Monthly Archives: April 2010

Judges 11

Smooth Move Sherlock

The story of Jephthah could have been such a wonderful story of rising above the circumstances of your birth, of fulfilling a destiny set by God. Instead he was a short-lived flame that burned itself out. He was certainly useful, but sadly also lamentable.

Jephthah was the son of Gilead and an unnamed prostitute. As such, his father’s family wanted nothing to do with him. Can you imagine the chip on his shoulder? He was probably in a lot of fights as a boy. As soon as dad was dead and his brothers were old enough they chased him away.

So Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob. Soon he had a large band of rebels following him. – Judges 11:3

Why would a large band of rebels follow anyone? Um, because their leader is one too.

Then opportunity knocks.

When the Ammonites attacked, the leaders of Gilead sent for Jephthah in the land of Tob. They said, “Come and be our commander! Help us fight the Ammonites! – Judges 11:5-6

Of course Jephthah is suspicious. But he sees and opportunity and takes it. He has a chance to be someone.

The Ammonites have a god by the name of Chemosh. This god likes human sacrifice. Note, there are only two gods. There is God who created the heavens and the Earth. And there is Satan, who was created by God and rebelled. Chemosh is just another manifestation of Satan on this earth.

Jephthah, in his reply to the king of Ammon said the following.

You keep whatever your god Chemosh gives you, and we will keep whatever the LORD our God gives us. – Judges 11:24

Sounds good. And it is true, in a sense. But, essentially he just challenged Satan – openly.

Now, if he had truly sought the Lord and relied upon Him for all decisions and actions things probably would have gone well. Sadly, Jephthah’s hot-headed nature takes over.

And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD. He said, “If you give me victory over the Ammonites, I will give to the LORD the first thing coming out of my house to greet me when I return in triumph. I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.” – Judges 11:30-31

What, do cows and sheep regularly come out of his house to greet him? What in the @#$% was he thinking? Maybe he wanted to get rid of Mrs. Jephthah. Smooth move Jephthah.

After Israel wins the battle, his only child, his daughter runs out to greet him, dancing for joy… Cue the regret music and chortling of Chemosh.

He does what any normal person would do in the situation, he burns her alive. Yes, he really did it. But no, he was not a normal person. His stupid rash vow clearly violated God’s word and will.

I want you to be merciful; I don’t want your sacrifices. I want you to know God; that’s more important than burnt offerings. – Hosea 6:6

However, there was a god who was quite pleased on the day the sacrifice was made… Chemosh. Jephthah’s victory turned to ash.

In case you think that I’m being harsh on Jephthah by calling him a hot-head, look at his response to an insult by the leaders of the tribe of Ephraim.

The leaders of Ephraim responded, “The men of Gilead are nothing more than rejects from Ephraim and Manasseh.” So Jephthah called out his army and attacked the men of Ephraim and defeated them. – Judges 12:4

He slaughtered forty-two thousand of his fellow Israelites over that insult! No wonder God only left him around for six years.

Jephthah was Israel’s judge for six years. When he died, he was buried in one of the towns of Gilead. – Judges 12:7

Cue another judge.

Lord, how often do I do things without consulting you? Please forgive me. I need to learn to wait, to listen, to not move outside of your will. Thank you for your patience with me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Time for a cool drink in the shade. Jan

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Judges 10

Here comes ‘da Judge

In reading the book of Judges I was reminded of a 1995 movie starring Sylvester Stallone. The movie was Judge Dredd. Below is an excerpt from a Wikipedia article about the movie.

In 2139, people live in a single city, Mega City, ruled by The Council. Crime is dealt with by a special police force, Street Judges, who may act as judge, jury and executioner of criminals.

The power of the Judges in this sci-fi tale sounds very similar to that of the biblical judges in the book of the same name. The following Wikipedia excerpt really was interesting to me.

Dredd’s commander and mentor, Chief Judge Fargo, assigns him to teach a class in ethics at the academy where he tells the recruits they must be prepared to live in isolation until they take the Long Walk, a time when a retired Judge leaves the city and goes into the “cursed earth” to take the “law to the lawless”, those who live outside the city.

Now paint this portrait biblically. Judges, typically quite alone, are assigned by God to go into the cursed earth to take the law to the lawless, those who live outside of heaven.

Again the Israelites did evil in the LORD’s sight. They worshiped images of Baal and Ashtoreth, and the gods of Aram, Sidon, Moab, Ammon, and Philistia. Not only this, but they abandoned the LORD and no longer served him at all. – Judges 10:6

Why did they need judges? Why did they sin so much? Why did they abandon God so easily and chase after other things and other Gods?

