Authority Orientation to Grace Orientation – Judges 8:33-35
Judges 8 and we are going to finish and the episodes of Gideon, which has been quite a lengthy one, it's just about the longest event in the book of Judges and is really the turning point. From this point on we see that the nation is in worse condition than it has ever been, it sinks further and further into gross idolatry and the worship of the fertility religions that surrounded them, the cult of Baal worship, the worship of the Asherah, and it gets to the point where they are completely divided as tribe against tribe and by the end of Judges they seem to be on the verge of dissolution and that really sets the stage for the book of Samuel, and it is in Samuel that we see a deliverer provided by the grace of God and so Judges is really a picture of man's sinfulness and inability to provide salvation or stability for himself, and the only solution is the divine solution which is provided when you get into Samuel, first through the prophet Samuel and then through David as a picture of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
We find ourselves at the end of Judges 8 focusing on the underlying attitude of self-destruction in Israel which is their ingratitude. Judges 8:33-35, "Then it came about, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the sons of Israel again played the harlot" that means they were unfaithful to God who had entered into covenant with them in the Mosaic Covenant, and they "played the harlot with the Baals," that is the false gods of the Canaanite pantheon, "and made Baal-berith" the local instantiation of the Baal god, "their God.  Thus the sons of Israel did not remember the LORD their God," that is Yahweh, the use of LORD there in your Bible should have an uppercase L and then small o-r-d, that always indicates Yahweh or the sacred Tetragrammaton in the original Hebrew which is the name of God associated with His covenant. "Thus the sons of Israel did not remember Yahweh, their God, who had delivered them from the hands of all their enemies on every side;  nor did they show kindness," chesed, that is faithful loyal covenant love, "to the household of Jerubbaal (that is Gideon), in accord with all the good that he had done to Israel."
So we see a number of things going on in the text and in this episode; Gideon has delivered them after seven years of oppression by the Midianite Amalekite coalition. They have gone through this foreign domination and oppression; the Midianites have on an annual basis have come through the land, they have burned homes, they have stolen all the crops and produce, they have killed people, they have had an extremely violent time and the Jews were left cowering, they had no weapons to protect themselves because one of the signs that we have studied over and over again of oppression, if you want to destroy people, if you want to oppress a people, if you want to take freedom away from them, then you remove from them the ability to have the latest technology in their homes to protect themselves from the tyranny of government. And that is exactly what was happening. This is a transition period in history from the bonze age to the Iron Age and the Philistines and some of the nations surrounding Israel had iron. But when they oppressed Israel they wiped out all the blacksmiths so that Israel could not have access to iron.
So when you're taking bronze weapons or you're trying to fight with a plow or a broom or a hoe against somebody who has the latest technology then you are going to be destroyed as a people. That is one of the things that is forgotten today, it is a principle of history and today what is happening in our society is we no longer want to think or operate or make decisions based on principle. We want to make decisions based on experience, on emotion, on whatever seems to solve the crisis of the moment, whatever the crisis of the moment might be, despite the fact that it may bring about the loss of freedom. What we're going to see in our study this morning is that grace orientation is foundational to being able to understand freedom and have the capacity for freedom and to be able to enjoy real stability and freedom in a nation. This is why we're taking the time, first of all to look at the doctrine of gratitude, because gratitude is a barometer of our own spiritual growth, but the starting point of gratitude is grace orientation and the starting point of grace orientation, aligning our thinking to the grace of God, starts with true humility. Often it is enforced humility, which is authority orientation, learning to orient our thinking to obedience to the legitimate designated authorities. Without an understanding of the proper role and place of authorities in our lives then we are doomed to lapse into relativism and relativism always leads to some sort of anarchy. And in order to solve the problems of anarchy there's always a shift to tyranny, to taking away freedom.
That's exactly what we're seeing in our society today is that as society breaks down more and more because we have departed from the norms of Scripture and understanding of absolutes, as society breaks down and you see more and more chaos entering into society, whether it's school violence, whether it's the breakdown of the home, the solution becomes give more power to the Federal government to take away freedom from people because apart from the grace of God, apart from doctrinal orientation, apart from the Word of God the only solution to social chaos is tyranny and the loss of freedom.
