Archive for the ‘Judges’ Category

Project 66 – Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel

Three days into my travels without a CD player or iPod has compelled me all the more to keep my focus on the Lord and His word, mostly Project 66.

It’s amazing how I can scarce keep my focus on prayer for more than 5 minutes but I can rehash a memory or a “what-if” scenario in my mind for 15 minutes without interruption. Fifteen minutes gone, lost forever, and not one single benefit from it.

So I thank God that He has brought this project to mind, because it has been very ministerial.

Judges – 1 Samuel

Judges 21:25 A good summary verse of the decline of the book of Judges

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Of course, not everyone thought like Hitler or Stalin, but they just made sure that they looked out for number one in their lives, no matter the cost. Needless to say, chaos and pain abound.

You can read Judges and see the degradation of the situation increase as they move further and further away from the Lord’s prescribed ways.

Thankfully, we have Ruth to go to for a breath of fresh air, after reading Judges 17-21.

  • Instead of unfaithfulness, there is loyalty.
  • Instead of immorality, there is purity.
  • Instead of battlefields, there are harvestfields.
  • Instead of warrior shouts, there is the harvesters songs.
  • There are no miracles in Ruth, Judges had lots.
  • There are no villians in Ruth, Judges had gobs.
  • This is a book that is just “life as usual” and yet it is exceptional.

Ruth 1:16-17 Turning point of all 4 chapters as well as for the Messianic Line

But Ruth said, “Entreat me not to leave you,
or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.
Where you die, I will die,
And there will I be buried.
The Lord do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me.”

A promise made, a promise kept. So unlike the book of Judges where everyone did what was right in their own eyes.

I’m also struck by Naomi. What if she had not stopped entreating Ruth to leave, but sabotaged the whole relationship and sent Ruth packing? There is faithfulness of both women’s parts. I fall more in love with this book each time I read it!

Ruth 1:16-1

Ruth Commiting herself to Naomi

Enough about David’s great-grandmother, what about David himself?!

1 Samuel 17:45 – One of two people come to mind when you say David’s name, I’m going to think on Goliath instead of the other!

Then David said to the Philistine (Goliath),
“You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin.
But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts,
the God of the armies of Israel [or your name], whom you have defied.”

Though that is all that is required for my little Project 66, I am including for my own sake, verse 47:

“Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.”

What boldness! No wonder his older brother thought he was being a brat and troublemaker! O Lord, make me a “troublemaker” like David, so that I too may kill the spiritual Goliath’s in my own life.

That’s it for now. I’m writing from St. Louis at my brother’s house. And can’t wait to get the kayak out on the lake in just about 10 minutes. It’s a great place to ponder some more on Project 66 and the Lord of the Project Himself!

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I Don’t Want to Do it My Way!

Oh I can’t wait for the refreshment that will be found in Ruth! Because these last five chapters have been a real cesspool…

and sometimes hitting a little too close to home.

The last chapter of Judges (Judges 21) continues the soap opera of life where

“every man went to his own tribe…to his own family….every man to his own inheritance. In those days there was no king in Israel, and everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (her could just as easily be substituted for his)   

And just like I couldn’t wait for Judges to end, so I can’t wait for the same conniving to end in my own life.

Just how many man-made schemes have we read about this month in our journey through Judges? Every question posed to the “children of God”

seems to end up one way or the other, involving harm and death.

And what have these brilliant plans of men accomplished? They have gone full-circle. Their ultimate solution for the mistreatment of a woman (Judges 19) is the exploitation of at least 600 more women (Judges 21).

Oh the progress and forward thinking of mankind!

I have a tendency to relate more to the prodigal son rather than the older son in Luke 15. As a result, I’

m inclined to criticize those who look down on others, all the while sympathizing with the one who wasted their riches with swine.

So in my forward thinking, I end up judging those who judge others. Hmmmmmm. Now how is that really all that different?

So here are the children of Israel judging the Benjamites for mistreating a woman, who end up mistreating women to help the Benjamites! Oh God for a heaven-centered balance!

Just how scheming, conniving, manipulative, rationalizing, and deceived we can become if the Lord does not intervene in our lives and disrupt the whole vicious cycle of it all!

