Summary: If you want to keep from slipping into ruin, depend on the Lord and then keep depending on the Lord; but if you’re already on the slippery slope to ruin, repent; turn from your sin back to God, and let Him bring you back to the top again.
About this time four years ago (Spring 2016), 23 total strangers bid farewell to the modern world as we know it. They took their hunting equipment, along with their wiles, into the remote Scottish Highlands with the aim of creating a new community from scratch. It was a new reality show on Britain’s Channel 4. The stars had agreed to cut themselves off from the wider world in order to “challenge everything about modern living, raising questions about what we need to be happy, what we want from our communities, and how we are all influenced by society as a whole.” They included medical professionals, a fisherman, and (of course) some camera people. Take a look at the trailer for the show (show www.youtube.com/watch?v=hz3yM4NtELg).
The producers aired four episodes that summer and then stopped. After that, the wider world no longer had even a glimpse of what happened in their 600-acre patch of would-be paradise. They even stopped posting updates on Twitter and Facebook that fall. What happened?
Well, according to a local newspaper, the Aberdeen Press and Journal, all but 10 of the participants had quit, and the remaining group “resorted to smuggling in junk food and booze.” One local resident reported that “some of the participants were even seen in the dentist at Fort William needing treatment after eating chicken feed grit.” (“The Reality Show No One Was Watching,” NPR.org, 3-23-17; www.PreachingToday.com)
People start off with good intentions; but all too often, the hardships of life overwhelm them, and they quit.
How do we keep that from happening during our present hardship? How do we keep from giving up when life gets hard? How do we keep from slipping into ruin in difficult times? Well, perhaps we can learn a few things from the Children of Israel after they conquered much of the Promised Land.
They started off so well, but it wasn’t long before they began their slippery slide into ruin. If you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Judges 1, Judges 1, where Israel shows us what to do at first, but then fails to do it later on.
Judges 1:1-7 After the death of Joshua, the people of Israel inquired of the LORD, “Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?” The LORD said, “Judah shall go up; behold, I have given the land into his hand.” And Judah said to Simeon his brother, “Come up with me into the territory allotted to me, that we may fight against the Canaanites. And I likewise will go with you into the territory allotted to you.” So Simeon went with him. Then Judah went up and the LORD gave the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand, and they defeated 10,000 of them at Bezek. They found Adoni-bezek at Bezek and fought against him and defeated the Canaanites and the Perizzites. Adoni-bezek fled, but they pursued him and caught him and cut off his thumbs and his big toes. And Adoni-bezek said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and their big toes cut off used to pick up scraps under my table. As I have done, so God has repaid me.” And they brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there. (ESV)
After asking the Lord what to do, Israel defeats and humiliates the enemy. Cutting off the thumbs made it impossible for a king to hold a weapon. And cutting off his big toes hindered his footing in combat. He was therefore disqualified from serving as king, since leading his country in battle was a major function of kings in Bible days (cf. 2 Samuel 11:1). In dependence upon the Lord, Judah defeats and humiliates the enemy, and they continue to do so.
Judges 1:8-15 And the men of Judah fought against Jerusalem and captured it and struck it with the edge of the sword and set the city on fire. And afterward the men of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites who lived in the hill country, in the Negeb, and in the lowland. And Judah went against the Canaanites who lived in Hebron (now the name of Hebron was formerly Kiriath-arba), and they defeated Sheshai and Ahiman and Talmai. From there they went against the inhabitants of Debir. The name of Debir was formerly Kiriath-sepher. And Caleb said, “He who attacks Kiriath-sepher and captures it, I will give him Achsah my daughter for a wife.” And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, captured it. And he gave him Achsah his daughter for a wife. When she came to him, she urged him to ask her father for a field. And she dismounted from her donkey, and Caleb said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Give me a blessing. Since you have set me in the land of the Negeb, give me also springs of water.” And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the lower springs. (ESV)