Monthly Archives: February 2013

Judges 10: A Picture of Forgiveness

Guess what happened in Judges chapter 10. The people of Israel wandered away from God yet again.

Jdg 10:6  And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim, and Ashtaroth, and the gods of Syria, and the gods of Zidon, and the gods of Moab, and the gods of the children of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines, and forsook the LORD, and served not him.

Then, guess what happened next.

Jdg 10:7  And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hands of the Philistines, and into the hands of the children of Ammon.

The pattern is becoming pretty predictable. The children of Israel were in captivity for 18 years. Then, they decided that they needed to come back to God and allow Him to take care of them again.

Let me return to this idea of language. The word sold can be literal or figurative in Hebrew in this situation. Therefore, another possible translation is surrendered. That makes quite a bit more sense. God let the Philistines take over. God did not literally make a profit by selling Israel. He allowed them to be taken.

Jdg 10:10  And the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, saying, We have sinned against thee, both because we have forsaken our God, and also served Baalim.

Jdg 10:11  And the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Did not I deliver you from the Egyptians, and from the Amorites, from the children of Ammon, and from the Philistines?

Jdg 10:12  The Zidonians also, and the Amalekites, and the Maonites, did oppress you; and ye cried to me, and I delivered you out of their hand.

Jdg 10:13  Yet ye have forsaken me, and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more.

Jdg 10:14  Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation.

Jdg 10:15  And the children of Israel said unto the LORD, We have sinned: do thou unto us whatsoever seemeth good unto thee; deliver us only, we pray thee, this day.

Jdg 10:16  And they put away the strange gods from among them, and served the LORD: and his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel.

Let me give you a little bit of a preview from tomorrow. God does help the children of Israel just like He always does.

This is forgiveness in a nutshell.

We do something wrong. It happens all the time, and even though we try to avoid it, it seems like sin is always somewhere.

Then, God never stops loving us, but He may allow consequences to come into our lives. Again, we have to go back to the end of Deuteronomy. God told people that they could have good consequences or bad consequences. It was their decision, and they were certainly informed of the situation.

However, when we come to God to ask for forgiveness, He is faithful to forgive us every time. Just like Israel, we need to acknowledge that we have been wrong, and we need to change our practice like they put away their idols.

I know this is not necessarily an optimistic chapter, but I think that if you view it from a forgiveness perspective, we can certainly learn something about the character of God.

Judges 9: Why Does a Good God Allow Evil?

Today is going to be an interesting day on this blog because there was a verse in Judges 9 that I think needs addressing. I might be getting in over my head theologically, but I’m going to try.

Jdg 9:23  Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech:

Surely, you can see why some people might have a problem with this passage. How could God send an evil spirit? If He is all good, how could He possibly send something that is evil? It might be even more important to wonder why God would send (if that is even what it means) an evil spirit.

First things first, I want you to know that I am using the King James Version above. You might wonder why that matters.

All of us need to remember that the Bible we read today is a translation from Hebrew. Because I am using computer software from e-Sword, it allows me to see the original Hebrew word.

The word here was ra’. This word was used a variety of different contexts. For example, it can be used to mean morally wrong like you might have initially thought when reading through this verse giving the English connotation of evil. However, it can also mean simply bad. In that case, it has been used to mean things like adversity.

It is entirely within the character of God to bring about adversity. For example, He put Jonah in a giant fish thanks to his disobedience. You could definitely call that adversity. In fact, the Bible itself describes the storm that Jonah was in as evil in Jonah 1:8, and the identical Hebrew word is used in that verse as well.

Now, let’s think about why Jonah was in trouble. I already mentioned it was because of his disobedience. He was supposed to go to Nineveh to bring about repentance, and he was afraid because he thought the people there would harm him. Since he didn’t want to go to Nineveh, he hopped on a boat going the opposite way thinking he could get away from God. You know how the story ends.

What if we compare that to what happened in Judges 9?

Abimelech was the son of Gideon, and he certainly had ambition. He wanted to be in charge of Israel, so he decided that the easiest way to get to the top would be to murder all of his siblings. He killed 70 of them, and only Jotham escaped.

Wait a minute. Did you catch what happened there? He sinned deliberately to do what he wanted to do. He didn’t care which one of the siblings God wanted to be King or if God wanted to do something else altogether; he thought he could make up his own plans.

