Homemade Religion – Morally Bankrupt

Pastor Tom Ascol finishes his study on the book of Judges. Opening Chapters 19 through 21, in a message entitled “Homemade Religion: Morally Bankrupt,” he shows the terrible results of knowing God but forgetting and turning from Him. Israel deluded themselves into believing their homemade religion honored God and enabled them to properly serve Him.

The last five chapters of Judges, including the three in our text here, give a glimpse into life during the time of the judges. Every man did what was right in their own eyes which led to an overall depraved society. Yet this sordid story is part of the biblical revelation and contains three lessons for today’s believer. The first lesson is homemade religion creates moral confusion. This is so primarily because homemade religion is subjective; it looks not to God’s standards of morality. The story of the Levite, from a tribe set apart to ministering to God, and his concubine is not treated with shock but rather tolerance. That he should have a woman not his wife, that the concubine’s father freely gives her, that the Levite gives the concubine up to gang-rape, that the Levite stretches the truth when asked for an account of her murder should be appalling. It takes her dismemberment and distribution of her parts to shock Israel. Even the seeking of justice, in itself a good thing, is done in a way apart from God’s law. Nowhere does anyone seem influenced in the least by God’s will, direction, or desire. The sin of the people of Gibeah was not so far removed from the sin of the people of Sodom (Genesis 19). Both groups suffered from a homemade religion, a combination of God’s revelation, man’s depraved thought, and pagan religion. Israel, like those in Sodom, had become Canaanized. They had neglected God’s Word in a remarkably similar manner to the world today. Thus, they suffered moral confusion.

Homemade religion also causes a perversion of justice. The annihilation of the tribe of Benjamin, the rash vows setting their daughters apart, as well as the perverse plan for ensuring its survival by sanctioning kidnapping all perverted that which was right. There is no indication they sought God’s will or even prayed but rather took matters into their own hands with their own understanding. Violating Gd’s law in the pursuit of justice cannot result in a God-honoring resolution. Likewise, one wonders about modern-day justice.

Thankfully, there is a third lesson to be learned; homemade religion cannot out-sin God’s grace. God’s grace is sufficient for even the greatest sinner. God did not destroy Israel but made provision for His people. Although the book ends on an unhappy note, every man doing what was right in his own eyes, the failure of all the judges to provide a lasting reconciliation with God leaves the reader yearning for a better Judge, a more worthwhile Savior, One whose work is sufficient and complete, needing no further work or modification. Of course, that One is Jesus Christ Who alone provides a salvation needing no further work or modification. His work is sufficient for you!

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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