 

O Lord, I don’t want to do it my way. My heart is desperately wicked and is unable to see what is right and good. Let me live in Your reality. Lord Jesus be my King.

The Costliness of Poor Choices

These last few chapters are an unusual read especially when I study them right after asking the Lord to communicate with me. “Lord speak to me. Show me Your mind.” And then to read about a prostitute gang raped leading to her death. Hmmmm.Today’s no exception to this puzzling response from the Lord to my request. Judges 20 has me scratching my head, wandering what is going on with the children of Israel.It seems like the last 5 chapters of Judges show an internal breakdown of Israel’s worship and unity. A whole disintegration of Israel seems to be occurring. As soon as we behave in an ungodly fashion (ie, neglecting God), unrighteousness is soon to follow, until we get outright wicked in our ways.Aside from the bloody civil war that has occurred within Israel, the most noticeable element of this account was how often the concept of “one man” or “unity” is mentioned. I’m thankful to see that at least everyone else understood the atrocity of what was done to this lady.What was Benjamin thinking? Why rally all your men to protect the guilty perpetrators? Where is their outrage? How did they manage to get unanimity in this decision to protect these murderers?Whether it was tired of being the “little tribe” or the “youngest brother”, or being confronted by so many at one time, or a soft compassion for the rapists that thought the law of Moses was too harsh, their choice had far-reaching ill effects.

  • A civil war broke out.
  • 40,000 Israelites were slain.
  • 21,000 Benjamites were killed.
  • The whole city of Gibeah, men, women and children, up in smoke.

The only folks who needed to be dealt with were the men who raped and murdered the woman of chapter 19. But Benjamin’s choice cost so much more.Conviction for me comes from the two battles that were fought and lost by the zealous children of Israel who inquired of the Lord.

  • A tenth of the men of Israel, were lost in that battle with Benjamin.
  • God demonstrated that the “race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong.”
  • Attempting great exploits for God by trusting in our power and schemes shall always fail.
  • Israel had their own sins that needed to be addressed. (we need to remove the plank from our own eye before dealing with the iniquitous sliver in a brother’s eye)
  • And we must not think it strange that a good cause should suffer defeat for a while.
  • Nor should we judge the merits of a cause by the success of it.
  • Loss and affliction humbles us like no other impetus

Lord Jesus Christ, may my responses be in accordance with Your will. Preserve me from choices that are motivated by selfishness or ego. Gently humble me so I might perceive the world through Your eyes. 

 

The Levites as a Litmus Test

Seems like after Samson’s death in chapter 16, things have been looking pretty bleak. I guess we shouldn’t be too surprise, after all, these chapters are just an outworking of what happened in the garden “every man did what was right in his own eyes.” We always seem to be wanting to define what is good and evil.

Thinking about today’s chapter, Judges 19, wasn’t all that fun. It was horrifying, graphic, angering, it stirred emotions that don’t get stirred very much in this news-evading, tv-drama-avoiding gal. But still God spoke to me about my own issues.

 

  • There’s the topic of procrastination again, which could have contributed to the ghastly events later in the chapter (verses 5-10).
  • What about the whole idea of judging those not of “our denomination” or “faith-base”? Though he was near Jerusalem and the day was far spent, he pressed on in the night to avoid staying with “foreigners”. (It looks like he would have been better off he had stayed with those who were NOT children of Israel).
  • Then there is the issue of just how wickedly the Benjamites treated their brother Levite. Can family really be so cruel?
  • Homosexuality makes an appearance in this chapter, along with rape, prostitution and pimping.
  • Oh, and how about the dramatics the Levite employed at the end of the chapter, almost as an attempt to lessen his involvement in the whole merciless exploitation?

It makes the head spin and the heart faint. 

And I’m wondering why I don’t feel this outraged when I hear about the kangaroo trial the Lord had to endure, and the gang rape of the whole world’s sin being put upon Him on the cross. Have I become so desensitized to the gruesome horror of the cross, that even Mel can’t capture the perversion of it all?

The last few chapters have a common denominator in the story line. Yes, there is the downward spiral. And the headlong trip into idolatry. But what strikes me the most is who the lead role is.<

The Levite, in chapters 17, 18 and then this chapter, serve as a litmus to just how acidic things were getting in Israel. What happens when the watchman is the burglar? Or he who is to be setting people free, is tossing folks in the dungeon? 

