Gratitude as Spiritual Gauge, Grace Orientation – Judges 8:33-35
We continue our study in Judges; we are at the end of chapter 8. The book of Judges is a book that is particularly appropriate for our generation and our culture today because it has as its theme the fact that in Israel at that time there was no king, meaning that they had rejected the divine kingship of God who was the head, the executive officer in the theocratic kingdom. Israel was set up as a theocracy so God was the head of state and they rejected God and whenever you reject God and you reject the source of absolutes then the only source of value…. We live in a culture today where we are under those same influences. The nation that rejects God as the absolute source of value… when you reject God as the ultimate source of absolutes, then all you're left with is basically majority opinion or whatever you think happens to be right at any particular moment. We live in a culture that is that way and we are seeing a lot of those things today. Every night on the news and reading the papers and editorials you can see how relativism is impacting our culture and changing it for the worse, almost on a day to day basis.
So as we go through this study of Judges what I want you to understand…I just got back from the regional Evangelical Theological Society meeting down in Philadelphia and Friday night and Saturday morning with Charlie Clough, so it was just a great opportunity for me to sit down and exchange ideas and talk about things with some other like-minded thinkers. One of the things that we were talking about was homiletics; in seminary your typical homiletics course, you're taught… they never teach more than 30 or 40 minutes because people are trained to have short attention spans by every five minutes having a commercial on TV, and you should never have more than two or three points because people just can't handle that. And my critique of all that is that the homiletics philosophy governing most seminaries today is contributing to the dumbing down of Christianity and reducing Christianity to something that is extremely superficial. Any decent complex thought cannot be fully developed in 20, 30, even 40 minutes.
Sometimes as we go through the Scriptures, what I'm doing in our study of Judges, more than I do in some other things because of the nature of the literature in Judges, is we may take two or three weeks to go through a particular passage just to understand what was happening in the historical context in Judges. In Judge 6 we spent a lot of time talking about the Midianites and Gideon and the terminology that's there and how it relates to covenant terminology in Leviticus 26 and the blessing and cursing motifs. And if we're going to even appreciate what the text says in Judges 6, 7 and 8 we have to come to it with that background, with that understanding. We have to be able to appreciate what the author was communicating to his Jewish audience in about 1000 or 1200 BC before we can ever start applying it. And then after we go through what the original author intended and come to understand what the text is, then we have to start developing out what application is and that may take even more time.
So usually what I've been doing, like last week I went through Judges 8, the last part of Judges 8, we wrapped that up and we looked at that in terms of what the text says and what was going on, and then today we're going to come back and look at some application. And as we've gone through this I've tried to point out different things that are happening around us culturally that are symptoms of the relativism in our own culture and own society just to help us develop that critical thinking to see how the absolutes of Scripture apply to what goes on around us. And I had a couple of examples, one was sent to me through e-mail and one I learned while I was away the last couple of days, but it appears that here in the state of Connecticut we are on the cutting edge of fascist domination and the loss of freedom and full-fledged attacks on liberty in this nation. Isn't it wonderful to live in such a pagan location?
According to an article, the headline is "Family's Guns Seized after Child Makes a Threat." "Pro-gun advocates sarcastically refer to the state's controversial new gun's seizure statute," if you didn't know that, a law was passed in this state that if anybody thinks that you might harm someone with a firearm that you own, then the state has the right to come in and confiscate it. That's the same thing that Hitler and the Nazis did in Germany starting in about 1934-1935; once a citizenry no longer has the right to protect itself then the government can come in and take away all of their freedoms and so the first thing that a totalitarian fascist government does is to start confiscating firearms under whatever justification they can come up with and the latest thing in school violence has provided that justification. We just don't understand what the problems are any more and we are, in many cases…not to diminish the seriousness of school violence, but we have had fewer people killed through school violence in the last two or three years than we've had killed in the county in the last two or three years. Let's put things in a little bit of perspective here and not run off threatening people who are law abiding citizens who possess firearms and using these incidents as a means to pass fascist laws.
This article goes on to read, that this law allows police to go to a person's home, "confiscate all the guns, if the person poses an imminent risk of injury to himself or others," a highly subjective decision, how do you know if someone poses an imminent risk of injury to himself, I mean, anybody can trump up a charge on that. "Now with school violence an all too common occurrence that law in Milford has been applied to entire families. It was the words last week of a 12 year old boy, a student, that has now ignited a new skirmish in Connecticut's gun control battle. Milford's police not only charged the boy with breach of peace but also, for the first time, used Connecticut's gun seizure law to remove 30 rifles and pistols from the boy's home, all properly secured." That means they were legally owned, they were legally registered and they were legally locked. All the laws were being followed by the parent who was the gun owner. The 12 year old was not the gun owner. And he was a hunter and a firearm collector. "Pro-gun advocates say this is what they've been afraid of since the seizure law was passed. They point out that the law's language talks about the person who possesses the guns and the advocates question why police couldn't have acted short of seizure. But even a Republican state lawmaker from Milford, who originally voted against the seizure law, now wants it expanded to include not only the guns a person possesses but also those they have immediate access to." That means that if your child makes this threat and the child of your next door neighbor makes this threat and that child is a friend of your child, and therefore might possibly have access to guns locked away in your house, then the fascist government in Hartford can come in and confiscate your weapons. This is an attack on freedom.
