TODAY’S READING: Judges 10–11
God loves monogamy. He wants to be our only love, to be our only God, to be in holy matrimony with one pure and holy bride, to bless us that we bless all the peoples of earth. God gave instructions to the Israelites concerning other gods, warning His people not to worship local deities (Deut. 6:14–15). How heart-rending to the Husband, then, when His bride has multiple affairs. When we, the bride of Christ, are unfaithful to our Husband, we not only break His heart, we also remove ourselves from His plan. We no longer can be trusted to bless the nations of the earth. The spiritual infidelity of the church leads to the spiritual poverty of the unreached.
Judges 10:6 tells us that the children of Israel “served the Baals and the Ashtoreths”—multiple gods and multiple betrayals. God’s people were serial adulterers. Not content with one betrayal, they (we) continually broke God’s heart and assaulted God’s mission plan. “By worshiping the Baals and Ashtoreths of Canaan, the Israelites were following the normal religious traditions of their day. They would have learned from the indigenous population that these gods were owners of this land, and needed to be worshiped in order to prosper there. Thus, the culture of the time made it difficult for many Israelites to ignore the gods of the new locality.” The Israelites gave into the pressure and allure of prosperity. They wanted food, shelter, provision, and security, so they bought into the lie that they had to serve false gods in order to prosper.
As the centuries have rolled by, man has become no wiser, just more sophisticated. We still adulterate with Baals and Ashtoreths; we just call them dollars, euros, and yen. The modern Christian’s syncretism is not so crude as to have physical idols in the living room. We set our idols up in IRA accounts, storage units, second cars, and house-sized cottages on the lake—and there we bow. If we have money, we hoard it. If we don’t have it, we lust for it and do whatever we can to get it. We buy into the lie that in order to have security we must be prosperous. Our first energy and our true worship, as evidenced by where we spend our time, how little we give to missions, and what motivates us, is not to Jehovah, but to mammon. This is why “Babylon” (as the depiction of the love of money and the security we think it provides) is one of the last enemies to be destroyed. Mammon is the idol of every age, and it must die before the final death of death. A litmus test on our devotion to Jehovah is if we serve mammon or if we use it to serve God’s mission purposes in all the earth. We pass or fail that test on whether we give to missions from our abundance or from our lack. We can take no comfort in a generosity that doesn’t hurt or cost us.
The great Giver of heaven longs to hear His people cry: “We have sinned against You, because we have both forsaken our God [and His mission] and served the Baals [of mammon]” (10:10)! Unfortunately, in the book of Judges that cry was not heard until all prosperity and security was lost and the people had nowhere else to go. It is one of the great tragedies of human history that we tend not to call on the Lord until we have violated His intimate covenant and experienced His hot anger (v. 7). It doesn’t have to be this way, but it usually is. One of the great deceptions of human society is that our children justify the pursuit of security, riches, power, and status. We rationalize our idolatry by telling ourselves it will be better for our children. The bizarre story of Jephthah’s daughter corrects us through her mouth: “If you have given your word to the Lord, do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, because the Lord has avenged you of your enemies, the people of Ammon” (11:36). A pure child rejoiced that God’s purposes were accomplished among the nations. The point is not to excuse any stupid oath or action by the parent, the point is that our children prefer the glory of God among the nations to their personal security. Don’t hide your idolatry behind your children. The Spirit of God in your children wants you to use all you have for the glory of God among the nations. Countless prospective missionaries have needlessly worried about the cost to their children if they go to the unreached. As a missionary kid born in Africa, I can testify that the greatest gift my parents ever gave me was to crush their idols of mammon and to lift up their worship of Jesus among the nations.
 The Chronological Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008. 274.