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The Heart of the Problem

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Car racing legend Bobby Unser faced the toughest race of his life--and won. He and a friend, Robert Gayton, were snowmobiling in New Mexico when both of their sleds quit working. Snowdrifts as high as their chests, temperatures as low as zero, and winds as stiff as 70 mph hampered their attempt to find shelter. They even had to spend one night in a snow cave they made. Late the next day they found a barn with a heater and a phone.

After the rescue, Unser said, "Every decision we made had to be right." He and his friend had experienced a terrifying struggle with the elements they couldn't control as they did everything possible to stay alive.

            “Every decision had to be right” Bobby Unser said. Now isn’t this the heart of the problem when it comes to compromise?  The decisions we make every day, may seem to us as insignificant and even mundane. We can make some decisions as quickly as we can change the channel on television. Have you thought about the impact our decisions can have on our spiritual well-being? Making one wrong decision can be easy enough to counter act and correct but how about a series of small, seemly insignificant decisions made incorrectly over a period of time?

The teenager expressed the view of many. Speaking of the wild parties he attended, the 16-year-old declared, "Without these parties, my life wouldn't have any purpose."

Attitudes like this result from a string of bad choices that multiply until life loses its meaning. Examples of this "bad-choice string" can be seen all around us.

Take the couple whose first bad choice is to be sexually active without being married. They soon follow that practice with other poor decisions that lead to spiritual, economic, and social problems. Or consider the business person who takes money from petty cash to line his pockets, only to follow that bad choice with many others just to cover it up.

King Solomon said ... My mothers children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyard; but mine own vineyard have I not kept. (Song of Solomon 1:6). Obviously, from being the vineyard keeper Solomon learned about keeping his vineyard with God. Then he said, Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards ... (Song of Solomon 2:15). Little foxes cannot get to the fruit in the vineyard except they cut the vine and let the fruit fall to the ground. Consider the fruit to be joy, peace and the blessings of God. Now consider the little foxes to be anything we do that causes us to deviate from God's instructions for a good life.

The saying “little foxes spoil the vine” surely applies to our text in Judges 1. The beginning of the cycle of misery focuses upon Israel’s “bad-choice string”


Judges 1:1-2 (GW) 

    After Joshua's death the Israelites asked the Lord, "Who will go first to fight the Canaanites for us?" [2] The Lord answered, "Judah's troops will go first. I am about to hand the Canaanites over to you."

            What a wonderful way to begin by asking for God’s guidance, seeking God’s will and what is God’s response to Israel? Judah is to go; I have given the land into their hands.” All the land belongs to God and all Israel has to do is be faithful and obedient; God will give them the Land. God wants Israel to take their full inheritance, each of the twelve tribes was allotted a portion of the land as their inheritance, and under Joshua, many enemies that lived in the land where defeated and victory achieved. Yet it was still necessary for each tribe to move into its appointed area and to dwell there.

            Now all this is very symbolic, for us as Christians we may not have a specific land that has been given to us, but we do have an inheritance in Christ that is to be grasped and possessed by faith. That is what makes the book of Judges so sad for it shows not only the failure of God’s people to press into inheritance that God has for them, but even worst, it shows the failure to retain even that which has already been conquered. So Judges is a warning to us all. A warning of what can happen if we fail to go on or through compromise allow the enemy to rob us of the benefits of our inheritance in Christ. So how did it start going wrong?

 The Heart of the Problem: A Compromised Faith in God (JUDGES 1:1-3; 1:19)

 After Joshua died, the Israelites asked the Lord, “Which tribe should attack the Canaanites first?”2 The Lord answered, “Judah, for I have given them victory over the land.”3 The leaders of Judah said to their relatives from the tribe of Simeon, “Join with us to fight against the Canaanites living in the territory allotted to us. Then we will help you conquer your territory.” So the men of Simeon went with Judah.

The Lord was with the people of Judah, and they took possession of the hill country. But they failed to drive out the people living in the plains because the people there had iron chariots.

