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Testing, Internal and External Enemies - Judges

 

We have not been making much progress in Judges but I stopped for the purpose of orienting our thinking to what's happening overall in Judges, how to give us sort of a frame or reference to be able to understand God's plan and purpose for testing because there is one word that is used about three times in Judges 2:22, Judges 3:1 and Judges 3:4 and this is the Hebrew word nasah.  It means to test, it means to try, it means to assay something in terms of its value, it means to prove or to demonstrate and it means to train.  The context tells us which of these particular nuances are important and we will see some of the uses of this word in the Old Testament to try to fill out our understanding of why God tests us and what this testing is all about and what it's purpose is and how it is used to advance us in the spiritual life. 

 

By way of review, point one, definition: a test is any situation in life when the believer has the option of choosing between applying doctrine or using his own resources to solve the problem.  "Any situation in life," that I define as whether it's a mundane every day situation or whether it is a more intense overwhelming surprising event in life that can be either negative or positive.  Sometimes we think of a test as something big, like a final, but more often what these tests are are pop quizzes and they come up moment by moment, day by day.  And the emphasis in testing is that the test, the real test is not the external circumstances.  If you can get that through your head, and I say that to myself as well, if I can just get it through my head that the test is not the external circumstance, it is not the loss of a job, it is not being told that you have a fatal disease, it is not learning that your child has some terrible debilitating problem.  It is none of those things.  The test is what's going on in your soul in response to that external circumstance. 

 

The issue in a test is always doctrine or the sin nature.  Those are the only two options.  We studied the sin nature and we have seen that the sin nature produces not only personal sin but also human good.  We used a familiar diagram that the sin nature in motivated internally by lust patterns.  There are all kinds of lust.  There are all kinds of categories of lust and these lusts are what drive us in many of our activities whether we're aware of it or not.  There is approbation lust, the desire for approval, recognition.  There is power lust, the desire to control, the desire to have power, authority over people and to exercise that.  There is money lust; there is a lust for the things that money can buy, materialism lust.  There is a lust for chemicals, like alcohol or drugs along that line.  There is criminal lust; there are all kinds of lust patterns that drive us. 

 

Now they can drive us in one of two directions.  The sin nature has an area of weakness.  The area of weakness is those areas where we are prone to give in to temptation motivated by the lust pattern and this produces sins in three categories: sins of the tongue, overt sins, and mental attitude sins.  But we have an area of strength.  The area of strength is that area where we are not prone to give in to temptation but we easily resist it and we do good instead of doing wrong and we pat ourselves on the back.  Remember, there are unbelievers who do many wonderful good things.  This is not a good that cuts ice with God; it's not a good that has any divine approval because God says that all of our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.  We need to think about that verse a lot, it always strikes me that most people don't recognize the impact of that verse.  God does not say all of our unrighteousnesses are as filthy rags.  He's not talking about the things that we do that are wrong in that verse.  He's talking about the things that we do that are right in that verse.  It is all our righteousnesses that are as filthy rags, it's all the good deeds that we do from our own power apart from God the Holy Spirit. 

 

So this produces what we call human good, small "h", small "g", human good, and this is the problem I think in much of the Christian life is that very few people are willing to grapple with the issue of human good, that man on his own apart from God can produce many good things.  They can read their Bible, they can pray, they can go to church, they can get involved in all kinds of small group Bible studies, you can even witness and explain the gospel to somebody, all motivated by the sin.  You can witness to somebody thinking that it's going to gain you approbation with God or get you some recognition in the local church, that you get to stand up at the end of the year and tell everybody that you witnessed to 400 people this year.  And they do that in some churches, it's just appalling; it's between the individual and the Lord and it's not something we should get up and brag about, even when we want to call it a testimony. 

 

So the sin nature can produce all these things.  And that was the problem that Paul addressed to the Galatians in Galatians 3:3, he said did you begin by the Spirit and now you're trying to be matured by the flesh, the sin nature.  Then he came back to that subject in Galatians 5:16 and he said "Walk by means of the Spirit and you will not bring to completion the lusts of the sin nature."  And that's exactly what they were trying to do, to follow the legalistic Judaizers to come in under the moral requirements of the Mosaic Law.  They were trying to live their Christian life purely on their own effort, apart from reliance of God's grace provisions through the Holy Spirit. 

 

So the test is whether or not we are going to try to handle the situations in life, either through personal sins generated from the area of weakness or through human good generated from the area of strength.  Or, whether or not we are going to operate under the filling of the Holy Spirit and walking by the Holy Spirit and apply the Word of God and Bible doctrine to our lives at that point of the test.  That's the real test, it is not the external circumstance, it is what's going on between our ears.  That's where test is.  And every time we have a decision to make where these two options can be expressed in terms of divine viewpoint or human viewpoint then that is the issue.  So the major test in life boils down to volition; we are what our decisions make us, we can't blame environment, we can't blame our parents, we can't blame others, we can't blame negative circumstances for what goes on in our lives, the issue is what we do with whatever we've been given.  And people have been given all kinds of different circumstances, some are worse than others, but you never know, some people are handed wonderful circumstances in life but the way they respond to it, out of arrogance, you would think that they grew up in the worst circumstances in life.  So the issue always boils down to volition. 

