Eight of us sat around a table last night. Seven Chinese students from Haifa University and the Technion—and me. We had finally gotten to chapter 10 of Judges. I had read and reread the material, but earlier that day as I had finished preparing the lesson, I felt I was being guided to just type out the verses and to trust God for how to guide the lesson.
In many ways my English class is like a Bible study. If we were using modern literature, it would be a study of modern English literature. But since we are using the Bible as our textbook, it is a Bible study of a different flavor. The students are being challenged to discuss the ideas and concepts in the Bible in English. Their English is improving, their ability to discuss quickly in English is markedly improving, and they are also gaining a deeper knowledge of what is in the Bible—what is written, not what people say is written.
As we sat there discussing the idolatry of the nations which the Israelites were running after, I wondered how to help my students understand that it wasn’t about the wood or stone, or even the cult worship and child sacrifices—all of this could be stopped but if hearts weren’t changed, the idolatry would remain. This is at the key to understanding the dialog between God and Israel in [biblegateway passage=”Judges 10:11-15″ display=”Judges 10:11-15″]. But even I didn’t really understand it fully until the end of the lesson.
The thought entered my mind to begin asking questions about what we’d read…
“Everyone, I’m going to ask you some questions, and I want you to answer from this perspective, ‘there is no God.’”
They all looked at me blankly. “Just remove consideration of God from the answers, OK?”
They hesitantly nodded their heads to affirm their understanding.
“What kind of world would we have if there is no God of the Bible, and people have free sex, can sacrifice children to try to get what they want, and there is no absolute standard? What kind of world would we have?”
Words and phrases began coming from different students.
“Cruel… people would be cruel to each other.”
“If children were sacrificed, the population would suffer.”
“Lots of sexually transmitted disease.”
“Well with prostitution, men would have no respect for their wives or women.”
Another student quickly answered, “But if men were also prostitutes, the same for men… women would have no respect for their husbands or for men.”
Another student responded, “There were be a complete disruption of social order.”
I looked at them, surprised by the answers. But OK. Next question. “So how would a government maintain order and rule over such a people?” I asked next.
“Violence,” one student said emphatically. “You’d have to have absolute control over the people.”
“OK,” I answered, “but kill off all the people, and you have no one to rule, so how do you rule without killing everyone?”
Again, everyone began answering, “A Dictatorship,” “Control by fear,” “Propaganda,” “Bribery…”
Sometimes the students described a concept and I introduced the proper word in English for that concept. The world they were describing seemed awfully familiar to me. I didn’t feel like we were talking about the Ammorites anymore, and their cruel oppression of Israel.
“Can you give me an example of some countries that meet this description?”
And again, answers came, this time more slowly, but each one was qualified with a why. Nations discussed included, India, North Korea, their own People’s Republic of China, Russia, and the USA!
What kind of world indeed? God’s answer to Israel in Judges 10:13-15 began to make sense to them:
13 But you have abandoned Me and worshiped other gods. Therefore, I will not deliver you again. 14 Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them deliver you in the time of your oppression.”
15 But the Israelites said, “We have sinned. Deal with us as You see fit; only deliver us today!” 16 So they got rid of the foreign gods among them and worshiped the Lord, and He became weary of Israel’s misery.
In verse 15, Israel’s response was such a “whatever” response. They put aside their idols and worshipped God… but God’s weariness could only come from what He already knew. Yes, they had put aside their idols, but their hearts had not changed.
Our time had come to an end and the lesson ended. Afterwards, one of my students came up to me and said, “Thank you. You are the best English teacher I’ve ever had.”
I looked at him in surprise and asked, “How is that?”
“My other teachers taught me rules about language. They told us what to think about what we read, and whatever they told us was the answer. You aren’t just teaching us words and vocabulary, you are teaching us how to think.”
If you have a bit of patience, this brings me to what I would like to really say. You see, from the time I was a child, I pondered over the behavior of the people in the book of Revelation who partied when the two servants of God die, and who do not repent or look to God when the plagues fall upon them. For a long time I have thought, “This is a generation that does not know how to think. How else could they so miss the direct logical connection between what was happening to them and their failure to acknowledge God?” Yes, they are blind, but it is a blindness of choice. As it is written in [biblegateway passage=”Hosea 4:6″ display=”Hosea 4:6″], choices are being made, not just from lack of knowledge, but due to rejection of knowledge and forgetting the law of the true God.
Yesterday, the nation of my birth—the United States of America—crossed a line that I don’t know they will recover from. Homosexual marriage will be enforced as a basic right. The full corruption of what God did in Eden has become a part of the rule of the land, accepted by one and all—no longer is marriage defined as being solely between one man and one woman. Child sacrifice is already a cultural reality in America and worldwide.
Two days ago I attended the high school graduation of my god-daughter Noa. In a class that filled a stage, with families filling all of the Haifa auditorium, she was the only modestly dressed girl on the stage. I was amazed and grateful for God’s grace in keeping her faithful to him in the midst of a truly godless generation.
I am learning a new meaning for lukewarm, and searching my heart. I begin to realize, that the lukewarmness that God so despises is not just an attitude towards Him, but towards the world I live in. What kind of world, indeed, do we live in?
My hope in the midst of this horrible picture is the same hope I’ve always had: My savior Jesus, who is still stretching out His hands to our world, pleading with us to repent. His blood poured out for me, for you. And my comfort is two-fold: His promise that those who are His will always be His ([biblegateway passage=”John 6:37″ display=”John 6:37″]), and that He is indeed coming back soon.
16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
I Thessalonians 4:16–18
Even so, Come Lord Jesus!