Deborah and Barak

Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel came up to her for judgment. She sent and summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh-naphtali and said to him, “Has not the Lord, the God of Israel, commanded you, ‘Go, gather your men at Mount Tabor, taking 10,000 from the people of Naphtali and the people of Zebulun. And I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the river Kishon with his chariots and his troops, and I will give him into your hand’?” Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” And she said, “I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh. And Barak called out Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh. And 10,000 men went up at his heels, and Deborah went up with him. Judges 4:4-10.

Barak sometimes gets some flak for not wanting to fight Sisera unless Deborah went with him. I always thought Barak wanted to make sure that the person who gave the word to fight was as invested as the person who did the fighting. Besides, Hebrews 11:32 records Barak as a man of faith, listed alongside Gideon, Samson, Samuel and David.

For his uncertainty about her word to fight Sisera, Deborah tells him that Sisera would be delivered to a woman. He probably thought she was talking about herself, but it turned out to be Jael, who killed Sisera whole he slept.

In the final analysis, it is not unreasonable to want the prophet to be at risk for his or her declarations.

War and it’s Purpose

Now these are the nations that the Lord left, to test Israel by them, that is, all in Israel who had not experienced all the wars in Canaan. It was only in order that the generations of the people of Israel might know war, to teach war to those who had not known it before. These are the nations: the five lords of the Philistines and all the Canaanites and the Sidonians and the Hivites who lived on Mount Lebanon, from Mount Baal-hermon as far as Lebo-hamath. They were for the testing of Israel, to know whether Israel would obey the commandments of the Lord, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses. So the people of Israel lived among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And their daughters they took to themselves for wives, and their own daughters they gave to their sons, and they served their gods. Judges 3:1-6.

When Israel stopped fighting their enemies and started coexisting with them, God used them to test His people. The Canaanites we’re there to be resisted. War was inevitable.

Reading this reminded me that Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword,” Matthew 10:34. Jesus came to free us from sin, but He knew that many would make peace with sin, becoming it’s ally.

People get tired of opposing evil. They would rather have good trade relations with the wicked than oppose them. It’s the reason we don’t like to share the gospel. It is a threat to the status quo. We know it’s going to change people’s lives, and that will mean giving up their guilty pleasure.

I was giving the invitation to receive Jesus to a group of children one day when I told the that Jesus would change their lives. One boy blurted out, “But I don’t want my life to change!” And that is the battle.

The Law of Judgment

And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger. They abandoned the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. Whenever they marched out, the hand of the Lord was against them for harm, as the Lord had warned, and as the Lord had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress. Judges 2:11-15.

Another generation had risen and all they had was the written record of what had happened. They did not see the Red Sea part, they did not see the Jordan River part, and the people who had seen these things had died. And they fell right in with the idolators. They served the local gods, so God sent an angel to tell them He was not fighting for them anymore.

This is how it seems today. The word of God is not enough. We wait for political leaders to offer temporary relief. We can see them, hear them, and we even thank God for them. But as soon as we get some relief, we are right back to chasing after money and pleasure. We still don’t get it.

He told us to preach the gospel to every creature, to make disciples of them and teach them to obey. He didn’t tell us to build buildings and wait inside til He returns. That is not how we conquer and possess the land. We do it by converting the lost, and unfortunately, we’d rather do anything else.

Are there NPC’s in our churches?

It was only yesterday that I didn’t know what these plain cartoon characters were about. Now I know. The New York Times has reported that it is the pro-Trump Internet’s favorite insult. It took watching a few YouTube videos for me to grasp their significance.

The short version is this: NPC stands for Non-playable Character, and it comes from the online gaming world, where there are some characters that are generated by the game’s program, and they have no thoughts of their own. It became significant when a group of internet trolls created Twitter accounts and used versions of these characters to spout leftist bullet points and urge people to vote on November 7th, the day after Election Day. Twitter suspended about 1500 accounts for participating in this egregious form of free speech. And now these characters are all the rage, delighting conservatives in the know and triggering sensitive liberals. And I knew nothing about it until I decided to find out why they ere showing up on Facebook and YouTube.

I am quite aware that there are many foolish people who have few thoughts of their own, who are so peer dependent that they are afraid of being independent. But this is not limited to civic involvement. Many fields of endeavor have their posers who have learned to parrot the right things to earn acceptance. Whether you are a man using pick-up lines on gullible girls, or a teenager wearing the trendiest clothes so you will be cool, being fake is not a new thing. We’ve all done it, but that does not keep us from taking perverse delight in someone else being exposed in his fakery.

As a minister of the Gospel, I have been dealing with many church members who could be classified as NPC’s. They seem to have no role to play other than helping to fill a church sanctuary, and giving some token offerings. They are not particularly bad. nor are they particularly good. They are interchangeable with other members who seem to have no individual calling or passion that drives them. They are often in attendance, but never in charge. They are the church’s NPC’s: Nominally Participating Christians.

How do we recognize participation if it is not being merely present? It is not by its perfection, or high achievement. Mistakes are made and losses are suffered. But the Authentic Player is invested. He steps out and puts his faith to the test. We see them in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30.

In this parable there are three servants. Each is given a sum of money to invest by their master, who is going away for awhile. They each get different amounts. Two of them put their master’s money at risk and make a profit. But one buried his master’s money in the ground, and dug it up to give it back because thought the master was harsh and unreasonable. This man was called lazy and worthless and was rejected. He did not play the game. He was just there.

I am sometimes called negative for pointing out failure. I do it so that a course correction can be made, not to demoralize anyone. Likewise, Jesus told this parable to help people realize that they are expected to play the game, take risks, be invested. The one who buried the talent blamed the master for being too hard. That doesn’t cut it.

As I go about my business of seeking laborers for the Lord’s harvest, and as church members make excuses for why it’s too hard to play God’s game, it will be hard for me not to see these people as NPC’s: fearful of taking risks or making investments or making mistakes. I can’t tell if they are lazy servants who will be cast into outer darkness, or if they are just weak brothers and sisters that need to be carried a little further. Which ever it is, God’s word tells us to warn the idle among us (2 Thessalonians 3:6).

Unfinished Business

Manasseh did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shean and its villages, or Taanach and its villages, or the inhabitants of Dor and its villages, or the inhabitants of Ibleam and its villages, or the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages, for the Canaanites persisted in dwelling in that land. When Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not drive them out completely.

And Ephraim did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites lived in Gezer among them.

Zebulun did not drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, or the inhabitants of Nahalol, so the Canaanites lived among them, but became subject to forced labor. Judges 1:27-30.

For the nation of Israel, conquest was good enough. Instead of completely driving out the idolators, they got weary of it and decided to rule over them as their masters. This has not gone well. Instead of obeying God and executing His judgments, they created a permanent opposition party that hounds them to this day.

For America, our disobedience comes in many forms. The African slave trade, begun by the Europeans who settled here, was the kidnapping and subjugation of people who weren’t even on their continent. There was never any biblical justification for this crime, although the most wrongheaded reading of the scriptures were routinely trotted out to sooth their greedy consciences.

You don’t have to think about it very hard to conclude that America was never really a Christian nation, but merely a religious one, that has had periodic rashes of conversions that we call revival.

We will never know if more Africans would have come to Christ if instead of sharing the gospel as their masters, Europeans and Americans had approached them as benefactors. But we do know that we would now be living in a different America.