 

  • In chapter 17 the Levite is satisfied to disregard Micah’s idolatry for a few bucks. 
  • Chapter 18 have the Danites toting along a very cheerful and willing Levite to “bless” their corruption and disobedience.
  • Then there is the behavior we have from a Levite in this chapter.

Question…why isn’t he serving in the temple? Why is the Lord’s business being neglected? Could it be that if the Levites would have been tending to the calling the Lord placed on them, that not only would they be staying out of trouble, but perhaps all of Israel would be more godly?

I can imagine the excuses being rendered (not hard to imagine, because I hear them echoing in my mind). 

 

  • “Well, they aren’t paying us the offering like God said they should?” 
  • “Nobody wants to worship in today’s society.” 
  • “The times they are a changin’.” 
  • “What difference will one person make?” 
  • “I’m just taking a little hiatus.” 
  • etc.

Interesting that the story of David committing adultery with Bathsheba, and eventually murdering her husband, all began with:

 

“It happened at the time when kings go out to battle that David remained in Jerusalem and saw a woman bathing from his roof top.” 

Why wasn’t he where he was suppose to be? Oh the grief it would have spared him and other people if he had been.

 

Oh Lord God, show me where You want me, and compel me to concert my energies and efforts in Your work, and not my own wonderings. Grant me a new heart towards the shocking work You did on the cross for my sake, awaken me to it. And Lord Jesus, I pray You will minister to those who have suffered any type of abuse, especially sexually.

The Costliness of Isolation

What is a person suppose to make of Judges 18? There are many a good lesson to be had from the migration of the Danites away from the land the Lord gave them. Thinking they knew better, they left the call of God to follow their own plans.

Their demise ends up being one of unhampered idolatry that never seems to find a cure, until they have totally disappeared from the closing book of Revelation 7. There is no seal of God on the foreheads of the Danites.

But today, I am challenged more by the people of Laish (located in the orange northern region marked Dan on the map found in yesterday’s posting). I’m sure I have idolatry that needs to be contended with, but the issue of isolation or withdrawal from accountability seems the greater likelihood.

In verse seven the vulnerability most notable to the enemy of Laish was that:

“they dwelt safely, quiet and secure. There were no rulers in the land who might put them to shame for anything. They had no ties with anyone.” 

 

We often think we would enjoy time to ourselves. No one telling me what to do, or challenging me, or sharpening me. What’s the big deal with fellowship, anyway?

Verse 28 shows the result of the isolated living that the people of Laish engaged in:

 

“There was no deliverer, because it was far from Sidon, and they had no ties with anyone.”

 

And so it was, the idolatrous, rebel-rousing, God-defying Danites were able to sneak in and strike them by the edge of the sword and burn the city with fire. Laish was so razed that Dan reconstructed and gave it the new name of Dan!

No doubt, isolation seems like the easy way to go. Do your own thing, when you want to do it, the way you want to do it. But this chapter shows me…it’s costly.

 

O Lord, help me to be content where You want me, and not to go searching for greener pastures outside of Your will. Please help me to establish ties with other people, and avoid the isolation black hole.

PS: brace yourself for tomorrow’s chapter…it’s a real gut wrencher

The Costliness of Sin

I couldn’t help but be reminded of yesterday’s 1,100 pieces of silver (16:5) when I read today’s chapter, Judges 17. I almost wondered if a Philistine woman who once lived in the Valley of Sorek might have migrated a little north to the region of Ephraim.

I can easily picture Delilah and her 1,100 pieces of silver being chased out of town after her boyfriend killed a pagan temple full of men and women (3,000 all said and done)!

So let’s just assume that the “mother” with 1,100 silver shekels in today’s chapter is the Delilah of yesterday’s chapter who received 1,100 pieces for her betrayal of Samson. Now isn’t that convicting?!

One notable positive about Samson is that we never read of him engaging in idolatry. As unpredictable as he was in his behavior, he always seems to be calling on the Lord and acknowledging Him in all his ways (even if those way were questionable).