Here's a great quote from Samuel Adams: "If you love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better then the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsel or your arms, crouch down and lick the hands of those who feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you and may posterity forget that you are our countrymen." We are in dangerous times today and I fear that at some point they're going to try to apply that law and somebody is going to have immediate access to a firearm and start retaliating as the police come to seize their weaponry. And that is going to further escalate all of this, and it is, mark my words, this is a direct assault by a fascist government on true freedom loving citizens. And the citizens who sit back and allow this to happen, don't voice anything to their legislators about this, are citizens who are willing to just give up their freedom and to go into slavery to a fascist totalitarian government. We are making mountains out of molehills in many things and we don't get the truth in many regards, and we let people with specific political agendas that are out to destroy this nation and destroy freedom dominate the political process.
Another example of this in our culture is that people are on a self-righteous crusade to make everybody live longer by stamping out smoking. Whether you like smoking or whether you don't like smoking, the reality is it's just a decision made freely of choice by consenting adults. If they want to do it then they have the right to do it and the person who engages in smoking as a habit will have an average reduction of their lifespan of ten years. So everybody's on the band wagon to stamp out smoking. So we all agree this is wonderful, we're on this social crusade to perfect society and we're going to take this approach because we don't want those people cutting their lives short by ten years so let's go on a crusade.
I've got a better one, what about a practice that if you engage in that practice of your own free will, that it will shorten your lifespan by an average of 25 years. If we're going to stamp out smoking certainly we ought to eliminate and make illegal this other practice, shouldn't we, I mean, let's be consistent. You see, those who practice sodomy, which is the technical term for homosexuality, the terms heterosexual and homosexual were coined about 120 years ago, before that there was a term sexual and perversion or sodomy. Heterosexuality and homosexuality were terms that were coined in order to give legitimacy to the idea that there were sexual options. So once you start using that terminology, what that does is it validates the underlying presupposition that these are valid choices. So whenever you use those words, just remember, you've already granted the enemy their presupposition and you've already lost the debate. And the technical legal term is sodomy. Those who practice sodomy will reduce their life expectancy by an average of 25 years. We're going to let that go by and we're going to go after something like smoking.
You see, there's an agenda underlying this; the issue is not health, the issue is not trying to make a better environment for everybody because we're too selective, we're not being consistent and that's what happens when relativism dominates and the society becomes the arbiter of values that what's right or wrong in one decade then becomes the demonized evil of the next decade and you no longer can know how to think or operate from the basis of principle alone. So society becomes very fluid and ultimately what happens is the government, then, will become the determiner of what is right and what is wrong, and that is when you get into full blown totalitarianism and fascism, and we are well on our way in this nation, if you didn't realize it until now.
So we see the same thing happening in Gideon's time and they're going to go back into anarchy at the end of this chapter because of their rejection of God. So let's review what we covered last time at the end of Judges 8. We saw Gideon's failure and that after he has his wonderful victory over the Midianite-Amalekite coalition, delivers the nation from their enemies and brings freedom back to the nation, they immediately fall into arrogance, they reject God's provision, and Gideon himself falls right back into arrogance, sets up an idol through this ephod that was a priestly garment, made out of gold, that was put on an idol, and that then became an object of worship in Israel. And then Gideon began…they had offered him the kingship; in false humility he rejected it but he acted as if he were king. He had numerous wives and that was typical of an oriental despot of that time, that they had many wives and that was forbidden in Deuteronomy, that a king of Israel could not have more than one wife, then he had concubines besides, which was a woman that had some minor legal status but was there for the pure sexual pleasure of the man, which shows once again we're seeing this deteriorization.
In paganism the role of the woman becomes more and more a sex object, abuse increases, I'm going to do a whole study on that when we get into Jephthah's daughter and then into Samson. We'll go back and see the effect of paganism on women in society because we started off seeing women at the beginning, when Israel was walking with God, as being held in respect and high regard and then by the end of the book when they're in full-blown paganism and not operating in any different manner from the Canaanites around them then women become the objects of abuse, they become sex objects and you have someone like Samson, even though he's a judge his life is no different from that of the Canaanites and he's basically a sexual predator. All these types of behavior are the symptoms of thinking a certain way, which we've identified as paganism.
