Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: There really is a double standard. Our expectations of people within the church should be different from those outside. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We shouldn’t be shocked that sinners will sin. What we should be concerned about is what concerns God. That is, that we as saints will sin. As God’s chosen covenant people, God is concerned about our purity and our sanctification.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, October 3. The Revive Our Hearts theme (the music you’re hearing right now) is based on a hymn called “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” It includes the line, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; prone to leave the God I love.” 

God’s people have always been prone to wander. You can see it all throughout the Old Testament, and all too often we see it in our own lives. Nancy will help us recognize our tendency to wander from God’s plan as she begins a new series called, When Men Don’t Lead: A Look at the Life of Deborah.

Nancy: I’ve discovered a new favorite character in the Bible over the last couple of weeks as I’ve been preparing for this new series on the life of Deborah. Deborah is one of the great heroines of the Old Testament. Her life illustrates something of the incredible influence and impact that our lives as women have—not only on each other, but also on the men around us.

As just a little bit of a preview of where we’re headed over these next couple of weeks. The story of Deborah, which you’ll find in Judges chapters 4 and 5, addresses issues like this one: What’s a woman supposed to do when men won’t lead? I see some of you smiling because all of us, as women, at times have wondered, “What are we supposed to do if the men around us won’t lead?”

Deborah gives us some insight into that. She’s a powerful example of a woman who exerted strong, godly influence in a way that was distinctively feminine. In a way—and this is what I love about her story—that ended up causing the men around her to become more manly, to become more godly, and to rise up and take more leadership.

But before we actually get to the part where Deborah enters the scene, let me give you a little bit of context for this story and an overview of the passage. If you have your Bible, let me encourage you to turn to the book of Judges 4:1-3. We’re going to see that this story takes place in the era of the judges.

There are four words that will help you summarize the book of Judges: disobedience, discipline, desperation, and deliverance. Let me give you those again because this is a cycle that repeats itself at least seven times in the book of Judges.

Human disobedience—that’s where the cycle starts. Then God responds with divine discipline—disobedience and then discipline. Then the people come to the point where they are in desperation—human desperation. They cry out to the Lord, and then God responds and sends deliverance.

As we come to verse 1 of chapter 4, we see the first of these steps of the cycle: human disobedience. Chapter 4, verse 1:

And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord after Ehud died.

Ehud was the previous judge. The woman we’re going to study over these next couple of weeks is Deborah—the judge who followed Ehud.

“And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord after Ehud died”  The people of Israel . . . This is a story about God’s people; God’s chosen people; God’s covenant people. As believers, we tend to focus on the sins of unbelievers. We look at what the people in the lost world around us are doing, and we’re just shocked.

We shouldn’t be shocked that sinners will sin. What we should be concerned about is what concerns God—that is that we as saints would sin. As God’s chosen covenant people, God is concerned about our purity and our sanctification. The Children of Israel weren’t the only ones sinning in those days. All the foreign nations around them—the Ammonites, the Moabites, and the Canaanites were sinning too.

But where was God’s focus? It was on His people. The Children of Israel did what was evil and it says, “The people of Israel again did what was evil.” This was a recurring pattern and cycle in the lives of the people of God.

As you read through the book of Judges, you’ll see this recurring pattern. Chapter 2 tells us, “And the people of Israel again did what was evil,” an indication that this was a recurring pattern or cycle in the people of God. Again they did this.

Chapter 2, verse 11, “The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” Chapter 3, verse 7, “And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” Chapter 4 we’re reading now, “The people again did what was evil.” Chapter 10, verse 6, “The people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. And chapter 13, verse 1, “And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.”

As I read through those verses, I think of the phrase in the theme music for Revive Our Hearts: “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; prone to leave the God I love.” It’s our tendency. The people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.

That’s why we need the grace of God over and over and over again! When we sin again and we say to ourselves, “I can’t believe I did that again!” You’ve been there; I’ve been there—again and again and again. That’s what God’s grace is for. That’s what Calvary is for; to take care of the “again and again and again.”

