“Who Says it's right?” Judges 17:6
Begin with reading from “Through the Looking Glass”
“What a beautiful belt you've got on!” Alice suddenly remarked. (They had had quite enough of the subject of age, she thought: and if they really were to take turns in choosing subjects, it was her turn now.) “At least,” she corrected herself on second thoughts, “a beautiful cravat, I should have said -- no, a belt, I mean -- I beg your pardon!” she added in dismay, for Humpty Dumpty looked thoroughly offended, and she began to wish she hadn't chosen that subject. “If I only knew,” she thought to herself, “which was neck and which was waist!”
Evidently Humpty Dumpty was very angry, though he said nothing for a minute or two. When he did speak again, it was in a deep growl.
“It is a -- most—provoking-- thing,” he said at last, “when a person doesn't know a cravat from a belt!”
“I know it's very ignorant of me,” Alice said, in so humble a tone that Humpty Dumpty relented. “It's a cravat, child, and a beautiful one, as you say. It's a present from the White King and Queen. There now!”
“Is it really?” said Alice, quite pleased to find that she had chosen a good subject, after all.
“They gave it me,” Humpty Dumpty continued thoughtfully, as he crossed one knee over the other and clasped his hands round it, “they gave it me -- for an un-birthday present.”
“I beg your pardon?” Alice said with a puzzled air. “I'm not offended,” said Humpty Dumpty.
“I mean, what is an un-birthday present?”
“A present given when it isn't your birthday, of course.”
Alice considered a little. “I like birthday presents best,” she said at last.
“You don't know what you're talking about!” cried Humpty Dumpty. “How many days are there in a year?”
“Three hundred and sixty-five,” said Alice.
“And how many birthdays have you?” “One.”
“And if you take one from three hundred and sixty-five, what remains?”
“Three hundred and sixty-four, of course.”
Humpty Dumpty looked doubtful. “I'd rather see that done on paper,” he said. Alice couldn't help smiling as she took out her memorandum- book, and worked the sum for him:
Humpty Dumpty took the book, and looked at it carefully. “That seems to be done right –“ he began.
“You're holding it upside down!” Alice interrupted.
“To be sure I was!” Humpty Dumpty said gaily, as she turned it round for him. “I thought it looked a little queer. As I was saying, that SEEMS to be done right -- though I haven't time to look it over thoroughly just now -- and that shows that there are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents.”
“Certainly,” said Alice.
“And only ONE for birthday presents, you know. There's glory for you!”
“And only ONE for birthday presents, you know. There's glory for you!”
“I don't know what you mean by ‘glory,’” Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don't -- till I tell you. I meant ‘there's a nice knock-down argument for you!’”
“But ‘glory’ doesn't mean ‘a nice knock-down argument,’” Alice objected.
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master - - that's all.”
It seems pretty silly doesn't it? “When I use a word it means whatever I choose it to mean.” What would life be like if there was no absolute, no certainties? Nothing to measure oneself by. The Bible tells us that there was a time just like that when people measured themselves by themselves. In the book of Judges 17:6 In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.
Sound familiar? Would almost remind you of 2015 wouldn't it? Where everybody does whatever seems right in their own eyes. Like Humpty Dumpty they have defined morality and right to mean what they want it to mean, regardless of what it really is.
This is our third week of The Story of the Book series and we are now in what is traditionally referred to as the “Historic books”, or some call it “The Early Prophets”. More specifically we are in the book of Judges, which is the seventh book of the Old Testament.
Last week we peeked into the Pentateuch, the first five books of the bible, and they end with the people of Israel returning to Canaan after having spent 400 years in Egypt, the last of those years as slaves. Now the Israelites have returned home and the next twelve books of the bible chronicle the rise and fall of the nation of Israel.
These books include Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther. These books were written by Joshua and the Prophets Samuel, Ezra and Nehemiah 1390 BC and 480 BC.
These books take us on a rollercoaster ride. It shows us what happens when God’s people rebel and allow their society to slide into moral decay, which should be a warning for Canada in 2015. But the good news is that it also shows the grace of God and how he is willing to reach out when people repent and ask for forgiveness.
