Brambleman – Faithless Departure from a Faithful God

Pastor Tom Ascol continues his exposition of Judge with Chapters 9:1 through 10:5. Once again the tragic cycle of turning from God is repeated. The Israelites recurrently cast God in their own image believing God thinks like man thinks. Instead, and in reality, man was made in God’s image and God’s thoughts are different from, and far above, the thoughts of men. While men are often half-heartedly devoted to God, God is always unchanging in His complete devotion to His people.

Gideon the judge had died. His son with a concubine, Abimelech, sought to rule the nation. He allied himself with Shechem and killed all but one of Gideon’s seventy sons. Shechem was an important city in the history of Israel from the time of Abraham through the conquests of Joshua. Now, however, it was a center for Canaanite worship. As usual, Israel allowed themselves to be corrupted by this Canaanite worship and turned from God.

Four principles regarding unfaithfulness toward God present themselves in this passage. First, as can be seen in Abimelech climb to power, unfaithfulness arises when personal ambition goes unchecked. Abimelech’s murder of Gideon’s sons is a prime example. Second, unfaithfulness degenerates into abject lawlessness. Aside from the horror of the murders and the lack of justice for the murderer, this passage makes clear that the unfaithfulness of the people degenerated. Highwaymen waited to waylay travelers. Deceit among leaders and usurpers became commonplace. Destruction of cities and mass killings was justified by the furtherance of the personal ambition that started the downward spiral in the first place.

The third principle is that unfaithfulness will not go unpunished. God turned both Shechem, which had allied itself with Abimelech in its rebellion, and Abimelech, who had sinned in his ambition, against each other to their respective destructions. Sin has its penalty. Finally, as seen in the first five verses of Chapter 10, even when God’s people are unfaithful God is faithful. The following introduction of the next two judges is somewhat unique in that the narrative does not identify a foreign oppressor. Could it be these judges were sent to rescue Israel from itself as it turned further and further from God and sank deeper and deeper into its unfaithfulness?

How did Israel get to this place, and are there lessons for modern-day believers? There is no morality without God. He is the absolute, the foundation upon which life and morals are built. The big question is “Who is Lord in our lives.” When we do what we want, when we chase after our desires, we make ourselves lord. However, as Romans reminds us, the wages of sin is death. The tension so evident in Judges between man’s unfaithfulness and God’s faithfulness was only resolved at the Cross. Only through taking Jesus as our Savior, so that God applies Christ’s righteousness to us, can we escape the penalty for our sins. God faithfulness toward us supersedes our unfaithfulness when we have Jesus as Lord and Savior. Come to Him.

Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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