We started last time looking at the first stage in this development which is the doctrine of gratitude. We'll start off with a review. What's happened here is that Gideon has delivered Israel from this oppression and we're told that as soon as Gideon is dead, even though he has introduced the nation to an idolatrous system, we're told that this gets even worse when he dies. Judges 8:33, he's not even cold in the ground and Israel is completely overtly rejecting God, resembling any semblance of obedience to God and the God who delivered them from the slavery in Egypt, and they go wholeheartedly over to the worship of the Canaanite gods. Now only that, not only do they forget God and intentionally remove God from their system…see, faith is a decision; it's not something that God gives you, faith is a moral decision, it doesn't even have to do with empirical data. One of the things we've seen again and again all the way through Judges is that the nation has more than enough empirical data of the existence of God and the delivering power of God.
Think about it, at the very beginning in Judges 3 it emphasized the fact that they forgot the God who delivered them from Egypt, so they've had the Exodus, they've had the parting of the Red Sea, they've had the episode of a year in Sinai when God spoke to Moses, gave them the Mosaic Covenant and the Ten Commandments, they built the tabernacle, when they moved out they had the miraculous presence of the Shekinah glory, the cloud by day and the pillar of fire at night, they had the day to day provision of manna that lasted exactly one day, a 24 hour period, after that it rotted, except for the Sabbath period when it would last for 48 hours. Not only that, for 40 years they were in the desert wanderings because God would not allow the disobedient generation to go into Israel after they disobeyed Him at Kadesh-barnea. He said you're not ready for freedom, you still have a slave mentality, because you don't have that capacity for freedom yet because you've rejected doctrine, you will not enter into the land, it is the next generation that will enter into the land. So for forty years they were in the desert wandering and their clothes didn't wear out, their shoes didn't wear out, they didn't have to have them re-soled or re-heeled, that was a miracle. Most of us realize how quickly our clothes wear out but their clothes did not wear out for forty years so they've had all this empirical evidence. Then they entered the land under the generalship of Joshua, they came in and using God's tactics, not man's tactics, they assaulted the stronghold of Jericho, not by using bombardment, not by using some sort of direct assault but by simply marching around the city, completely going around it each day until the seventh day when they went around it seven times and blew their trumpets. Now that's normally accepted military strategy—right? They teach that at all the military academies? The walls fell down and God gave them victory. Then they had victory over the inhabitants of Ai, then they went down south, they went north, in other words, they took the land and it was done miraculously. They saw time and time again how God delivered them and gave them victory.
Then we went into the period of the Judges, starting in Judges 3 and we saw the deliverance under first of all Othniel, then Ehud, then Deborah and Barak and Gideon. Again and again and again they've had more than enough evidence in front of them to demonstrate God exists and God delivers them and God's solution is the only solution and their solution again and again and again resulted in nothing but divine discipline, failure, economic and military oppression. But that just teaches us that the issues in life are not a matter of intellect, they are not a matter of empirical information, it's not that people don't have enough information about God, Romans 1 says every one knows, even the most committed atheist, everyone knows that God exists. The knowledge is evident within them because God made it evident to them; Romans 1:18-19 makes it clear.
So the issue isn't a lack of knowledge, the issue is that we make a moral decision to reject that knowledge. That's why the issues are spiritual, they're not intellectual. That gives us great comfort whenever we're witnessing to somebody because we know we don't have to prove God exists, that's not our job, that's the Holy Spirit's job; our job is simply to present the information.
They have rejected God, which shows they have no capacity for understanding His grace towards Him, they have no gratitude. Verse 35 emphasizes this, even towards Gideon and his household, they have no gratitude whatsoever and ingratitude is a sign of our own arrogance. We are self-absorbed, we are consumed with arrogance and that's the root of all sin. The opposite of that is gratitude, so we started the doctrine of gratitude last time.