For the answer I go to a New Testament book of the bible.

What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Isn’t it the whole army of evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous for what others have, and you can’t possess it, so you fight and quarrel to take it away from them. And yet the reason you don’t have what you want is that you don’t ask God for it. And even when you do ask, you don’t get it because your whole motive is wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.

You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with this world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again, that if your aim is to enjoy this world, you can’t be a friend of God. – James 4:1-4

The whole army of evil desires at war within them… Within us.

So was there hope for the Israelites? Of course there was!

But the Israelites pleaded with the LORD and said, “We have sinned. Punish us as you see fit, only rescue us today from our enemies.” Then the Israelites put aside their foreign gods and served the LORD. And he was grieved by their misery. – Judges 10:15-16

So is there hope for us? Of course there is!

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw close to God, and God will draw close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, you hypocrites. Let there be tears for the wrong things you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. When you bow down before the Lord and admit your dependence on him, he will lift you up and give you honor. – James 4:7-10

The greatest honor we could ever be afforded is a place at our Lord’s table. And if we are his children, then we know that we have that place guaranteed.

Father, may I humble myself daily before you. May I resist the Devil, May I draw close to you in prayer, reading, and in waiting. May I truly grieve and turn from any and all wicked ways. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

He is the Law. Jan

Judges 9

Legacy

What kind of legacy am I leaving behind? Am I leaving a good example to follow? Will my children be Godly men who wholeheartedly follow after Christ? What do my words, actions, inactions, and mannerisms reveal to them about my daily walk?

I hope and pray that I do a better job than Jerubbaal, or Gideon. This man, who God physically appeared to in the form of an angel, who subsequently delivered Israel from the Moabites, apparently decided to sit back on his haunches and not do much afterward. In fact his actions caused Israel to sin, and he did not stop it.

Gideon made a sacred ephod from the gold and put it in Ophrah, his hometown. But soon all the Israelites prostituted themselves by worshiping it, and it became a trap for Gideon and his family. – Judges 8:27

The obvious thing would have been to immediately destroy the ephod, melt it down. But instead it became a trap for Gideon and his family.

If that was the creation of the trap, it was set as a result of Gideon’s pride and indiscretion. He had a child with his concubine, another word for that is slave-girl.

He also had a concubine in Shechem, who bore him a son named Abimelech. – Judges 8:31

He had seventy other sons with assorted wives. Um, can you say profligate? He apparently had a slight issue with the ladies. In that culture, no problem, marry them. You can have as many wives as you want.

Well, Gideon dies and his son Abimelech decides that he needs to be the one in charge. Why? Why Abimelech? Why not one of the other seventy sons?

Words have power, words have meaning. Abimelech, means something. It means “father is king”.

Who knows how often he actually saw Gideon, he lived in another town. But he did know that his name meant that he is the king’s son. Upon his father’s death he decided to claim his legacy, and these so-called brothers whom he hardly ever saw. Well, there was no love-loss or relationship there. They even called him son of the slave.

And you have chosen his slave woman’s son, Abimelech, to be your king just because he is your relative. – Judges 9:18b

He’d show them what the slave woman’s son could do. And he did.

He hired some “worthless human beings” – that is literally what the text says – and made a blood sacrifice to Baal.

He went to his father’s home in Ophrah and on one stone murdered his seventy brothers, the sons of Jerub-Baal. But Jotham, the youngest son of Jerub-Baal, escaped by hiding. – Judges 9:5

Killing them all in a ritualistic manner, on one stone, can only be viewed as a sacrifice to his god Baal.

Pain, sorrow and eventually justice came to those who helped and made possible Abimelech’s abomination.

Gideon had other plans. He did want a bright future for his people and family. He had good intentions. Unfortunately the trap that he had set years earlier was never dealt with, and it sprung.

The son who escaped being killed, his name was Jotham. It means Jehovah is perfect.

Oh Lord, so many plans, so many mistakes. Please help me to be a man who truly follows after you. I want to leave a Godly legacy. May my children all grow up to love and serve you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Walk with God. Jan

Judges 8

Under Whom?

Gideon defeats the forces of Midian, immediately upon returning from battle the people want to make Gideon their king.

