“16 Then the LORD raised up judges, who delivered them out of the power of those who plundered them. 17 Yet they did not listen even to their judges; for they lusted after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their ancestors had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the LORD; they did not follow their example. 18 Whenever the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge, and he delivered them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the LORD would be moved to pity by their groaning because of those who persecuted and oppressed them. 19 But whenever the judge died, they would relapse and behave worse than their ancestors, following other gods, worshiping them and bowing down to them. They would not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways. 20 So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel; and he said, “Because this people have transgressed my covenant that I commanded their ancestors, and have not obeyed my voice, 21 I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations that Joshua left when he died.” 22 In order to test Israel, whether or not they would take care to walk in the way of the LORD as their ancestors did, 23 the LORD had left those nations, not driving them out at once, and had not handed them over to Joshua.” NRSV
There are the verses that follow yesterday’s post.
Though I have never heard anyone else state it quite this way, I believe this chasing after other gods when a major religious leader dies occurs because the people never internalize their faith in God. It seems they never make it their own. They cling to the faith coattails of the charismatic leader, like Moses or Joshua or David, as long those leaders are alive. Once they die, the coattails disappear. Then, the people look for other coattails to cling to, to pull them along whatever path of life happens to be in vogue at that moment. Usually, they are the coattails of the charismatic leader du jour. This is what accounts for the on-again-off-again relationship between God and the children of ancient Israel we read about in the First Testament.
It also explains a lot today. The author of Ecclesiastes nailed it, “there is nothing new under the sun.”
The faith journey is not about hanging on to another’s faith. It is about internalizing it and making it one’s own. It’s a foundation upon which one build one’s life, sets one’s priorities, discovers one’s purpose, and establishes one’s principles. Internalized faith does not ebb and flow when the pastor leaves or does something stupid or when your favorite TV evangelist has an affair or something kind of catastrophic happens in your life. Internalized faith lights your way and sees you through it.
When things happen to someone clinging to coattails, they lose their grip, flail around in darkness, and blame everyone else for their problems, until the next set of coattails comes along they can grasp on to.
The owner of the coattails, not God or Jesus, becomes their savior.
I am so glad I have no coattails for anyone else to cling to. I wouldn’t share them even I did. My faith instructs me to help the people searching for coattails to look within and find the Spirit of God there. It instructs me to help them develop that relationship with God in their own unique way, building their one life, setting their own priorities, discovering their own God-given purpose, and establishing their own life principles.
I do believe someone on this journey of internalizing faith would develop principles similar to my own and yours, the one’s Jesus taught and modeled. Churches form when these similarly faith-principled people fine each other.
HCC is just such a church!
Be a blessing to someone today!