Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Get out of the cave

'the hand of Midian overpowered Israel, and because of Midian the people of Israel made for themselves the dens that are in the mountains and the caves and the strongholds.' Judges 6:2 The people of Israel were so terrified of the enemies that kept coming into their land, so worn down and oppressed, that they lived in caves. They were so scared of the enemies that plundered them, that stole all their possessions and food, that they made dens in the hillside. Can you imagine what that's like? I remember reading last year that Haiti had terrible hurricanes and people resorted to living in caves. Rocky, hard, dark, uncomfortable -can you imagine sleeping there, let alone living there? You have got to be pretty desperate to live in a cave. I guess that would of been the same for the Israelites.  It's not the preferred choice, but a last resort. At least it's a shelter where you can hide away from trouble. It's a place people flee to, not make their homes in. It's a place of temporary safety, not a dwelling place. So, what drove the Israelites to the caves? The people who plundered them, their enemies the Midianites, Amalekites and 'the people of the East'. The Israelites were running scared. They wanted to protect themselves and the limited possessions they had left. Ultimately the Israelites had ignored what God had told them, they'd done their own thing and it hadn't worked out very well for them. They trusted their own capabilities, not God's. So, they Israelites hid away. God hadn't told the people to go hide in caves, but he allowed them to. God allows us to make choices in our lives, and surprising lay we don't always choose the best route. So, we are allowed to see what the errors we make lead to - hiding in a cave, hiding our faults and mistakes, even losing stuff. God allows that to happen so that we can see the benefit of his love and protection. We see throughout the Bible that when people follow God they have rest and peace. When the people cry out to God, admit their wrongs, he rescues and restores them- every time. This time, in this moment of Israelite history, the Israelites would rather hide. They hide from the truth that this difficulty is pretty much self-inflicted. It's through a series of bad choices they've made, a series of good advice they have ignored. Like most people they think they can be self-sufficient, do things their own way and everything will be fine. Like us, I'm sure they tried their best to get themselves out of trouble when it comes, relying on their own capabilities, skills, experience and even possessions when tough times arrive. The Israelites are not yet ready to admit that; a) they've gone wrong and b) they need help. Instead, they are hiding. Hiding from the truth of their mistakes and from the reality that they are not in control of their lives- if they could of controlled their enemies they would of done, but sometimes circumstances are beyond our control, beyond our capabilities, but they are never beyond God! We all have areas of our lives, past or present that we are ashamed of. Bits that we'd love to hide away and bury in a cave, maybe you have done this. The Israelites carry on like this for seven years, seven long years of hiding in a cave. Seven long years of trying their best to get out of their mess, seven years of misery. Seven years of lack of food, seven years of living in fear. I can't imagine that, can you? If you can relate, then maybe it's time to step out of the cave. It is scary venture out when you've been hiding so long. It's terrifying to admit you've been covering up, you may feel ashamed and scared of the truth coming out. However, caves aren't meant to be lived in. Don't wait for years before you come into the open. Let your mistakes be seen for what they are, mistakes. We have all done things wrong, and we can all be forgiven because of Jesus. 'cry out to the Lord' as the Israelites did. When the people cried out, God responded. He will respond to you too. Stop hiding in the cave.

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