Then the Israelites said to Gideon, “Be our ruler! You and your son and your grandson will be our rulers, for you have rescued us from Midian.” – Judges 8:22

It has been observed that people who are under oppression for an extended period of time, when freed, have no idea how to behave. Former prisoners sleep on the floor because the bed is too soft, or prefer the closet instead of a room that is too big. They can’t make independent decisions and are continually asking for direction. They even gravitate toward those who exhibit the same traits and habits as their former jailers or oppressors. One clinical example is called Stockholm Syndrome.

I think the people of Gideon’s time were experiencing Midian Syndrome. They had been oppressed and controlled for so long that they didn’t know how to live otherwise. They needed to be in bondage, to someone, anyone, anything.

Gideon made a sacred ephod from the gold and put it in Ophrah, his hometown. But soon all the Israelites prostituted themselves by worshiping it, and it became a trap for Gideon and his family. – Judges 8:27

Gideon makes a trophy, a symbol of his conquest of war – some special gold clothing. The people, instead of seeing this thing as a memorial or a great honor to Gideon and his family, worship it. They had to have something they could see, smell, and touch be in charge of them. And it gets worse.

As soon as Gideon was dead, the Israelites prostituted themselves by worshiping the images of Baal, making Baal-berith their god. – Judges 8:33

Those words, as soon as… wow. Could it be any clearer. They could not live without being oppressed.

In case you think it wasn’t oppressive, look at what it entailed.

Ritualistic Baal worship, in sum, looked a little like this: Adults would gather around the altar of Baal. Infants would then be burned alive as a sacrificial offering to the deity. Amid horrific screams and the stench of charred human flesh, congregants – men and women alike – would engage in bisexual orgies. The ritual of convenience was intended to produce economic prosperity by prompting Baal to bring rain for the fertility of “mother earth.”

Um, no thank you.

They forgot the LORD their God, who had rescued them from all their enemies surrounding them. – Judges 8:34

What a sad epitaph for that generation.

Then I get knocked right off my self-righteous high horse and realize that the same could be said of me…

Father, please forgive me for my oft wanderings. May I live my life in a way which honors you. May I desire to be subject to you alone. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Under God. Jan

Judges 7

The Weapon

In the book of Judges, in the section about Gideon, there is a dream and an interpretation of that dream is given. I’ve always been a bit puzzled by it. God tells Gideon to take his armor-bearer Purah and reconnoiter the enemy camp.

When Gideon came to the enemy camp, he heard a man telling his friend about a dream. He was saying, “I dreamed that a loaf of barley bread rolled into the camp of Midian. It hit the tent so hard that the tent turned over and fell flat!” – Judges 7:13

Now I don’t know about you, but my interpretation of the dream would have gone something like the following.

“Well obviously this is about the fact that we haven’t brought enough food with us. These Israelis can barely feed themselves. Look how many of us there are! We’re going to have to scour the countryside for food or we will all collapse in hunger.”

But no, a different interpretation was given by the friend.

The man’s friend said, “Your dream is about the sword of Gideon son of Joash, a man of Israel. God will hand Midian and the whole army over to him!” – Judges 7:14

Huh? Where did that come from?

An interesting thing happens when you dig into the etymology of words. you find that the Hebrew word for bread is ‘Lechem’. However, this word has a root word of ‘Lacham’. This word means to fight or to battle, in addition to eat or consume. The word for rolled is the Hebrew word “Bo”. Another meaning of that word is to fall-upon, as in an attack.  So this round cake of barley bread attacked and beat down a tent.

Stay with me.

Gideon means “hewer”. Which means, “to strike forcibly with an ax, sword, or other cutting instrument; chop; hack.”

Notice that the friend who interpreted the dream doesn’t say that the cake of bread is Gideon attacking the camp. No, he says, “Your dream is about the sword of Gideon…”

The hewer’s tool (or weapon) forcibly struck the enemy camp and leveled it.

The friend, understanding the symbolism and words behind them, saw the full implied meaning – they were going to be hewed down.

Funny thing is that they themselves were the instrument of their own destruction.

When Gideon’s three hundred men blew their trumpets,  the LORD made all the Midianites fight each other with their swords! – Judges 7:22a

Father, may I listen to my friends. Often times they have knowledge or revelation that I desperately need. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I’m feeling sleepy. Jan

Judges 6

Least to Greatest

An interesting thing happened in the sixth chapter of Judges, God took a nobody and made him famous.

The Israelites were under the cruel oppression of several surrounding countries. In fact “Israel was reduced to starvation” according to the text. When we first encounter Gideon he is a nobody who is hiding down in a hole, threshing wheat, so that no one will know what he is doing. While there an Angel visits him and he receives an instruction that mystifies him.

