Right in our Own Eyes

In reading the Old Testament book of Judges, there is a phrase that appears, Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.  This is during the period when Israel had no government as we currently understand it.   In fact, in both these verses from Judges 17:6 and 21:25, it says precisely the same thing – In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.   There was no king in Israel.

We think in America that we are the first to institute such a limited government, but we have nothing on Israel in the days of the judges.  In Exodus 18, Moses’ father-in-law Jethro gave him a system for local, direct governance, which Moses put into place in Deuteronomy chapter 1.  The system of Judges.  Moses had been trying to do too much, as can be the case sometimes in any form of government.  He was trying to guide, counsel, and help people in all matters where they had need.  But, then as in now, there is a limit to what one person can do for the entire social order and individuals need, no matter how close to God that person may be.

So Moses’ father-in-law Jethro advised him to look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.  These able, God-fearing and trustworthy men were to “judge” the people in all matters as needed, bringing only the most challenging cases to Moses.

Here is Moses’ own description for what he told them to do – And I charged your judges at that time, ‘Hear the cases between your brothers, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the alien who is with him. You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God’s. And the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.’ And I commanded you at that time all the things that you should do.” Deuteronomy 1:16-18 ESV.  So, this system of Judges was in force as the “government” of Israel, most visibly in the form of the “elders” who sat regularly in public places to take care of any matter that required such attention.  And in times of need or emergency, a “judge” would become a “natural” national leader, as seen in the book of Judges.

Which brings me to my point.   We read in the book of Judges and find it said In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.   And we think in our own 21st century secular minds all the terrible things that must have been going on as Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.   Probably because we think of the things that might be right in our own eyes.   And yes, the people of this time went wrong in many ways.  But isn’t doing as one pleases really the ideal condition of humanity?   Isn’t that what we would call “freedom”?    Why do we think this implies wrongdoing?   In fact, it implies no wrongdoing at all.   In Judges, doing what was right in ones own eyes was not opposed to doing what was right in God’s eyes, but it was opposed to doing as some government official saw as right.  It was always God’s intention, all the way back to the garden, that we walk with him on a personal basis, be pleased by and come to love all the right things, and then do what is right in our own eyes.   This is why we were made and what makes up our individuality.

So what did God say when the time of the Judges, this time when Everyone did what was right in his own eyescame to an end ?   What did He say when his people Israel demanded to have a king and a traditional, power and force based government to replace their condition of freedom under God?   Was He pleased by this.   Did He say his people were moving onto some better way of being by giving up their natural born position of walking with God and doing what was right in their own eyes?   This is what he told Samuel, the last of the judges in the original, full sense – And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.” 1 Samuel 8:7 ESV.   We have rejected God as our true king and demanded a king to rule over us.  Instead of doing what is right in our own eyes, we now must bow down to whatever government official might claim jurisdiction over a certain place or action.  Is this a better way of being than walking directly with god as our one true king?   As Samuel told the people when he presented Saul as King, But today you have rejected your God, who saves you from all your calamities and your distresses, and you have said to him, ‘Set a king over us.’…” 1 Samuel 10:19 ESV.

As the people had earlier refused to speak directly with God and had Moses do it for them (Deut 5:24-27), to this day we refuse to let God (or his Son Jesus Christ) directly govern us by his law and empowering individuals for tasks as occasions might demand.  We prefer to have an ever more powerful and omnipresent standing government running on its own power, and running our lives.  And we assume that a time when God most directly his people and Everyone did what was right in his own eyes must have been a time filled with sin and evil, more so than even our world today.   Really??

But as Jesus told us in his great announcement, Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near. ” Matthew 4:17 NLT.  All of humanity is invited into a family, we are all called to recline at the table in the kingdom of heaven.   When this Gospel, this good news, has been adequately presented in the lives of Christ’s people, it will mark the end of human history as we know it.   “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:14 ESV.  Humanity will once again fall under the leadership of those who stand upon the earth as judges. As Paul tells us “Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!” 1 Corinthians 6:2-3 ESV

Then maybe, just maybe, we will be able to walk once again directly in the government of God, and everyone will once again do what is right in his own eyes

“In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

Judges 17:6 ESV

http://bible.com/59/jdg.17.6.esv

“In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

Judges 21:25 ESV

http://bible.com/59/jdg.21.25.esv

“Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.”

