Every passing week makes it simply more obvious that the American culture is essentially one prolonged celebration of immorality. This is true at the popular level—gay marriage at the Grammys? Really?—as well as at the more erudite academic level, where it is a virtue to be critically authoritative with a healthy disdain for absolute truth.
While once we held to a Christian veneer, now sexual sin is pushed as progressive, abortion is funded by tax dollars, and the fear of the Lord has been replaced with the celebration of self. Where people used to blush, they now boast. Having been been “liberated” from biblical ethics, our society has instead produced a culture of death. People define virtue not on God’s terms, but instead as doing what is right in their own eyes. Even in churches the gospel of grace is often replaced with a man-centered watered-down substitute, as if acceptability were the goal and compromise the means God has chosen to establish his church.
Has there ever been another culture that has slid this far, this fast?
Yes, and yes. While the US has the evils of abortion and slavery for which to answer, Israel too had her own sin that led to its ruin. Moses may have led them across the wilderness, but his grandson inaugurated a religion of idols. The generation that ate manna gave way to the generation that delighted itself in doing evil. Those that received the Torah were replaced by those that sold idols—and they did so at a discounted price. Israel shed tears at Joshua’s death, and then rejected Joshua’s God. Their men refused to lead, their leaders were sexually immoral, cowards, and idolaters. Human sacrifice became an acceptable form of worship.
And yet God remained their only hope. Despite their recalcitrance and self-reliance, Yahweh insisted on raising up savior after savior, one deliverer after another. Where sin abounded, God’s deliverance abounded all the more, and behind every miracle was the promise that God would one day send a savior who was not a sinful Judge, but sinless king.
For this reason, Judges is an important book to be familiar with. It may not show us how to live, but it shows us what kind of God we live for. Ours is not the only generation to do what is right in our own eyes, and Judges has a way for bringing clarity to that noxious notion that trying to be a good person is somehow a good thing.
This year I’ve committed to reading Judges over and over and over again. I’ve been living in it for the last few weeks, and will continue to do so for the next few. I want to know it, own it, and be repulsed by it. I want to preach it (I’m through chapter 6 right now), and I want to learn how compromise grows, and how discipline increases.
Next week I’ll post a few lessons I’ve drawn out of Judges so far. But for today I hope that you simply see the parallel between the distressing day of the Judges, where everyone did what was right in their own eyes, and today—when everyone is right in their own eyes. When personal freedom is elevated to moral certitude, God’s judgment has never been very far behind—and it is always followed by his salvation.