Point number one looked at the etymology, that gratitude, the English word gratitude, derives from the Latin word gratia, which is related to the English words and concept, grace, favor, kindness and the response to kindness. So the concept of grace orientation involves not only understanding that it's not up to us and our relationship with God is not based on our works but it's based on who He is and what Christ did for us. But it also should engender a response. Grace emphasizes the fact that all that God does for us is free, it comes without a price tag, God does not even say if you trust Christ then you have to work to show that you've earned it or that you deserve it. He says it's a free gift and we can actually accept it and then treat it disrespectfully and we will not even lose our salvation. That's grace. But grace should engender a certain response in our lives of gratitude toward God but this is not there if arrogance is there. So the basis of the English word "gratitude" emphasizes both grace and our response to God's grace and goodness in our life.
Point two, by definition gratitude is expressed as appreciation, acknowledgment, appreciativeness, gratefulness, recognition and thankfulness. Failure to be grateful is the result of arrogance and self-absorption, the idea that we know what's best for us and God doesn't, and also the idea that we deserve all these things. Now this is an important point that parents really need to be teaching their children today because so many children grow up with the idea that they deserve to have certain things, they ought to have certain things, they have a right to have certain things, they should have a television, they should have a computer, they should have whatever it is, certain toys, every year at Christmas there's always the popular toys that every kid thinks he ought to have, and focus on the details of life, that somehow if I have these possessions that has meaning and value in my life. As parents we need to be teaching children that they don't deserve anything; we do not deserve anything, and as parents before we can teach that to children that has to be something we're learning in our soul. None of us deserve anything. In fact, if God treated us on the basis of what we deserved we would all be right now in the lake of fire in eternal condemnation. That's what we deserve but in the love of God He provides a solution so that we can have eternal salvation. There is nothing that we inherently deserve or ought to have and once we understand that then we can begin to go forward in the spiritual life
Gratitude, therefore, is directly related to grace orientation. Grace orientation is in the way I have been the spiritual life, the spiritual skills, is the fourth stress buster or spiritual skill. The first one is confession of sin and that starts the process of getting back in fellowship with the Lord because it's only when we are in fellowship with the Lord, walking by the Spirit, that we can handle life's problems on the basis of God's solution and that's also grace because any time we are sin we are living on the basis of our own resources, trying to solve life's problems according to our own standards and our own thinking, and God gives us a simple easy recovery procedure to simply admit or acknowledge our sins to Him.
The second spiritual skill is the filling of the Holy Spirit, not only does God give us a recovery system but the Holy Spirit that indwells us and never leaves us then can fill us and be the source of our spiritual strength. He teaches us, He guides us, He directs us, He leads the Scripture says and so that we are living not on the basis of our own strength and thinking but on the basis of the Holy Spirit, walking by means of the Holy Spirit.
The third spiritual skill is the faith rest drill. We learn to trust God. When the Word of God is more real to us than any experience, any circumstance, any feeling, that's when we're starting to trust God. Trusting God is a radical concept; it doesn't mean to trust God plus something else, it means to rely exclusively and radically upon God.
So what are these characteristics of grace orientation? You've got understand a little bit about salvation first of all, that it's "not by works of righteousness which we have done but according to His mercy He saved us." Mercy is grace in action, that God saved us, not on the basis of who we are; He didn't look down the corridors of time and look at you or me and say oh, you're just so wonderful, you've got such a great personality, you're just so attractive, you're just so fun to be with, I'm going to save you because you're so great. There is nothing in us that makes us pleasing to God. In fact, Scripture says we are at enmity with God; we're hostile to God. The instant we're born, when our sin nature gets activated, we are obnoxious to Him; there's not one single thing in any of us that makes us attractive to God. Yet God in His grace is going to provide a salvation for us and then a means of recovery from sin after salvation. That's the starting point of humility, realizing that I can't do one thing to gain God's approval or to gain God's blessing. I can't do one single thing; my very best is nothing in the sight of God. So that tells us that grace starts with humility; it starts with humility!
Now humility is divided into two aspects. First of all there is enforced humility; enforced humility is basically the same thing that I referred to as authority orientation. It's when we learn that there is authority in life. Now this is foundational to everything in life. Authority is not something that God simply created to put into the realm of mankind because we're sinners, in order to provide some sort of order. We're going to look at it in detail but authority is part and parcel of the makeup of the Triune God. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit coexisted for all eternity. There never was a time when you didn't have God the Son or God the Holy Spirit co-equal to God the Father, and yet in the Trinity there are also distinct roles and in those distinct roles there is subordination of role and authority, so that the Son can do only what the Father gave Him to do when He came at the First Advent. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son so that the Holy Spirit is under the authority of God the Father and God the Son so authority is not a bad thing. Authority is not something that was invented in order to deal with problems that came as a result of sin, but authority existed within the Triune relationship of God from eternity past before there ever was a creature, before sin ever entered into the universe there were authority systems. Authority is necessary in order to achieve any goal, any plan, and to produce anything of significance.