Then after Gideon has led the nation, basically, back into idolatry and away from God he dies and then in Judges 8:33-35 we see the immediate results of this on the culture as a whole. "Then it came about as soon as Gideon was dead, that the sons of Israel again played the harlot," that is they were unfaithful to God, and so the analogy or metaphor of marriage is used, that they "played the harlot with the Baals, and made Baal-berith their god." One thing I want you to remember as we go into this study is that Gideon, when Gideon began his career and the preincarnate Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him as the angel of the Lord and commissioned him with his task, Gideon had difficulty accepting the direct will of God for his life, despite the fact that God appeared to him and gave it to him, and that tells us that Gideon had no real understanding of doctrine, he really didn't understand the Scriptures, he didn't understand what had been revealed to them at that point or how God was going to work in the history of the nation. So he's not oriented to doctrine, his thinking is not aligned with Scripture because he is basically ignorant of Scripture.
Furthermore, his response indicates a false humility at the very beginning and false humility is just another way of masking arrogance. And he's unwilling to trust God and he's unwilling to realize that God's solution is better than the human solution and it's not up to Gideon, it's not based on his family, it's not based on background, he gives us this excuse, well I'm from the smallest family, the tribe, and my father is just an insignificant individual and we really have no place of power or prestige so why do you want me to do this. And then we learn later that he had at least ten servants so his father is not some minor insignificant person in the tribe. So he's basically misrepresenting himself because he is trying to avoid the responsibility.
But nevertheless, God in His grace continues to teach Gideon at that point and He teaches him the same principle that God has to teach Paul much later on in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, and something that God has to teach each of us many, many times and that is to align our thinking to God's grace principles. In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 we read, "And He said to me," this is Paul learning his lesson, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." "Sufficient" means that it is more than enough, it is adequate, everything is there to meet the required task. "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected," brought to completion that is, "in weakness. Most gladly, therefore," Paul says, "I would rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties for Christ's sake, for when I am weak, then I am strong."
So Gideon learned that same principle, he learned that when he was weak, when he only had 300 warriors then he was strong, and those warriors didn't have to engage in battle to begin with, they simply surrounded the enemy of 135,000 troops and they shattered their clay pots that covered their torches and they blasted on the trumpets and God brought confusion on the enemy so that they basically routed themselves and started slaughtering themselves in all the confusion and then they were in full retreat and then Gideon's soldiers engaged them as they pursued the retreat. But it wasn't based on the power, the military accomplishments, the military training, the military acumen of Gideon or his men; it was based solely on God's power. God's solution is the only solution and it is far superior to the human solution.
Then we went through and we saw how so many different ways, especially in terms of humanistic psychology, seek to suddenly influence us into thinking that somehow we can solve our problems apart from radical dependence on the Lord. But we can't do that, we have to depend upon the Lord and we have to depend upon His grace because His grace has supplied and provided everything for us. And this is what we call grace orientation.
So let's take a few moments to remind ourselves of what grace orientation is. It is the alignment of our thinking; to orient something means to align something to reality. The last couple of days when I was driving down to Philadelphia I was constantly pulling out my road map to orient myself so I had some understanding of where I was in New Jersey because I'm not at all familiar with the geography in New Jersey or in the Philadelphia area and what you have to do with a map is you figure out where you are and locate yourself, and then you orient your map so that your concept of where you are and where you're going fits reality, and reality is defined by the Word of God. So "orientation" means to align yourself and align our thinking our mental attitude with the reality that God has revealed to us. And that is that everything that we have in life is a gift from God.
So our basic definition of grace orientation is to align our thinking, our mental attitude with the reality that everything that we have in life is a gift from God, that we deserve nothing. We have no inherent right to anything. That's a concept that runs counter to a dominate way of thinking in our society. People think they have a right to things; kids grow up, they think they have a right to a computer, they have a right to color TV, I saw some ad on TV this last week where they were talking about the fact that every kid deserves a college education. No one deserves a college education, that's not an inherent right, that's a privilege, that's something you earn, that's a something a family earns and provides for its kids. But over and over again we get this subtle message from television, from the media, from the society around us that we have certain rights.
We don't have any rights such as that. We don't deserve anything. In fact, as sinful rebellious creatures we do deserve one thing; we deserve to be instantly thrown into the lake of fire in eternal condemnation. The fact that we are allowed to continue our life breathing and enjoying all of the bounty of God is grace. That's what theologians call common grace; God's blessing provision for believer and unbeliever alike despite the fact that they don't deserve it, despite the fact that they're sinners in rebellion against Him, despite the fact that they are hostile to God. That is called common grace. So we have to align our thinking and our mental attitude with the fact that we don't deserve anything and we don't have any inherent right to anything or to possess anything or to enjoy anything but to realize that God distributes all of these blessings to us, whether they are common grace blessings for believer and unbeliever alike or whether they are spiritual blessings for believers but they are all distributed on the basis of His sovereign will.
