Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 54; 146, Judges 2:1–5, 11–23, Romans 16:17–27, Matthew 27:32–44
The book of Judges recounts the history of Israel between the time of Joshua’s death and the reign of Saul, Israel’s first king. The second chapter begins a cycle that repeats several times: Israel prospers, then grows lax and disobedient and God withdraws his favor; eventually the plight of the Israelites softens his heart and he sends a judge to set them back on the right track. Over a dozen times. We may or may not experience our fortunes and misfortunes proportional to God’s favor, but we can all find lessons in these stories.
One simple, yet important lesson: learn from your mistakes. For two centuries, the Israelites teetered on the brink of ruin multiple times, always for the same reason. It is easy to shake our heads at their stubborn foolishness, but we’ve all been there. Maybe relationship after relationship sours because we can’t change our ways. Maybe our weight boomerangs in a cycle of diet and despair. Maybe we repeatedly sabotage our job or education or finances because we cling to a particular mindset. Everyone has some story of an attitude or habit they had difficulty changing (or still need to). Most of us have more than one. Not everyone needs a twelve step program, but sometimes we all need to surrender to the higher power integral to success.
Another related lesson: neglecting our relationship with God has consequences. Perhaps not direct punishment, but consequences intrinsic to our behavior – a sort of “built-in” system of moral checks and balances. Christ and the prophets teach us to put God and our neighbor above materialistic concerns, yet advertising and other influential aspects of our culture tell us exactly the opposite. However, our novels and films abound with morality tales about the dangers of prioritizing wealth, popularity, vanity, etc. In these tales, people nearly always either arrive at a bad end or save themselves by repenting. Could these stories be popular because they strike a chord of truth within us? By nurturing our relationship with God, we can focus on priorities that deliver a true abundance, an abundance of the spirit.
Comfort: Like the north star, God helps our path stay true if we follow him.
Challenge: Change one part of your routine today and observe the effects.
Prayer: Merciful and loving God, my heart is set on you. Amen.
Discussion: What habits have you found hard to break?
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