Judges, Ruth And The American Church: In The Midst Of The Madness

(I know this is a long article, but I honestly feel that to divide it would not be best. I think it needs to be read as one article. Please, endeavor to persevere!)

I think it’s safe to say that we find ourselves in a time in which America could be characterized by the title of an old movie: “It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world!” People are crying, “It’s the end of the world.” while others lament, “The end of the church!” Politically, American citizens are divided, and the church fairs no better: Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, hybrids, traditional churches, home churches, prophetic, signs & wonders, fire& brimstone, love & grace, hybrids. Each group speaks of tolerance and inclusion, but only if you see it their way. Who are enemies? Who are allies? It seems to change from one day to the next. For every ten who see it one way, there are twenty who see it another, and fifty who see it differently still. So, most have resigned themselves to doing what seems right to them and hoping for the best. I’ve got good news; God is at work in the midst of the madness. Allow me to present a “prophetic allegory” (if you will) from the books of Judges & Ruth which I believe will provide insight into our own mad, mad, mad, mad world.

The book of Judges finds God’s people living in the midst of political turmoil and oppression. And spiritually, they were schizophrenic at best. At various times, the people would “repent,” God would send “judges” to deliver them, and there would be seasons of renewal. But inevitably, the people would slide back into doing their own thing. For the most part, it was a tumultuous cycle in which “each man did what was right in his own eyes. And it came complete with levels of craziness that would make Jerry Springer scratch his head.

Gideon was just an ordinary guy that God used to deliver the people from the Midianites. Subsequently, the people of Israel asked Gideon and his family to rule over them. Gideon took gold from the people, made an ephod (a religious garment), and the people actually began to worship it. Don’t we see this today? We see the high profile preachers, worship leaders, the big name evangelist, and we make them into idols. We worship gifts and not the Giver. We fall in love with the “anointing” and not the Anointed. Instead of lifting up Jesus we concentrate on signs & wonders or the prophetic or our traditions or our doctrines or our education. We make idols out of what God does and gives, and cease to worship the God who is. We worship a move of God instead of the God who moves. Signs & wonders will not save us. The prophetic will not keep us. Our traditions and education will betray us. This is idolatry, and it leads us into that same tumultuous cycle that Israel experienced in the book of Judges.

What about Samson? What a perfect picture of anointing gone wild. There was great giftedness, but no holiness. We see it in the church today, gifted people who can preach, sing, administrate, raise money, etc…. They denounce the evils of same-sex marriage as they sit by their computers, watching porn, planning their next adulterous rendezvous. Like Samson (a Nazarite) who defiled himself and his parents by eating honey scooped from the carcass of a dead lion, the people of God are often times eating contaminated honey provided to them by ministers who have defiled themselves. It still tastes good, folks may “get saved,” there may even be instances of the miraculous, but it is not pure and the stench of the flesh permeates it. The flesh can only give birth to flesh, and we, like Samson, reach a point that we don’t even know that the Spirit of the Lord has left the building. Like Samson, so many of us have been called and gifted, but insist on following our own lusts to the point where we end up spiritually blind, bound between two columns, and begging God to please move just one last time.

What of Micah? Micah stole some money from his mom, and upon returning it,  she (now get this) dedicated the money to the Lord so that a carved and metal image could be made. Micah then made an ephod, set up his household gods, made a shrine, and ordained one of his sons to function as a priest. He completely ignored the parameters of worship God had instituted through Moses, and sought to syncretize the worship of God with the god(s) he had created. He didn’t stop there. He found a Levite (Remember, they were to be the priests of God.), bribed him, and got him to participate in his idolatry. Micah said to himself, “Now I know the Lord will bless me because I have a Levite priest.” Micah and his mom were so far gone that they dedicated their idolatry to God. Today, we’re doing the same thing that Micah did. We redefine that which God calls profane, and pronounce it holy. We’re snycretizing pagan practices, new-age philosophies, and the god we’ve created in our own image with the worship of the one true God. All the while praying, “God, bless us.” We have even incorporated our own brand of sorcery into the mix. Who among us has not received the magic christian email that promises blessing if you’ll forward it to at least ten people? Who among us has not been told that if we “click like” on a certain Face Book post, God will send us a miracle? To our shame, we have created an idol that looks and behaves as we do, accepts our definition of righteousness and called it God.

We come to the book of Ruth. This story takes place “in the days when the judges ruled.” We don’t know exactly when, but we do know that it was in the days of the Judges (Ruth 1:1). (It would take up a lot of space to summarize the entire book of Ruth, and I do need to bring this to a close, so I’ll trust you to read it.) For our purposes we’ll skip to the part where Ruth and Boaz finally get together.

“So she went down to the threshing floor that night…After Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he lay down at the far end of the pile of grain and went to sleep. Then Ruth came quietly, uncovered his feet, and lay down. Around midnight Boaz suddenly woke up and turned over. He was surprised to find a woman lying at his feet! ‘Who are you?’ he asked. ‘I am your servant Ruth,’ she replied. ‘Spread the corner of your covering over me, for you are my family redeemer.’”

Right in the midst of the madness that engulfed Israel during the time of the Judges, when both the political landscape and the people of God were , there was a marriage taking place. A marriage of eternal consequence that would lead to the birth of King David, and eventually Jesus himself! And in our day, right in the midst of our own madness, God is calling forth a remnant, a bride who, like Ruth, has gone to the threshing floor, that place of separation, to meet their husband and Redeemer. She has come softly to lie at the feet of her Lord. She has eyes only for him, and will not love another. Her only glory and hope are in the One she calls Lord. She has endured suffering and loss; she is of no reputation, and even looked upon with scorn by many of  those around her. But in the midst of the mayhem and the madness, she will be wed to the Son of the living God!

Abide in him beloved. Watch and pray.