Exodus 18:21 ESV

http://bible.com/59/exo.18.21.esv

John Lewis

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No Condemnation

No Condemnation

no condemnation

During my contemplation time this morning, as Pastor Brian Zahnd would call it my time to “sit with Jesus”, I was thinking about beginning the home stretch of my look at the Sermon on the Mount. We’ve looked at Matthew Chapters 5 and 6, and hopefully you’ve followed along and seen that Jesus great discourse is not just a collection of saying randomly thrown together, but rather a single, unified talk (sermon) which has a definite starting point, message, and finish. This morning I was contemplating this little nugget – “”Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” Matthew‬ ‭7:1-2‬ ‭ESV‬‬. This may not be my favorite verse, or your favorite verse. But it just may be the favorite verse in the Bible of those who want to turn things back around on us when we seek to correct them on some point in their life or behavior. It’s used sometimes as a “Get out of jail free card” shielding us from having to listen to correction or think about our own behaviors, isn’t it?

accusation
As I’m contemplating this verse, I am led to the apostle Paul’s writing to the Romans, and our own “Get our if jail free” card. The protective shield we as believers like to pull out if the hat when someone may be correcting us. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1. To which every believer in Christ can give a rousing AMEN and HALLELUJAH!! This is used as our shield and our sword, “We are in Christ and you are not! You are condemned but we are not!!” We may not be able to judge you, but we know there is no condemnation for US. We are in Christ Jesus!

deep water
So let me head into deep water and drown myself. The verse says There is THEREFORE now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Therefore means that Paul has been building from another point to make this point. It doesn’t drop out of thin air. We Christian believers like to pull it out of thin air, but it doesn’t drop from thin air. Because of that therefore, we therefore had better look at what leads up to the point Paul is making. We had better look at the previous chapter, chapter 7.

sin
Let’s look specifically at the last verse of chapter 7, verse 7:25, and connect it with Romans 8:1. So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. So, with my flesh I serve the law of sin, therefore there is no condemnation?? Because we sin we are not condemned? Let’s look at more of chapter 7 leading up to this.

torah
For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So is it because it is not us but sin that does our sin that we are not condemned? I am not condemned because I agree with the law, even though I continue to break the law? Try telling that to the judge…

shame
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So are we not condemned simply because we want to do what is good? We are not condemned because we can not carry out what we want to do?? I am a sinner, I do the things I don’t want to do, therefore there is no condemnation?

condemnation
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ. It is only Jesus who saves, we can not save ourselves, Amen to that! But still, Paul says he serves God in his mind, but still sins in his body. Just as we strive to serve God in our minds, but still sin everyday. But because of our sin, there is no condemnation?? It doesn’t make any sense if you read it all together, does it?

gavel-judge
The problem with reading this all together, and seeing what it is that there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, is that we might have to see that we misinterpret what Paul is saying, probably because it serves us to misinterpret it. When Paul says that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, he is actually saying the exact same thing Jesus says in Matthew 7:1-2. When Paul says that sin lives in him, that he does what he does not want to do, that with his flesh he still serves the law of sin, and therefore there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, he is not saying that he is not condemned. He is saying that because, try as he might, he still lives in this life as a sinner, he does not condemn others. This is what it means when he says there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus – the we do not go around condemning other people for their sins!!  Because we are all sinners, because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  because no matter how much we live for God we still live in sin, and we  do not point the finger at others condemning them. Judge not, that you be not judged, and there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus are saying the exact same thing.

HolySpiritPeacemaker
Look at how Paul continues after his declaration of no condemnation. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. The law of the spirit of life is what? “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭22:37-40‬ ‭ESV‬‬. What is the law of sin and death? It is the “law” of shame, blame and accusation, the “law” of the devil, the false ruler of our fallen world.  As Christians we are called to love God and love our neighbors. We are free from the game shame, blame, accusation and vilification, the game if the the devil – “the accuser” himself. Because there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  If we are not free from that game, if we are still pointing fingers, judging, shaming blaming others for what we see as their fault and failures, we are playing the devil’s game.  It doesn’t matter that we are blaming and shaming in the name of Christ, it’s still the devil’s game, and if we are playing his game, he is winning.  It doesn’t matter if we are right or wrong in our point, if we play his game, he is winning.  The devil doesn’t care that you are right.  The accuser doesn’t care that you use the name of Christ.  If you are playing his game, he wins.

holy spirit
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. How did Jesus condemn sin in the flesh? That’s easy – “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭23:34‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Jesus condemns sin in the flesh by praying forgiveness, not revenge, from the cross, revealing the way of revenge as the way of the devil.  Jesus Himself WAS condemned, but did he condemn in return? NO. He offered a prayer of love and forgiveness. He loved God and showed it by living his neighbor, who was, in fact, his own enemy who was crucifying him. Because there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

father-forgive-them
There is a wide gate and a narrow gate. “”Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:13-14‬ ‭ESV‬‬. To follow Jesus is to take the narrowest gate and and the hardest walk. Take up your cross and follow me, all the way through our own torment and crucifixion, offering forgiveness to those who crucify us, was never meant to be easy. Because there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

forgive

“What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭7:7-25‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Romans‬ ‭8:1-8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

John Lewis

 

1.6%

 