As a result, God intervened to correct what was happening. With Jonah, He turned him around and made him go preach in Nineveh with spectacular results. With Abimelech, He brought down the dynasty that had been developed through evil means. God brought about these storms to correct what was going wrong.

If you take away nothing else from what I have read today, please realize that people cannot just pull a few verses out of the Bible and say it is wrong. For example, if you looked only at that passage from Judges in the King James Version, it would not be hard to imagine someone taking out of context and saying that God is evil in the sense of being morally evil. Obviously, that would be an incorrect assumption.

God does allow storms to come into our lives to bring us back on track like He did with Jonah, and He even allows trials into our lives to make us stronger. Think about Paul on the road to Damascus. That was certainly a difficult time, but it helped turn Paul into one of the strongest writers and missionaries in the early church. There is no evil intent from God but rather adversity that helps us become greater forces for God.

Judges 8: Submitting to God in a Position of Power

The Israel that Gideon envisions in Judges chapter 8 would have been in theory a very interesting and well-run place.

Jdg 8:22  Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian.

Jdg 8:23  And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you.

I feel like if anyone in any position of power was to take this approach, it would help keep everything in perspective. I’m not talking just about government here, but I think this passage applies to managers at work or really anyplace in life where someone has a position of power.

Managers need to understand that they are not the top-of-the-line. There is someone far above any human office, and imagine the change if people recognized that God was truly in charge.

The judges of Israel certainly had power, and they were on earth to help lead the people. However, like Gideon is implying here, they were accountable to “the next level of management.”

This sentiment was echoed in the New Testament as well.

Col 3:23  And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

I think that we can put these two verses together. If you are in a position of power, then do your job like you are doing it for God. If you are doing a job for God, you will submit to Him and allow Him to rule over you. If God is ruling over the ruler in an earthly sense, then it is like God is ruling over the people.

I’m not trying to imply any type of “divine right to rule” or anything like that, but I am trying to say that, like Gideon said, if you happen to be in some type of authority positions, remember that God is truly over you, and you need to work hard in that position to bring honor to God.

Judges 7: Follow Wherever He Leads

Judges chapter 7 seems like a really odd chapter. First, Gideon has an entire army, but God tells him that he has too many men. Why?

Jdg 7:2  And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me.

Therefore, God told Gideon then to ask the men if they were afraid. Of the 22,000 men who were originally there, only 1000 said they were not afraid.

However, God wasn’t done trimming their forces.

He told Gideon to take the men down to the water. He was to pay attention to how they drank.

Jdg 7:5  So he brought down the people unto the water: and the LORD said unto Gideon, Every one that lappeth of the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth, him shalt thou set by himself; likewise every one that boweth down upon his knees to drink.

Jdg 7:6  And the number of them that lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, were three hundred men: but all the rest of the people bowed down upon their knees to drink water.

Jdg 7:7  And the LORD said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand: and let all the other people go every man unto his place.

With 300 men, God was going to eliminate the entire army of the Midianites. That would have been enough to make me a little bit nervous. I know that I certainly believe in the power of God and intellectually understand that He can do anything, but God was really forcing Gideon to prove that he was really willing to trust God.

That being said, Gideon is still the same guy who liked to have additional assurance. God again gave him another piece of evidence just to ensure that everything would go all right.

Jdg 7:9  And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Arise, get thee down unto the host; for I have delivered it into thine hand.

Jdg 7:10  But if thou fear to go down, go thou with Phurah thy servant down to the host:

Jdg 7:11  And thou shalt hear what they say; and afterward shall thine hands be strengthened to go down unto the host. Then went he down with Phurah his servant unto the outside of the armed men that were in the host.

He overheard the men talking in the camp that they had dreams that they were overrun by Gideon. That was all the proof that Gideon needed, so he went back to camp and got his men ready for war.

However, this is where the really odd part comes into play. The attack of the Israelites was basically blowing trumpets, smashing pottery and holding torches. Essentially, they scared the Midianite army all the way out of camp without ever raising the sword. In fact, the Midianites turned on themselves in the confusion. How many battles do you know like that?