We have to learn orientation to authority because that's the root of sin. When God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden He gave them one prohibition. They were not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and in the day they did they would die, they would die spiritually if they disobeyed God. Now let's look at the dynamics of what took place. The serpent, who was really Satan in disguise, came to the woman and said see, you won't die if you eat the fruit; what did God say about the fruit. She said well don't touch it, don't eat it and the serpent said no, no, no, no, you're not really going to die. Now that put her in a position, notice his strategy, it put her in a position where she had to decide whether or not God was right or wrong, so she's immediately started down the wrong road. It's like when somebody asks you a question, like have you stopped beating your wife yet? However you answer that you're in trouble because you've walked into the trap. That's what Satan did; he formed the question and what it did if she interacted with that question at all she was starting down the road to destruction. She should have just said get out of here, go away, I'm not going to have anything to do with you but instead she started thinking about it and she started evaluating God's rectitude. She tried to decide if God really had her best interesting in mind so she's setting herself up independent of God to evaluate His decisions.
An authority, a legitimate authority is not to be questioned; they may be right, they may be wrong but when we're in that authority…now I don't mean moral wrong, spiritual wrong or legality, I'm talking about someone in authority may tell us to do something that we may think well, I have a better way, I know more than they do, I don't really want to do it that way, I really don't want to listen to them, and so we decide that we have a better idea. In true authority orientation the issue is whether or not we are going to obey the authority set over us, not whether we're going to question it because that puts…every time we question that, every time we have a legitimate authority over us and we question what they say, what we're saying is they're really not the ultimate authority, I am. We're really making a decision that we're the one in control and that's exactly what happened with Eve and with Adam, is that they made a decision that they were going to evaluate and judge God. That means they had rejected the authority of God at that point and so the rejection of the authority of God is what underlies that sin, the original sin when they ate from the forbidden fruit. That is why it is so important to learn authority orientation, and why parents have to teach that with their kids and that comes through the use or corporeal discipline as well as other forms of discipline and it is something that you have to engage in a rigorous self-conscious way from their very birth because what you have is a little sin nature there that wants to exert its own independence from the day it is born. And if you don't start teaching some sort of discipline so that that individual can, even if they're not a believer, learn some authority orientation, just so they can have some self-discipline in life, they'll never be a success in anything in life because they won't know how to exercise any form of self-control. So humility starts with teachability, enforced humility, and then it goes to genuine humility which then comes as a result of doctrine in the soul.
Another characteristic of grace orientation is what we call relaxed mental attitude. We begin to realize that as we look around our friends and family members and other members of the congregation, that they may have other sins, other faults, they may have flaws that we just comprehend or understand, they may easily succumb to some sin that we don't succumb to and so that person that's the gossip that sits on the other side of the congregation, you don't a problem with gossip, you wonder why can't they ever get it under control and quit flapping their jaw and gossiping and maligning everybody. Well, that's their area of weakness and yours is obviously arrogance and judging. So we come to recognize that we all are in the same boat; we all have those same faults, those same flaws. Theirs may be a little different but it all stems from the fact that we're all fallen creatures and we all need the grace of God and once we begin to realize that then we can relax. We don't have to worry about what anybody else is doing, their successes or their failures, we can just focus on our own and we need to deal with our own relationship with God. That is what is called true toleration, it is not giving approval to it, it's not turning a blind eye to somebody else's sins or faults, it's not condoning their sinfulness or their failures, or saying well, you know God's gracious so we get away with it. That's not what grace is all about.