The first chapter of Judges, at least the first half opens up with resounding victories.  The Israelites where ready and willing to do God’s will. They wanted to proceed in a manner which would be in accordance with God’s will. But as you read on into chapter 1, there is a verse which seems very strange, especially in the light of all the victories previously mentioned. Judges 1:19 the writer wants this verse to hit like a ton of bricks AFTER reading about all the successful battles, “They could not drive the inhabitants of the lowland because of the iron chariots” Notice at the beginning of this verse, how does it begin?  “The Lord was with them…” When the verse is jointed together it appears to be a contradiction, now doesn’t God and one man or woman make a majority? So why do we read here that even though the Lord was with them, they still couldn’t win?

 For two important reasons:

(1.)                           The Problem of Perception: Chariots have never been any trouble for God, just a wave of His mighty hand and poof the chariots are destroyed. We will find later in the book of Judges Deborah in chapter 4 will show that chariots of iron were by no means invincible and were certainly no match for God’s power.  The problem did not lay in any inadequacy on God’s side but rather on the Israelites perception of the chariots. They where persuaded that these awesome weapons, which they where totally unable to match, where too powerful. The task was too difficult the odds where stacked against them, and so it would be folly to take them on. Perception was the problem; they viewed the chariots as more powerful then God. They took their eyes off the Lord and placed them upon the enemy, they made the decision to focus on the problem and not upon the solution. In essence they compromised their faith in God, God can’t help us, we better give up; we better roll over otherwise where finished, so the Canaanites stayed in the land.

                                                                          i.      Perhaps the most vivid biblical parallel is the incident in the Gospels of Peter walking on water. (Matthew 14: 24-31) In response to the Lord’s clear call Peter was able to do the impossible, until he began to think too hard and too humanly about it. As he took his eyes off the Lord who called and looked instead at the stormy sea, be begun to sink. It was doubt that was Peter’s problem, as it is ours. The immediacy of the very real challenges, their tangibility and power, begin to paralyze faith and prompt the response, “I can’t”

                                                                        ii.      The remedy is in seeing the Lord more clearly and determining to rely upon the Word of promise, irrespective of the circumstances. It begins with our choices we make every single day.

                                                                      iii.      What problem of yours is perceived to be a mountainous task for you to overcome? Remember it’s how you perceive it to be, and it just might be an overwhelming task for you to handle. Who will you look at “the chariots” or “the Lord God Almighty”?

1.      We are robbed of our inheritance “Jehovah-Jireh” God will provide.

a.        God sees everything before hand and is able to provide what is needed to overcome your mountainous task.

b.      We cannot ever have a need that is not already in his mind as already met! Praise Jehovah-Jireh!

c.       Finances – God will provided; Health- God will provide; Employment-God will provided; Attitude problem- God will provide; Spiritual-God will provide.

(2.)                           The second reason for the problem for not “driving the Canaanites out of the Land” “ Partial Compliance”  Turn back with me and read 1:3 The leaders of Judah said to their relatives from the tribe of Simeon, “Join with us to fight against the Canaanites living in the territory allotted to us. Then we will help you conquer your territory.” So the men of Simeon went with Judah.

                                                                          i.      It began in a very small and almost insignificant manner. “Join with us to fight against the Canaanites living in the territory allotted to us” It seems harmless at first and in actuality Judah and Simeon where full blood brothers, it was a natural alliance. Judah’s thought was a pragmatic one; let’s make this a family affair. “Let’s join forces and remove those pagans.”

                                                                        ii.      Many believe this alliance was impractical from a military stand point; Judah was the largest tribes numerically and really did not need the one of the smallest tribes (Simeon) in order to defeat the Canaanites within the allotted area.

                                                                      iii.      It was God’s intention that each tribe trusts Him in the process of conquering its allotment. Thus, by making this treaty, the two tribes undercut the process.

