Nurturing/ Teaching Courses
What Goes Around Comes Around:
The Circle of Sin
Text: Judges 3:7-11
Dr. Alex Tang
Are we walking with Jesus or have we left Him behind somewhere
and are walking around in a circle of sin?
JDG 3:7 The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD; they forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs. 8 The anger of the LORD burned against Israel so that he sold them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim, to whom the Israelites were subject for eight years. 9 But when they cried out to the LORD, he raised up for them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, who saved them. 10 The Spirit of the LORD came upon him, so that he became Israel's judge and went to war. The LORD gave Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram into the hands of Othniel, who overpowered him. 11 So the land had peace for forty years, until Othniel son of Kenaz died.
Introduction and Background
Two weeks ago, we were talking about Caleb, Acsah and Othniel - Upper and Nethers Springs. The story did not end with Othniel capturing the book city (Kiriath Sepher) and winning Caleb’s daughter. As we knew, Acsah asked for her father’s blessing and Caleb blessed the young couple with the water rights to the upper and lower springs of the Negev. This must have been a rich blessing because with the water rights, the young couple was able to grow crops and the desert land would have bloomed with crops and livestock.
Meanwhile, the rest of the tribes of Israel were supposed to be reclaiming their birthrights. By drawing lots, the promised land of Canaan was divided amongst the 12 tribes (Levi do not have land but Joseph has two portions). Joshua did not conquer the whole land but only the major cities. The tribes each have to conquest their own territories. Yahweh commands have been very specific. To reclaim the land, they have to kill everything living on it-men, women, children and even the livestock. This is genocide but Yahweh has his reasons. The inhabitants of these lands have their own gods- Baal and Asherah. Asherah was the goddess of the sea in Ugaritic literature in Syria; she was the consort of El. Asherah should not be confused with Ashtoreth, the consort of Baal. If these people are not eradicated, the Israelites in settling among them will be contaminated and lose their devotion to Yahweh. It may seem a bloody solution to a pure religion but we are trying to understand a complex situation with 21st century eyes. Unfortunately, the Israelites did not obey God. In some cases, they cannot defeat the natives so have to settle near them. In other cases, they decide to live with them and intermarry. Hence, the Israelites did exactly the opposed of what God has told them to do. There are a few instances of major points in history where things would have been different if the people involved have obeyed God
But the tribes did intermarry and followed the worship of other gods. Not only did they follow after other gods, they also forgot ‘Yahweh’. Makes one wonder, doesn’t it?
What is the circle of sin?
Why are they called judges? They are not judges in the sense as we understand a judge. They do not preside over a court of lands and deliberate on legal matters. They are more like military leaders. All except one is a prophet. But judges are associated with justice. And the Hebrew root word for justice is very closely related with righteousness. So these judges are the upholder of justice or in other words, the upholder of righteousness of Yahweh in a land that has became unrighteous.
How can we avoid being trapped in the circle of sin?
13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
Important to note that this armour is more for defense than offence. V.13 ‘stand your ground and after you have done everything to stand.’ In the warfare of that time, the infantry face each other and charge at each other and then engaged in man to hand combat. In London recently, I bought a novel of Simon Scarrow, The Eagle’s Prey. This is for 12 hours inflight reading back to Malaysia. Simon Scarrow is a British historian on the Roman invasion of the British isles. His novels were about the military exploits of a Roman legion in Britain in 44AD. The Roman army was then the most powerful army in the world. It was disciplined, well trained and well armed. The shield was a large shield with a gap at the right side. The innovation in warfare is what they called the ‘turtle’. Here the solders stand together and put their shield together forming a formation. With the shield together, the solders are protected from arrows, stones and spears. Those behind the first row push against the first row and move in to take their place when there is a gap in the first row. This formation is impenetrable. The enemy will break themselves against the formation. All the Roman soldiers have to do is to stand and stand firm. When the enemies pressed against the shield, they are unable to move due to those from the back who are pushing forward. The Roman soldier will use their broad swords and stab through the gap at the shield.
I am sure this is what Paul has in mind when he use the illustration of the Roman armour to teach us how to stand against the attacks of Satan. Those who want to resist sinning will be special targets of Satan. The armour of God is the answer to the attack.
The armour is not complete without prayer. The Ephesians 6 passage about the armour of God ends with prayer v.18
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
We are stronger as a community. As Ecclesiastes said in Ecc.4:9 -12
9 Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their work:
10 If one falls down,
his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls
and has no one to help him up!
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
o Accountability. We need to develop a network of accountability to one another. I would suggest that we form ourselves into groups of two or three people. Find people you are trust and are comfortable with.
o Agree to meet together regularly.
o Share with one another.
o Agree to be accountable to one another.
o Be willing to confront one another and ask hard questions, “How is your soul?”
o Commit to pray for one another.
The fruits of breaking the circle of sin are described in Isa 32:16-17
Justice will dwell in the desert
and righteousness live in the fertile field.
17 The fruit of righteousness will be peace;
the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.
How many of us can say we really feel peace in the last week. We are worried and anxious. Are we walking with Jesus or have we left Him behind somewhere and are walking in a circle of sin?
Soli Deo Gloria
"treat, heal, and comfort always"
"spiritual forming disciples of Jesus Christ with informed minds, hearts on fire and contemplative in actions"
Except where otherwise
noted, content on this site is
© 2006-2017 Alex Tang