Archive for the ‘Judges’ Category

Patience of God with our Questions

Up until this point in the book of Judges we haven’t received any childhood history of the judges. But that all changes in this chapter of Judges 13. Get ready for a good number of chapters about that long-haired hippy judge named Samson!With the risk of sounding too general, I’m struck by the many questions Manoah needs to have answered, while his wife must confess to him that she neglected to ask the Angel his name or where he was from (verse 6)!I’m not married or have had any boyfriends, but I have noticed on several team mission trips, that as we prepare for our journey, it is the men who are always asking the questions, wanting to know every possible detail. Whereas the women don’t seem to have the same thirst for knowledge about the small details of things.Well, I don’t know if that is a true statement for all males and females or not, but it is certainly the case with Manoah and his wife!And so, as Manoah bombards his wife with questions, he does the same to the Angel of the Lord (perhaps a Christophony [a pre-incarnate appearing of Christ]). And the oh-so-patient Lord bears with them all and even addresses them. Just like He did with Gideon.We shouldn’t be afraid to ask the Lord questions and seek His counsel. Especially regarding the raising of children.I’m also impressed by the reasoning of his wife. While Manoah fears for their lives (since it says that no one shall see God face to face and live) she is able to deduce that God in His mercy must be making an exception. Clinging to the promise that she was to conceive a son, it effect how she interpreted the circumstances around her.Indeed His name is Wonderful!

O Lord God, may I seek Your face like Manoah when I need direction and answers. And may I, like his wife, reason through my fears with Your promises as the premises. Thank You for Your great patience! 

 

Righteous Indignation? or Prejudice?

Well, considering the trend Ephraim seems to have of always showing up after a battle is fought, and then complaining that he didn’t get to be a part of it, I am inclined to think this is righteous indignation. I mean, the Ephraimites not only complain, they accuse Jephthah and the Gileadites and also outright threaten to burn down their houses. So, who can blame poor Jephthah for setting about to pay Ephraim back for some of the choices he made.

 

But the part I’m most challenged by in Judges 12, is the judging over a single issue. In this case, if you can’t say “Shibboleth” the way I say it, I’ll excommunicate you, or ignore you, or snub you, or just outright murder you.

 

So I sit here wondering, what issue is it with me? What one particular misstep am I quick to judge, and build up a barrier straight away?

  • Judgmentalism? (never mind the fact I’m judging what judgmentalism is!)
  • Gossip?
  • Absolutism? (especially about social or political issues)
  • Legalism?
  • etc?

I mean, I do want to be discerning and all, but to kill my brother for his speech impediment or accent? I would NEVER! (cough, cough)The thankful thing is, that whether righteous indignation, or just outright prejudice, or just a case of the last nerve being walked on, Jephthah still somehow ends up in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11.So, even seeing my shortcomings, I can cling to the promise that “He shall perfect in me the work He has started!” And even work me in the kind of righteousness that does not feel the need to slaughter 42,000 people who threaten to burn down my house!

Gracious Lord, thank You for not only putting up with my speech impediments, but for Your great patience with my besetting sin(s). Work in me, I pray, that same kind of holy patience with others. 

 

You Can Change Your Identity!

Yesterday’s chapter was almost like a soap opera ending, “Who is the man who will lead us?” only to have the words “To Be Continued…” come across the screen!Talk about Dysfunctional! Wow! Today’s chapter of Judges 11 has it.