Then the LORD turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!” – Judges 6:14

It must have seemed like a cruel joke, “Go with the strength you have…” What strength? He’s hiding.

“But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!” – Judges 6:15

Gideon essentially says, “I’m a nobody from a clan of nobodies.”

The angel tells him that the Lord will be with him, gives Gideon a demonstration of his power, then he disappears.

Silence… until night-fall, when Gideon hears the Lord tell him to destroy the town’s altar to the false god Baal, and use the altar-remains to build an altar to God, and to sacrifice his father’s 2nd best bull on it.

Incredibly, Gideon does it! I wonder if I would have responded the same?

The towns people wake up, and they are ticked. They demand that Gideon be killed.

But Joash (Gideon’s father) shouted to the mob, “Why are you defending Baal? Will you argue his case? Whoever pleads his case will be put to death by morning! If Baal truly is a god, let him defend himself and destroy the one who knocked down his altar!” – Judges 4:31

Sounds reasonable to me. If I was a god and someone messed with my property, they’d be toast. But, I digress. Back to Gideon. An amazing thing happened at that moment. He lived. And he continued to live. In fact, as a result of not dying, he was renamed by the people.

From then on Gideon was called Jerubbaal, which means “Let Baal defend himself,” because he knocked down Baal’s altar. – Judges 6:32

Gideon took on a god and lived! He was no longer a nobody. He was famous – about as famous as you can get.

That is why when this former nobody called for warriors to join him in battle a little while later, they all came.

Then the Spirit of the LORD took possession of Gideon. He blew a ram’s horn as a call to arms, and the men of the clan of Abiezer came to him. He also sent messengers throughout Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, summoning their warriors, and all of them responded. – Judges 4:34-35

The Lord knows how to promote those who are called and chosen. They only need to be obedient.

Father, thank you for lessons from Gideon. May I be willing to do whatever you ask. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Got any altars you need destroyed? Jan

Judges 5

Come back and fight like a man

Until now, I’d never noticed the sequence of what occurred in the battle between the forces  of Barak and Sisera.  An interesting happened on the way to the battle, the enemy ran away! And they did it before Barak’s soldiers engaged them.

Then Deborah said to Barak, “Get ready! Today the LORD  will give you victory over Sisera, for the LORD is marching ahead of you.” So Barak led his ten thousand warriors down the slopes of Mount Tabor into battle. When Barak attacked, the LORD threw Sisera and all his charioteers and warriors into a panic. Then Sisera leaped down from his chariot and escaped on foot. Barak chased the enemy and their chariots all the way to Harosheth-haggoyim, killing all of Sisera’s warriors. Not a single one was left alive. – Judges 4:14-16

Notice that the Lord marched out ahead of Barak, and that Sisera’s forces were in a panic because of the Lord, not Barak. Why did they panic?

I found it interesting that God made sure to mention that Sisera’s focres had nine hundred iron chariots.

Sisera called together all his chariots, nine hundred iron chariots, and all the people who were with him, from Harosheth-hagoyim to the river Kishon. – Judges 4:13

He actually mentioned them earlier in the chapter too, and then he also ensured that Sisera’s leap from his chariot was recorded.

An iron chariot was the equivalent of our modern day tank. Infantry is no match for one. And all of Israel had was infantry. So I ask you, why would you jump out of your battle-wagon? Why would you abandon your armor? Why leave the tank behind?

I think the following section of the song of Deborah and Barak explains it.

LORD, when You went out from Seir, when You marched from the field of Edom, the earth quaked, the heavens also dripped, even the clouds dripped water. The mountains quaked at the presence of the LORD, this Sinai, at the presence of the LORD, the God of Israel… The stars fought from heaven, from their courses they fought against Sisera. – Judges 5:4-5, 20

Hmm, heavens dripping. Could that be rain? The earth quaked, the mountains quaked. Sounds like thunder. The stars fought from heaven. Sounds like lightning. I don’t have definitive proof, and I’ll have to wait to see it on God’s Blue-Ray screen, but I suspect that Sisera’s iron chariots become lightning-rods. God was having himself a Canaanite barbecue.

Sisera, seeing his forces being roasted as they stood in their Smokey Joe’s, jumped out of the spit as fast as he could and started running for his life – as did the rest of his troops. And Israel began the mop-up operation.

Father, thank you that if we trust you, often times you will battle for us. Of course there are times that you expect us to engage as the Israelites had to. But you certainly know how to put our opposition to flight. Thank you for allowing me the honor of being on your side. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I smell rain… Jan