Judges 17

Crap on my shoe

A few weeks ago I sat down for a nice relaxing lunch with a couple of friends of mine. I was hoping for some affirmation, things hadn’t exactly been going my way at work, and I just needed to be wanted for being me. And normally my friends do exactly that, they make me feel welcome, wanted, and appreciated.

However, on this day things were different. They kept their distance, they were standoffish. In fact it seemed as though my very presence offended them. I was starting to get upset. Then one of my friends pointed out that I had crap on my shoe, and that it was stinking up the entire restaurant.

Boy was I embarrassed. No wonder things were not going my way. No wonder I wasn’t feeling welcome anywhere.

Judges chapter seventeen begins the story of Micah. It is a peculiar story of a guy who apparently wants to do the right thing. He wants the Lord’s blessing on him.

A man named Micah lived in the hill country of Ephraim. One day he said to his mother, “I heard you curse the thief who stole eleven hundred pieces of silver from you. Well, here they are. I was the one who took them.” “The LORD bless you for admitting it,” his mother replied. He returned the money to her, and she said, “I now dedicate these silver coins to the LORD.” – Judges 17:1-3a

Good job Micah, you’ve put on your new shiny shoes. You’ve decided to do the right thing.

So his mother took two hundred of the silver coins to a silversmith, who made them into an image and an idol. And these were placed in Micah’s house. Micah set up a shrine, and he made a sacred ephod and some household idols.  – Judges 17:4-5a

What is that smell Micah? What the heck did you just step in?

Um, which God are you worshiping? Is it the one who said the following?

Do not make idols of any kind, whether in the shape of birds or animals or fish. You must never worship or bow down to them… – Exodus 20:4-5a

The amazing thing is that Micah has a professional cobbler visit him. And this guy ignores the problem. In fact he gets hired on to regularly add some shoe polish to the top of the shoes!

So Micah ordained the Levite as his personal priest, and he lived in Micah’s house. – Judges 17:12

I guess you can feel pretty good about yourself as long as nobody points out the dung. And the stench gets a bit stronger.

“I know the LORD will bless me now,” Micah said, “because I have a Levite serving as my priest.” – Judges 17:13

Far from it Micah. I suspect that you will be judged even more harshly, because the professional should have done something about the problem.

Father, thank you that I have friends in my life who will point out things that need change. Thank you for men who hold me accountable. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I should probably mention that my restaurant incident never happened. But sadly, Micah’s idolatry did. – Jan

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Judges 16

The Lord had left him

Is it just me or does Samson seem to have the intelligence of a rock?

How many times must the numskull be assaulted, betrayed, and ambushed before a candle flames up in his little brain?

  • One day when Samson was in Timnah, he noticed a certain Philistine woman. – Judges 14:1
  • Later on, during the wheat harvest, Samson took a young goat as a present to his wife (the woman he’d abandoned). He intended to sleep with her, but her father wouldn’t let him in. – Judges 15:1
  • One day Samson went to the Philistine city of Gaza and spent the night with a prostitute. – Judges 16:1
  • Later Samson fell in love with a woman named Delilah, who lived in the valley of Sorek. – Judges 16:4

Do you see a pattern in the verses above? Samson’s problem wasn’t the head on his shoulders. It appears that he did most of his thinking with the little head; the one a tad lower.

Eventually the little head shut down his brain to the point that he gave away the secret of his strength.

When he woke up, he thought, “I will do as before and shake myself free.” But he didn’t realize the LORD had left him. – Judges 16:20b

You’d think he’d notice that the presence of God was gone. The New Testament has a great verse describing Samson’s behavior.

Don’t give what is holy to unholy people. Don’t give pearls to swine! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you. – Matthew 7:6

Samson had been set apart, he was consecrated to God from birth. Yet he chose to give himself to unholy people, he gave his family jewels to any Philistine woman who’d have him, and he paid the price – the Lord left him. Pain and humiliation resulted, and it eventually cost him his life.