 

Secondly, tests are not merely difficult situations, serious decisions or handling unforeseen obstacles.  If you think this, that is that tests are the serious aspects, then you've already lost the battle because it's those day to day mundane decisions that give us the opportunity to drill ourselves in the spiritual skills of using the stress busters and problem solving devices.  That's where we put it into practice, day in and day out, the mundane decisions, how you handle your money, how you handle your marital responsibilities, husbands loving your wives, wives being submissive to your husbands, children obeying your parents, parents teaching your children, fathers especially are given that mandate that they are responsible to raise up the children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  It's those day to day decisions that we make, and in many cases we think well, this really doesn't matter, whether I do it this way or do it that way, in fact, maybe I'll just operate on my sin nature and confess it and it doesn't really matter.  But what you're doing is you're establishing habit patterns, patterns of thought, patterns of behavior and then when the major tests come, instead of having trained yourself and disciplined yourself to walk by means of the Spirit and use the problem solving devices what happens is you've been training yourself to handle things in the sin nature and you fall apart, press the panic button and fragment on the inside and then you just implode and explode all over everybody else and that's the problem. 

 

Point three, we saw the tests are the opportunities to demonstrate the doctrine we have learned and assimilated into our souls.  It is not something negative, it is something positive, to demonstrate the perfect quality of the plan of God and what doctrine has done in our soul.

 

Point four, we saw the test may originate from one of three sources.  Externally it can come from the devil or the world; the world, the word in the Greek is kosmos, it is a system; kosmos in the Greek always recognizes something that is a system.  It is not merely external activity.  We always caricature it this way but in the old days, the old fundies used to talk about worldliness as dressing a certain way, going to movies, dancing, smoking, drinking, and they talked about worldliness in terms of activities.  And activities in the Bible are always described in terms of the works of the flesh, the sin nature.  That's called personal sin.  Worldliness is an attitude, it's a mental attitude, it's a way of thinking, it's all of the philosophies of life, all of the religions in the world that produce solutions to life's problems apart from total radical exclusive dependence upon God and His Word and His power.  And we are always being pressured by the world, it is always there.  You have been inculcated with this kind of thinking from the day that you were born. 

 

You have a sin nature that has an affinity to worldly thinking, so that like a sponge soaks up water your sin nature was soaking up cosmic thinking almost from day one, as soon as you began to understand some things.  It's amazing, you watch your kids, how quickly they pick up ways to rationalize and justify wrong behavior.  It's all part of the sin nature and those phrases, those terms, those rationales that we use to justify sin are all part of the cosmic system, that's all part of cosmic thinking.  And I love the illustration Charlie came up with, the believer is in some sense like a submarine down about 200 feet and has that tremendous pressure from the world, it's always there, it surrounds us, it's always putting the pressure on us, and there's only one thing that keeps us from collapsing and that is an equal pressure on the inside that comes from the Word of God and comes from doctrine.  And if that is not continuous there, if we are not continuously pumping that into our thinking, then what happens is that outside of the pressure of the world is just going to spring all kinds of leaks and get into every area of our thinking and before long we're just going to implode, sink to the bottom and that's it for our spiritual life.  Unfortunately that's what happens with too many believers because we don't understand these dynamics.

 

This is where I ended last time, and building on the illustration that Dan was developing during the time that he was teaching Hebrews, and this is the idea that there are only two places in which we live; one is heaven where there is absolute perfection and no pressure, and the other is we are living in the world system.  Satan is the prince and power of the air, he is the god of this age, he is the originator of every category of worldly thinking.  And every believer is regenerated living in this life in the world system.  And here we are, we're born again in whatever circumstances we might be in and we are completely surrounded by the enemy, by enemy thinking.  And the only way to protect ourselves from that is to start building a fortress.  We have to build a fortification and we have to live inside that divine fortification and that's what I've spent a lot of time developing, that I call the spiritual fortress of the soul.  And it is built brick by brick by learning and applying the spiritual skills which are the ten stress busters, starting with confession because what happens is once we construct this, when we're living inside that divine fortress there is a traitor inside that fortress and that traitor is our sin nature.  And that sin nature constantly is tempting us that look, you can go out there and do battle, you don't have to stay in here in this defensive position but there's really not much of an enemy out there.  There are all kinds of rationalizations that it presents and temptations and when we respond positively to the temptations of the sin nature then we are immediately ejected from our spiritual fortress and that means that we're out in the world system with no protection.  The only way to get back in is 1 John 1:9, and we confess our sins and God instantly forgives us and forgets and as far as God is concerned the sin is separated from us as far as the east is from the west and He remembers it no more, and we are immediately back inside that soul fortress.

