“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.” Judges 21:25 (NIV)
I’ll never forget the morning I was walking with a friend, and we passed two huge trees that had fallen during a storm. I was sad to see these trees that once stood so tall being cut apart and hauled away. Stopping, I asked the men clearing the trees why those two in particular hadn’t been able to withstand the storm.
An older man who’d been working with trees his whole life explained that the first tree had incredibly shallow roots for such a big tree. Its roots had grown used to getting surface water from the sprinkler system. As a result, the roots didn’t dig down deep to get water from below. Shallow roots can keep a big tree alive but not stable during storms.
The second tree looked big and strong on the outside, but inside was hollow. At some point, an ant had found a weak spot in the tree and started chewing a tiny little tunnel into the tree’s center. Soon other ants found their way in as well. Then water got in the opening and softened the wood. Over time, the tree rotted away internally.
These scenarios with the trees make me think of the condition of God’s people at the end of the book of Judges. The final words of this book provide such a heartbreaking reality check even for us today: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit” (Judges 21:25). Sadly, the patterns of sin and destruction that felt “right” to them were completely outside what God called right and good.
This is where we discover three things that happen when we follow our opinions and feelings (what’s right in our own eyes) rather than the absolute Truth of God:
1. We mistake opinions as truth.
Just like the tree with shallow roots, if we aren’t digging in deep to seek the source of living water for ourselves, we won’t have the grounding necessary to stand strong when the world’s ways try to pull us down. We must seek and apply God’s Truth every day, so we aren’t easily swayed by opinions that aren’t in line with God’s Truth. Shallow seeking will lead to shallow believing — that dangerous place where we will fall for whatever opinions make us comfortable and make our lives more convenient.
2. We make feelings our false Holy Spirit.
This is like the big tree that was taken down by some small ants. The little ants are like desires that lead to eventual death: “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:15, NIV). When we care more about what feels right than what is right, we open ourselves up to the destruction of sin. Feelings are wonderful indicators that remind us to turn to God and let Him direct our desires with His best provisions. But feelings should never be dictators to get our unmet longings and desires fulfilled however we see fit.
3. We will fall when we try to carry the crushing weight of being our own god.
What happens when the king is absent? There is chaos. The book of Judges shows us this reality one story after another, one judge after another. The people are without leadership and direction, and the result is absolute chaos. It makes me think how different the fate of the trees could have been if the tree man had been on the scene years before to help them grow big and strong instead of shallow and susceptible.
We need rescue. We need a king. But not just any king; we need the righteous ruler who will right all wrongs, direct and protect us and redeem and restore all things. We need King Jesus — the perfect Savior who humbled Himself to take on human form and subjected Himself to the cross for the atonement of sin.
We aren’t kingless, like the people in the time of the judges. We have the assurance of knowing our eternal King. We have absolute Truth. We have the gift of the Holy Spirit. And we have perspective from reading in His Word how dangerous it is when people just do what is right in their own eyes.
Let’s not be people ruled by our feelings. Shallow and susceptible people who merely look confident and capable on the outside. Let’s trust our King. Let’s follow our King. Let’s live by the Truth of His Word and become a people with true strength residing within.
Father God, I want to be a woman with deep roots. A woman firmly anchored to Your Truth and filled by Your Spirit. And so I’m asking You to search my heart. Reveal any areas in my life where I’m pridefully and foolishly choosing to go my own way. I confess today how much I need You to lead me, guide me and be my King. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY
Proverbs 3:7, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.” (NIV)
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