  • Prostitution
  • Discrimination
  • Hatred
  • Gangs
  • Mistreatment
  • Sibling Rivalry
  • Possibility of Revenge
  • Life-long grudges
  • Bad Guys &
  • Heroes

and all in the same family!It’s interesting that the men of Gilead who were so repentant in 10:10, don’t even mention the Lord as they sought to find someone to lead them. It isn’t until Jephthah brings up God’s name, that they finally call on Jehovah.Two thoughts today come home to me.1) We can break the chains!In Judges 9 I talked about Abimelech who was the son of bondage, and how his whole life was lived, and the death he died, all remained in bondage. Never changed.But here we see the son of a harlot

  • not seeking revenge
  • demanding amends from the elders of Gilead
  • calling on the Lord to deliver them from the enemy
  • committing the whole matter into the Lord’s hands
  • speaking clearly with the enemy to make sure there is a need for war
  • giving 2nd chances to his brothers as well as the Ammonites
  • not getting sucked into the accusations of the Ammonite king
  • stating the truth of the situation back to the enemy trying to clear things up
  • counseling the Ammonite king away from holding onto a 300-year grudge
  • the recipient of the Spirit of the Lord
  • a man desiring to do right by the Lord
  • a man of action
  • taught his only child to be a woman of integrity and not whiny(she was a virgin after all, and even willingly helped her father keep to his vow)
  • keeps his vows even to his own hurt

I know we can see a few faults in this story too, but consider the treatment he went through, the gangs he joined…and where was his father while he brothers were mistreating him?Today we would all understand if he was wayward and never got back on track. But praise the Lord, somehow, someway, he threw off his old identity and was able to enlarge his heart to care for those who cared nothing for him. He didn’t let his past, or his critics, or his heritage identify him. But he looked to the Lord to give him guidance, direction and identity.And then2) How often we try to blame others when it is really our own fault!The Ammonites accuse Jephthah of taking their land from them, and tried to convince him it would only be right if he restored the land which his people stole from our poor innocent people who were mere bystanders.But Jephthah had to remind the King of Ammon how it really went done 300-years before.It was the Ammonites who attacked the Israelites unprovoked. As a result, the Ammonites got grounded and couldn’t see their friends. And just like a teenager, they blamed the parent, “I can’t believe you’re grounding me, and not letting me see my friends. You’re mean!”So Jephthah says in essence, “I’m not the one who made bad choices that led to this. It was your poor choices that caused you to lose your land, and it would be very healthy for you to take ownership of that!”Of course, just a youth, the king of Ammon went on to blame Jephthah and as a result got into even deeper doodoo, with worse consequences. (I’m sure he is blaming Jephthah for it all to all his friends).How often I am that teenager, blaming God for my circumstances, when really my poor choices really led me to it.

O Lord, no matter my circumstances, my past, or the number of scoffers I might have, help me to have Jephthah’s enlarged heart, one that looks to You and delivers those who scorned him. And help me to recognize my poor choices and to take ownership of them so I can bring them to You to be dealt with in a healthy fashion. 

 

Who do you go to?

Amazing how Tola didn’t merely “judge” Israel, like the previous judges did. He had to actually “save” Israel. And after reading about Abimelech’s dysfunctional reign which ended in civil war in yesterday’s chapter, it sounds like Israel really needed something more than just a judge. They needed a savior.And without any other notation regarding Tola, he gets two verses for his quiet, uneventful, nation-saving reign. Abimelech on the other hand, the wicked murderous fellow he was gets the glory of the longest chapter in the book of Judges. Sounds like the same good guy:bad guy coverage ratio we have in today’s media!But that’s not what really convicted me in today’s chapter of Judges 10.It’s not difficult to miss the error of their ways.

  • Did evil
  • Served Baals
  • Served Ashtoreths
  • Served gods of Syria
  • Served gods of Sidon
  • Served gods of Moab
  • Served gods of the people of Ammon
  • Served gods of the Philistines
  • Did NOT serve the Lord Jehovah

And who do you suppose ended up being their oppressors? None other than the Philistines and Ammonites who they were trying to fit in with!But they are driven to repentance and cry out to the Lord for forgiveness. And because the Lord could lno onger endure the misery of Israel, He set out to deliver them.However, the most convicting part of the passage is in the last verse, the verse that serves as an introduction to chapter 11. Here, read it again…

And the people, the leaders of Gilead, said to one another, “Who is the man who will begin the fight against the people of Ammon? He shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.” 