Throughout the Historical books we see the repeated cycle of Israel’s relationship with God. 1) God’s blessing 2) Spiritual Complacency 3) Idolatry 4) Suffering at the hands of their enemies 5) Repentance 6) God’s deliverance
Part of the downward spiral that Israel seemed to find herself in way too often is identified by the phrase that we find in in Judges 21:25 & Judges 17:6 In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.
So what lessons do we learn from this, today July 19 2015?
Throughout history people Have Justified their Actions 1) Some Justify their Actions
If I was to ask you to list the most hated or feared people that you could think of either real or fictional I wonder who they would be? For over thirty years, beginning in 1970, thousands of international visitors at Madam Tussaud’s Wax Museum in London England were asked to name which person, past or present, real or fictional they hated or feared the most.
The name that has topped the list the most number of times has been Adolph Hitler, but have included Osama Bin Laden, Idi Amin, Richard Nixon, Margaret Thatcher, Jack the Ripper, Count Dracula and then in 2005 Liam Gallagher front man for the British rock band Oasis joined the group.
Now I don't know about Dracula & Gallagher, but I would suspect that if you asked the other six people on the list they would tell you that they were right in what they were doing. Had you interviewed, Hitler, Idi Amin, Nixon or Osama Bin Laden they would have embarked on an eloquent defence of their actions hoping to convince you that their motives were pure.
When the war crime trials were held in Nuremburg following WWII most of the defendants were unrepentant. Time and time again they reiterated their belief in the rightness of their cause, they truly believed that what they were doing was right, but was it? Or were they simply doing what was right in their own eyes?
During the early history of the United States, up until only 150 years ago the economy of the southern states was built upon the back of black forced labour. Originally, slavery was seen as a neutral thing, a necessity. Perhaps a necessary evil, but it was evil. Slowly the argument begin to change and its supporters began to defend it as a positive good, some even supported and defended slavery using the Bible. Abraham Lincoln Made this statement : The question recurs, what will satisfy them? What will convince them? This and only this, cease in calling slavery wrong and join in calling it right. And this must be done thoroughly, done in acts as well as in words. Silence will not be tolerated and we must place ourselves avowedly with them holding as they do, that slavery is morally right and socially elevated. They cannot cease to demand a full national recognition of it, as a legal right and a social blessing. All they ask we could readily grant, if we thought slavery was right. All we ask they could readily grant, if they thought slavery was wrong.” The slave holders not only refused to admit that owning another human being was morally wrong but they vigorously defended it as being morally right. They were doing what was right in their own eyes. When I read this I thought of the social mores about today and how in the past it was expected that the church would take a stand on morality, but no longer. The question recurs, what will satisfy them? What will convince them? This and only this, cease in calling sinful behaviour wrong and join in calling it right.
Look down though the scope of time, Stalin's purges and executions, the holocaust, the Spanish inquisition, the crusades, the Roman Persecutions, and the literally thousands of other events in human history which were horrible, inexcusable annihilation of human life or dignity and they were defended as right and proper in the eyes of those who performed them.
Think about the trial of Jesus Christ, and if you were to ask Pontius Pilate why he executed the son of God, he might have spoken about the pressure, the indecision, the indifference, but I would suspect that what he would have said was “I did what was right, I did what had to be done.” If we could ask Judas why he betrayed Jesus I'm sure that his answer would be, “I did what I thought I had to do.” They did what was right in their own eyes.
How Many Of Those Whose Moral Behaviour We Deplore Today Can Rationalise Their Behaviour? 2) Some Rationalise Their Behaviour
Often you hear preachers say that we are at an all-time moral low in human history, which is unfair and untruthful, man has stooped this low and lower before. It would however be both correct and truthful to say that our moral condition is in serious trouble. As we look around in 2015 we must agree that within our Canadian Culture and mindset that we as a people are having problems distinguishing between right and wrong. It would be fair to say that Canadians are doing what is right in their own eyes.
