Today's families are busier than ever before. Our world seems to be spinning out of control. Men and women work hard simply to "keep up," let alone advance.
Our consumer society has evolved into a frenzy of demands, pulling us in a thousand different directions. How is a Christian to respond?
Studying and meditating on God's Word helps us to stay focused, as my life verse points out: "Teach me Your way, O Lord, and I will walk in Your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your name" (Ps. 86:11, NIV).
I think the phrase "Give me an undivided heart" aptly describes the battle we face in today's materialistic, fast-paced society. But what does it mean to have an undivided heart?
A NATION DIVIDED Let me answer that question by showing the effects of having a divided heart, as outlined in Judges 19-21. This passage recounts one of the most gruesome stories in all Scripture.
The story goes something like this: A Levite from Ephraim takes a concubine. She is unfaithful to him and returns to live with her father.
After four months, the Levite decides to retrieve her. He travels to her father's house where he is repeatedly detained by the girl's father.
Five days later, the Levite takes his concubine and heads home. Darkness falls as they approach Gibeah in Benjamin, where an old man takes them into his home for the night.
Wicked men of Gibeah come to the host and demand sexual relations with the Levite man. The old man tries to dissuade the mob, but his attempts fail.
The Levite gives them his unfaithful concubine. The Benjamite men rape her all night, and she dies at the threshold of her master's resting place. When the Levite realizes she is dead, he cuts her body into 12 pieces and sends them throughout Israel.
The Israelites respond with horror. They rally "as one man" and punish the Benjamites for the mob's wickedness (Judg. 20:1).
This story concludes the book of Judges and records one of the darkest periods in Israel's history with a foreboding refrain: "In those days Israel had no king."
The story of the unfaithful concubine serves as a powerful allegory summarizing Israel's corporate failure. It also applies to us, offering a strong warning about disunity to the American church today.
The days of the judges should have been a good time for Israel in the promised land. Following years of captivity and wandering, they had finally come into their own.
Prior to his death, Joshua commissioned the tribes to complete the eradication of foreign peoples in their allotted lands. Initially the tribes fought together, but later it became the responsibility of individual tribes to conquer the enemy and complete the takeover of their own prescribed inheritance. Unfortunately, most of the tribes failed.
As a general rule, the tribes conquered the "easy" areas of the plains but failed to dislodge the enemy from more entrenched places where enemy nations had long been in residence. They eventually made treaties with enemy peoples and began to adopt the practices of those who had gone before them and now culturally surrounded them.
Their once united heart became divided, not only in practice but in their identity as a nation "under God." Unger's Bible Dictionary notes that the tribes transferred loyalty to themselves, became consumed with their own issues and lost their familial identity.
One by one, oppressive nations conquered God's people. Each time, by the grace of God, a charismatic leader would arise among the Jews who was anointed to deliver the captives.
During the judges' lifetimes, the people followed God and experienced peace. However, whenever a reigning judge died, the people turned away and again took up their idols.
RESULTS OF DISUNITY The story of the unfaithful concubine is a dramatic finale to the Israelites' apostasy. Furthermore, it clearly demonstrates the results of divided loyalty:
**Improper relationship. A concubine is defined as a "secondary wife of inferior legal or social status."
In ancient times, concubines served to bear children, assist in household services or satisfy sexual pleasure. However, they did not possess the rights or the relationship of a legal wife.
In Judges 19, the concubine accurately depicts Israel's attitude toward God. Similarly, this symbol applies to many believers today who are not living in the fullness of their legal "rights" in Christ. Like the Israelites, they may have entered in initially to salvation's "promised land," but they failed to "extend the borders" as far as God intended them to go (see Josh. 1:3-4). As a result, they are not experiencing the fullness of relationship with God.
**Unfaithfulness. The Hebrew word for "unfaithful" is zanah, which means either adultery or idolatry. When the concubine chose to return to her father's house (representing her former way of life), she removed herself from her husband's covering. Many in the church today are making that same choice.
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