Grace doesn't mean we get away with sin; grace means that sin is not the issue any more because Christ paid the penalty for sin, but God is still going to discipline us and we go through considerable crises in our own lives because of sin that we commit. And some people just never seem to get that through their thick heads and so God takes them through discipline and discipline, and I've seen people who are just immersed up to their armpits in carnality and then God just hauls back with a 2x4 and slaps them up one side of the head with it to get their attention and they just sort of shake it off and say well, you know, I just made a bad decision, that really wasn't God's discipline because after all, I confessed my sin, so I'm back in fellowship, I'll just keep on doing it. And they'll to 10, 20, 30 years in life committing the same sin, just digging this pit of sin and discipline and what happens in the dynamics of carnality is we harden our heart until when God disciplines us we don't even recognize it as such any more and then we're on the edge of the sin unto death.
So we develop a relaxed mental attitude, that's part of grace orientation and then we begin to master the details of life. We realize that it's not the weather, it's not the snow, it's not the hurricanes in the south and the head and the humidity in Texas or along the Gulf coast, that's not a factor. It's not where we live, it's not the status symbols that we may or may not have in life, it's not even the jobs we have or don't have in life, it's not the money we might have or don't have, or the friends or the wonderful opportunities that may or may not come our way, some people seem to have more of them than others; that's not the issue. Those are the details of life. The details of life are secondary. Our relationship with God is primary and when we think that stability, happiness, meaning in life comes from what we have, what we do, who we're associated with, then we're in trouble; we'll never be happy and we'll never have gratitude. We'll never understand grace. The details of life are purely secondary and only as we develop epignosis doctrine in the soul do we begin to understand the real place of the details of life and the circumstances where we can become oriented to God's Word and put Him first in our life.
The fourth point we looked at was that the capacity for genuine gratitude develops from under-standing salvation and what God has done for us. The more we understand the depths of God's grace in saving us, the more we understand how horrible sinful and rebellious we were before salvation, the more we understand the extent of God's grace, and that in term should engender in us tremendous thankfulness for everything that God has done for us. The Psalmist said: "I shall give thanks to Thee for Thou hast answered me, and Thou hast become my Salvation," Psalm 118:21.
Point five; as we learn about our salvation gratitude then expands toward God in direct proportion to the doctrine assimilated in our soul. As we learn about salvation gratitude expands toward God in direct proportion to doctrine assimilated in our soul. If you don't have much doctrine in your soul you have very little capacity for gratitude. That's exactly the situation in Israel. They didn't understand what God was doing, they had rejected it, they were on their own agenda and not God's agenda, and so they knew very little about God or His workings, they had rejected the revelation of God in the Mosaic Law and as a result they had no gratitude and they were on a path of self-destruction and fragmentation, which is what happens in the next chapter. Therefore…
Point six; gratitude begins with making doctrine the highest priority in life. We have to understand what is really important in life. There are a lot of things that press upon us. A wonderful little book written years ago was called The Tyranny of the Urgent, the title says it all. We're too busy, we have this that has to be done today and that that has to be done today and I have to get my yard in and I have to plant the flowers and I have to get the garden going, spring is coming I have to get out and do all these things, and so I don't have time to get to Bible class on Wednesday night and continue to learn and grow. There's all kinds of things that pressure us; jobs pressure us, careers pressure us, going back to school, all kinds of things. Some are legitimate; sometimes the only thing we can do to get around it is to listen to tapes; that's why we have a tape ministry. While we only meet on Sunday morning and Wednesday night all of you, and I know many of you do, ought to make learning the Word a priority and you ought to be getting tapes. I know some people they tell me they have to listen to these message two or three times before they get everything. Good; that's why I pack them the way I do. You can go back again and again and again and listen and every time learn something, just pop that tape in the tape player in the car while you're driving anywhere to remind us continuously of the need to put God first in our lives. We get so many messages from the cosmic system around us to distract us from our relationship with God that we have to continually combat that by replacing it with doctrine.
So gratitude starts by making doctrine the highest priority in our lives. Psalm 138: 2, "I will bow down toward Thy temple and give thanks to Thy name, for Thy lovingkindness and Thy truth." That is thankfulness to God for His character, "Thy name," "name" in Scripture always emphasizes His character; "for His lovingkindness," that is His past actions of faithful loyal love, despite our failures, and "Thy truth," that is the revelation of Scripture. So these are things to be thankful for at all times, is God, His character, His faithfulness toward us and His revelation of Himself to us. The psalmist goes on to say, "For Thou has magnified Thy Word according to all Thy name." Literally, "Thou hast magnified Thy Word above Thy name." So God makes His Word the highest thing in creation and so if God wants it to be the highest priority we need to make it the highest priority.