We have taken the heritage which our fore fathers gave us and we have traded it for a hedonistic, narcissistic, outlook on life. If it won't benefit me, if it won't make my life more comfortable, if I don't reap immediate positive results from it then I'm just not interested. Like the hedonist of the past Canadians have become convinced that pleasure is their chief goal. Regardless of what it costs, regardless of who it hurts, regardless of what we have to sacrifice, pleasure is the ultimate pursuit.
Like Narcissus of old who fell in love with his reflection in the pool, we the people of 2015 have become captivated with ourselves. If the sixties were a decade of rebellion, and the seventies were a decade of apathy and the eighties were a decade of greed and the nineties were the decade of “ME”, this new millennium doesn’t seem to be getting any better. And just as Narcissus all-consuming love spelled his eventual destruction when he fell into his reflection and drowned, so our self-love will eventually destroy our Canadian society if we let it.
Slowly as we become less and less concerned with others and more and more captivated with ourselves the very fibre of what make our country great will begin to rot and fall away. It's that concern with me, for my happiness, my future, my pleasure that leads us to the place that we stand today. To a place where four out of ten marriages will end in divorce. And if you were to ask the thousands of people a year who are handed a Decree Absolute “Why?” They would tell you over and over and over again “The reason I got a divorce was that I was not happy.” Now they might phrase that differently, they might say, “I wasn't being fulfilled as a person” or “My needs weren't being met.” but it all boils down to “I wasn't happy”
Now I checked the vows and they say “To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, til death do us part, according to God's Holy Law.” Nothing in there about “until it stops being fun” or “Until I'm no longer happy.”
Perhaps you've wondered where the Wesleyan Church stands on the divorce issue. Good question, I'll try to give you a good answer although I've tended to alienate people on both sides of the debate through the years. If adultery has been committed, then in line with Matthew 5 there are Biblical grounds for divorce. Now that is my stand for believers. However for non-Christians you really can't expect them to live a Christian life without Christ in their life. And I personally believe that if there is a divorce in someone's past that when they become a Christian that it is one of the things that Christ forgives. Luckily God is bigger than most of us are willing to admit. By the way if you have problems with my stand, then give me a call and we'll talk about it, but the proper place isn't at the door when the service is over.
The problem remains though that the desire for happiness no matter what the cost gives us rational to break the marriage covenant no matter what. If you talk to those who commit adultery they will justify and they will rationalise, they will tell you how their spouse wasn't meeting their needs, how they were hard to live with, how they were critical, how they had no time for them and didn't understand them. They will tell you how the other person was a tempter or a temptress and seduced them. But it is very doubtful that they will ever mention the real reason and that is self and the need to satisfy self. In most cases they have done what was right in their own eyes.
Talk to a criminal and he'll either rationalise his behaviour or try to justify his crime. He'll blame it on society, or poverty or a broken family or a bad environment. He'll blame everything and everyone but himself. Look at Paul Bernardo, his lawyer said that he was “Driven by desires for young girls. . .” on the other hand Karla Homolka claimed that she was a battered wife who was blackmailed into helping her husband.
I’ve told you before about my conversation with one of my professors at college, When I told him I really wanted to be in a class that I had miss Dr. Kanzelmar’s response has shaped my philosophy of life it's very simplistic too simplistic I know but I wish that Joe Kanzelmar could look at all the Paul Bernardo's & Karla Homolka's and Timothy McVeigh’s and tell them that same thing because he nailed me when he said “Denn you do what you want to do”
In the book of Ezekiel 23:37the prophet decries the evil that the people of his day had committed because he says Ezekiel 23:37 They have committed both adultery and murder—adultery by worshiping idols and murder by burning as sacrifices the children they bore to me. Three thousand years later it's just the characters that have changed, it's no longer the god Baal that the children are being sacrificed to instead it is the twin god's of pleasure and convenience. But for all the differences the sin remains and we can call it whatever we like but God calls it murder. Of course those of the Pro-Choice persuasion would try to convince us that it's a service to humanity and not crimes against humanity and so like Humpty Dumpty their words mean whatever they want them to mean. And so again the individual is not to blame, and if they get pregnant then it's society obligation to make sure that they stay happy even if it cost the life of an innocent one. After all they are doing what is right in their own eyes.