The people did what was evil. Now what did they do that was so evil? Evil—that’s a pretty strong word. The book of Judges tells us . . . It doesn’t tell us in this particular passage that we’re looking at (chapter 4), but if you go back to chapter 2, verse 12, it says,

[The people] abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger. They abandoned the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. (vv. 12-13).

Baal was a Canaanite and Syrian god—lowercase “g.” He was considered the god of storms and wars. It’s going to be a neat thing in this passage (chapter 4) with Deborah, to see how God takes on the god of storms and wars and says, “Let me tell you who is really the God of storms and wars.”

Ashtaroth was the female sex partner of Baal. This was a religion that involved . . . The religion of Baal worship involved extreme immorality and sexual perversion that the worshipers engaged in. Interestingly, the word Baal (b-a-a-l) can mean lord or husband. It’s a picture of what we find all through Scripture: Idolatry is really spiritual adultery.

As people of God who have been betrothed to Jesus, Christ is our husband and our Lord. We are His bride; the bride of Christ, The people of God were saying, “I want another lord. I want another husband. You’re not good enough for me.”

It’s our rejecting Christ and God as our husband, as the people of Israel did, and committing spiritual adultery. In fact, in Judges 5:8, when Deborah is singing . . . Deborah and Barak are singing the victory song, they replay what happened. In verse 8 they say, “When new gods were chosen, then war was in the gates.” They’re describing the condition at the beginning of this story.

We see here the tendency of the human heart to gravitate toward spiritual adultery. It’s only the grace and the power of God that is able to keep us from falling. Only grace is able to sanctify us and sustain us and cause us to persevere in our faith. Only grace woos our hearts and draws us back when we’ve been drawn away to other gods.

Let me comment here about the evil of idolatry. This is no small matter to God. “The people again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” And that’s how we need to see our sin as it is in the sight of the Lord. That's how we need to see our sin—as in the sight of the Lord.

How does He view our actions compared to the standard of His awesome holiness? Where is my life? Every sin is evil in the sight of the Lord

I received an email this week, from a woman who said,

My husband and I have just gone through some major transitions with our finances which were holding our whole family in bondage. As God freed us from the bondage in the financial area, it became apparent to me that I have switched bondages from money to food.

I think about it constantly. I shop for food whether we need it or not, under the pretense of it being on sale. I hide food in my bedroom drawers. When you said that we should have nothing in our lives that holds us back from God, I realized how wrong I have been.

We’ll never get freedom from bondage and idolatry if we don’t come to see it as evil in the sight of the Lord. The apostle John says in 1 John 5:21, “Little children [covenant people], keep yourselves from idols.” Keep yourselves from idols.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss isn’t finished. She'll be right back with part two of today's program. It’s part of a series called, When Men Don’t Lead: A Look at the Life of Deborah.

As always, you can make this series your own by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com and ordering it on CD. When you do, you’ll get some additional material we didn’t have time to air.

The website, ReviveOurHearts.com, has just been through a major overhaul. It's full of practical resources for your growth. The website is worth checking out every day for devotionals, the radio transcripts, and listener comments. Again, the address is, ReviveOurHearts.com.

Nancy just explained that the book of Judges follows a cycle of discipline, desperation and deliverance. Let’s hear more about that as Nancy explains how discipline is related to love.

Nancy: We read in Judges 4:1 that the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. The people gave themselves over to idolatry. They forsook the Lord; they followed after foreign and pagan gods that God had told them, “Don’t worship the gods of the people around you.” But the Israelites wanted something they could see; they wanted to be like the nations; they gave into the pull to idolatry.

Then verse 2 tells us as a result of sin came divine discipline. You could put some other “d” words with discipline as you read this passage. You could say God sent distress, domination, disaster—all of those words apply to what we’re reading in verse 2 now.