 

But then we have to start applying all those stress busters again and all of the spiritual skills in order to stay there and handle all the problems and situations in life.  And we are constantly under attack from the outside through Satan's cosmic system and we are under attack on the inside through the sin nature.  We're always living in enemy territory so we always need to be on the defense.  This is all part of the broader scheme that the Scripture calls spiritual warfare.  Unfortunately today spiritual warfare is too often presented as some kind of one on one hand to hand combat with demons and Satan and casting out demons and rebuking the devil and all sorts of concepts that are borrowed from paganism and for those of you who are interested, a new book is coming out next week called What the Bible Teaches About Spiritual Warfare; it's a revision of the earlier book that Tommy Ice and I wrote on spiritual warfare.  Spiritual warfare, unfortunately, is always understood in terms of this mystical spirit warfare, like we're to go out and engage demons, but the interesting thing about the Scripture is that it always uses a word, aphistemi in the Greek, and aphistemi is a defensive word, it's not an offensive word, it means to stand firm, it doesn't mean to attack; it's stand firm.  Over and over again, put on your armor, which is analogous to the spiritual fortress, "put on the full armor of God that you may resist the devil," and that's that word aphistemi, which means to stand your ground, to stand firm it's purely defensive and when we try to take on offensively apart from using these stress busters, then what does is put outside the soul fortress and in a position of vulnerability. 

 

So we need to learn to not rely on our own resources, and the point of testing is that we can't learn these principles any other way.  If you were not to have a sin nature at the point of your salvation, God removed your sin nature, how would you learn to appreciate the grace and the omnipotence of God.  How would you learn to appreciate all that God has provided for you as a believer at the moment of salvation?  If you could reach a point in your spiritual life where you were, what's the term they use, "holy sanctified," the perversion of a Biblical term, where you were now in a state of perfection, then how would you learn to trust God, how would you learn what God can do and God's provision. 

 

And you see, this is the exact situation that is taking place here in Judges by analogy.  I want you to understand what I'm doing here by drawing these analogies because we're going to do it all the way through Judges.  The New Testament tells us that many of these events in the Old Testament were given to us for our example.  I am not developing allegory.  Let me explain what allegory is.  Allegory means that there is an original story from which there is drawn application through some sort of analogy, but the original story does not have to be historically accurate or literally true.  That's why this is not allegory; all of these things actually happened the way they did.  What happens is in the New Testament God goes back and demonstrates that shows us that these events illustrate doctrinal principles in the New Testament. 

 

Now one of the reasons I'm emphasizing this is because this is one of the great ways to teach kids doctrine, is to know Old Testament situations because those are New Testament doctrines lived out in the day to day lives of real flesh and blood people.  So there's a correlation there.  And one of the great ways, especially with younger kids who can't understand abstract principles very well  because they haven't reached a developmental state to comprehend anything more than just concrete things, you go back and you illustrate doctrinal principles through these Old Testament stories.  They're not just stories.  One of the biggest mistakes people make is they just tell Bible stories like they're telling a story, but they're not even presented that way in the Scripture.  All of these events, all of these people are there to illustrate doctrinal principles and the point is not the story, the point is what does it teach us, what does this illustrate.  One of the things, in a broad sense, that is illustrated in this whole period of Israel's history, in Joshua and Judges, is the doctrine of sanctification and the spiritual life. 

 

In Joshua, here's a rough map, you have the Sea of Galilee up here, the River Jordan, the Dead Sea down here, and Israel came in under Joshua and entered the land and took out strongholds.  Now in a sense the land represents the soul and the spiritual life of the believer, that at regeneration we are saved but we are still filled with pagan thoughts.  Now what I mean by pagan is non-Christian thinking.  Pagan is not a pejorative term; it is a technical term for non-Biblical thought.  Just because you're a pagan doesn't mean you're bad, doesn't mean you're ugly, doesn't mean you're some kind of nasty pedophile or anything else, it simply means that you are not thinking biblically.  And the land is filled with the Canaanites and the Perizzites and all the other groups, the Hivites, the Jebusites, and they all operate on non-Biblical thinking, they've all rejected God and idolatry pervades their soul. 

 

Now what happens is Israel goes in and they are commanded to annihilate the Canaanites, every man, woman and child and their animals.  Why?  God is teaching the principle that in the spiritual life the believer needs to annihilate every bit of pagan thought that is left over from your pre-salvation days.  That's a battle, it demands aggressiveness, it demands thought, it demands strategy and tactics, and it also demands something about knowing your enemy.  One of Sun Tzu's Art of War, which has been very popular to use in military schools for the last 20 years to teach a lot of principles on strategy and tactics and one of Sun Tzu's principles is that you have to know your enemy.  That means you have to have an understanding of how cosmic thinking is affecting you in your cultural situation, whether you're here, in Europe, Asia, even in the U.S. depending on where you are, your situation, you may be pressured in different aspects of cosmic thinking, you have to know the enemy.  But you have to know the truth.  You know the enemy because only in understanding the enemy are you able to root out a lot of these ideas, especially some of the more subtle ideas that are going around.  It always amazes me how many times Christians have picked up concepts from cosmic thinking that they think are Biblical. 