1.      God told Israel (Judah) specifically what to do, “Judah is to go; I have given the land into their hands.”

2.      But Israel only partially heeds YAHWEH’S command: Judah immediately establishes a battle pact with his brother Simeon.

3.      From the outset Israel exerts self-determination, evidencing automatic trust in human perception.

4.      Through a lack of faith, they looked at their own strength and numbers to gain victory.

5.      The decision seemed small at first and practical but because of a bad choice they ended up defeated later on. This verse points to the beginning of their downfall through out the book of Judges.

                                                                      iv.      The problem Israel displayed by not fully complying with God’s commands and relying upon their own self determination can also be ours. God tells us over and over again what we are to do. But we tend to exert our own self determination “I can do it myself” , and if that doesn’t work them God’s way will have too do.

1.      For example: Romans 6:1-6 “I died with Christ and died to the power of sin’s rule over my life.”

                                                                                                                                                  i.      We are confronted with a situation which requires us to make a decision, and the situation presents itself in such a way where I can either yield to temptation or step out and conqueror the problem with God’s help.

                                                                                                                                                ii.      First, instead of seeking God help and calling the Word. We think the situation isn’t that bothersome and feel we can handle it with our will-power. So we resist to the point of agony.

                                                                                                                                              iii.      Well this fails and I find myself under its influence.

                                                                                                                                              iv.       Now what? We have some quilt. We brush it aside as a slip and say never again and go on our miserable way. Then temptation hits again we resist- not learning to claim the promise – and fail again.

                                                                                                                                                v.      It’s a lack of faith on our part, we have looked to our own strength and ability to gain victory.

                                                                                                                                              vi.      We have been robbed of our promise which Christ bought for us on the cross; the scripture tells us to rely upon the Word of God not upon our own will-power “I died with Christ and died to the power of sin.”

b.      Another example when we rely upon our own human strength. The scripture tells us in Eph 2:18 “I have direct access to God through the Spirit.”

                                                                                                                                                  i.      Financial difficulty, were in a situation- it could your fault, your child’s fault, your spouses fault- we’re think of how we can dig our way out of our situation. The old adage “You made your bed now lay it in”

                                                                                                                                                ii.      You caused it, now you deal with it. That’s responsible thinking and action, the only problem is we have devised every kind of solution- short of asking God for help.

                                                                                                                                              iii.      Again we feel responsible for the problem and it’s only right for me to care for it. Correct? I DON’T NEED TO GET God involved, I have to pull myself up- a boot strap mentality.

                                                                                                                                              iv.      We have short changed ourselves once again. We have come up with “I’ll try it first kind of thinking.” “Bad choice decision”

                                                                                                                                                v.      What does the scripture promise us? “We have direct access to God through the Spirit.”

                                                                                                                                              vi.      God tells us “To ask for wisdom in faith without doubting and He will provide what we need.”

                                                                                                                                            vii.      In every situation we have compromised our faith in God and His promises.

2.      Conclusion: if you are compromising your faith by not fully relying upon God and His promises and you’re allowing the enemy to have it’s way in your life.

a.       It may have started out naively and you have relied upon your perception and partial compromises.

b.      The enemy has begun to control you.

c.       Read along with me Judges 2:11-13

                                                                                                                                                  i.      Forsook- Abandoned the Lord

                                                                                                                                                ii.      Followed

                                                                                                                                              iii.      Worshipped

                                                                                                                                              iv.      Served

d.       Given time Israel weakened and begun to serve the Baals. Baal means ‘master, lord” and who worshipped the Baals” Canaanites.

                                                                                                                                                  i.       How many times did we read in chapter one “they couldn’t drive them out, or the Canaanites became force labor for Israel” at least 10 times. And now look at them!

                                                                                                                                                ii.      If you want to know where the cycle of misery begins, it starts here. And the cycle will not end while the enemy is still alive and in the land. Nor will it end in our lives (even if we dedicate our lives to God again and again) if we still hold unto the ways of the world through whoever or whatever, means that should come. The cycle of sin will always be the end result.



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