Father, may I not give my pearls to swine. May I remember at all times that I am consecrated to you. I am bought with a price, the blood of your son Jesus. Please give me the strength to no only die well, but live well. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Keep the Lord close. Jan

Judges 15

It’s not my fault

“Blame him, not me! I had no choice. They deserved it. Paybacks are fair game. Because!”

Do these words sound familiar?

They sure do to me… I’ve said them, many times. But as I look at them now, on the other side of whatever incident or event that prompted them, they somehow feel like sand in my throat. They are all rooted in self. I didn’t get something. Something didn’t happen in the way I expected. I got angry…

Samson said, “This time I cannot be blamed for everything I am going to do to you Philistines.” – Judges 15:3

Really Samson, you cannot be blamed? Um, you abandoned your “wife” on your wedding night! And you didn’t return for weeks, perhaps months. Then you have the gall to say that you cannot be blamed because her father later gave her in marriage to a man who would actually take his wife with him – like he was supposed to do?

What a pathetic excuse for an irrational temper, prone to fits of rage, and fueled by the supernatural power of God.

“Because you did this,” Samson vowed, “I will take my revenge on you, and I won’t stop until I’m satisfied!” – Judges 15:7

Notice that it is all about him. The “I” word is rather prominent in both “outrage” verses. Now, I do know that Samson accomplished God’s work in putting some fear into the Philistines. But imagine how much more could have been done if he had also lived a holy life, a life which sought after the heart of God instead of the fleshly wants of Samson? He was designed to lead, not merely destroy.

How much more could I accomplish for God if I lived a holy life, a life which sought after the heart of God instead of the fleshly wants of Jan? How different would life be if I didn’t cast blame, or if I looked a bit harder and prayed for alternatives rather than having knee-jerk reactions? What if I didn’t payback evil with evil? What if I truly sought God for any and all actions which I was unsure about?

I suspect that there would not be quite as much sand scratching my uvula.

Father, blame me. I had a choice. They deserve your mercy and mine. Paybacks are the devil’s tool. Because your son died so that I would live life as he did, for others, not for myself. Please forgive me for failing so often. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

It is my fault. That’s why Jesus came, to take it away. Jan

Judges 14

Highway to Timnah

I recently learned that to be a Nazirite meant that you take a specific vow as defined in the sixth chapter of the book of Numbers. The summary is as follows:

  • No wine, or any byproducts
  • Nothing fermented
  • No grapes, not skins, raisins, or even seeds
  • No haircuts
  • No going near a dead body (Nephesh, that which breathes)
  • No messing with the hairdo

Sampson was dedicated by his parents with a Nazirite vow from before his birth. He was to maintain that vow for life.

You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and his hair must never be cut. For he will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth. – Judges 13:5

So I read with some surprise the following passage.

As Samson and his parents were going down to Timnah, a young lion attacked Samson near the vineyards of Timnah. At that moment the Spirit of the LORD powerfully took control of him, and he ripped the lion’s jaws apart with his bare hands. He did it as easily as if it were a young goat. But he didn’t tell his father or mother about it. When Samson arrived in Timnah, he talked with the woman and was very pleased with her.

Later, when he returned to Timnah for the wedding, he turned off the path to look at the carcass of the lion. And he found that a swarm of bees had made some honey in the carcass. He scooped some of the honey into his hands and ate it along the way. He also gave some to his father and mother, and they ate it. But he didn’t tell them he had taken the honey from the carcass of the lion. – Judges 14:5-9

Um, where did the honey come from? A dead lion!

The book of Leviticus calls them unclean animals.

Of the animals that walk on all fours, those that have paws are unclean for you. If you touch the dead body of such an animal, you will be defiled until evening. If you pick up and move its carcass, you must immediately wash your clothes, and you will remain defiled until evening. – Leviticus 11:27-28

Double whammy here. Samson just defiled himself and his parents! He wasn’t even supposed to be near a dead body (something that’s been dead for a while). Then there is the whole Philistine wife thing.  And notice that the lion attacked near the vineyards of Timnah. I wonder why Samson hung out in Timnah? I’m starting to see a pattern in this man, and it would appear to me that he is disdaining his calling. He is not just on the highway to Timnah, he’s on the highway to hell.