It is God's right as the Creator to distribute these blessings and they're not based on who we are or what we do. The air we breathe, the food we eat, the health we enjoy, the jobs that pay our bills, the friends we enjoy the families we have, the homes we have, the parents we have, the children we have are all undeserved and gifts from God. Everything we have in life is a gift from God and we don't deserve any of it, and the problem is that tomorrow when it's taken away, suddenly we're angry at God.
A great illustration of this I heard years ago is, suppose a man came to your street and he walked down the street and he came to your house and he knocked on the door. You opened the door, He didn't say anything, he gave you an envelope and turned around and walked away. You came inside and opened the envelope and there was a thousand dollars in that envelope. Then tomorrow at eleven o'clock the same thing happens, at the same time, the man shows up, knocks on your door, you open the door, he doesn't say a thing, he hands you the envelope, you take the envelop and he leaves; you open it up and you're surprised, there's another thousand dollars in there. The third day it happens, at eleven o'clock he knocks on your door, you open the door, and he hands you an envelope and there's a thousand dollars. Now by the fourth day you're looking at your watch and you're expecting him at eleven o'clock, and maybe this goes on for five or six months and by now you've quite your job and you're just sitting back and enjoying this great largess, and all of a sudden eleven o'clock comes and there's no knock on the door. Now what do you think? Now you're irritable, you have a right to this, you've come to expect this every single day, but see, there's no basis for that, you have no right to that, that was just a free gift. The next day comes and you're looking, now you're going out and you're walking up and down the neighborhood looking for this guy, well where's my money.
You see, we think we have a right to everything we have and then when it disappears or it's diminished we begin to react in anger towards God because somehow we think that we are as creatures somehow valuable and impressive to God and He, of course, ought to supply many things for us because we're so…after all, we're such wonderful people and we have such great personalities and we're so talented and God, of course, recognizes that so He ought to bless us. Well, just think about all the people in the world who have put forth a tremendous effort, diligent workers, tremendously gifted and talented by God but for some reason they live their lives in obscurity; they never become famous, they never make it to…they may have a talent that is equal to or greater than any scientist or any musician or any actor but for some reason they never seem to be in the right place at the right time, because that's not God's plan for their life. We have to have a theology and an understanding of God that has room for obscurity and loss as being just as much a privilege as having things, because ultimately everything comes from God and that is grace.
Grace is the policy of God toward His creatures which is based on the principle of nonmeritorious blessing. Everything in life is nonmeritorious, it comes from God. Now we think that we work hard and we gain certain things and sometimes there's a direct relationship there but as I just pointed out, there are many cases where people work even harder and we all know of cases where people don't seem to work hard at all and yet they just seem to have an overflowing abundance. Ultimately everything comes down to the grace of God and so we must align our thoughts and our actions to the nonmeritorious policy of God which is based on the firm assurance that we receive the consideration, equity and care from the supreme court of heaven, that God ultimately is in charge of all the details of life and it is His will that underlies the distribution of all blessings, that God's grace policy is what provides all of the bounty in our lives and we have to adapt ourselves to that thinking.
Now the opposite of grace orientation is self-reliance and arrogance, the idea that somehow we deserve the things that we have; we deserve to have the kind of homes that we have and cars that we drive and we deserve…maybe some of us think that we really deserve more and why doesn't God see this, that we deserve to life a certain kind of lifestyle. And kids today are growing up thinking that they deserve to have certain things; that's nothing more than arrogance and we promote that in many subtle ways. So self-reliance and arrogance is the opposite of grace orientation, the idea that we have a basic or an inherent right to health. And in the Greek concept, the Greek word for humility is [can't understand word] and it was the absence, it has the idea of someone who doesn't assert their individual rights.
When I taught school 25 years ago it used to just make me bilious every time you turned around some kind would be begin disobedient or disrespectful and as soon as you were going to discipline them, well I have a right to something, and you know, you just want to hit 'em, because I have a right to this, I have a right to that. No, you've got to understand that life begins by understanding we have no rights to anything. And children don't have rights and one of the greatest, most damaging concepts to enter the education system and the concepts of parenting in this country is the concept that kids have rights. Kids have one right and that's to respect and honor their parents and do what they say and the parents who don't teach that in their kids are just giving them a recipe for failure in life because they'll never understand authority and you can't have humility if you don't understand authority and if you don't have humility you'll never understand grace because humility is foundational to understanding grace, but it's not based on me, it's based on God.