Point seven; gratitude therefore is directed towards God and it begins with our understanding of salvation and develops through our understanding of God's character. So we have to start with… in learning about grace we start with understanding the character of God and how He has provided everything for us. It's based on knowledge, it's not based on emotion, it's not based on how we feel, it's not based on sentimentality, it's based on a volitional decision to learn things about God.
Point eight; gratitude then is directed towards God and is a barometer of our capacity for fellowship with God and becomes the basis for enjoying the joy of Christ which He has given us.
Point nine; several Scriptures emphasize gratitude. Psalm 7:17, "I will give thanks to the LORD, according to His righteousness." See, thankfulness is related to understanding God's righteousness. His righteousness is His standard, His absolute. We understand the absolute norms and standards of God and His character and we can give thanks to Him. "I will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High." Once again "name" of the Lord always emphasizes his character as a whole. This is repeated again in Psalm 97:12, "Be glad in the LORD you righteous ones," that is you believers who have imputed righteousness, "Give thanks to His holy name." See, we have to understand His character, that He is sovereign, righteous, just, that He is love, that He is eternal life, that He's omniscient, which means He knows all the knowable so if He knows all the knowable He's known every circumstance, every situation we'll ever face in life.
Now when we think about that, whenever we're going through difficulties in life, things that overwhelm us, or seem to overwhelm us, things that surprise us, we know that God knew about it billions and billions of years ago and in His love for us He provided solutions for that. That's what you do in the Psalms, it's a fascinating study to read through the Psalms and see how over and again, whether it's David or Moses or one of the other writers that as they encounter life's problems the solution is to reflect on the character of God, who He is, and once they start focusing on the character of God, then all of a sudden the problem pales in significance. And then all of a sudden they realize that God's greater than any problem or difficulty or heartache that we'll ever face in life to then they end up thanking God and being grateful to God for His provision. That's how we work through gratefulness and gratitude in our lives.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 states, "In everything give thanks," this is a command, "in everything," in every situation we are to give thanks, "for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." Next time you say I don't know, maybe I don't know God's will for my life, or maybe this isn't God's will for my life, usually we say that because we're moaning and complaining about some situation and as soon as we say that we ought be reminded that it's God's will for us to be thankful for that circumstance and not to complain about what's going on in our life in terms of the details of life. Ephesians 5:20 says, "Always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ," so this is the continuous aspect of our character, "Always giving thanks," Ephesians 5:20 comes two verses after Ephesians 5:18 where we have the command to be filled by means of the Spirit. Part of what the Spirit produces in us is gratitude. "Always giving thanks for all things," not some things, not the good things over the bad things but for "all things, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God, even the Father."
Colossians 2:7 states, "Having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him, and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude." Overflowing with gratitude towards God is a result of being established in our faith, so faith rest drill, understanding some basic mechanics of God's promises and provisions for us, then becomes the foundation for understanding grace and gratitude.
Colossians 1:12 states it again, "Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in life," there we're just grateful because of all that we have in Jesus Christ as believers.
Point number ten, the last point, is that in order to have inner happiness, tranquility, stability and contentment, Bible doctrine must be more important than we are. You see in the faith rest drill we begin to learn that faith means that the Word of God, the study of the Word of God, what God tells us is more important than anything else. It needs to be more real to us than our emotions. Some days we'll be up; some days we'll be down; some days we'll have energy, some days we have low energy; some days things will happen to us that seem to overwhelm us, and perhaps bring us sorrow and grief and sadness, but the Word of God needs to be more real to us than our emotion, circumstances, experiences pain or suffering. We may not be where we want to be but we are where God wants us to be and so we need to be grateful that we are there, things could be worse. There's nothing quite as challenging for me personally as when I've gone to places in third world countries or even fourth world countries on the mission field to see how much we have as Americans and how little about 80% of the world has. We have so much to be grateful, except the problem with most of us is we don't understand that and we just want more instead of being what we have. Not that it's wrong to advance and to desire more, I'm not saying that. But we need to have an attitude of gratitude and not a sense of deserving or that happiness comes from possessions or misery comes from lack of possessions.