But he did have a besetting sin of improper relationships with women (interesting to trace the three mentioned in the chapters about Samson). And the last woman he was with, Delilah, betrayed him for the silver.

And she, being a Philistine, gave sacrifices to Dagon (16:23).

And she, being loved by a faith-filled Israelite (hey, that’s not my assessment, that’s God’s [Hebrews 11:32]), had knowledge of the Lord Jehovah.

So, in chapter 17 we see confusion! Absolute religious confusion in the tribe of Dan and Ephraim. And I have a sneaky suspicion, it will infect the whole nation of Israel before this book is over.

And it all started with a beautiful woman catching a man’s fancy.A man’s fancy not being held in check.A man overestimating his own strength andunderestimating the power his sins had over him.

And though Samson is not mentioned in the same breath as idolatry, his behavior leads directly to it. It creates the religious chaos we discover in chapter 17.

Oh, the confusion there must be to ask the Lord Himself to bless the very objects (silver) that will be made into a craven image (disobeying the first and most important commandment)!

Lord Jesus, I pray keep me from engaging in behaviors that are pleasant to me, but may end up causing chaos and confusion in the lives of others. Help me to live a focused and honoring life for You. And if Lord God, I should ever ask You to bless the very thing that grieves You, please set me straight rather than letting it go through to seeming success.

Just as a side note, you can see where the Philistines lived along the Great Sea (Mediterranean). Samson was from the tribe of Dan, and during his time (they move way north later on) that tribe lived at the top portion of the Philistine’s land. Ephraim is the next tribe over and that is where we find ourselves in today’s chapter. Not hard to imagine Delilah having to move on after her boyfriend killed more Philistines in his death than he did in his life!

Told Her All His Heart

Ah yes! This chapter makes me want to recant on everything I said yesterday! And yet… The Spirit of God does not retract His assessment in Hebrews 11:32 about Samson, and He wrote the same book I read!In Judges 16 today we read of the familiar story of Samson and Delilah. It boggles the mind really! Four times! Four times! (do you know what I’m talking about?)I can just picture burly Samson convincing himself that he was strong enough to withstand the womanly charms of Delilah (the very area he struggled in while a youth). And so he stayed and listened to her whine, accuse, blame, manipulate, beg, chide…thinking all the while he was in control, and perhaps he could even make a game of it.And for a while, he did just that.But somewhere along the time frame, he snapped. Was it the daily pestering? Was it the lusts of his flesh? Did he actually begin to believe that he was indestructible? Perhaps he thought he would be able to sense it if anyone got near his head to shave it while he slept?Maybe he convinced himself, “aw, the hair is just a symbol of my strength, I know it really comes from God.” And indeed that is true, but if God told him to have long hair for the Nazarite vow, then he needs must always have it. He can’t just dispose of God’s methods and expect God to bless his disobedience.But whatever he was thinking, something switched inside of him, and he “told her all his heart.” Discernment escaped him, and he became a puppet playing into Delilah’s script. Three times we read he told her all his heart. Even strong Samson was not strong enough to flirt with his weaknesses.Now, tempting as is to try and chase down the idea that “a fool venteth all he knows” or “in the multitude of words there is sin,” or etc., I’m rather taken up with the idea of what it would look like if we “told Jesus all of our heart!”Proverbs 3:5-6 says,

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. 

But I think the Darby translation has something to offer us when it comes to telling all of our heart…

Confide in Jehovah all of your heart, lean not on your own intelligence.in all thy ways acknowledge Him (or give Him knowledge of), and He will direct thy paths. 

Do with the Lord, what Samson did with Delilah.No, not the lying part.And no, not the playing games part.But rather, tell Him ALL of your heart. Even the parts you want to hide, or the areas you don’t want to relinquish control over. ALL! And lo! Watch clarity appear!The glorious thing for us is, as we lay ourselves bare before the Lord, we don’t have to worry about the possibility of being exploited, or our vulnerabilities being taken advantage of. He is no Delilah! He won’t sell us out for 11,000 pieces of silver!He can be trusted — wholly trusted — with ALL of our hearts!

Ah Lord God, I want to run to You and tell You all of my heart. So You can have ownership of it and take up residency in it. Help me to honestly live in honesty with You! 