And the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin, king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-hagoyim.

Some time ago on Revive Our Hearts I mispronounced an Old Testament name. One of our listeners, who’s also a pastor, was kind enough to send me this little guide to pronouncing biblical names. In this chapter I have been real thankful for this little book! I’ve needed it; it’s been a blessing because some of these names I didn’t have a clue how to pronounce!

But, the commander was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-hagoyim. I hope my pastor friend is listening.

Then the people of Israel cried out to the Lord for help, for [Sisera] had 900 chariots of iron, and he oppressed the people of Israel cruelly for twenty years (v. 3).

We see here God imposing discipline on His children.

Two hundred years earlier God had delivered His people from slavery in Egypt where they had been slaves for 400 years. Now God, having delivered His people from slavery, was giving them over to slavery once again. He sold them into the hands of the Canaanites.

In this case it was clearly the result of their sin. There’s a cause and effect here—the people did what was evil; therefore, the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin, king of Canaan.

We see in this passage and many others through the Scripture that one of the ways of God is that He often uses people, external circumstances, and pressures as His instruments to discipline His children.

Now we tend to look at the “instrument” and blame the instrument. It’s the Canaanites in my life! It’s my husband; it’s my kids; it’s my boss; it’s my pastor; it’s my neighbor—the people who are making my life miserable. But, in the providence of God—in the ways of God—He often uses people, circumstances, pressures, and problems as instruments in His hand to discipline and chasten us.

Now that doesn’t mean that every time we suffer—every time something goes wrong in our lives—that God is disciplining us. There are other purposes for problems and pressures in our lives, and we’ve talked about the purposes of God in suffering on other programs. But sometimes it’s just flat out the result, the consequences, divinely imposed as a result of our sin.

As we come to this verse, we are introduced to the first two characters in this story. Jabin is the Canaanite king; He’s a powerful man. But as this story unfolds, he’s really a minor character. Then we have Sisera who is the commander of the Canaanite army.

In the days of Joshua, as the Children of Israel were taking over the land, this city, Hazor in the northern part of Israel, had been conquered by the Israelites. But the Israelites never completely destroyed the inhabitants as God had told them to do. Now, the enemy had regained strength and had taken the city back from the people of God.

I’m reminded, as I think about this, that any area of sin or flesh in my life that goes untended—any area that God reveals as needing to be sanctified, that I don’t deal with—that I don’t overcome by God’s grace, will likely rise up to rule over me someday. You can see this.

I’m thinking about a friend, a dear friend, who has just had a huge moral fall. On the face of things, it looked like it was out of the blue. But as you go back—and I’ve known this man and his wife for many years—you can see that there were root issues of sin, of flesh, and of struggle, that he never got to the root of; he never dealt with.

Those things have produced an unbelievable harvest that has sprung up in his life. He has found himself overcome by those sins that he did not deal with God’s way, along the way.

Now as we come to this period of the judges, the land is in a state of fear. The Children of Israel are fearful; the land is in desolation. We read in chapter 5 of Judges, verse 6, a description of what it was like in these days.

In the days of Shamgar [that was one of the judges], son of Anath, in the days of Jael [who we’ll see is one of the major characters in this story], the highways were abandoned, and travelers kept to the byways. The villagers ceased in Israel (vv. 6-7).

That is, the people out in the rural areas had to leave their unwalled villages and go and live in the walled cities because they were afraid.

If that isn’t a picture of what many people are experiencing in our world today—fear of terrorism. So you see all the defense mechanisms and people afraid to fly and people afraid to travel. Verse 8 of chapter 5,

When new gods were chosen, then war was in the gates. Was spear or shield to be seen among forty thousand in Israel?

The people were unarmed; they were vulnerable. Either their weapons had been confiscated by the Canaanites, or the people didn’t have the courage or the will to use their weapons.

