I have a confession to make…I have just not been inspired to write a Christmas message. There are many thoughts rattling around in my head and for a number of weeks now, I have felt like the person bringing the message on Sunday morning have been reading my mind. A common theme has been Joshua’s command to be strong and very courageous. Another common theme has been that our personal breakthrough is crucial for someone else’s breakthrough…that we are merely a small link in a chain of events that might bring great freedom, deliverance and breakthrough for someone else. Prophetic words have been spoken – it’s our time to take the land promised to us.
Then, yesterday morning, before church I read Judges and something becomes very clear. There are dire consequences for disobedience to the Lord, for the disobedient party, but also for the ones waiting and watching. Read with me…
Now the Angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up from Egypt and led you to the land which I swore [to give] to your fathers; and I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you, 2 and as for you, you shall not make a covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed Me; what is this that you have done? 3 So I also said, ‘I will not drive your enemies out before you; but they will be like thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you.’” 4 When the Angel of the Lord had spoken these words to all the Israelites, the people raised their voices and wept. 5 So they named that place Bochim (weepers); and there they offered sacrifices to the Lord.
6 And when Joshua had sent the people away, the [tribes of the] Israelites went each to his inheritance, to take possession of the land. 7 The people served the Lord all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work of the Lord which He had done for Israel. 8 Then Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten. 9 And they buried him in the territory of his inheritance in Timnath-heres, in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash. 10 Also, all [the people of] that generation were gathered to their fathers [in death]; and another generation arose after them who did not know (recognize, understand) the Lord, nor even the work which He had done for Israel.
11 Then the Israelites did evil in the sight of the Lord and worshiped and served the Baals, 12 and they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who brought them out of the land of Egypt. They followed other gods from the gods of the peoples who were around them, and they bowed down to them, and offended and provoked the Lord to anger. 13 So they abandoned the Lord and served Baal [the pagan god of the Canaanites] and the Ashtaroth. 14 So the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and He gave them into the hands (power) of plunderers who robbed them; and He sold them into the hands of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer stand [in opposition] before their enemies. Judges 2: 1 – 14
Let’s go back to Judges, chapter 1 for some context. The tribes had an explicit command from the Lord to take the territories assigned to them, to wipe out the inhabitants and to burn everything to do with the pagan idol worship. Yet the tribes of Manasseh, Ephraim, Asher, Naphtali and Dan did not obey the Lord’s command. Instead they allowed the inhabitants of the land to remain and they put them to forced labour.
This seemed like a good idea…free labour. I can imagine how daunting the task to start producing crops if all you ever knew was a nomadic existence with the Lord providing every meal. To suddenly be fully responsible for feeding yourself and your family must have seemed like an impossibly difficult task. Yet, within one generation the Lord’s exploits were forgotten and the next generation had embraced the pagans’ idol worship.
This brings me to the point I want to make. Are we able to be strong and very courageous and to go after those things the Lord expected us to eradicate but which we have kept around because it’s still serving us? Are we able to celebrate the victorious Jesus, the Deliverer, the Overcomer, instead of baby Jesus and to give Him the greatest birthday present – our complete and total surrender and obedience.
I would like to extend an invitation to you. Please join me during this Christmas season by taking some time out between the festivities and family celebrations to sit with Jesus and to give Him the gift of your undivided attention, so that He is able to speak to you about the things you keep around to serve you, but which are in fact enslaving you. Remember, you are doing it for yourself, for the next generation and for all those who are waiting for you.
May the joy and peace of the Lord be an everlasting gift to you and yours. From all of us here at Ignite, shalom. Have a wonderful Christmas.