This is what's happening in Israel, is that the people aren't getting what they think God ought to give them; they don't have the kind of prosperity that they think they ought to have, so as soon as Gideon dies they get into idolatry again; they go back to the Baals. Now look at Judges 8:33, it says, "Then it came about, as soon as Gideon was dead," his body is not even cold in the grave and they're forgetting everything about Gideon, there's absolutely no gratitude there whatsoever. "…as soon as Gideon was dead, the sons of Israel again played the harlot with the Baals." Now who are the Baals? Baal is the Canaanite word for "lord," and there was a series of gods and every different location seemed to have their different Baal; Baal was the second god in the pantheon under the god El, those of you who've studied Greek or Romany mythology, Baal is comparable to Jupiter or Zeus in some ways, he was the god of thunder, the god of lightening, El is like Saturn or Uranus, and usually way back in the back of the pantheon because Baal has come forward and supplanted his father El. But Baal as the god of thunder and lightening in an agricultural society is very important. He's crucial because without rain there is no agricultural prosperity, there's no growth, the crops are going to dry up in a desert environment. So the worship of Baal and his consort, Asherah, who was the goddess of fertility, and all of this was played out in a rather perverted sexual way in the temples and in the worship of Baal, it was all designed to motivate God go make them prosperous economically.
So what's happening here is the same thing that we see happen in the perversion of a lot of modern theology in churches today, is just another version of the health and wealth gospel, the so-called prosperity gospel that God is out there to make us healthy and wealthy and to meet our every need as we define it. And that's what was happening in Israel. God wasn't supplying the needs as they thought He ought to supply them, so to heck with God, I'm going to go to this other god over here who's going to make me prosperous because he promises sexual fertility, and he promises agricultural prosperity, so to heck with the God of the Bible, the God who brought Israel out of Egypt, we're going to go worship Baal-berith down in Shechem, the god of the covenant, which was a counterfeit of Yahweh who was the God of THE covenant with Israel. So they're unfaithful to God because in arrogance they are saying well God, You're not giving me what I have a right to, I'm going to go over to this other god because he's the one who's going to make me prosperous. They're ungrateful, they've forgotten everything that God's done for them and everything Gideon did for them.
Judges 8:34 goes on to say, "Thus the sons of Israel did not remember the LORD their God, who had delivered them from the hands of all their enemies on every side." Now the phrase, "did not remember" is the negative side of what we read in Judges 3 that they forgot God. It's a willful volitional decision to exclude the God of the Bible from their thinking and from their life and this tells us that the consequences that come are the result of a spiritual decision. The consequences that come in verses 34-35 and that will culminate in all of the internal civil disruption in the next couple of chapters is the result of a spiritual decision to exclude God from their life.
This is the same principle we find in Romans 1:18-22. There we read: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness." And this is what happens, when you reject God, which is what verse 19 goes on to talk about, when you reject God you start suppressing the truth in unrighteousness, it's an active mental attitude and that's what they are doing, they are suppressing God, they are removing Him consciously from their thinking.
Romans 1:19 goes on to say, "because that which is known about God is evident with them, [for God made it evident to them,]" everybody knows God exists, there's nobody, no matter how much they protest, who didn't at one time have absolute certain conviction that God existed. But at that point of God-consciousness they either exercised negative volition or positive volition and if they exercised negative volition then they began the process of suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.
Romans 1:20 goes on to say, "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen," it's not fuzzy, it's not muddy revelation, it's clear, "have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so they are without excuse.  For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations," this is the development of idolatry, they began to speculate and invent their own religious system, "and their foolish heart was darkened. Romans 1:22, "Professing to be wise they became fools," and that foolishness starts with the rejection of God. Foolishness and wisdom in the Scripture is not related to academic achievement, it is not related to IQ, it's not related to intellectual capacity. It is related to whether or not you align your thinking with the Word of God and before we can align our thinking to the Word of God, which we call doctrinal orientation, we must first align our thinking to grace orientation, to grace and God's thinking.
So we read in Judges 8 that they "did not remember the LORD their God," they made a conscious volitional decision to remove God from their thinking and from their life. And notice what the text goes on to say, they "did not remember the LORD their God, who had delivered them from the hands of all their enemies on every side." God is the One who gave Gideon victory, God is the On who removed the enemy, the oppressor from the land, God is the One who is the source of the real prosperity, He is the One who even historically delivered them from Egypt, but they're ungrateful, they forget what God does willingly. They ignore it because they have no capacity because there's no positive volition in the land. Remember when they cried out to the Lord back in Judges 6 because of the Midianite oppression, there's no change of thinking, which is the Biblical term "repentance." They are not turning to God; they just want life to be better. So there is no capacity for understanding grace and therefore they are ungrateful and they immediately reject God and go back to doing things just the way they want to.