So we move from the faith rest drill where the Word of God is more real to us than anything to humility where we learn that it's God's plan, not our plan, God's agenda, not our agenda, God's methods, not our methods, God's timing, not our timing, and then we can begin to realize that God has a plan for our lives and it's better to be there than anywhere else. Once we get there then we can begin to understand that the details of life are merely secondary. The details of life are not the source of happiness, stability or meaning in life, they are secondary; career, job, friends, family, are all secondary matters in life. The only thing that is central is the Word of God. And once we begin to master the details of life then we can have stability because it's based on the unchangeable rock of God's Word and not on the changing details of life.
Point eleven; the first enemy of gratitude is arrogance. The arrogance skills are to first be self-centered, that's real easy in our narcissistic culture, then we move from being self-centered to being self-absorbed. We begin to interpret everything in life to our own personal grid, what it means to me, we're so focused on what's going on our lives we don't appreciate what's going on in anybody else's life or anywhere else in the world. We move from being self-centered to being self-absorbed, then we become self-indulgent; now that we're self-indulgent we don't want anybody to realize how arrogant we are so we start justifying it and that leads to self-deception. And once we get into self-deception we're divorced from reality and we're not applying anything from God's Word and just living our life based on our own understanding.
And the second enemy is cosmic two, we talked about the world system has twin support beams. The first is arrogance, which was the former point, and the second is antagonism to the Word of God and doctrine. It is at this point that we deny the Creator/creature distinction and begin to elevate some element of the creation above God. And we start looking to something in the creation as our source of happiness and source of stability. And the result of that is point 13.
Point 13; we cannot begin to properly orient to doctrine if we don't first orient to grace. That's the connection, we have to start with the faith rest drill, doctrine begins to be the high priority. Then we begin to understand some things about grace, but if we don't properly adjust to the authority of God at the starting point of grace in terms of enforced humility then we'll never get to the point where we can really orient our thinking to God's Word because God's Word is going to tell us the way reality is and too many people are sitting back saying I'll take this out of the Bible, I'll take that, no, I don't want to believe that or I don't like that. So what are you doing? You're saying I'm really the authority that determines what truth is in my life, not the Bible. So God says that because He is the Creator He has the right to tell us exactly the way reality is.
Now Israel has rejected that and they've decided they're going to make life work through the worship of the Baals. These were the fertility gods of their time and it's a materialistic procedure based on the agricultural motifs of the day. What they want is fertility in the crops so that they can have material success. As a result of that they go after the fertility gods as a means to happiness, success and prosperity. We do the same thing today, we just have more sophisticated idols but nevertheless it's the same procedure.
Now this is part of the declining structure of the whole book and what we see is that the result of this is going to be that the nation collapses into a complete loss of freedom and they appoint a man as king over them, the son of Gideon, his name is Abimelech, and he become a tyrant and what we see…as we go through Judges we've seen some things. We've seen some cycles that go on. There's a cycle with each judge. First there's the disobedience of the nation, that leads to divine discipline from God through some sort of external oppressor, whether it's the Moabites or the Philistines or whether it's another Canaanite city-state within the land or whether it was the Midianites and Amalekite coalition at the time of Gideon, God disciplines the nation through some foreign power, foreign oppression. Then the people cry out to God for deliverance and He sends a judge to deliver them and then when that judge dies they disobey again. So it's just this ongoing pattern, this cycle, and we've seen it go on. We started off with the first judge, Othniel; and then the second judge, Ehud…[tape turns]…Deborah, the fourth was Gideon and this is where we have stopped.