Father, may I be mindful of what I choose to participate in, and what I ask others to participate in. Please give me wisdom and disceretion. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Turn or burn. Jan

Judges 13

Nazirite

I’ve heard this word most of my life, but today is the first time I actually looked to see what it means.

Naziyr – consecrated or devoted one, untrimmed vines. It comes from the root word, Nazar – to dedicate oneself, devote oneself , separate oneself from others.

With that in mind I read the following passage.

In those days, a man named Manoah from the tribe of Dan lived in the town of Zorah. His wife was unable to become pregnant, and they had no children. The angel of the LORD appeared to Manoah’s wife and said, “Even though you have been unable to have children, you will soon become pregnant and give birth to a son. You must not drink wine or any other alcoholic drink or eat any forbidden food. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and his hair must never be cut. For he will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth. He will rescue Israel from the Philistines.” – Judges 13:2-5

Ok, so he will be set apart. But then the angel gives specific “set apart” instructions. And in the following passage he adds a bit more for Mrs. Manoah, as if to say, “I know you guys have forgotten what it means to be set apart, you don’t read the law of Moses anymore. So let me remind you.”

“Be sure your wife follows the instructions I gave her. She must not eat grapes or raisins, drink wine or any other alcoholic drink, or eat any forbidden food.” – Judges 13:-13-14

What was he reminding them about? The following verses from the book of Numbers.

If some of the people, either men or women, take the special vow of a Nazirite, setting themselves apart to the LORD in a special way, they must give up wine and other alcoholic drinks. They must not use vinegar made from wine, they must not drink other fermented drinks or fresh grape juice, and they must not eat grapes or raisins. As long as they are bound by their Nazirite vow, they are not allowed to eat or drink anything that comes from a grapevine, not even the grape seeds or skins.

“They must never cut their hair throughout the time of their vow, for they are holy and set apart to the LORD. That is why they must let their hair grow long. And they may not go near a dead body during the entire period of their vow to the LORD, even if their own father, mother, brother, or sister has died. They must not defile the hair on their head, because it is the symbol of their separation to God. This applies as long as they are set apart to the LORD. – Numbers 6:2-8

There is a lot of stuff there; nothing from grapes – not even skin, no cutting of their hair, don’t go near dead bodies, and don’t mess with the hairdo. Add in the rest of Jewish dietary and custom restrictions on top of all that.

Being wise, the listened.

When her son was born, they named him Samson. And the LORD  blessed him as he grew up. – Judges 13:24

I love the last part of the verse, and the Lord blessed him as…

Father, thank you that you bless us because you choose to. We’ve done nothing to deserve it. You do it simply because you love us. May I love you back, no matter what. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Maybe I should let my beard keep growing… Hmm, but I do like raisins. Jan

Judges 12

Ibzan

After Jephthah, Ibzan became Israel’s judge. He lived in Bethlehem, and he had thirty sons and thirty daughters. He married his daughters to men outside his clan and brought in thirty young women from outside his clan to marry his sons. Ibzan judged Israel for seven years. When he died, he was buried at Bethlehem. – Judges 12:8-10

What an interesting passage. Bethlehem, the place Jesus was born. God’s perfect number – seven. Intermarrying his children with other clans – that sounds familiar.

The name Izban is defined by Strong’s dictionary as, “their whiteness”. Ok, not very interesting. However, I stumbled upon the following translation too, “father of a target”. Whoa! That is interesting! Then I see the following from the Jewish Talmudists.

The Talmud (Bava Batra 91a) asserts that Ibzan is to be identified with Boaz from the story of Ruth, who lived in the Bethlehem of Judah, and that he consummated his marriage with Ruth on the last night of his life. – (Source: Jewish Encylopedia and Wikipedia)

It would appear that this Izban might have been Boaz. If that is the case, then he would be an earthly ancestor of Jesus. Cool.

Father, thank you for interesting forays into your word. Whether this is truly what happened or not, it made me think. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Father of a target… hmm – Jan

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