We have to root it out and what happens by analogy, Israel goes in, takes out the major strong­holds like Jericho, Ai, which was just north of Jericho, then they moved into the south and then they moved into the north and they captured the major strongholds.  But let's say you're 18-19 years old and you've got some real problems and somebody comes to you and presents you with the gospel and you trust Christ as Savior but you've got problems with drug abuse, alcohol, you've got problems with disobedience because you grew up in a home where you were never taught authority orientation and so your parents were miserable failures and you're going to struggle most of your life with trying to understand authority, especially the authority of God.  So you start taking on these things and that's usually what happens, we start taking on some of the overt sins in our lives because they're the most obvious ones that the Holy Spirit points out to us and we deal with them with doctrine and we have some victory.

 

But then after we sort of straighten things out in our lives and reach a level of equilibrium where there's some stability because we're not going out and getting drunk and spending all of our money on drugs, we're beginning to learn some responsible principles, we reach a level of stability, and then we begin to coast.  We see that pattern happen time and time again.  What happens there is you forget that there's hundreds of thousands of minor enemies, minor thoughts, minor concepts, minor habits that are still present in your soul, and you have to take those out as well.  But they're minor, so they're not as obviously devastating as the major ones were so now you begin to relax and to compromise and to coexist with these lust patterns from your sin nature. 

 

That's exactly what happened in Israel, after they captured the major strong points they began to compromise and coexist in the land.  So we have to realize that the tests are going to arise internally.  That's what we see in Judges 2:22, these nations are left alive to test Israel by them, "whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk in it, as their fathers did, or not."  That's the test, to see whether or not you're going to obey God or not.  "So the Lord allowed these nations to remain, not driving them out quickly, and he did not give them into the hand of Joshua.  [3:1] Now these are the nations," and then there's a catalogue at the beginning of chapter of the nations that the Lord…and the Hebrew word there is a hiphil perfect and it means "the Lord caused to remain.  "Left" is kind of a passive term, and this shows the active plan of God, "He caused them to remain," they didn't remain by accident, God was specifically involved in their remaining there; in fact that was part of His plan, "to test Israel," that's the purpose clause, they are "left to test Israel," so the sin nature stays in us and tests arise from our sin nature.  We are going to be tested just as Israel was tested by the enemies that stayed within the land we are continually tested from our own sin nature.  It is the sin nature; there may be external circumstances that provide the occasion but the occasion appeals to the internal sin nature and the test is sin nature of Bible doctrine.  So tests arise from the sin nature. 

 

Now that is why when the sin nature is attracted to something in the external environment it presents what is called a temptation.  That is why we call it a temptation; it's the same word that's used…sometimes it means temptation, sometimes it means test, you have to look at the context to determine the difference.  That is point five.

 

Point six, when we fail in that test and we yield to the sin nature and we make bad decisions flowing from that sin nature, even though in the short term it may make things work.  There's a lot of human good that we can do that makes life functional, makes us temporarily happy, brings a certain amount of peace and stability into our lives simply because we're no longer feeling the tension of the test.  It's easier to coexist sometimes than it is to be in a state of conflict and so because we're not in a state of conflict any more in a battle, there seems to be a relaxing of that, we think oh, good this must be God's will.  That's one of our great rationalizations, I have peace now.  Just because there seems to be a semblance of something that works doesn't mean that it is correct and so eventually there are going to be negative consequences from those bad decisions. 

 

If it's human good it flows from arrogance.  Remember that, human good, no matter how consistent something may be with Biblical principles, because you're doing a right thing from a wrong motivation it's wrong and sooner or later it's going to come right back and get us.  And a great illustration I've used on this historically is what happened in the way the United States handled the slavery question versus the way England handled the slavery question.  In the United States the issue on handling slavery was generated, the abolitionist movement was generated by two groups, both of which were operating on extreme arrogance.  One was the Charles Finney (quote) "evangelical" group, it's amazing to me how many Christians think, I mean conservative Christians think that Charles Finney…his works are still published today, in some churches they read them all the time.  But most people do not realize Finney did not believe in substitutionary atonement, he did not believe in total depravity.  He did not believe that Christ died on the cross as a substitute for our sins.  He did not believe, therefore, that salvation was by faith alone in Christ alone and he thought that man was ultimately improvable on his own; therefore it's a works system.  That's nothing but arrogance and he applied that politically and to a nation, therefore nations are improvable and perfectible and he was postmillennial which means that he believed that Jesus would not return until the end of the millennium so the Church would bring in the millennium.  Therefore the role of the Church becomes reforming society so let's go out and figure out what all the problems are in society and start reforming them.  They came up with a list and the first one on the list was slavery so they get on their arrogant bandwagon. 

