Today’s Reading: Judges 1-3:30
How good are you at paying bills? I have to admit, I was not very good at it when I started out as an adult. Looking back, there were two main reasons for my lack of diligence in doing the right thing. Firstly, I didn’t have much money to pay bills with. I would simply delay paying them hoping that my income would somehow magically improve. Secondly, I often delayed paying bills because I hated thinking about the whole process of paying the bill.
Paying bills meant I had to get my finances in order, such as sorting receipts, opening bills and balancing a check book. Paying bills also reminded me of how I misspent money during the last six weeks. It reminded me of that movie I bought on an impulse and only watched once and now the credit card bill showed up to remind me of my lack of control.
Since I hated paying bills, I often didn’t pay the bills. I would allow them to pile up, unopened on my desk. I think I somehow hoped they would just disappear or that I would somehow win the lottery. The problem with the lottery dream was that I think you actually had to buy tickets to win, and I didn’t buy lottery tickets.
I learned a valuable lesson soon after spending a few months like this – you don’t pay bills – you get bill collectors. Kind of like you don’t clean your house – you get cockroaches. The bill collectors would come out of the walls, bugging me. They would call each evening. They would call me at work. They would even call my relatives looking to get me to answer the question “When are you going to pay this bill? It is your responsibility!” No matter how many excuses and delaying tactics I used, one painful day later I would end up paying the original bill and fees and interest. Had I simply not indulged in impulse purchases or paid the bill when it first arrived I would not have had all the angst and anguish over those pesky bills and their collectors.
Unfortunately for me, with a poor habit of spending beyond means and then not paying the bills when they arrived, I developed a very poor credit rating. For years afterward I I was turned down for more credit or loans and if I did get a loan I paid more interest then others. It would get to be pretty embarrassing. One day, my day of reckoning, a police officer showed up at my home to serve me a court order to pay my bills or go to court.
Today’s reading reminds me of this. The Israelites have a responsibility that they are supposed to take care of and they keep delaying fulfilling their responsibility and it finally comes back to haunt them.
The Israelis problem can be clearly seen in Judges 1:19 – 36. In those 16 verses we see a single phrase pop up seven times “…failed to drive out…” Seven times, seven different peoples, the Israelites failed to drive them out. As part of the claim to the promised land Israel was told that they must drive the people and their forbidden idols out. They were even told that the Lord would win the battle for them. But the Israelites had to actually go and fight the battle.
Through out the book of Judges we are going to see this pattern. The people of Israel get settled in, comfortable in their new home. They decide that they would much enjoy the shade in their gardens then go out to war to fulfill their committment to honor God. Just yesterday we read that they had promised to obey God.
Joshua 24:19 – 24 (NLT)
19 Then Joshua warned the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord, for he is a holy and jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. 20 If you abandon the Lord and serve other gods, he will turn against you and destroy you, even though he has been so good to you.”
21 But the people answered Joshua, “No, we will serve the Lord!”
22 “You are a witness to your own decision,” Joshua said. “You have chosen to serve the Lord.”
“Yes,” they replied, “we are witnesses to what we have said.”
23 “All right then,” Joshua said, “destroy the idols among you, and turn your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.”
24 The people said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God. We will obey him alone.”
But the people didn’t do as they had said. In just one short generation, they had forgotten their promise:
Judges 2:10 – 15 (NLT)
10 After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord or remember the mighty things he had done for Israel.
11 The Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight and served the images of Baal. 12 They abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They went after other gods, worshiping the gods of the people around them. And they angered the Lord. 13 They abandoned the Lord to serve Baal and the images of Ashtoreth. 14 This made the Lord burn with anger against Israel, so he handed them over to raiders who stole their possessions. He turned them over to their enemies all around, and they were no longer able to resist them. 15 Every time Israel went out to battle, the Lord fought against them, causing them to be defeated, just as he had warned. And the people were in great distress.
For a generation, the nation of Israel had set their bills aside, they had neglected to do their responsibility and it finally caught up with them.
How often do we fail to obey God and drive out the things foreign to God in our own lives? How often do we get a bill from God reminding us of some mistake we make, some impulse decision? How often do we simply throw it on the pile of things to do later instead of owning our responsibility and driving that issue out of our lives? How often are we going to be reminded of that bill that needs to be paid? Is God sending us bill collectors to urging us to make things right? Is God going to have to somehow get our attention – like sending a court order to your front door?
As we read through Judges for the next week or so, we will see how God’s people keep failing. We will also see how God himself will send them help in the form of a leader, a judge who will help take care of the bills that need to be paid.
For us we have the ultimate in bill payers. Jesus paid all our bills for us. This is especially easy to think about this week as we prepare for Easter.