We continue to read many stories about ISIS and the fear it induces in people. Many ask, “How can a loving and faithful God allow this to happen?”

We can read a similar event in Habakkuk 1:5-12 “Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwellings not their own. They are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honor. Their horses are swifter than leopards, fiercer than wolves at dusk. Their cavalry gallops headlong; their horsemen come from afar. They fly like an eagle swooping to devour; they all come intent on violence. Their hordes advance like a desert wind and gather prisoners like sand. They mock kings and scoff at rulers. They laugh at all fortified cities; by building earthen ramps they capture them. Then they sweep past like the wind and go on—guilty people, whose own strength is their god.”

Furthermore, Judges (1:1–3:6) reveals what devastating consequences occur when God’s people rebel against Him. The author mentions the three judges whom God uses in a powerful way. I will mention only two for sake of brevity. In Judges 3:7–31 we will see, “Our responsibility is response to God’s ability.” In these twenty–five verses, the term “Lord” (Yahweh) occurs thirteen times. Even though God dominates this passage, these two stories remind us that He uses nations to accomplish His purposes in the world.

Our first story in 3:7–11 begins on an ominous note. “The sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgot [abandoned] the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth [female Canaanite deities…Baal’s girlfriends so to speak]” (3:7). The opening phrase “the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD” is repeated throughout Judges (3:7, 12; 4:1; 6:1; 10:6; 13:1). Each time the phrase is used, it marks a period of oppression by Israel’s enemies. In spite of the amazing grace that God showed His people in Judges 1–2, Israel walked away from God. These people weren’t just having a bad spiritual day. They didn’t skip their devotions or forget to pray, they actively rebelled against the one true God. While we do not worship specifically named deities carved out of stone, the worship of self, possessions, comfort and luxury are certainly gods of this age. And the perversions now tolerated in the West are akin to those that ran rampant before the great deluge.

In 3:8, God shows his anger “Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, so that He sold them into the hands of Cushan-rishathaim [“Doubly-Wicked”] king of Mesopotamia; and the sons of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim eight years.” The phrase “the anger of the Lord was kindled” literally reads “the Lord’s nose became hot.” This is a figurative way of describing God’s wrath. We tend to get angry to benefit ourselves; God gets angry because His holiness elicits a response. In His anger, the Lord sells His people to the enemy. Israel acts like slaves to their passions; therefore God sells them like slaves. God will not allow His people to sin successfully. God will use whatever form of discipline is necessary to restore His children to fellowship. For example, the holocaust was not a mistake however horrendous it was, but part of His divine purpose.

We can read further in Judges 3:12–30, and it begins just like the previous account. “Now the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD. So the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD. And he gathered to himself the sons of Ammon and Amalek; and he went and defeated Israel, and they possessed the city of the palm trees. The sons of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years” (3:12–14). This story begins, once again, with God firmly on the side of the pagans (3:12). Obviously, God is very unhappy with His people, justice requires that He use idolaters (the Moabites) to discipline idolaters (the Israelites). The “city of the palm trees” was Jericho (Deut. 34:3), which was the first town that Israel captured in Joshua 6. This is a telling picture of how far Israel has fallen. Yesterday’s preeminent victories were lost to the dissolution of sin.

Where Godly churches once were successfully planted 100 years ago and the faithful rose up in the East, they are burned and the peoples scattered by Satan’s very own legions. Additionally, it is no marvel that godless leadership sits in high places to rule, and that long vanquished enemies rise up in foreign lands, where the Spirit of the Lord has been quenched by the iniquity of those called by his name. The Lord has many times allowed the appointment of ungodly leaders conducive to the sow-reap principle, a means of discipline, but be sure judgment has not yet come. These events are not the worst of things to come, but merely a foreshadowing of the trials ahead. This is not a word of fear, but an appointment of glory.

We were warned to not allow ourselves to be lulled into a slumber or seduced by another voice. There are voices that preach peace, safety and renewal, while wholesale spiritual apostasy and sin abounds. Be sure, consequences are always trailing close behind. “When they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief” (1 Thess. 5:3–4).

What are we to do? The parable the Wise and Foolish Virgins in Matthew 24 is a sure thesis about our heart and mindset. The point of the parable is in verse 13. Watch. Be prepared. Stay awake. The Greek word for watch (and wake in 1 Thess. 5:10) is gregoreo. It means watchful or vigilant. It appears in 1 Cor. 16:13: “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.” Also in 1 Thess. 5:6: “Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.”

Stay awake and watchful spiritually. Be ready for anything. For the Christian, this is accomplished first and foremost by remaining vigilant against the snares of Satan by continuing in the Spirit, while fully immersed in God’s Word and in prayer. “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.” (Romans 13:11, 12)