I think that this entire passage is a testament to the power of God. First of all, reducing the army to such a small number and then winning the battle without really attacking whatsoever is pretty remarkable, and I cannot think of another time in history where a similar event happened. For me, that directly points to divine intervention and the power of God. Only He could make this type of result happen.

Judges 6: Be Prepared to Follow

Gideon is easily one of my favorite characters in the Bible, and we are introduced to him at the beginning of Judges chapter 6. He came into leadership because (surprise) the people of Israel had been rebellious once again. The Midianites came in and essentially wrecked everything in Israel.

As a result, one day Gideon was trying to get his wheat put away quickly before the Midianites came to burn it down just like they had done all over Israel. Then, all of a sudden, an angel appeared to him and said that he was going to save Israel. Needless to say, Gideon didn’t buy it right away.

Jdg 6:15  And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.

Because of earthly constraints, Gideon was worried that he would not be able to do what God had called on him specifically to do. However, the angel didn’t seem to have much doubt.

Jdg 6:16  And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.

After the angel essentially torched his offering and disappeared, Gideon recognized that it truly was God that he was dealing with and knew he had to be obedient.

His obedience was immediately put to the test when God told him to go and tear down the altar to Baal. Not only was he supposed to tear it down, but he was also supposed to replace it with an altar to God.

He actually went through with it with the help of some servants, and when everyone in the city woke up that morning and saw what Gideon had done, they wanted to put him to death immediately.

Gideon’s father told the angry people that if indeed Baal was really upset with his altar being torn down, he would be able to plead for himself. The people could not really argue with that one, so Gideon had a little time to gather his army.

However, even after he did this, he wanted a little bit more proof that God would protect them.

Jdg 6:36  And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said,

Jdg 6:37  Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said.

Jdg 6:38  And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water.

Jdg 6:39  And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew.

Jdg 6:40  And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground.

For today, that is where we leave this story of Gideon. However, I think that what we need to take away from this today is the fact that God does not mind if we do not understand His will. He knows that we are indeed humans, and we cannot always comprehend what He wants for us. However, when we ask these questions, we need to be prepared to follow. Gideon could have had all that proof and decided to go home. That would not have been the right response. However, he did not decide to go home, and he did what he actually was chosen to do.

Judges 5: Who Deserves the Praise?

After all that happened when Deborah was the judge of Israel, she wrote a song that is recorded in Judges chapter 5. However, to start the whole thing off, she made sure that the people understood who needed to be praised in this situation.

Jdg 5:2  Praise ye the LORD for the avenging of Israel, when the people willingly offered themselves.

Jdg 5:3  Hear, O ye kings; give ear, O ye princes; I, even I, will sing unto the LORD; I will sing praise to the LORD God of Israel.

In verse three, she is saying that even she, one of the most powerful people in Israel that time, was going to praise God. Even though she was one of the humans in charge of their great victory, she recognized that God was truly in charge of everything that had happened.

I hope that arrogance never impedes any of us. I hope that we are always as willing to ascribe all of the glory to God before anything else.

Why should we give him all that praise?

Here are a few verses.

Psa 24:1  A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.

Gen 1:1  In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

Joh 14:6  Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

God created everything and still retains control over all of it. Where else could we direct our worship? If you think in human terms, when someone invents something, people are pretty excited for the inventor. They didn’t walk up to a Model T and start giving it compliments. If they liked that car, they would give Henry Ford a compliment for doing a great job.

Deborah recognized that very well. Obviously, God did a great thing through her just like people are able to do more things because of automobiles. However, the Inventor of all of the universe was ultimately the one who orchestrated everything that happened. Therefore, He is logically the one who deserves all the credit.

Judges 4: Respect beyond Stereotype

Judges chapter 4 brings yet another judge to Israel. This time, we have Deborah who I believe was the first female military leader of the people of Israel.

Clearly, she commanded respect of all those around her as evidenced by what Barak asked of her when he was supposed to go into battle against the Canaanites.

Jdg 4:8  And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go.

Jdg 4:9  And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the LORD shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh.

We all need to keep in mind that this was a monumental step forward at this point in time. In many cultures from that era, the military was mainly for men. However, here was a woman who commanded so much respect that even the men of that time were willing to admit that they wanted her at the battle with them.

