Links Daily Devotional

The Cry of Despair

Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the LORD for help. (Judges 6:6, NIV)

How bad does it have to get? Your golf game, I mean.

How many slices into the yawning woods and slashed hybrids into the water? How many chunked wedges and bladed pitch shots? How many three- and four-putts? How bad must it get before you’re humbled enough to get help?

In the ancient days of the judges (or “rulers”), the Israelite people of God made a habit of finding rock bottom. They would, by the wanderlust of their hearts for foreign idols and of their loins for foreign women, leave Yahweh behind. They “did evil in the eyes of the LORD.”

God’s normal response to such behavior was to give his people over to their enemies, invaders and occupiers who would harass the people in every terrible way. At the beginning of Judges 6, the enemies du jour were the Midianites, a people “so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves, and strongholds.” Still, when the Israelites ventured out enough to plant crops for their basest subsistence, the Midianites ruined the crops and impoverished the Israelites more deeply.

In the end, the horrors of the enemy turned the eyes of the Israelites again to their one enduring advocate. They cried out to God.

It is common in our time to assume that everything that looks painful must be meant for our injury. Thus, “a loving God” would never expect anything challenging of us, never anything that would bring us to a bitter end. In a way, this is true; God does not want the end to be bitter for anyone. He desires that all would come to repentance and be saved in Christ. But he also recognizes what he has seen in even his called-out people for millennia: we know full well how to self-destruct. We leave him for lesser things. And we are too proud to call on his mercy.

For this reason, pain came to the Israelites through the Egyptians, Philistines, Moabites, Midianites, and Babylonians, to name a few. And for this reason, pain still comes to those who choose to desert the Lord, despite his every warning. He will use the worst of troubles, the harshest consequences of our sin, to wake us to his excellence.

But there is a way to avoid this. For a number of years we had a Links Players board member who seemed to understand the way of humility. This friend likely set the world record for taking golf lessons—250 and counting the last time we talked! All these lessons left him little time for golf. It sounds silly, but it is a great picture for those of us who really want to live well in Jesus. Go to the Savior first, before the trouble. Go to him often, so temptations don’t have a chance to build momentum in your heart. And go to him obediently, acting in continuing certainty that his way is best.

Jeff Hopper

March 7, 2012

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