Blocked by God?
Blocked from God?
By our hands?
By our hearts?
Can we solve?
Can he solve?
Should we speak?
Should we hear?
God loves you.
God saved you.
God holds you.
God keeps you.
God has solved.
God has said,
God saves hearts.
How about yours?
When the angel of the Lord had spoken these things to all the Israelites, the people wept aloud, and they called the place Bokim. There they offered sacrifices to the Lord. Judges 2:4,5
What the Israelites had just heard was that they would have thorns, thorns in the form of opposition. They, like us, had earned those thorns. God is loving, yes, and he is also just. Time and time again in the Israelites Old Testament history, God corrects his people for their disobedience. God very often spoke into the lives of the Israelites with “if – then” statements: “If you do this, then I will do this.” God is a covenant God – he keeps his word. How are we doing?
The text note on this passage indicates that Bokim means “weepers.” This place name is not a name that remained, appearing only here in the book of Judges. It marked a moment, not a lasting condition. Our tears do the same – they mark a moment. When we, like the Israelites, hear just how short we fall in reaching the mark, we may weep. But then what?
If you would like a lesson of what not to do, keep reading the book of Judges. It will make you wonder why the Israelites wept in the first place, because their history showed little change in behavior. In fact, after the death of Joshua is recorded, we read this:
After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. (v. 10)
Again I ask, are we so different? Do we look back at the faults of our ancestors and learn, or do we forget them and the Lord entirely? It’s not about whether or not you have wept over your own shortcomings – everyone will at some point – but what do you do next? Where does your heart turn?
As I have spent more time in Proverbs, I have started to notice just how often God operates in “if – then.” Although not always spelled out in that exact language, the book of Proverbs teaches lesson upon lesson in obedience, often making the contrast very clear. Over the last few months the concept of obedience has been at the forefront for me, and it is a daily struggle. There are days when I can clearly see the fruit of obedience and there are days when I fall remarkably short. Last night at Bible study, we were wisely reminded that “dying to self is a lifelong process.” Or, as I quipped, it is a “slow, painful death.”
Our desires, our hunger and thirst, are not for God. But, by the matchless grace of God we are kept. We can live in Christ and he in us. But let us not fool ourselves into believing it should be easy. Far from it. If the generation before us wept for their disobedience, we may find ourselves prone to forget their tears altogether. And God will raise up thorns – opposition – to point us back to Him. If you press your face against a thorn, how hard do you want to push before you get the point?
I find the language of Judges chapter 2 fascinating, for God makes plain his intention for the opposition – the purpose to Israel’s pain:
I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the Lord and walk in it as their forefathers did. (v. 22)
God knows you are capable of better. He would not test if you if you weren’t. But you are, and maybe that thorn pressed against you is what you need to remember. Pain is a powerful teacher – if you let it.
Should you turn around, if your tears point you in the right direction, don’t be surprised to find that you still fall short. You will be just as feeble and imperfect as you were before. The difference will be your direction; what you see in obedience is a different view than in disobedience. In obedience, God always makes a way out. He did for the Israelites.
Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. (v. 16)
God has raised up the ultimate salvation for you also. He provided one person to take all of the thorns to the face that were meant for you. God gave his son to press into the thorns of disobedience – our disobedience – so that we don’t have to. Jesus. His place of Bokim, of weeping, was temporary. He endured our punishment for a painful moment so that we don’t have to feel it.
Now the weight of decision falls back to you. This passage in Judges spells out two very distinct responses to God’s correction. Which one describes you best?
1) Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. Unlike their fathers, they quickly turned from the way in which their fathers had walked, the way of obedience to the Lord’s commands. (v. 17)
2) (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience): Judges 3:2
Verse 17 above follows immediately after the recording that God had provided a way out. He gave them judges to lead them, but the Israelites gave themselves over to false, temporary lovers. They pressed their face against thorns. And then there is the parenthetical insight of Judges 3:2, the voice of hindsight which is offered as a clue for us today. God is teaching you, teaching you how to fight. You will still experience pain, but you will also experience victory. God always wins. Even in the death of his own son, God wins. If God can reclaim his son, who took all of our thorns of disobedience, what makes you think he cannot reclaim your suffering?
He can, and he does.
Yes, you have fallen short. You may be at a place of weeping, your Bokim. I assure you that it is temporary. But my question for you is, “Now what?” God offers a way out. You could find the temporary satisfaction of false lovers, but all they will do is numb your pain while you press harder against the thorn. Or, you may learn from the hindsight of those before us and recognize that God is training you. If you are in the middle of a war, aren’t you glad that God offers to teach us how to win?
Choose wisely. Your direction; your decision of obedience makes all the difference.