What do you suppose would have prevented them from asking God that question? Maybe they were a little skittish around God because of their past 18 years of poor behavior. Or perhaps they just weren’t used to going to Jehovah God. Or maybe they didn’t really think it would prove very helpful to ask Him.I don’t know why they didn’t (and I’m sure in their minds, they had the perfect rationalization as to why they shouldn’t) disturb God with this question. But it drives home to me the question posted as the title: “Who do you go to for guidance?” “Who do you go to for help?” “Who do you go to to get clarity in an issue?”For me, my sister-in-law is the one I probably go to most. And that’s not bad, but I desire to make 2008 a year where even before I go running off to her or my friends, that I meet up with God first.

Lord, whether I am trying to come out of the midst of chaos like the Gileadites, or just trying to get a to-do list for the day drawn up, oh incline my heart to You first. I want to sort out the quandaries of life with You first and foremost. Thank you for Your compassionate and patient heart. 

 

Another Identity Chapter

I’d have to confess, this was a hard chapter to feel fed from. I mean, reading all of the dysfunction, and unhealth, and outright bondage contained in Judges 9…where is food in that?But to me, I’m struck by the fact that I’m a child of Royalty, a daughter of the King. And if I can rest in that, be secure in that, I won’t go about behaving as a child in bondage (verse 18).You’ll notice the dysfunction in Abimelech in more areas than just his murder. He manipulated his brothers, he was determined to get his way, had insufferable sibling rivalry, had someone else do his dirty work, hired worthless and reckless men, wanted to be “king” (notice it wasn’t merely a “judge”) of everyone, and everything he involved himself in seems to have ended in destruction, one way or another…including his suicidal death. Trying to manipulate even the way he died.He was the son of bondage. And he remained in that bondage until the end.Yet he was confronted with a turning point. It is as if his brother Jotham laid before him the right road to chose (yeah for Jotham to have the courage to even face the man who killed his 68 brothers). Notice how forward and forthright and thoughtful Jotham’s confrontation with Abimelech was. It seems so healthy, so bold.It seems Jotham took after his liberating father, Gideon, while Abimelech continued in bondage.And then just one last thought…it is interesting that in this chapter of chaos, evil, injustice and outright brutality, that the writer makes it clear, that God was still in charge. He isn’t wringing His hands in fear that Abimelech might thwart His ways. Everything is being worked out according to Love’s goodness!

Oh Father, I desire to take after You and live in Your liberating love. Help me to be as bold as Jotham and make amends where ever there is a need. And thank You for being so faithful to visit with me even through hard chapters like today’s. 

 