 Just another tidbit off the subject…interesting 11,000 pieces of silver was paid for the life of Samson, whereas the Creator of the Universe sold only for 30.

Deliverance for the Deliverer!

I must confess, I have come to the story of Samson with some already preconceived ideas about him. A self-pitying womanizer, a self-willed brat, an uncontrollable egotistical brute, who wants the world to know just how smart he is by talking in riddles! (I’m not very generous, am I?!)And initially, the chapter for today, Judges 15, only provides credence to that assessment.But when I try to read this through a more gracious set of eyes, I’m especially struck by the last verse. Here I am judging this judge by the 5 or so incidents recorded in the 4 chapters given to him. But look at verse 20:

And he judged Israel twenty years in the days of the Philistines. 

In this one verse we see the next 20 years of Samson’s life as he judges Israel with no mention of his sensual lifestyle. Twenty years without incident and I want to critique him based the years of his youth. I don’t know very many people would care to be measured by that standard…myself included.That is the beauty of God. Even with all of our sins, failures and weaknesses, He manages to cull fruitfulness from us, and then praises us as if it were our own doing. Just look at how Samson was viewed through New Testament’s eyes, a hero of the faith, Hebrews 11:32.

——

Another verse that was delightful to consider is verse 14:

Then the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him; and the ropes that were on his arms became like flax that is burned with fire, and his bonds broke loose from his hands. 

Just muse on that verse in regards to your own life…what God has done or what you desire for Him to do!There is no limit to His powerful deliverances. Whatever be the cords of evil habits, woven through long years, and however entangling our circumstances, God’s indwelling power can set us free. Ephesians 1:19. I wonder if Samson marveled at the liberation he experienced so easily just as it seemed he was being totally given over to the enemy?

Lord, I pray that you would make the ropes that hold my heart become like flax that is burned with fire. Strengthen me to share the good news of Your indwelling power with others, especially those those snared by lust and addictions. 

 

Good Guy? or Bad Guy?

Sometimes I have to ask that same question about myself! The way I behave sometimes, you’d think I was a self-willed youth making decisions based on the strict criterion of “what will make me feel good!”Other times, though not as frequent as I’d like it to be, there are moral victories, wise decisions, or good choices made.In today’s chapter of Judges 14, the same question can be asked of Samson! Is he a noble fella or a spoiled child?Some of the mounting evidence for the latter is:

  • Hanging out at the vineyards watching girls
  • “I want her”
  • “Get her for me”
  • “Get her for me” (again!)
  • Keeper of secrets
  • “I’m smarter than you are”
  • “I’ll betcha”
  • Seemingly has an insatiable appetite for clothes!
  • Easily manipulated by a woman
  • Given to anger
  • (and what is he doing down by the vineyards to begin with [verse 13:24; 14:5])?

But the word for me today is…when he was surprised by a young lion that came roaring at him, he didn’t tuck tail and run. He confronted his fears head on, faced them and supernaturally conquered them. Who wouldn’t want to experience that?And in that nike (victory) over his fears, there was much sweetness to be found. How often the Lord may give me a victory in certain areas, and I immediately try to minimize it, rather than indulging in the sweetness of it, like Samson did in his conquest. By all means, dear Deborah, enjoy the sweetness of a God-given triumph. Acknowledge the gracious hand of the Lord in it, and relish the fresh taste.So not only did he 1) confront his fears, and2) indulge in the sweetness gained by the victory, but3) he shared it with others, freely.I desire to share any sweetness the Lord has given to me in with others. But I would do it just a smidgen different than Samson did. I would be sure to share exactly where the honey came from and by what power (verse 6) such a feat could have been accomplished!So, even though we have a pile of evidence to demonstrate what a whiney womanizer Samson is (a far cry from the holy Nazarite he was to be), it is a blessing to see how the Spirit of God can merciful use him. (He even makes an appearance in the Great Hall of Faith)Could it be that God could use a “Good Guy:Bad Guy” kind of person?!I hear Him saying “yes!”

Oh Lord God, may You be acknowledged in every success in my life. And may I be faithful to share the sweet honey You provide with others. I pray You will make me more and more the “good guy” and daily help me say good-bye to the “bad guy”!