Back in Psalms, recently came across this short psalm of David highlighting the corrupt, foolish nature of man.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good.   In biblical terms, a fool is not simply an ignorant or stupid person.  “Fool” is often the word used to describe someone who rejects God and chooses evil.  “A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools.” Proverbs‬ ‭13:19‬ ‭ESV‬‬.   The fool is one who chooses evil over God.  They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good.   There are plenty of atheists who would argue this point.  In fact, I would guess that most people who take the trouble to define themselves as atheists would argue this point.  They would argue the definition of “abominable”, they would argue what is good and what isn’t.  One of their mantras I’ve heard is “Atheists do good for goodness sake!”  
One problem with this is – how does an atheist define “good”?   What scale of good verses evil do they use.b  It’s funny, no matter the society, period in history, or social background, groups of people nearly always come up with the same central “core values.”  Don’t steal, don’t murder, don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t commit adultery.   Even atheists will come up with a core list surprisingly close to the Ten Commandments.  It’s how we are wired to relate to one another, how we are pre disposed by our creator to successfully survive in the world He’s given us.   Atheists would have to deny this, and as my pastor has been telling us for a couple of months ago, their system of right and wrong comes down to “…Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”  Judges 21:25
Atheists will say that our universe came from nothing, exists for nothing, and is just a happy accident from a blob of nothing which appeared from nothing and “evolved” from that nothing into all that we can empirically see yet not understand in the world around us.  The sun rises in the east and sets in the west.  We see life all around us, from the depths of the ocean to the skies above to the highest mountains.   We see the similarities measured in our genetic code and attribute it to the evolution we’ve decided is the root cause of it all, not seeing it instead as evidence of the great engineer who put it all together.  Think about this.  Our closest genetic “relative” is the chimpanzee, and we know our genetic code varies by only 1.6%.  Not getting numbers here, but what does that mean?  What does 1.6% get us that the chimpanzee doesn’t have?

Agriculture and industry.  With 1.6% we have Homer, Dante, and Shakespeare.  Dickens, Dickinson and Poe.  For 1.6%, we have Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and Picasso.  For 1.6% I’ll be in Baltimore at 9 am and California at 6 PM tomorrow.   For 1.6% I’m on my couch at 5:37, be in DC by 8 then all day, back on my couch eating dinner cooked in my grill, watching an Olympic Games 3000 miles away live on a screen hanging on my wall, texting (if I want) friends miles away during the whole thing.  For 1.6% Neil Armstrong walked on the moon nearly 50 years ago.  For 1.6% skyscrapers are being built worldwide right now.  For 1.6% we have Mustang, Camaro, Lamborghini and Ferrari.  That’s quite a 1.6%.  Guess we should leave the chimpanzee alone, he should make up that 1.6in no time.

The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.  We are lucky enough to know that God didn’t just stay up in heaven looking down at His creation.  He came down in the form of His own Son, Jesus Christ, walking among us, to personally call each of us to Himself.  

They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.   This is as true today as ever, but I do think God has been able to find those in history who have “done good”.   Noah, Job, Abraham, Moses.  But all those, except Jesus of Nazareth, have fallen short of His standard of perfection – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans‬ ‭3:23‬ ‭ESV‬‬. No matter how hard we try, how “good” we are, we can’t be good enough.
Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the Lord?   To eat up His people is oppress them, to hold others down.  We all eat bread, Jesus said “I am the bread of life.” ‭‭John‬ ‭6:48‬ ‭ESV‬.  Funny thing about bread is that bread is universal.  Every culture, on every continent, in every nation, town and village, eats bread.  Just as bread is universally available, so is Christ.
There they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous. You would shame the plans of the poor, but the Lord is his refuge.   God has always taken a direct interest in the welfare of the poor.  From the Law of Moses through the Revelation in Christ, there are always references to, and provisions made for, the poor among us.  Whether it is laws regarding leaving some of the harvest around the edge of the field for those less fortunate to come behind and pick up, or Jesus telling us to simply give without fanfare to the poorest among us – “”Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” ‭Matthew‬ ‭6:2‬ ‭ESV‬‬, there is no question we are to look out for those behind us.
Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.   Zion, God’s dwelling place here on earth.  In the Old Testament it referred to both the city of Jerusalem, and or the mountain on which God’s temple stood.    It is the place where God’s mercies were originally shown, as they are now shown by His church (at least we hope!).  We know that salvation came out of Zion, through the Messiah killed on a Roman cross in the city of David.   We all fall short and are counted as sinners, in an eternal state of damnation.  It was only through Jesus’ work on that cross, the free grace offered to all, that our fortunes were restored.  So Jacob rejoices, Israel is glad.  And there’s a party in Heaven for every sinner saved through faith in Jesus Christ!!


“The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the Lord? There they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous. You would shame the plans of the poor, but the Lord is his refuge. Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭14:1-7‬ ‭ESV‬‬
http://bible.com/59/psa.14.1-7.esv
John Lewis