Then in Judges 8:35 we see the next development, "nor did they show kindness to the household of Jerubbaal (that is Gideon), in accord with all the good that he had done to Israel." Not only are they ingrates toward God, they are ungrateful to Gideon and his household, having given him all this honor, wanting him to be king, wanting him to establish a dynasty, as soon as he's off the scene they immediately forget him, they dishonor him and they have no gratitude at all towards his household whatsoever, and this is so typical of pagan thought. Pagan thought is built on the twin pillars of cosmic thinking. Cosmic thinking comes from the word kosmos in the Greek, which means the thought systems that underlie the world's thinking, all the various forms of worldly thinking and it's built on two pillars. The first is arrogance, self-assertion and the second is antagonism towards God, the two "A's", arrogance and antagonism.
That's what we see here, once you become arrogant and you become self-absorbed then you become antagonistic to everything that represents God or represents God's grace. That's exactly what's happens to the Jews here is in their arrogance they are antagonistic "to the household of Jerubbaal," that is some reminder of God's grace in their life, and furthermore arrogance always produces in gratitude, because when you're arrogant you think you deserve it, you don't think that it's a gift. And so you become ungrateful for whatever little things we have in life. So a lack of gratitude, a shallowness, a superficiality is always characteristic of paganism.
The word here translated "show kindness" in 8:35 is a particularly illustrative expression. In the Hebrew it is two words, asah chesed, the main verb her is asah which is the qal perfect third person plural which means to do, to perform, to create, it's used in Genesis 1 as a synonym for creation, it means basically to take action in accordance with some norm or standard; to take action in accordance with some norm or standard and here we can take that as basically application, to apply something. And the noun that is the object of the verb here is a very important word in the Old Testament, the word chesed, and chesed is a word that means more than love. In some passages it was just translated love, in other passages sometimes it's translated mercy but it's more than that. In many places it's translated lovingkindness, it is a powerful word because it brings into it several different concepts. It's a word that God uses in Exodus 20:6, talking about those who obey the Law, and in reference to those who disobey the Law in verse 5 He's just said I will curse them to the third and fourth generation, but in contrast in verse 6 He says, "I will show lovingkindness," same phrase, asah chesed, I will apply or demonstrate or perform lovingkindness, faithful loyal love, "to those who love Me and keep My commandments." Chesed is a word that is tied to the covenant, it has an idea of being faithful, it has an idea of carrying out your word, it's a word that is based on integrity. It brings together the concepts of God's righteousness and Hid justice and that on the basis of His integrity He is going to deal with His creatures the way He has said He will deal with His creatures and He is going to treat them in love. And God continuously through the Old Testament reminds Israel of His lovingkindness, His faithful loyal love to them despite their disobedience, despite their rebelliousness, despite their idolatry. So it is a word that also carries with it the connotation of grace and the idea of undeserved love and undeserved merit.
So when we read our verse here, Judges 8:35, "nor did they show kindness," nor did they apply faithful loyal love, it shows that they're not grace oriented at all. [tape turns]…love of God, the grace of God, or the mercy of God and so they can't, because they don't have that capacity for grace or love, they can't show that at all to the household of Gideon. This is what always happens in arrogance, is that we lose our capacity for gratitude as we become more self-absorbed and as we move down the path of arrogance. So that led me to develop for us the doctrine of gratitude.
The doctrine of gratitude, because this is crucial as a barometer or measure of our spiritual growth and our capacity for grace orientation. Let's start off with defining gratitude etymologically, in terms of etymology and definition. Gratitude derives in English, the English word "gratitude" derived from the Latin, gratia, which is related to both grace, favor, kindness and the response to kindness; gratia is the same Latin root from which we get both grace and gratitude. Grace and gratitude are closely related concepts. You can't have real gratitude unless you have some appreciation of grace or underserved merit. So in terms of etymology and definition, gratitude relates to the response to grace, favor or kindness.
Point two; gratitude is therefore expressed as appreciation, acknowledgement, appreciativeness, gratefulness, recognition and thankfulness. Failure to be grateful is the result of arrogance and self-absorption. When we think we deserve something we're not truly grateful, we deserved it, we're just saying well, I'm glad somebody finally recognized what I was worth. But gratitude recognizes we don't deserve it at all and we deeply appreciate whatever we have, however little or however much that is. The absence of gratitude is one of the prime characteristics of human viewpoint paganism. This is seen in Romans 1:21, "For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks." See, that is the starting point of paganism, is a rejection of God, God's not the one in authority, God's not the one who provided this, I'm not going to honor Him as God, or give thanks because after all, we deserve everything that we have. So the starting point of paganism in the descending cycles, the deteriorating cycles of perversion and of divine judgments in Romans 1 starts with a failure to be grateful to God for His grace.
