Tag Archives: falling away

How Long: Using Math and the Life of Othniel

From Faithful till Fallen—How Long?

Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land, and they conquered the territory for seven years. Afterwards, Joshua divided up the land to the twelve tribes (I just summarized the whole book of Joshua for you). We are told near the beginning of Judges that Israel was faithful as long as Joshua lived, and as long as the elders who outlived Joshua were still alive. But by the time we get into Judges 3, the Israelites had become so sinful, so unfaithful, that God sold them back into slavery. The question is: how long did it take for them to go from fully faithful to fully fallen?

We can’t get an exact answer, but we can certainly narrow it down to a specific range by looking at the life of the first judge, Othniel. We aren’t told his age at death, but Moses died at 120, and Joshua died at 110 (and they seem like outliers). Let’s be generous and say Othniel lived to age 100. So let’s account for the years of his life.

Othniel was a soldier during the conquest of Canaan (Joshua 15:15-17), meaning he was at least 20 years old when they crossed the Jordan River. The conquest lasted 7 years, meaning he was at least 27 years old when the land was divided. So here, we have accounted for at least the first 27 years of his life—during which time Israel was fully faithful.

Judges 3 tells us he judged Israel for 40 years before he died. But before he judged Israel, they had been in slavery to the King of Mesopotamia for 8 years. Thus, we have now accounted for the last 48 years of Othniel’s life. When you put that with the at least 27 years at the beginning of his life, we have already accounted for 75 years of his life. We still have 25 years in the middle to deal with.

Joshua didn’t die right away after dividing up the land. And the elders of Israel lived at least for a while after Joshua’s death. I don’t think it is a stretch to say they may have lived another 10 years after the conquest ended. And if that is the case, we have another 10 years of Othniel’s life accounted for—10 more years of Israel being faithful to God. And that leaves us with around 15 years. 15 years from Israel being called “faithful” by God to their becoming so wicked that He sold them back into slavery. And it may not have even taken that long, based on how old Othniel was when the conquest started—he was at least 20.

How fast can a congregation go from faithful to fallen? Pretty fast. See Galatians 1:6.

Othniel becomes a Soldier Othniel in Conquest Life of Joshua and Elders ISRAEL FALLING Enslaved to Mesopotamia Othniel Judging
Minimum 20 years old 7 years +/- 10 years 15 years 8 years 40 years

-Bradley S. Cobb

When Shovels Break (by Michael Shank) – A Review

I’ve known Michael Shank for the better part of a decade, and we both “cut our teeth” doing fill-in preaching for the same little congregation in Southern Illinois.  So, it was with great pleasure that I wrote the first real review of his first book, Muscle and a Shovel (you can read the review/article at BrotherhoodNews.com).  A few years have passed, and God has used Muscle and a Shovel in ways far beyond what I–or anyone else–could have imagined.

Soon after it began to spread through the brotherhood, Mike began work on his second book, When Shovels Break.  It has taken a few years, but it’s finally ready.

And let me tell you this: It is powerful.

While Muscle and a Shovel was written for the non-Christian, to help show them the biblical path to life in Christ, When Shovels Break was written for the struggling Christian, the wayward Christian, the unfaithful brother or sister in Christ.  It is a stirring testimony that no matter what you have done, no matter how far you have fallen away from Him, God is always ready to take you back and forgive you.

But there’s more to When Shovels Break than that–a LOT more.


A Sequel

When Shovels Break acts as a sequel to Muscle and a Shovel in many respects.  It follows the life of Michael Shank and his wife where the previous book left off.

But it also introduces us to one of Mike’s oldest friends, a man named John.  John and Mike had a lot in common: both came to Christ around the same time (both converted by “Randal”), worked  in the same industry, lived in the same neighborhood, even liked the same kinds of food.  In fact, John and Mike were as close as two friends could be.

The book begins [and this isn’t much of a spoiler, since Mike posted the first chapter on Facebook months ago] with John distraught over his sinful life, absolutely certain that he’s lost forever, not seeing any way of hope, and Mike trying to help him.  Then John lifts the gun to his head.

What could bring a man–a baptized believer in Jesus Christ–to such desperation that he thinks the only way out is to kill himself?  Could God ever take him back after all the sins he’s committed?  After he’s insulted his Savior by going back headlong into a life of sin?

A Message for the Church

Muscle and a Shovel was written for non-Christians, but it became a great tool to teach faithful members of the Lord’s church that evangelism doesn’t have to be hard!  It gave a clear and simple method to help show others God’s path to salvation.  It served to energize once-inactive Christians into active service for their Lord.  It helped remind experienced brethren of what they were fighting for, and the Lord’s church has become stronger as a result of God’s use of that book.

When Shovels Break is also a great tool for members of the Lord’s church.  Throughout the story of Mike and John’s life, you will see very clearly the importance of having brothers and sisters in Christ who care.  You will see the damage that can be done through a brother’s (or a congregation’s) indifference and the discouragement it can cause others.

This new book is also an example of God’s providence.  In the later part of the story, we get to see how God worked so many unexpected (and sometimes frustrating) things out in Mike’s life to bring him to the point of writing and publishing Muscle and a Shovel.  That bit of information is a nice little bonus to those who like to know “the rest of the story.”

You’ll also probably chuckle as Mike tries to show the Jule Miller Filmstrips to a bunch of drunks.

The Road Back Home

I surprised Mike when I told him that I thought the final dozen or so chapters were just as good–if not even better–than the story itself.  But I stand by it.

After concluding the story itself, Mike dedicates several chapters to a straight-forward conversation with Christians.  He devotes time to showing wayward members the way back home, but he also writes to encourage brethren whose strength may be faltering.  He describes some of these chapters as “God’s plan to keep you from ever falling away again–ever.”

And they are good.

The Survey

I’m not a prophet, but I believe the part of the book that will have the most impact within the church is where Mike gives the results of a survey he conducted, interviewing 400 people who have left the church.  It is an eye-opener–and it shows that the church itself must take at least part of the blame for their departure.

Final Thoughts

Even though I was already privy to part of the story (a side benefit of being friends with Mike since before Muscle and a Shovel), I got goosebumps reading through it.  Mike writes with a clarity and emotional power that makes you instantly identify with his struggles.  You hurt when he hurts.  You get frustrated when he is frustrated.  And you rejoice when he rejoices.

And you will never look at the Ego Board the same way again.

[note: I was not asked to write a review, but I thought it needed to be done]

To get your own copy of When Shovels Break, you can order direct from Mike Shank (or if you want it in Kindle format, it’s available here).