Sermons

Summary: He is Jehovah Shalom, the God of Peace.

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In the Hobbit, which is Tolkien’s prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Bilbo Baggins and his friends finally find the riches they were searching for and “talked delightedly of the recovery of their treasure.” But then, almost immediately, the cold dark mountain began to rumble because Smaug, the evil dragon, had now been provoked. Tolkien perceptively adds this line: “It does not do to leave a dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him” (NY: Ballantine Books, 1982, Pages 214-215). In his book called, “The Pressure’s Off,” Larry Crabb reminds us that we live near a three-headed dragon. The world is around us, the devil prowls toward us, and the flesh lies within us (Page 61). It’s no wonder why so many of us are out of whack. We’re surrounded by the woes of the world, Satan continuously plans sneak attacks against us, and we’re saturated with our own sinfulness. All of that can create a kind of perpetual chaos in our lives, where we feel pressure, stress, conflict, fear, guilt and even shame. G.K. Chesterton was right when he said, “Whatever else is or is not true, this one thing is certain—man is not what he was meant to be.”

Ever since Adam and Eve sinned, the human race has not been what it was meant to be. Sometimes it’s because we have let too much of the world in; other times it’s because we’ve given in to the devil; and other times we’re simply done in by our propensity to sin. Or, it’s simply circumstances that cave in on us. Turn with me to the Book of Judges. This book chronicles a very tough time in the history of Israel. Judges 2:18-19 summarizes their spiritual situation: “Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them. But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.”

The very last phrase of this book gives us insight into why things were going south for them: “…everyone did as he saw fit” (Judges 21:25). And because of that, on seven different occasions we read of God’s people cycling through a period of rebellion which led to retribution from God. After suffering for some time, they would eventually repent and then be restored to a time of rest and peace. But then they’d begin the process all over again. This diagram of their dilemma may be helpful (from the Ryrie Study Bible):

Let’s look at four ways we can break out of this same cycle from Judges 6.

1. Recognize your woes (1-5). It was during one of these all-too-common episodes that God called Gideon on the scene. We find the nation of Israel, in typical fashion, having turned their backs on God once again. After a time of prosperity, the people had gotten proud and then pushed God away. That happens in our lives too, doesn’t it? We receive a few blessings, and then we start to drift away from our spiritual moorings. Our church attendance becomes spotty, we slow down in our serving, and we end up becoming selfish with our time, talents, and treasures.

Verse 1 tells us that because they did evil in the eyes of the Lord, a dragon was unleashed in the form of the mighty Midianites. They were extremely powerful and oppressed the Israelites mercilessly. The name Midian means “strife.” Because things were so bad, God’s people had left their homes and were living in holes in the ground, fearing for their lives. They had no peace at all; in fact, they were falling to pieces. The Midianites were nomadic people, and would invade Israel every year at harvest time. Verse 5 mentions that they would come in like locusts and would ravage the land. As a result, God’s people were stressed out and were living in fear.

The first step to healing and wholeness is always to admit your situation before God. Are you in a mess, in distress, or living with stress? If so, put your woes into words.

2. Request What You Want (6). Finally, after seven long years, the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help: “Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the LORD for help.” It’s beyond me why they would linger this long before turning back to God. It’s as if they waited until they couldn’t take it any longer. Does that sound familiar? We know God is trying to get our attention but we hold out, thinking that we can handle it on our own. Even when God allows bad stuff to percolate through the pores of our life, we often refuse to repent and return to Him. Friend, God wants to use the tough things you are going through right now in order to get your attention!

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