Point number three; therefore gratitude is directly related to grace orientation. Gratitude is directly related to grace orientation. Now grace orientation is one of these words, we have a lot of verbal shorthand we use around here, like grace orientation and doctrinal orientation, and personal sense of eternal destiny, and we use these words a lot because they enable me as a communicator and enable the teachers as communicators to move through incredible realms of data quickly for teaching purposes. But the problem with using words like that is that it's easy for them to become jargon. And before long we're using those words over and over again without ever fully comprehending what they mean and how they are to impact and change our thinking. So I want to take a little time to talk about and think about the characteristics of grace orientation.
What are the characteristics of grace orientation? We defined it as aligning our thinking to the reality that we don't deserve anything in life and everything that we have, from the air we breathe, the food we eat, the clothes we have, the homes we have, everything is due to the gift of God, the provision of God, and we don't deserve to have a tenth of what we have, whatever that might be.
The starting point for understanding grace orientation is always the cross at salvation, that we don't deserve salvation because we are rebellious sinners. If God were just, were simply just and there was no grace, then God would be completely fair to send every one of us to an eternity in the lake of fire, because that's the penalty. If you're speeding down the road and you get pulled over by a traffic cop and given a ticket and you go to traffic court and you're assigned a fine of $150 that's fair and right and you know you deserve it. But if someone pays the fine for you, you don't deserve that. If the judge says it's been paid for and you don't have to pay the penalty, you don't deserve that. But we have no right to expect that. What we deserve is eternal condemnation in the lake of fire but God in His grace, because He loved us, because He loves us God provided a solution to the sin problem. And He provided a perfect solution by sending Jesus Christ, His Son, the eternal Second Person of the Trinity, to go to the cross and die as our substitute so that we could have salvation and everything that we have spiritually comes with the package at the instant we put our faith alone in Christ alone.
We don't deserve any of it, it is a free gift of God, undeserved, unmerited. Christ didn't go to the cross because He looked down the corridors of time and saw you and thought boy, you're just such a wonderful person, you're just so kind and you have such a wonderful personality, so many talents, I want you in heaven with Me. God looked down the corridors of time and saw each of us, that we possess negative righteousness, that we were sinners and we were obnoxious to Him. We were enemies of God, Scripture says. "God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us;" we were hostile to God the Scripture says. So we have to understand that grace begins with understanding our salvation.
Secondly, we start to develop that, that after salvation we realize that we still sin, we still commit acts that are obnoxious to God, we still do things that violate His righteousness but God's provided a grace solution for recovery from sin and that's confession of sin, 1 John 1:9, and that we don't have to feel sorry for sin, we don't have to impress God with our penitent attitude, we don't have to jump through any hoops, we don't have to bargain with God, all we have to do is admit to God that we did what we did, that we committed the sin we committed and God's going to instantly forgive us and wipe the slate clean. God is going to remove the sin as far from us as the east is from the west, and the Scripture says that he will remember the sin no more. So that's where we begin to learn more about what grace is, and as we begin to develop our understanding of grace we begin to realize that everybody around us is just as much a rotten sinner as we are. Now they may not be as overtly sinful or maybe they're more self-rightoeus in some ways than we are and they're less overtly sinful or some of them may be more overtly sinful but the bottom line is we're all just as much a sinner as the next person. So this begins to develop humility.
Grace orientation is built on humility. Two other characteristics are enforced humility and genuine humility. Enforced humility develops from authority orientation; that's what you parents are supposed to be doing with your children when you discipline them. That's enforced humility, you're causing them to recognize that you are the authority and they're not the authority in life and you're teaching them authority orientation so that they can be successful in life when they grow older. Genuine humility then grows from that as we realize that the things that we have in life are not due to who and what we are but to the grace of God.
So grace orientation in terms of its characteristics starts with understanding grace at salvation, grace in terms of recovery from post-salvation sins; it moves on in the development of enforced and genuine humility, and along with this we begin to develop what we call a relaxed mental attitude. Now what is a relaxed mental attitude? First of all, relaxed mental attitude does not mean that we are approving of other people's sins or condoning sinfulness. That's not what a relaxed mental attitude is, and some people have gotten that idea, that grace means I somehow approve, condone or overlook sin. God never approves, condones or overlooks sin. He deals with it, He dealt with it at the cross and when we confess our sins we are reminding God that the penalty was paid at the cross. Forgiveness was based on the fact that the penalty is paid. God doesn't forgive us just because we're wonderful, just because we confess our sins; God forgives us because the penalty has been paid. Forgiveness isn't free; forgiveness costs the life of our Savior.