As Christians, we certainly need to have the same type of respect for all people. At the time, Barak apparently didn’t really care that he was challenging stereotypes. He did the right thing by having the most competent leader coming with them. On a somewhat unrelated but still important note, she also did the right thing by redirecting all of the glory to God.

In the New Testament, we are told that we are all different parts of the same body. We all have different talents and abilities, and as we recognize that about each other we will be able to work more effectively for God. That is really what we are here for anyway.

Judges 3: Why Do We Still Sin?

I know that I said this a lot while I was writing about the Israelites wandering in the desert, but Judges chapter 3 demonstrates once again that the Israelites did not learn from all of their previous mistakes.

Again, to return to the end of Deuteronomy, Israel knew what would happen if they did not follow God. They knew that the consequences would not be what they wanted, but they continued to be disobedient.

Jdg 3:7  And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgat the LORD their God, and served Baalim and the groves.

Jdg 3:12  And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD.

These two verses are relatively close together, but they actually describe separate events. As a result of the first one, Israel was in captivity for eight years. Then, God brought Othniel into a leadership position, and he was able to liberate the Israelites.

After 40 years of peace, they again wandered away and were taken over by the Moabites. This time, they were in captivity for 18 years before Ehud was appointed by God to deliver the people.

Notice that there was exactly the same pattern in both of these situations. The people disobeyed, were put into captivity, cried out to God, were given a deliverer, were indeed set free, had a short time of peace and repeated the entire cycle over again.

I know that it is incredibly easy to judge the people of Israel. After all, why did it take them so long to figure it out? Why did they not realize that following God ultimately worked out better for them?

However, I think that these questions could be turned around for any one of us. Why do we continually mess up even though we know that it is clearly better to remain with God?

The answer for us is the same as the answer for the Israelites. We are unfortunately still human beings, so we cannot entirely shake off our sinful past, but if we remember that we are no longer slaves to sin as Christians, it can change our perspective. If we are not slaves to sin, we do not need to and honestly should not answer its call in our lives.

Judges 2: God of Justice

Judges chapter 2 could be misconstrued to present an evil picture of God. I am sure there are people out there who have thought that because God allowed Israel to be devastated just because they did not follow Him, He must be pretty evil.

Jdg 2:12  And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger.

Jdg 2:13  And they forsook the LORD, and served Baal and Ashtaroth.

Jdg 2:14  And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies.

However, people who believe that are also ignoring one of the other characteristics of God. He is ultimately just, and as a fair judge, He had to go through with what He said in the past. Specifically, if you remember the end of Deuteronomy, you’ll remember all of the blessings and curses the children of Israel had to decide between.

If they wanted the blessings, they had to follow God. When they didn’t follow God like in our chapter for today, they had to accept the consequences of their actions.

Ultimately, that is just. Our legal system is built on the same concept. If people do something wrong and break the law that has already been established, then they have to be responsible for the already laid out consequences.

From what I remember about Judges, the people of Israel were on a kind of roller coaster. They alternated between periods of following God and wandering away. However, it is important to keep in mind that God was just in all of His judgments.

It is not as if He made up rules on the fly to stick it to the people. They knew what they needed to do, and they made their choices. Because of this justice, the punishment needed to follow.

Judges 1: Accept the Delivery

The tribe of Judah was specifically chosen by God to lead the charge against the Canaanites in Judges chapter 1.

Jdg 1:1  Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the LORD, saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them?

Jdg 1:2  And the LORD said, Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his hand.

I like the use of language in the second verse. The land has been delivered. That makes me think of the Postal Service. As the end customer, we do not need to do any of the work behind the scenes. The company coordinates everything to deliver that package or envelope right into our hands.

I think that is what God is trying to tell the Israelites and modern readers through these verses. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that we cannot coordinate, but we cannot just say that all of that activity does not happen.

Jer 29:11  For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

God has already orchestrated all of history, and because of that, we need to accept his deliveries. Although I don’t think most of us have been handed military conquest like the tribe of Judah was, we have been given a wide variety of different blessings and gifts.

It is not at all by our own merit that we have been blessed, but just like He chose the tribe of Judah, God still gives us certain talents and abilities to equip us for whatever He needs.

The obvious application from this passage is that we need to accept our deliveries from God and then use them in the way that He would want us to.