Outright Refusal to Help

At least procrastinating Reuben made the pretense that they were at least discussing the possibility of starting the commencing of initiating the beginnings to help Deborah and Barak. Sure they never got around to actually doing anything, but at least they could placate themselves with their “good intentions”.But in our chapter for today, Judges 8, we find his brother tribe, Gad (Succoth), not even pretending.At first read of Judges 8, I’m impressed with Gideon’s humble and modest response to his brother tribe of Ephraim (verse 1-3). Almost tempted to call him a smooth talker, or savvy, and yet scripture tells us that “a gentle answer can turn away wrath“, and it certainly did in this situation.The Ephraimites wanted more than just to enjoy deliverance from the Midianites that God worked through Gideon. No, they wanted the glory and fame that went along with achieving the victory themselves. And Gideon gave it to them! How accommodating and humble.But after Gideon left the Ephraimites behind, he crossed over the Jordan River and ended up in another tribe of Israel’s land — Succoth, that of the tribe of Gad (verses 4-7).Gideon’s response to their mocking refusal to help his weary men seems the exact opposite of what we saw in the first three verses. As I read the two responses Gideon gave, one to Ephraim and to the other, Gad, I took comfort, “ah, yes, I too can be a Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde all within the same day! He’s just as wishy-washy as I am.”But upon closer examination, I don’t think Succoth is the victim here. I don’t think my first take of the story, of feeling sorry for the men of Gad and thinking poorly of Gideon’s “mean” answer, is the proper perspective to take.I think Gideon had discernment to address each of these situations exactly the way they needed to be.Remember what the events are, the Succothites refused to give Gideon’s battling men the food they needed because they had not yet actually conquered the Midianite kings yet. Perhaps they were afraid that Gideon would fail to capture and subdue the fleeing kings and that later the Midianites would return and punish them for aiding Gideon.Whatever the reason, these events illustrate the tragic fragmentation of Israel during the time of the Judges. Since the Midianites lived in the deserts of Arabia, Gad and the other tribes east of the Jordan were most vulnerable to their marauding raids. Yet instead of joining Gideon in his attempt to eliminate the threat once and for all, these Gadites flatly refused to get involved. Too risky!So perhaps the harsh discipline was justified because in their refusal to help Gideon’s army, Succoth and Penuel threatened the whole nation of Israel. Their act was thus equivalent to high treason.I’m just wondering out loud to myself, is my inclination to think bad of confrontation or strong responses, how it really should be assessed? This guy Gideon has back-bone, and I sure could use some of it!

Lord Jesus, help me to respond with a gentle answer even if means I have to take the low position. But just as much, help me to have the backbone to stand firm on those immovable things. Oh Lord, grant me the wisdom to know the difference. And help me to be a risk-taker in You.  

 

Honesty!

Today’s passage is Judges 7. This passage certainly emphasizes the last two days’ lessons…1) Don’t procrastinate! Can’t you just imagine what would have happened in this situation if Gideon blew his trumpet and broke the pitchers to reveal the light, and the other 299 men had to take some time to mull over whether they would follow suit, or ponder the situation before responding?! As Nike says (which is the victory) “just do it!”2) God is so accommodating! First of all He lets the fearful depart on their own volition. And secondly, verse 10 kind of cracks me up…

“and if it’s not enough for you Gideon, that I just guaranteed you with My very own words (that were powerful enough to create this whole universe) that your enemies were going to be delivered into your hands…then go on down to their camp and eaves drop on the latest scoop.”

 Funny how overhearing his enemies talk strengthened him more than hearing the voice of God promise him the victory!But I am struck by a third lesson today.3) Honesty is Beautiful! It’s more than just a signature line (you’d have to get an email from me to understand!), it’s a way of life. God, again showing how understanding He is, deliberately affords an opportunity for people to get honest, without being judged or disparaged (that’s why 12-step programs work so well).

“For anyone who is here just putting on a front, or taking cues from society, or have been pushed into this assignment, or is simply doing it because there is a need, or you’re here because it seems like a good thing to be a part of … but truthfully you are just plain afraid and don’t want to be here … you can go home.” 

22,000 returned to their homes. They were honest. They weren’t going to keep the spiritual facade up. They were willing to say: “I’m afraid.” “I struggle.” “I’m tempted.” “I sin.”And you know what? They may not have gotten to fight in that particular battle, but as a result1) they were able to be honest2) God got the glory for the deliverance3) they were able to enjoy the victory won on their behalf by other people4) and I imagine their faith was strengthened by the whole event

Lord, help me to be honest, to let other people be a part of my life to help me on the journey of life. And thank You for each victory You give (especially when the odds are 300:innumerable!) 

 

Who Do You Think You Are?!