But all of a sudden, if you're reading through Judges something should hit you when you come to Judges 9. We don't have this same continuation of the cycle. The people sin and they go into idolatry at the end of Judges 8 but there's no foreign oppression in Judges 9. In fact they become slaves to something inside the nation, to one of their own, he's really not fully Jewish, he is the son of Gideon and a Shechemite concubine, and his name is Abimelech, and Abimelech is going to demonstrate extreme violence. This is one of the most extreme odd episodes in the book of Judges and it's lengthy. The chapter is 57 verses long and all of a sudden as we've moved through cycle after cycle after cycle the author just slows down and gives this excessive detail to a study of this one individual. And why is that important? Whenever that happens in Scripture we need to stop and say okay, what's going on here in the text, what does this writer want us to pay attention to here? What he is telling us is a theme that runs through this whole book, and that is that Israel is doing what they want to do in rebellion against God, the theme of the book remember is "there was no king in Israel, everyone did what was right in their own eyes." And the result of moral relativism and doing what's right in our own eyes is always going to be self-destruction and fragmentation. And what happens is in that search for freedom by rejecting God…see people say well, I reject that authority I want to be free, and that always ends up in some form of slavery and tyranny. So the writer is going to sort of step back a minute and look at this episode with Abimelech to show us the devastating consequences of this one particular man and his role in the history of Israel.
Judges 17:6 states the basic theme, "In those days there was no king in Israel," but what we're going to find in Judges 9 is there was a king. It was Abimelech; this is not a statement of human kingship; this is a statement that under the theocracy, that was the way God set up the government in Israel under the Mosaic Law, God was the executive branch, God was the king. They've rejected God, they've rejected the authority of God, they never learned authority orientation toward God and as a result there's no understanding of grace, therefore no gratitude. There we see the connection. Because there's no gratitude there ends up being anarchy in their souls and that's going to produce anarchy in the nation, everyone does what's right in their own eyes. So they're going to set up this competing king, he only lasts for three years, he was never authorized by God, but he is going to lead the nation into one of the most extreme episodes of violence and just a horrible, horrible time. Judges 18:1 repeats this same theme, "In those days there was no king in Israel." And then in Judges 19:1, "And it came about in those days when there was no king in Israel," it just emphasizes again and again that principle.
Now before we get into this we have to understand some things about tyranny. The book of Judges is an argument; this is one of the most political documents in the Bible, along with 1 Samuel 8. These are crucial to understand anything in relationship to government. Judges is an argument as to why it's necessary to have a human king in Israel. God had been Israel's king from the time of Sinai up to 1 Samuel 8 but during the period of the Judges Israel has rejected God as their king. And they have, as a result, the nation has gone into this moral relativism, and in fact is in a state of chaos and anarchy, so that the only solution is to have a human king. But when we get to 1 Samuel 8 God warns the nation that okay, you're going to have a king but he's going to raise taxes, he's going to take away freedoms and there are going to be negative consequences, unintended consequences as far as you're concerned, for having a human king in Israel. And that means that you are going to lose some of your freedoms.
What we have seen in the past in our study of Judges is that this was a nation that had the only form of political freedom in the ancient world. Only under the Mosaic Law did Israel have freedom and Israel was the only nation that had anything like freedom in the ancient world. Other major empires in the ancient world, like the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Syrians, all had dictatorships, totalitarian type of kingships that were much more autocratic than anything we've known in the 20th century. Hitler, Stalin, Mao Tse-tung would all kill to have the kind of power that the Pharaoh's had, that the Mesopotamian, Babylonian or Chaldean kings had, that the Assyrian kings had. They only dreamed of having that king of power over the people and yet in the midst of all that, here is this nation, Israel, who is given a document by God that's their constitution, God is their king, their taxes were just, all they had ws 22% every year and every third year there was another tax, that was their tithing system, and so they had limited taxation, limited government, and yet only on the basis of doctrine in the soul can people have capacity to live in freedom because you have to have responsibility, an inner sense of responsibility to maintain controls in a free society. And when people no longer understand absolutes, when they've lost any kind of orientation to authority, then they are going to collapse into chaos and there will be no stability in that nation.
So only doctrine can provide the capacity for freedom, defined as a sense of responsibility; Israel rejected that, they went into anarchy and so God had to impose a human kingship on them. Now ultimately this is going to be fulfilled in the Messianic kingdom and Jesus Christ and there will be a perfect kingship and they will once again in the future have that experience, the kind of true freedom they were to have had under the Mosaic Law.
We're about out of time so I don't want to start on the doctrine of tyranny until next time so we will come back, begin that and then get into Judges 9 in a couple of weeks.