We see the times in which Deborah lived:

  • It’s a nation given over to idolatry. 
  • They’re under the thumb of the Canaanites, the ones they were supposed to have conquered. 
  • They’re under the disciplining and chastening hand of God. 
  • They’re outnumbered. 
  • They’re overwhelmed by the enemy. 
  • There’s fear. 
  • Morale is at an all time low. 
  • There are no weapons and the people are discouraged.

As we’re going to see—and is often the case when people come under the chastening and disciplining of God—there’s a noticeable lack of strong, godly male leadership

You see, the Israelites wanted to be like the godless people and nations around them. They imitated their ways and ended up being slaves to the ones they were imitating. Isn’t it true that the world, in many cases, has enslaved the people of God today?

In the church we’re counseling and dealing with alcohol addiction, drug addiction, sexual addictions, other addictions, and bondages that is not quite so obvious. Forsaking God and choosing the “Baal,” the lord, the husband of sin, ultimately we think will bring us pleasure, but ultimately it brings us servitude and slavery.

Can I suggest that this very slavery—when God hands us over to the enemy, in a sense, demonstrates God’s commitment to us? That God would love us enough to discipline us, to chasten us, is an evidence that we have a relationship with God. It’s an evidence that we’re children of God. It’s actually an expression of His love or what some have called “a severe mercy.”

You see that concept in the book of Hebrews chapter 12 where the writer says,

My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the ones he loves (vv. 5-6).

You think, “God must love me an awful lot because there’s a lot of disciplining going on in my life!” Listen, if you need a lot of discipline, God will love you enough to give it to you.

Hebrews says, “[He] chastises every son whom he receives” (v. 6b).

Our fathers disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but [God] disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness (v. 10).

God loves us enough that He wants to change us; He wants to break us from the slavery to those gods, from idolatry, and from spiritual adultery—so He sends those merciful disciplines into our lives.

At the moment it seems painful; it’s not pleasant. But later, verse 11 of Hebrews 12, “It yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Those who have accepted the reproofs of the Lord.

I have a friend who has made some horribly wrong choices recently. He is walking in defiance and willful sin against God. Do you know, in the first week after this was exposed, that man had six flat tires—with new tires and one car? Six flat tires! Now, that could happen to someone who’s walking in obedience to God. But, you can’t help but wonder . . . The people who know my friend can’t help but think, “God is after this man.”

I think it’s a sign that the man belongs to the Lord. God is boxing him in; fencing him in; surrounding him with reproofs and chastening and discipline. Why? Because He hates him? No! Because God loves my friend, and He wants to win and woo his heart back to a place of obedience.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back to pray. She's been showing you the connection between love and discipline. That message is part of a series called, When Men Don't Lead: A Look at the Life of Deborah. It's the first day of a fascinating study of this hero from the Bible.

You're able to study God's Word over the radio and over the web thanks to listeners that believe in Revive Our Hearts and want to keep it going. They have provided the finances that have allowed the ministry to continue. If you believe in the value of this kind of Bible teaching for women, would you consider supporting Revive Our Hearts?

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Ask for the Seeking Him calendar when you make a donation of any amount by phone. The number is 1-800-569-5959, or take advantage of this offer at ReviveOurHearts.com.

When someone you love is hurting, you want to step in and take the pain away. But what if their trouble is actually helping them? What if intervening is hurting them? We'll talk about that tomorrow. I hope you can be here for Revive Our Hearts.

Now, let's pray with Nancy.

Nancy: Thank You, thank You, Father, that You have loved me enough over and over through the years to discipline me; to chasten me; to create circumstances that I couldn’t get out of or around. Then as a result, You have time and time again brought my heart back to a place of humility, surrender, obedience, and repentance.

Lord, I pray for anyone listening at this moment who is under divine discipline. May they, may we be quick to repent; to recognize Your hand in this; to acknowledge our sin and to confess—to be broken before You; to cry out to You in desperation, that You may come and deliver us by Your mercy and Your grace. Through the name of Christ our Savior, I pray it, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

 

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