Judges 21:25, "In those days
there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own
This morning, our mind is drawn to an unpleasant thought, but it is definitely very relevant in the world today. Man, by nature, has not changed any since the fall in the garden. His wickedness, by nature, will propagate itself to the farthest allowable bound - and stretch that bound if given the opportunity. Today we hear touted, "People are going to do what they are going to do anyway." That statement is only a partial truth as people do what they desire to do within the bounds that they have to do them. If they see a way to stretch or break a bound without suffering any perceived consequences, then they will do it. Truly, without governance of any kind, man's wickedness would be rampant and unstoppable. The more we lessen statutes and ordinances the more room we lend for man to stretch wicked muscles in different areas.
Our verse above closes out a very rough period of Israel's history. The book of Judges is a series of cycles that chronicles their departure and return to their God over and over through the lives of various judges in the land. Shortly after Joshua departed this life, they began to govern themselves as they saw fit. During this self-governance, they went off into idolatry and rejected God's way. For this defiance, God suffered and delivered them up into some form of bondage or affliction, and then the people cried unto God again for deliverance. In accordance with this petition, God raised up a judge to deliver them from their affliction, and the people would "generally" remain faithful through the lifetime of that judge. Then, the judge would die, and they would go right back to rejection of God, wandering into idolatry, and doing that which was right in their own eyes. This cycle repeats itself throughout this book, and today, we can look at different periods of our own history in recent centuries and decades to see the same behaviour among us.
Paul instructed the young minister Timothy that laws are not made for the righteous and lawful, but for the unrighteous and lawless. (I Timothy 1:8-11) During these periods or cycles through the book of Judges, we understand that good people still lived in trying to serve God as they should. A good example of this would be Boaz from the book of Ruth. He lived during the times of the judges, but his conduct showed him to be a righteous man that was very mindful not only of his Creator, but showed it forth to his workers, had mercy on a stranger - Ruth, and lawfully strove to keep the precepts that God gave Moses. The point of the Boaz example is that even during times of self-governance, there will be some faithful souls that are striving to do what is right - not in their own eyes, but having their own eyes focused on what is right in keeping with God's word. Boaz's eyes did see what was right, and he followed it. However, Boaz knew what was right
not from his own eyes (or opinions, perceptions, and notions) but from the very ordinances of God.
Today, a state of anarchy would yield a great mass of people living in a state of lawlessness and unruly riot. However, God will not leave Himself without a witness in this earth, and no matter how uncontrollable the world may seem to be (from our perspective)
Transitioning for a moment, let us consider the spiritual side of our verse for a moment. We can see many parallels naturally between them then and us today, but let us see what application today we can find for our spiritual well-being. Many people we meet (and if honest, ourselves included) go through periods of zeal and coldness. One of my favourite songs (because it expresses my experience so well) is "Mixtures of Joy and Sorrow." Our life is a mixture of pleasant and unpleasant experiences, and sometimes even the same scenario can lead to joy or sorrow: "Sometimes when I am praying it seems almost a task. Sometimes receive a blessing, the greatest I can ask." During some of these up and down times, we are susceptible to doing what we do because we feel that it is right, rather than because God's word says it is right. We may, at times, seek earnestly and zealously to help someone and try to "get back on the straight and narrow" because we
feel that it is the right thing to do.
Many people I know, my own age, are entering a time in their life when they are trying to do better than they have before. They are seeking to shed that young person's idea of "life is a party" and put down something more meaningful in their life. However, the reason that they are seeking to do this is, "The children need a more structured and good environment to live in." As noble as that may be, their efforts are generally short-lived as they fall right back into their old lifestyle. This is not to say that they are unregenerate, wicked individuals, but their motive for doing what they did was "it was right in their own eyes." They did not do it because they love God's word, and it commands it. Their idea was right in their own eyes, and it cycled back to a period of being right back in affliction to the old man. Other people sometimes come to a funeral of a loved one and hear and Old Baptist preacher talk about salvation by grace. Having never heard these things before (but showing interest in them), they say, "Where do you preach?" After telling them, they say, "I am going to start coming there." Many of them never come, but occasionally some do, and sadly, most of these cases are short-lived as well. Again, they said they would come and some came because it was right in their own eyes. The only lasting, consistent behaviour of righteous living must stem from the fact that our own eyes have been attuned to that which is good.
Yet others have some crisis in their lives that re-focuses their dependence upon God. I remember after 9/11 that many churches around the country saw a great influx of attendees. Even our country churches had people come that had never come before. Sadly, it lasted about month in duration. The comers were coming as it seemed right in their eyes to do so. The cycle will always continue when we are given to doing what our eyes perceive as right. God's children that have been tendered by His grace have the capability of knowing something is right, just, and good when they are exposed to it. However, their inclination will not consistently be geared to it until they are following it after an honest and knowledgeable desire to that which is right. Thinking something is good from our own mind is a vast difference from our mind following after that which God's word says is good because it is right.
Therefore, may our eyes be attuned to that which is right. Only following after that which is right because it is from God will yield consistent results. However, even God in His mercy granted them seasons of repose and peace during the space of a judge's authority. During these times, people listened to the righteous judge and received peace. It is my desire and prayer to always (regardless of the external circumstances) remain faithful to God's commands as the right way, but may we pray that our outward circumstances yield judges and rulers that walk righteously, which path leads to peace. Rulers are a blessing to have, and may we pray that they honour and extol God's way for that leads away from us doing that which our eyes think is right and leads toward our eyes seeing what truly is right.