 

Do you see the point I'm making; it's not whether or not slavery is good or bad that's the issue?  It's how you handle it; it's not just doing the right thing but a right thing done in a wrong way is wrong.  And the result was that because of the arrogance of both the (quote) "Christian" wing of the abolitionist movement and the utopian wing from the transcendentalists like Horace Greeley and others, that there was extreme arrogance there.  But in England you had people like William Wilberforce and Granville Sharpe who were true evangelical believers, they believed in the total depravity of man, they believed in a substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross, that Christ died for our sins as a substitute.  There was no arrogance in their system.  They both wanted to do the same thing, which is to end slavery, but in one approach it's flowing from human good and arrogance, the other approach it is not flowing from human good and arrogance and the results historically are that you had a civil war in the United States which you did not have in England and we still have major racial problems in this country which you don't have in England.  Why?  It's how it was done. 

 

So when you think that you have somehow solved problems in your life apart from God and it seems to work, watch out.  It may be five years, it may be ten years, it may be twenty years before that comes back and bite you but it will eventually, because a right thing done in a wrong way is always wrong and we tend to focus so much on doing the right thing that we don't focus on doing it the right way, which is the Biblical way under the filling of the Holy Spirit.  So we have to recognize that some further tests are going to come because of the consequences of our own bad decisions based on the sin nature.  That sooner or later this may come back and we may just generate our own problems.  And we generate one problem after another and people get out of fellowship and Christians start backsliding and get into reversionism where they completely reverse course in the Christian life and instead of advancing they're regressing until it gets to the point that their life looks no different from an unbeliever, in fact, they may put many unbelievers to shame in terms of their sinfulness and their immorality.  What they have done is they're just compounding one problem upon another and it becomes more and more of a challenge to reverse course.  So there are many tests we run into in life, we can't blame God; we can't say well God is testing me.  Guess who screwed up.

 

Point seven, the solution to every test is found in the character of God.  "Every test" means just what I said, every single test, there's not problem, there is no difficulty, there is no prosperity, prosperity can be just as devastating as some calamity.  I have a friend I've known for ten years and back in those days he hardly had two nickels he could rub together; now he is extremely prosperous.  One day he told me he'd almost give everything back to go back to those days because then I just had to grab hold of the grace of God every minute, every day and other things weren't a distraction.  He said now everything is so smooth it's a real struggle to listen to get doctrine every day, to focus on the word because life is so smooth and I have every resource that I can use to solve my problems instead of doctrine.  So prosperity is not as easy as most of us think it is.  It can be the test that really destroys our spiritual life.  That may be why God never gives some of us that test. 

 

The solution to every test is found in the character of God.  That's why it's so important to review the essence box time and time again.  I've been in situations where I just sit down and think through the essence of God, that God is sovereign, that means He is in control, there is no situation in life outside of His plan, outside of His decree and therefore He has made provision for it.  God is absolutely righteous and just and that means that He is going to be faithful to His Word; He cannot be unfaithful to His Word or go back on His promise.  God is love, He loved me so much He sent His Son to die on the cross for me and now that I'm a member of the royal family of God by virtue of regeneration and adoption, how much more is He going to provide for me.  He is not my enemy.  He is eternal life so there never has been a time when God did not know that I'm going to go through this particular problem.  God is omniscient, that means He knows all the knowable and He's been fully aware of every problem, every difficulty I've got and this is no surprise to Him even though it's a surprise to me.  God is omnipotent which means He is more powerful than any problem that I'm ever going to face.  God is omnipresent which means He is with me now, even if I don't realize it.  God is immutable, He will never change, therefore I can constantly rely upon Him because situation, circumstances, people and emotions are always in flux, God never is in flux, He is not in process, He is not open, that's the new heresy, one of these days I'll have to spend time talking about this new open view of God that is becoming popular among evangelicals, that is basically God really doesn't know the future, He is as open to whatever is going to happen as the rest of us, in fact, He gets as surprised as the rest of us do.  You'd be surprised at some of the places this is being taught today in terms of colleges that were traditional seats of fundamental conservative thought.  God is veracity, absolute truth.  That means that He has revealed His Word to us and it is true and I can rely upon on it.  So the solution to every test is found in the character of God. 

Read through the Psalms, that's one reason the Psalms mean so much to us at times when we are going through difficulties, especially when we read the Psalms David wrote when he was in the wilderness being pursued and persecuted by Saul.  He consistently goes back to the character of God as his source of strength to remind himself that God is greater than Saul and Saul's persecutions. 

