After the people of Israel entered the promised land, they began a cycle of disobedience through idolatry by bowing down and worshipping the gods of Syria, Sidon, Moab, as well as the gods of the Ammonites, and the Philistines. They seemed to be intent to worship anything but the one true God, breaking the first commandment over and over again:
“You shall have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:3
Unfortunately, this circle of disobedience would last for hundreds of years and cause destruction, distress, and death among the Israelites. The picture of a circle is used here because Israel’s actions in the book of Judges followed the same steps over and over again.
- There is peace in the Land, and Israel serves the Lord
- Israel does evil in the eyes of the Lord
- God punishes Israel, and the people are oppressed
- Israel cries out to the Lord
- God raises up a Judge
- Israel is delivered from the oppressors, and they are in turn delivered into God’s hands
- Repeat steps 1 - 6
Israel's constant idolatry drove a deep wedge between them and God, that led God to challenge the people of Israel in their idolatrous ways.
“ Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress.” Judges 10:14
This is when the Israelites knew they were in a lot of trouble with God, as they quickly changed their allegiance and humbled themselves with acknowledgement of their wickedness as they cried out for salvation.
“We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you. Only please deliver us this day.” Judges 10:15
After their statement of guilt, Israel put away their false gods and became servants of the Lord once more. However, the cycle of disobedience would continue on for many generations more.
Sins like the idolatry that the Israelites were committing may be easier to see and condemn because it seems too foreign to us as followers of Christ to do as they did. However, idolatry doesn’t end with bowing down to idols and false gods. The most prevalent way to commit idolatry in this day and age is the worship of the self above God. Right now as I’m sure you have seen, we are living in a very self-centered society that emphasizes what's best for me,instead of what’s best for others.
As followers of Christ we are called to serve others, and not ourselves. We are to look outwardly and be of service to others in their need, but it can be all too easy to fall into the trappings of this world.
“But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:43-45
“Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him” John 13:16
As Christians, we need to “put away” our idolatry as well, just as the Israelites did in Judges, and become a true servant of the Lord.
Lord, you are good and gracious. Full of mercy and love. We come to you humbled by your works, accepting that we have fallen short, and will again. Have mercy on us, and teach us more and more. Open our hearts to serve as you have done, and make us more and more like you every day. Show us our sinful ways. Thank you for your faithfulness to us, and remind us daily of why we follow you. Help us deny ourselves and take up the cross to follow you.