Why has the church failed to come to grips with the ethical questions of this new millennium? Hang onto your seat because the reason is once again this concept of self-gratification. We are doing what is right in our own eyes. We don't want to appear critical, we don't want to be labelled as judgmental and we fear that people will think that we are radicals. Our reputations mean more than our beliefs. And the thought of people calling us legalist why that's enough to make us cringe. But if being a legalist means upholding the law of God then we should want to be legalists. Right?
“But” you say “At least the world respects us, right?” Don't count on it. The world expects the church to take a stand against some things even if it's a stand that the world is opposed to. But we are content to do what is right in our own eyes.
How Many of Us Who Constantly “Fall Short Of the Glory of God” Defend Our actions? 3) Some Defend Their Shortcomings
You know what I'm talking about, you've accepted Jesus as Saviour, but you're really not all that sure about this Lord stuff. There are areas in your life where you continue to “do what is right in your own eyes.” As a result you've never completely sold out to God and when you are not serving God 100 % then you are serving the greatest idol of them all, the idol of self. But you can't simply take Jesus Christ as a fire escape from hell and continue to worship at the shrine of self.
You can usually recognise those areas in your life by the neat defences you construct. I knew a lady once who was a little on the heavy side, actually she was a lot on the heavy side and she let everyone know that it wasn't her fault, that she tried to control her weight but nothing seemed to work. “I can gain weight by just thinking about food.” but if you watched her eat it became very apparent that it wasn't her thought life that kept her fat.
You see I can always excuse my excesses in eating and I can convince myself that I'm supposed to be heavy, after all I'm big boned, I was a big baby, I have an exceptionally efficient metabolism, that I have a glandular problem. And as long as I can think up excuses I will never solve my weight problem. But it's when I stop deceiving myself, stop doing what is right in my own eyes and realize that my weight problem is a because of a lack of the “D” word, that's right discipline.
The same lack of discipline that allows people to have drinking problems, the same lack of discipline that keeps people from quitting smoking, the same lack of discipline that allows people to cheat on their husbands and wives. When I see my eating habits and fitness habits as an area of my life that needs to be brought under the lordship of Jesus Christ, then I start to see success.
But maybe that isn't the area of your life that you have problems with, although there are a lot of people who throw stones at the overweight who are no more disciplined but just have a quicker metabolism.
Remember you can probably identify whatever you struggle with by the amount of energy you spend defending that particular action. Christians defend their social drinking, Christians defend their smoking, Christians defend their anger, and Christians defend their immoral behaviour. I have heard Christians defend areas of conduct from non-attendance of services, to sexual immorality and they can do it quite well. but you know I don't think that they are trying to convince me, and I'm pretty sure that they are not trying to convince God, but I'm almost positive that they are trying to convince themselves.
When someone tells me, “I think I can do ________ and still be a Christian” then I figure that the Holy Spirit is dealing with them in that area and their actions and their excuses seem much more plausible and believable when they are verbalised to someone else.
Listen up, no matter how good your reasoning and rational might seem today, if God calls it sin then it is sin. We need to make sure that as Christians we never slide into the category of “Doing what is right in our eyes.” That we never defend our actions with the attitude “Whenever I use a word, it means whatever I choose it to mean,” said Humpty Dumpty Scornfully.
It is only when we allow our lives to be governed by the book, the word of God, only when we put our lives in subjection to God’s will that we be in a position that our will and God's will are the same. Which is why Jesus taught us to pray “Your will be done on earth as well as heaven.”
As long as we serve our will and our desires we will be out of step with God.
Instead of Judges 17:6 applying to you wouldn't you like to be described in the same way as Josiah in 2 Kings 22:2 He did what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight and followed the example of his ancestor David. He did not turn away from doing what was right.