 

[small glitch in tape] …the Spirit of God, because God has given us the Holy Spirit who indwells us and fills us and He is our resource for surviving everything.  This was modeled and pioneered by Jesus Christ during the time of the incarnation.  When Jesus Christ went into the wilderness to be tested by Satan He was led there by God the Holy Spirit.  Some of us have a view of testing that somehow God won't lead us there, but God the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness and Jesus Christ in His humanity resisted all temptation, not because He was God and perfect but because He relied exclusively on the power of God the Holy Spirit and Bible doctrine.  And He pioneered the spiritual life.  His spiritual life was not the spiritual life of the Old Testament.  He was pioneer­ing the spiritual life of the Church Age.  That's why He is the precedent for the Church Age, not the Old Testament Law.  We don't go back to the Old Testament in order to find the precedent for the Church Age spiritual life.  It is in Jesus Christ.  Now there are examples and illustrations in the Old Testament but that does not mean that… [tape turns]

 

…spiritual life, did not know the power of God the Holy Spirit.  When God the Holy Spirit came upon certain individuals in the Old Testament, and I think there were less than 100, it was for certain purposes related to leadership and military power and certain other functions like building the temple and tabernacle, giving them the skill and wisdom to build and construct the temple and tabernacle.  It was all related to administrative and leadership functions in the nation Israel.  It was not related to the spiritual life and we're going to see that in Judges because time and time again we're going to see some of the greatest losers in history that the Holy Spirit comes upon them and they didn't have a clue spiritually.  So it didn't have anything to do with their spiritual life so that's what makes this spiritual life of the Church Age unique.

 

So the solution is found in the character of God, the Spirit of God, and the revealed Word of God.  It is the Word of God that is alive and powerful.  Jesus Christ said "Sanctify them in truth, Thy Word is truth."  2 Peter 1:2-3 tells us that it is by means of God's magnificent promises that He has provided everything for us for life and godliness.  So the solution to every test is found in the character of God, the Spirit of God and the revealed Word of God. 

 

Point eight, therefore there is no problem, no circumstance, no situation good, bad, wonderful or disastrous that is too great for the grace of God.  Every time you get in a situation, and we all have done this, where we think somehow God must be taking a nap or He's busy with somebody else, or there are world problems and circumstances that He must be distracted with we are just impugning His character.  There is nothing too great for the grace of God, there is no situation that surprises Him, and He has given us everything we need in the Scripture.  He has left nothing out. 

 

This is a verse that everyone ought to memorize, 2 Peter 1:2-3, that "His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness," "His divine power," that's His omnipotence, "has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness," there's nothing you can come up with that doesn't fit into one of those categories, life and godliness.  Godliness is the Greek word eusebeia which means the spiritual life.  So those two terms encompass every circumstance in life and "His power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness" so there is no exception.  The central issue, therefore, in the Christian life begins with being in fellowship and then proceeds on the basis of the faith rest drill. 

 

Now in the Old Testament they didn't have the filling of the Holy Spirit, all they had was fellowship with God, they didn't have the filling of the Holy Spirit, their spiritual life was based on simply the faith rest drill, simply mixing faith with the promises of God and trusting God and doing what He said.  That is why the spiritual life in the Old Testament was inadequate but the expectations were not what they are for the Church Age believer.  God does not expect us to perform above and beyond the provision that He has given us.  And one of the things in terms of the history of the Bible and the history of the spiritual life that God does is in each dispensation is to demonstrate certain things about the inadequacy of man and his inability to solve problems on his own.  So in each age there are different criteria, different things going on and it always demonstrates man is in capable on his own to live up to God's requirements.  In the Old Testament they had certain requirements and they couldn't do it so God gives us the Holy Spirit in the Church Age and even then men are going to fail. 

 

And then in the millennial kingdom there will be perfect environment, there will be a perfect government, perfect administration, perfect bureaucracy, perfect everything, nature will be perfect, the natural kingdom will be perfect, the lion will lie down with the lamb, the child will be able to put his hand into a cobra's den; nature will be redeemed so that there will be no environmental factors.  So man is not going to be able to blame the environment for his problems.  Guess what?  Man fails.  Why?  Because he still has a sin nature.  So in every dispensation God is demonstrating man's complete inability to solve his problems and make life work apart from reliance upon His grace.  So the central issue begins with being in fellowship, for the believer that means using 1 John 1:9, being filling of the Holy Spirit and being in fellowship with God and then proceeding on the basis of the faith rest drill which is foundational to every other problem solving device. 

