I think that our culture in the United States seems to be turned upside down. It seems that, in the perception of many, what was once considered good is now perceived as bad. What was once perceived as bad is now thought of as good.
We even see this reflected in our use of words. A long time ago, people used expressions like “holy smoke” or “hunky dory.” My generation said things like “Far out, man!” and “Whoa, that is really heavy!” And one word that has always stayed current is “cool.”
Another popular word today is “hot,” as in “That is so hot.” And something can be “cool” and “hot” at the same time.
Then, if something is really cool or super hot, we will say, “That is bad!” If you have a fast car, someone might ask you, “How fast does that bad boy go?” That is because good is now bad, and bad is now good.
If something is really bad or good, we might say, “That is wicked!” We mean that in a positive way. We might even insert the word “killer.” Then, if it is really great, we say, “That is sick! It is just sick!” So good is bad. Really good is killer and/or wicked. And really, really good is sick.
There was a time when, if someone was doing something immoral, we might say, “That is bad.” If someone was living with a girl or a guy, it was said, “That is bad.” If you were married, that was good. Nowadays, of course, that has been turned upside down. If you think marriage is between a man and a woman, then that is bad … not right, narrow. Everything has been turned around.
Here is what God says about that mentality: “What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter” (Isaiah 5:20 NLT).
God is saying, in effect, “I am telling you what is good. I am going to define what is good, and if you call bad what I say is good, then you are wrong.”
The Old Testament book of Judges describes a time when everything was upside down, much like it is today: “All the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes” (Judges 17:6). If we were to update this verse to more current language, it would read, “Everyone was doing their own thing,” or “Everyone had their own truth.” One person might say, “Hey man, your truth isn’t my truth. I live by my own value system. You can live by your value system – unless of course it encroaches on mine.” Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.
This can happen to Christians as well. We commit our lives to Christ. We effectively give him the master key to every door of our lives, but we leave a few closets locked up because we have some skeletons in them. We have some areas that we don’t really turn over to Christ. Then those little problems eventually turn into big problems.
It is not unlike having a tree that has overtaken your yard, and you decide it is time to remove it. But you can’t just cut it down. You have to pull out the stump, or it will grow back. It might even grow back stronger the next time and cause more trouble.
In the same way, sin needs to be rooted out in our lives. If we compromise a little here and a little there, little things will turn into big things. We forget that. It is sort of like when people buy cute little bunnies at Easter. They are so adorable, but little bunnies turn into full-grown rabbits that poop everywhere. And those nice little chicks turn into chickens. Little things turn into big things, and that is how sin can work in our lives. That is how it was working in the lives of the Israelites.
So God raised up judges to provide leadership for the people. When we think of judges, we might think of a judge that we would see in a courtroom today. But that isn’t the way judges were at that time. These judges were more like officers of the law in the Wild West. A judge would be a warrior. A judge would enforce things. So judges were raised up – 13 men and one woman.
Approximately 200 years had passed since Joshua led the Israelites on their famous march around the walls of Jericho. By God’s power, the walls fell, and Israel had conquered many of the inhabitants of Canaan. But they didn’t finish the job. They did not drive all the Canaanites from the land, and they lived to regret it.
Two centuries years later, the tables were turned. The Canaanites regained strength and began to dominate Israel. And as Judges chapter 6 opens, the Israelites are living under the power of a group known as the Midianites. This was the result of God’s disciplining Israel because they had disobeyed him. So he turned them over to the Midianites for seven years.
Could God ever use a nonbelieving nation to overtake a believing nation as a form of punishment? The answer is yes. That should stand as a warning to our nation if we continue to thumb our nose at God, continue to break his laws left and right, and continue to go out of our way to remove him from our culture in every way. We should never think that we could not be overtaken by another nation – a godless nation, if you will. Instead, we should to turn to the Lord. That is what ancient Israel forgot to do.