When we allow ourselves to be enslaved by false gods whatever they might be: occupation, drugs, our children, alcohol, possessions, etc., there will come a time when God will tell us to cry out to the gods we have chosen and let them save us.

By How many gods do you serve? Perhaps you think that is a question that you need not bother with, but I can assure you that is a false assumption. Every human struggles with idols. Some are just more apparent than others. Judges 10 is an enlightening case study in this struggle. Certain numerals are significant in the understanding of Scripture. Seven is the number of completeness. Verses 6-10 reveals that the Israelites had forsaken Jehovah and succumbed to the worship of seven false gods. For eighteen years, Jehovah allowed them to be oppressed by the seven nations which were home to those same seven false gods.

Judges 10:10-14 records God’s response, “And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord, saying, "We have sinned against you, because we have forsaken our God and have served the Baals." And the Lord said to the people of Israel, "Did I not save you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites, from the Ammonites and from the Philistines? The Sidonians also, and the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you, and you cried out to me, and I saved you out of their hand. Yet you have forsaken me and served other gods; therefore I will save you no more. Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress.” (ESV) Certainly, one cannot miss the sorrow in God’s response. Neither should we miss the mercy in it. The only hope for the idolatrous person (and surely that is most, if not all, of us) is for God to withdraw His protection so that we might be afflicted and brought to repentance. If the Christian is to experience any victory in the Christian life, he must see the falsity and wrongness of turning from God and to idols.

Judges 10:15-16 highlights the mercy and grace of our great God, “And the people of Israel said to the Lord, "We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you. Only please deliver us this day." 16 So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord, and he became impatient over the misery of Israel.” (ESV) The repentance and willing submission to discipline by God’s people in verse 15 leads to the beautiful, merciful, grace-filled response of God in verse 16. God was clearly ready to extend His forgiveness and protection to His children once again.

God’s gift of seven-fold (complete) victory had been met with seven-fold (complete) disobedience by His people. Even though God had given them complete victory, His people voluntarily subjected themselves to complete defeat. You and I do exactly the same thing. We live in submission to the same old sins. We give in to the same old temptations time after time. When we allow ourselves to be enslaved by false gods whatever they might be: occupation, drugs, our children, alcohol, possessions, etc., there will come a time when God will tell us to cry out to the gods we have chosen and let them save us. Of course, they will never be able to save us, but we continue to run to them anyway. Misery is our lot when we submit ourselves to false gods. It does not have to be this way. God says to us, “Did I not save you?” Christians trust God for salvation, at least in the future. Why is it so difficult to trust Him for victory over sin now? We trust Him with our death. We should also trust Him with our lives. The God who saves us can also provide complete victory over sin. Do not voluntarily submit to defeat, there is a better way: trust and obey.

Pastor Steve Ellison is the director of the Ouachita Theological Training Institute in Mena, Ark.