and only in trusting You, for You are our rock; You are our fortress; You are our high tower. You are the foundation of our lives, and for that, we are so grateful. We pray that you would keep us focused upon Your Word and upon You. In Christ’s name. Amen.”