God is so accommodating. Yes, perhaps He is inflexible when it comes to justice and His refusal to take bribes to overlook crimes.But is He inflexible when it pertains to areas of our faith and our need for growth? … Just look at the chapter for today!Judges 6 is the chapter read today in St. Philip’s 3-year Bible Plan.If I had to define Gideon, I would suggest:”He Who Proved God is Accommodating”Consider the patience of God as He listens to (and answers!) Gideon…

  • How can I?
  • My family is the weakest.
  • I’m the least of this weak family.
  • I don’t believe in You.
  • Can’t we just talk about this for a while (kinda like Reuben did yesterday :-)?
  • I can’t do this alone.
  • Can I do it at night time so people won’t see me?
  • Would you mind humoring me with wetting the fleece only?
  • Mind if I procrastinate just a day more and ask You to keep the fleece dry?

What does God do? He accommodates poor Gideon, recognizing his weak faith.

——–

Another thought that I was strongly struck by in this chapter is based in verse 12.”Just who do you think you are?”I’m inclined to answer the same way Gideon did: the least of the weakest, hiding for fear of failureBut look at who the Lord thought Gideon was.…you mighty man of valor!(and in Hebrews 11, a man of faith)You gotta be kiddin’ me? Gideon? a man of faith? of valor?And so it is, the Lord’s identification of who we are is so vastly different from how we assess ourselves. The truth be told, most Christians suffer from an identity crisis.Here is a good list to help straighten out that crisis:Chronologically as it appears in the New TestamentorPictorially as it appears in poster format

Lord Jesus Christ, grant me a glimpse of who You are as well as the truth of who I am in You! Thank you for dealing so tenderly with this weak woman. 

 

Reuben was a Procrastinator

I guess my procrastination is a big issue with me, because I’m seeing the same thing in this chapter today as I did in yesterday’s!Today in Judges chapter 5 I’m struck by the contrast between Reuben and Zebulun. The Message paraphrase of the Bible paints it in clear modern terms in verses 15-18.

“Captains marched down from Makir, from Zebulun high-ranking leaders came down … But in Reuben’s divisions there was much second-guessing. Why all those campfire discussions? Diverted and distracted, Reuben’s divisions couldn’t make up their minds …. But Zebulun risked life and limb, defied death.” 

If you’re anything like me, you don’t have any problems relating to the whole talking a task into the ground and not getting a single thing accomplished as a result…and left to wonder why!Second-guessing. What if I fail? What if it’s not of God? What if it turns out to be a waste of time? What if it doesn’t have good ROI’s? I can’t do it. etc.But oh how I love Zebulun! marched down…came down…even the high-ranking leaders…to jeopardize their lives!Don’t you just love Zebulun-type folks! Energetic, vibrant, can-do kind of people. Willing to risk their reputation, success rate, even their very lives to march forward in the Kingdom of God?Reuben procrastinated away his opportunity to be part of a victory.Zebulun participated in, and obtained the victory for himself and others.

Lord, oh that I might be from Zebulun’s tribe in 2008! 

 

What if Deborah was a Procrastinator?

I’ve made many resolutions this year…money management–get some;weight management–lose some; andtime management–make some.Of course, we all know you can’t “make time,” but I do desire that 2008 will the year I “take time” to do the “good thing,”…no, scratch that,…to do the “best thing.”Today’s chapter is Judges 4. Of course I love this chapter, it’s about a woman named Deborah, who sat under her palm tree and administered wisdom and sound judgment generously to all who came to her. Sounds like a dreamy job, but required special, God-given, qualifications!But the verse that strikes me the most today is verse 14:

Then Deborah said to Barak,”Up! For this is the day in which the Lordhas delivered Sisera [the enemy]into your hand.The Lord has gone out before you!” 

And what if Barak or Deborah had a headache the day the Lord called? Or stayed up too late the night before? Or for me, what if it were a football Sunday and I didn’t have TiVo? This…is the day!Procrastination would have been costly.Deliverance would have been missed.Freedom from oppression never experienced.Victory left untasted.I’m wandering to myself, is there a deliverance, or a freedom, or a victory that my procrastination is robbing from me?

The Lord has gone out before you…I don’t want to be left behind playing Bejeweled! Lord, drive a nail through procrastination in my life. Amen.