We’ve been looking at the example of Micah, his mom, and the tribe of Dan all week. We’ve actually been exploring how far the Israelites strayed from God during the time of the Judges. They are stealing, making images of the LORD, putting that idol next to other idols of false gods, worshipping them with a false priest from the tribe of Levi, and fighting over who gets that priest (and the idols) for themselves. They are really missing the boat.
There the Danites set up for themselves the idol, and Jonathan son of Gershom, the son of Moses, and his sons were priests for the tribe of Dan until the time of the captivity of the land. They continued to use the idol Micah had made, all the time the house of God was in Shiloh. In those days Israel had no king... (Judges 18:30-31; 19:1a NIV)
It’s so easy to sit here in judgement of the Israelites of those days. But, as a friend taught me years ago, when I point my finger at someone I have three fingers pointing back at myself. (Try it sometime and look at your hand.) It’s true. When I start picking on the sins of Israel, God starts to bring to mind my own sins. This is when I am grateful for the work of Jesus on the cross.
And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach--if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister. (Colossians 1:21-23 NASB)
Continuing in the faith takes work. We need to fight the battles that wage war against our minds and hearts, fighting the enemy and loving God – fighting the enemy and loving people. This, I think, is why Jesus included this process in his model prayer.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors…For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:12, 14-15 NIV)
Forgiveness is of great importance for “continuing in the faith.” When we sin, we go in debt to God and the person we sinned against. We owe them. We should have done good by them, but we did not. Jesus paid the debt for us with God, because the debt with God is only payable by death. When we receive that payment from Jesus, we should be grateful enough to forgive the debts of others who have sinned against us. (Read Matthew 18:21-25 for more). “Continuing in the faith” means, by definition, that we choose to forgive.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. (Matthew 6:13 NIV)
The more we look at the Lord’s prayer and this story from Judges, the more we learn about prayer. Prayer is not about convincing God to join us. Prayer is about learning where God is so we can join Him. Sometimes this process includes changing our minds. Sometimes it requires setting aside ego, personal pride, and our plans. We need to be open to God’s picture, God’s direction, and God’s grace. Then, we need to humble ourselves and turn to God. When we are turned away from God, the word for turning around is “repent.” Then, we can “continue in the faith” in peace, because we are, once again, walking together with God.
How about you? Do you take your agenda to God in prayer, or do you allow God to set the agenda in your time together? When your plans do not match God’s plans, are you humble enough to adjust yours? Do you forgive those you need to forgive? Do you turn around when you need to turn around? Do you humbly repent, so you can continue walking together with God?