In studying the book of Judges we see a powerful example of what sin desires. It may sound strange to speak of sin personified in this way, having desires. Nonetheless, this is consistent with Paul’s likening sin to yeast in 1 Corinthians 5:6, “Do you not know a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” It is even more consistent with the direct voice of God to Cain in Genesis 4:7 – “…if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”
The idea that sin is crouching in wait, desiring to saturate and consume is a fine summary of the narrative of the book of Judges. Their toleration of the Canaanites stole their devotion to the One True God.
Judges 2:1-4, 11-13:
Now the angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done? So now I say, I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.”
And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger. They abandoned the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth.
What the Israelites learned in their dealings with the Canaanites we must heed in our own day. For us it isn’t strange people and altars to perverse gods. For us it is a matter of sins we participate in privately.
- We allow vanity to hold our hearts captive, thinking it won’t be a problem because vanity is invisible.
- We allow arrogance to fester in our attitudes toward those around us thinking we can hide it in our inner thoughts.
- We use that substance because it doesn’t hurt anyone and no one will know any way.
- We hold on that relationship at work, thinking it is simply a matter of innocent flirting.
The lesson of Judges is that there is no such thing as sin under control and it is a lesson we would do well to heed.
“Sin will not only be striving, acting, rebelling, troubling, disquieting, but if let alone, if not continually mortified, it will bring forth great, cursed, scandalous, soul-destroying sins… Sin aims always at the utmost; every time it rises up to tempt or entice, might it have its own course, it would go out to the utmost sin in that kind. Every unclean thought or glance would be adultery if it could; every covetous desire would be oppression, every thought of unbelief would be atheism, might it grow to its head… it is like the grave, that is never satisfied.”
This power of sin to grow is why Owen asked, earlier in the same chapter,
“Do you mortify [put sin to death with all available resources]; do you make it your daily work; be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.”
Good counsel, that.
- The title linked to there is Overcoming Sin and Temptation which is the best contemporary presentation of Owens’ Mortification I am aware of. ↩