A relaxed mental attitude means that as we align our thinking with God's Word we realize more and more that every one of us in the same sinful boat. And so we begin to truly tolerate one another in spite the fact of our failures because we know that God's going to deal with the other person just as He deals with me and I've got enough of a problem with my own sin nature that I'm not going to worry about your sins and your failures and your flaws and get involved in judgmentalism, maligning, or gossip about somebody else's failures because I've got similar failures. Today we live in an era where toleration and the concept of tolerance means approval and condoning the actions of somebody else.
Charlie and I were talking about this last week, because Charlie is in a unique situation because he works for the government and so he always has to deal with all these government programs to force him into some sort of social change and Charlie just doesn't like to give any kind of credibility to the pagan influences of these government social programs. So he's always thinking about strategic ways to avoid being suckered into their way of thinking by buying into their verbiage and their terminology. So he's preparing for the day when he will be in some sensitivity training workshop on how to be happy with homosexuals or whatever, and Charlie never uses the word…he always refers to them, when he he's in these governmental meetings he always says "sodomy" with a smile on his face, and they don't know quite how to handle that and they say well, you can't use that word. It's not a pejorative word, by the way, you may not realize that, it happens to be the technical legal term for what is called homosexuality. And so he's decided that's what's going to happen in one of these meetings is that rather than being suckered into their thinking on tolerance, that he's going to be asked the question, are you going to be able to tolerate a homosexual working for you. And he's just going to scratch his head and chuckle and say well, sure, I tolerate adulterers and fornicators and liars and thieves all the time, I don't see why I can't tolerate a sodomizer or two.
See, that's put them really on the horn of a dilemma because when you say it like that you've just agreed with them that you're going to be tolerate but you've defined the term correctly and you've put all us in the same boat that we are truly condemned, all condemned sinners in God's sight, and whether the sin is homosexuality or adultery or fornication or lying or thieving or gossip or maligning, we've got to tolerate each other. That doesn't mean we approve, condone and promote that behavior. So what happens, by responding that way, what you're doing is you're agreeing with them in one sense but you are redefining the terms biblically and you're not letting them control the conversation by defining the terminology on the basis of their presuppositions. And what happens is that they really don't know quite how to respond to that. But you don't say it in a nasty, negative judgmental manner, you just…yeah, well you know, I got to tolerate all the other, you know, adulterers and liars and gossipers, you know, we're all sinners, we're all condemned by God, I don't have any problem tolerating a couple of Sodomites, I think we can do that.
But see, that flows from a relaxed mental attitude, we realize we're all sinners, we're all equally condemned, whether your sin is an over sin such as some kind of sexual perversion or whether your sin is a mental attitude of arrogance or bitterness or jealousy, it doesn't matter, we're equally condemned so let's relax and quit worrying about other people's problems and focus on our own spiritual life. That's what a relaxed mental attitude is, it's not overlooking the sin, it's not treating sin lightly in our lives, it's not saying that oh well, it really doesn't matter, it's been paid for at the cross, that's licentiousness, that's wrong too. But a relaxed mental attitude is that we are not going to get involved in judgmentalism, gossiping, maligning, or challenging other people in relation to their own spiritual life. So that's three characteristics of grace orientation.
The fourth is a mastery of the details of life. The problem that the Jews ran into is the same problem we run into and that is when we start to think that the meaning and value in life comes with the details of life. What we want to do is move the details of life into the center of life, so it's our possessions, family, friends, social status, sex life, money, all kinds of job, career, education, home, all these things are the details of life and we want to move them into the center of everything because that becomes the focus for us of stability and happiness. But what happens in Christianity is that you take that same circle defining life and you put God in the middle and the details of life then go to the outside of the circle because they are merely secondary because we understand that this life is incredibly short in comparison with eternity, and that the details of life are not the issue, the issue is our spiritual life and our relationship with God, and that the details of life, every detail that we have in life is simply a provision of the grace of God and it's undeserved and unmerited and while we have it we need to thank God for it because next year or next month we might not have it. We might have something better; we may have something not quite as good but everything we have comes from the grace of God.
So grace orientation includes the following characteristics; it starts with understanding grace at salvation, and then grace in confession, in dealing with post-salvation sins. It's based on understanding humility in two categories, enforced humility and genuine humility. It moves on to development in a relaxed mental attitude so that we realize that everyone else is just as much a sinner as we are, so we become more tolerant of one another, less judgmental and we are not trying to deal with other people's problems but just our own, and then it leads to the mastery of the details of life. Those are the first three points in the doctrine of gratitude and we'll come back next Sunday to finish the doctrine of gratitude and then see the consequences in the tyranny that develops in Israel following this deterioration into idolatry.