 

Point ten, Israel failed and we fail because… first, we fail to make doctrine the number one priority in life.  This is exactly what God had told them to do back in Deuteronomy 4 and 5, is that they were to make doctrine the number one priority in their life.  They were to talk about it when they were sitting down, when they were standing up, at night, during the daytime they were to meditate on the Word of God, day and night, they were to bind it on their forehead, strap it on the back of their hands, of course they took that literally and that's why the Pharisees developed the phylacteries which is a little leather box, inside is the Law and they wrap it tight on the back of their hands and they tie it on their around their forehead.  That wasn't the point, they missed the point.  The point is that doctrine has got to be your priority.  You have to think it day in and day out; it has to encompass every aspect of your life.  That's why last time I mentioned the priority of parents in terms of teaching your children, it's not just that you say okay, we're going to have our (quote) "family devotion time," we're going to sit down and study the Bible for 15 minutes.  That's great but that's almost a legalistic kind of approach.  When you look at Deuteronomy it's in your coming and your going, day in, day out, in every situation you communicate to your kids the importance of doctrine.  Every time you go through life and you're going shopping, you're out at some recreation, you're going to a ballgame, whatever it is, whatever the circumstances are you help your kids to think about how to respond to those circumstances through the use of doctrine.  It's using all of these opportunities as teaching moments, day in and day out, not just confining it to one time during the day.  One of the negative things about that approach is that it almost feeds our…one of the biggest problems in Christianity which is compartmentalization.  One of the problems that we have is that we so compartmentalize life that Christian has to do with what goes on Sunday morning in church but it doesn't really impact what I do the rest of the week.  And when we restrict our spiritual life to (quote) "morning devotions" or "family devotions" it almost feeds that compartmentalization rather than just picking it up every time you have an opportunity, looking for those opportunities to teach.  I don't mean lecture, I mean just to make points and some of those greatest points that you can make with your kids are just the conversation they overhear between mom and dad, and they overhear them talking about doctrine and maybe they blew it, maybe they learned some new way to apply a promise, not a major thing, just a sentence here and a sentence there and the kids pick up on that and it sets that example.  That's what Israel was supposed to do but they failed to make doctrine the number one priority in their life. 

 

Second, we fail to apply doctrine, we get on this intellectual trip where we fill up our notebooks with all kinds of information about God and we buy books, we read books, but we don't really apply it.  Sometimes I sit up here and I always make it a point when I teach, especially if I know of certain circumstances among people in the congregation, I'm not really pointing my finger at you although you might think I am some times.  But I am aware of situations at times among the people in the congregation and I can sit up here and I can teach something and that person, I can tell, they're sitting there and they think they're the last person in this congregation it applies to.  That's the self-deception of arrogance and the sin nature, is we just don't think that applies to us.  So we don't ever apply doctrine, the sin nature has a tremendous way of putting blinders on us, and we do that, usually through a number of dynamics, one of which is the world system, we're using cosmic thinking to rationalize the fact that it doesn't apply to us.  2 Corinthians 4:4 talks about how Satan blinds the unbeliever, blinds the minds of the unbeliever, that's their thinking.  He has thinking options, thought options, ways of thinking that blind us.  Not just the unbeliever, that passage is directly related to the gospel but it happens with believers to, all the time.  I see it. 

 

Third, they fail to trust God exclusively; we think that we can solve our problems through Scripture and something else.  And we use all kinds of different methodology; we forget that it's not only what you do but how you do it.  We fail to trust God exclusively and radically.  God alone is the source of our problems and too often we think that if we make doctrine number one in our lives and we're at Bible class three times, and it's hard, I know it's hard, it has to do with priorities.  There are some things in life you just have to say what's more important, for me to exchange these 2 or 3 hours for doctrine that's going to count for eternity or exchange these two or three hours for whatever it is that you like to do, because you only have so many hours.  It's like, think of your time as money.  What are you going to spend your money on?  What are you going to spend your time on?  What are you going to exchange it for?  Are you going to exchange it for something of eternal value or exchange it for something that's just going to give you a little pleasure for the evening?  Or sometimes we work hard, I know that, and it's hard to arrange our schedule, but that's why we have tapes, because I realize there are times when people just can't make it so we need to have a tape so we can be constantly reminded of these doctrinal principles.

 

Fourth, we rely on human resources, methods and techniques to achieve happiness and success.  And in the culture that we're talking about that meant that they adopted the fertility religions of the culture around them as a way to achieve happiness, success and prosperity.

 

Now let's wrap up by looking at a couple of examples of how testing occurred in the history of Israel.  One of the things in doing word studies and studying any category or doctrine is the first two or three times a word or concept is developed in Scripture gives us a pretty good understand­ing of the parameters of that doctrine.  So the first time this word nasah is used is in Genesis 22:1.  We're going to pick 2 or 3 Old Testament examples of divine testing.  "And it came about after these things," that is after God's covenant with Abraham and the birth of Isaac, time went by, Isaac is now a young man, I think Isaac was probably in his 20's at this time, but we can't be sure but I think that; he is certainly not the 8 or 9 year old lad that is usually pictured in Bible stories.  "And it came about after these things that God tested Abraham," there's our word nasah, He tested Abraham, so this is an evaluation test to see how much Abraham has learned.  He is approaching spiritual maturity so this test has to do with evaluating his growth as well as providing a motive, a momentum for him that will spur him on and move him on into spiritual maturity. 

