Tag Archives: Human Condition

The Need of King and Savior

In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.
Judges 21:25 (NIV)

We end the book of Judges with succinct  summary of the situation. There was no King or central authority. The loose confederation of tribes were spread out over hundreds of square miles. Each tribe co-mingled with the peoples and religions in their areas. The carefully prescribed laws and religious procedures that Moses had handed them became almost impossible to follow or enforce as there was no clear center for worship. The ark of the covenant was at Shiloh, but it was seen as a resting place more than a center of worship. It took a national crisis to get all the peoples to gather there.

After the heated battle between Benjamin and the other tribes, there is a frantic effort made to ensure that Benjamin remains a part of the nation. The bad blood, however, would never really go away. In later years when the tribe of Judah broke with the other tribes to form their own nation, the tribe of Benjamin would be the only tribe to go a long with them.

As we wrap up the book of Judges this morning, I’m thinking about the realities of the human condition. When left to ourselves without authority and rule of law, society quickly becomes a scary place. Lord of the Flies comes to mind. The book of Judges is a tough read. It is filled with unspeakable cruelties, violence, and cultural realities that are hard to fathom today. But, I believe that is the point of these chapters in the Great Story. The human condition left the people of Israel (like all of us) ultimately needing both savior and king.

The earthly example would soon show up in the person of a shepherd boy, musician, and poet who was good with a sling. The ultimate provision for the human condition was still a millennia away and would show up in that shepherd boy’s hometown, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger.

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featured photo: drpopular via Flickr

Shocking Events Then and Now

“In those days, when there was no king in Israel….”
Judges 19:1a (NRSV)

The story in today’s chapter is one of those really challenging ones. It’s hard for a 21st century reader to wrap our heads around the every day realities of life in Judea 3,000 years ago. Life was brutal.  Life expectancy was short. Societal systems were infantile in comparison to the present. And still, there are important themes the author is trying communicate.

The past two chapters have begun with the phrase “In those days, when there was no king in Israel….” That’s not random comment. It speaks directly to why this story is being told. This period of the Judges was one in which there was no system of strong central leadership. The further we get into this period of time, the more the people began to clamor for Israel to have a king of their own. The story of that political transition is told in the the book of Samuel.

The shocking and violent story of the Levite and the gang-raped woman became an event that sparked societal upheaval and unrest. In the same way that events in Ferguson, MO sparked intense societal reaction over the past year and a half, so the events of today’s chapter will be like the pebble that unleashes an avalanche.

The author knows that this is shocking, gut wrenching reading. It still shocks us today to imagine the brutal events as we read. That was the point of telling this story. “Do you see how bad things had gotten?” the story asks us. “Do you understand how evil and violent we become when lawlessness reigns?”

I find myself pulled in two different directions as I ponder the story in today’s chapter. I’m grateful to live in a time and society that is, by comparison, far better than the one described in Judges. I live in a place where law and order offer the opportunity to live a long, full life in relative peace and safety.

As the same time, the shocking events described and the societal firestorm it sparks are ancient reminders to me of very current realities. The more things change the more they stay the same. As “advanced” as our society has evolved, we continue to deal with core human problems of hatred, rage, prejudice, violence, sexual violence,  misogyny, gang mentality, greed, and et cetera, and et cetera. Events similar to those we read about today were front page news from India just a short time ago.

The people in the book of Judges would grow to call for a king to make things better. People today are calling for a new president to make things better. Strong leadership can make things better for society, but it can’t change the human condition that lies at the very core of the societal problems. For that, I need a Savior and the transformation of heart, spirit and life that happens in relationship with Him.

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Governing Observations

The dome of the US Capitol building. Français ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So Samuel passed on the Lord’s warning to the people who were asking him for a king. “This is how a king will reign over you….” 1 Samuel 8:10 (NLT)

This morning’s chapter was about ancient Israel’s desire for a new system of government. They were frustrated with the way things were having lived for generations under a theocracy in which God raised up a “judge” to lead the people at different times. The book of Judges is a chronicle of Israel’s history during this time. It was a messy form of government, to be sure. The grass looked so much greener on the other side of the border. Their neighbors with their centralized authority (a.k.a. a king) seemed so much cleaner and easier than the theocracy they’d been attempting to live out for hundreds of years. Despite Saul’s warnings of the flaws inherent in a monarchy, the people continued to demand it until they got their way.

As I read this morning I found myself pondering our continual frustration with government, which seems to be universal wherever you go. As I have sojourned in this life, I have observed and have come to some personal conclusions about human government. Looking at things on a macro level, here are my observations:

  • Governments rarely, if ever, shrink (unless by force or implosion), they only expand.
  • Most who reach places of governmental power and authority will do all that they can to retain and expand that power and authority (so that they can do “more good,” of course).
  • Those in government who make rules for others quite regularly exempt themselves from those rules our make loopholes for themselves, friends, and or loved ones.
  • Politics is a performance played out in sound bytes, tweets, posts, press conferences, and public addresses. Public words cloak personal motives.
  • There is no system of government on the face of this earth which is not given to corruption, waste, fraud, and abuse.
  • Every one of us live under a corrupt system of government because we are all governed by human beings marred by the human condition.

What then shall we do? I continue to ponder that as well. I have no great revelation nor answers to share. Personally, I find myself continually returning to what Jesus asks of me as a follower.

Seek God. Love others. Press on.

Chapter-a-Day James 2

Chocolate chip muffins baking in an oven
Image via Wikipedia

For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. James 2:10 (NLT)

Years ago when my girls were young, I woke one morning and decided to make some muffins for their breakfast. I pulled down the box of muffin mix and dutifully mixed up the ingredients. By the time the girls were up and ready for breakfast I was pulling the delicious looking chocolate chip muffins from the oven. They took one bite of the warm breakfast treats…and looked like they were going to wretch. Curling up their noses and making faces of disgust, they both reached for their juice as if it was the anti-dote to saving them from an infusion of arsenic.

In the ensuing investigation, I discovered that I had mistaken the container of sea salt on the counter for granular sugar. Sure enough, the muffins tasted like a mouthful of dried sea water.

I followed the entire recipe to the letter. I made a mistake with one small ingredient. That one small mistake, however, tainted the entire batch of muffins. So it is with what God’s Message refers to as sin, and the point from today’s chapter. We can live morally perfect lives in every regard, but if we mess up once it’s like substituting sea salt for sugar in your chocolate chip muffins. One mistake taints the whole person and once you’ve baked the sea salt into the muffins, there’s no way to make them sweet again. There’s no going back. Sprinkling a little sugar on top cannot make the putrid muffin palatable.