 

The Lord tested Abraham, "and said to him, Abraham: Abraham said, Here I am.  [2]And God said take your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac," this is the child of the promise.  Abraham is probably 120 years old, he knows that he's not going to get another replacement, Isaac is specifically the child of promise, that God had promised him, "Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, go to the land of Moriah and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains on which I will tell you."  We know the story, how Abraham took Isaac, went up to the mountain, got to the verge of sacrificing him and God stopped him.  It was a test; it's an evaluation to see if Abraham would really apply what God had told him.  In the New Testament, in Hebrews 11 we learn that Abraham understood the doctrine of resurrection, and he knew that is not going to be a problem because this is the seed so if I end up taking his life God is going to bring him back to life, I am not going to lose Isaac, so he was completely relaxed in the situation.  But he was trusting God, and that's what the test was, are you willing to trust Me beyond your experience, beyond your senses, beyond your limited human reason are you going to make doctrine the number one issue and your relationship with Me the number one issue. 

 

Then let's look at the next use in Exodus 15, this is in the context of the Israelites coming out of Egypt and the test of logistics; is God going to provide for their every day needs.  Exodus 15:25, they have been in the wilderness on their way to Sinai, verse 23 says, "And when came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore it was named Marah," because that is the Hebrew word for bitter.  So they came to the wells of bitterness, [24] And the people grumbled at Moses," notice that they're positive to their leadership at that point, and they said, "What are we going to drink?"  They've got the idea that God's just brought them out into the desert to die, so that's the test, are they going to trust God to take care of every provision or are they going to rely on their own resources, in other words, go back to Egypt to the leeks and garlics of Egypt.  Verse 25, "Then he cried out to the LORD; and the LORD showed him a tree, and he threw it into the waters and the waters became sweet: there he made for them a statue and regulations, and there he," that is God, "tested them."  He is evaluating them.  Verse 26, "And said, "If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the LORD your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes I will put none of the diseases upon you which I have put on the Egyptians, for I the LORD am  your healer."  In other words, God has just given them a little teaching moment, like you parents can do with your kids.  They came along to a situation and God's going to use it to test them and then to make a little point of doctrine about His ability to provide for them, and if I can turn these waters from bitterness to a sweet drinkable palatable water then I can certainly handle any other problem that comes along.

 

Then we come to Exodus 16, they continue to be tested in terms of just daily provisions of logistics.  This time it has to do with food.  They are going hungry, they didn't bring enough provisions with them, remember there's about two to two and a half million people moving through the desert here and if you just break down the logistics that's thousands of pounds of food and water necessary to keep them alive.  And they could not have brought all that with them from Egypt and by now it's run out so they're hungry.  This is just a few days after the previous test, [1] "And they set out from Elim and all the congregation of the sons of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin," which is between Elim and Sinai, "on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departure from the land of Egypt." 

 

So they've been out about six weeks now.  [2] "And the whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled" they are complaining again, "against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.  [3] And the sons of Israel said to them, Would that we had died by the Lord's hand in the land of Egypt when we sat by the pots and we ate bread to the full," we had everything there, the world can provide us with the solution to our problems and give us stability; just look at all the people out there who are managing to survive life and have a good time and they don't ever have to make doctrine a priority at all.  That's really what they're saying, we can solve our problems apart from God.  [4] "Then the LORD said to Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day, that I may test them," notice the frequency of the test, it's every day, if they kept the manna in their pockets or tried to store it for the next day it would become rotten and filled with maggots.  The issue is trusting God moment by moment, day by day.  So the test comes day by day as to whether or not we're going to apply the doctrine that we know, "…every day that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction."

 

Now what we have seen so far is that in Genesis 22 the concept of testing is evaluation for a mature believer and it is a serious test.  In Exodus 15:16 what we have is a logistical test that is a rather mundane issue, it may not seem so mundane if you're going hungry or thirsty but it's an every day issue, and it is for rebellious believers, it is a test for immature believers.  So testing applies to all believers across the board from infancy to adulthood and each test has different purposes and different functions. 

 

So with that we come back to our study in Judges which is one of the next places that the word is used with frequency; in fact it's not used again in terms of God testing people, later on in the Old Testament, other than these first three usages in Judges 2 and Judges 3, and they fail the test because they are going to compromise, they are going to seek a life of compromise with the enemies inside.  This is too often what happens with believers is we just try to find some sort of peaceful coexistence with our sin nature instead of following the mandate in the New Testament which is to put to death the deeds of the sin nature.  So we are going to look at the consequences of their sin and rebellion starting with the first cycle of judgment and deliverance in Judges 3:7 starting next time.