It seems that there was a lot of meaningless killing in Israel at this time in history. In 2 Samuel 4, two of David’s men decided it would be a good idea to go and kill Saul’s final son.
2Sa 4:8 And they brought the head of Ishbosheth unto David to Hebron, and said to the king, Behold the head of Ishbosheth the son of Saul thine enemy, which sought thy life; and the LORD hath avenged my lord the king this day of Saul, and of his seed.
The strange part is that these two men were extraordinarily proud of what they did. They thought they were actually doing David a favor. I guess they thought that David would be excited to see vengeance taken on Saul’s family.
That is not what David wanted.
2Sa 4:9 And David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, and said unto them, As the LORD liveth, who hath redeemed my soul out of all adversity,
2Sa 4:10 When one told me, saying, Behold, Saul is dead, thinking to have brought good tidings, I took hold of him, and slew him in Ziklag, who thought that I would have given him a reward for his tidings:
2Sa 4:11 How much more, when wicked men have slain a righteous person in his own house upon his bed? shall I not therefore now require his blood of your hand, and take you away from the earth?
2Sa 4:12 And David commanded his young men, and they slew them, and cut off their hands and their feet, and hanged them up over the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ishbosheth, and buried it in the sepulchre of Abner in Hebron.
David obviously had respect for other people. The death of innocent life appalled him just like it did when he had the opportunity to kill Saul in a previous chapter.
Having this type of respect for even our enemies is important. We are commanded to love everyone, and I believe that respect comes with that.
1 Samuel 31 brings about the end of the reign of Saul. The Israelites were fighting against the Philistines again near Gilboa. First, Jonathan and Malchishua, Saul’s two sons, were killed, and then Saul was fatally wounded.
However, he did not want to be taken alive by the enemy, so he fell on his own sword. He wanted to die rather than have to deal with all of the atrocities that would probably come with his capture.
Unfortunately, when the Philistines found his dead body the next day, he still suffered a great indignity.
1Sa 31:8 And it came to pass on the morrow, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his three sons fallen in mount Gilboa.
1Sa 31:9 And they cut off his head, and stripped off his armour, and sent into the land of the Philistines round about, to publish it in the house of their idols, and among the people.
1Sa 31:10 And they put his armour in the house of Ashtaroth: and they fastened his body to the wall of Bethshan.
Obviously, the people in Israel saw this as a major problem. Many people were still loyal to Saul, and even if they were not, this was still kind of a slap in the face for Israel.
1Sa 31:11 And when the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead heard of that which the Philistines had done to Saul;
1Sa 31:12 All the valiant men arose, and went all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Bethshan, and came to Jabesh, and burnt them there.
1Sa 31:13 And they took their bones, and buried them under a tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.
I think that is a picture of what human life is worth. Whether living or dead, we need to make sure that we respect other people. When something bad happens to them, like Saul passed away in battle, we really should not be celebrating it. If we are going to show the love of God to other people like we are commanded to, we need to start by respecting them.
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.
Joshua chapter 10 has been one of the most controversial in the entire Bible. Why? It was so controversial because it seems so scientifically improbable.
Jos 10:12 Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon.
Jos 10:13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day.
Jos 10:14 And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the LORD hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the LORD fought for Israel.
These verses got Galileo into a lot of trouble when he tried to propose that the Earth actually moved around the Sun. After all, since Joshua told the Sun to stand still, it must have been moving in the first place.
However, all this verse says is that the Sun stood still in the sky. Therefore, the relative positions of the Earth and the Sun remained the same. Consequently, it is not that hard to think about the idea that the Earth actually stopped. Sure, it is a little bit outside the laws of physics, but certainly the Being that created those laws also has control over them.
I think the more important take away from this chapter is the fact that this passage was indeed controversial. There are many other parts of the Bible that are similarly controversial, and Christians need to not automatically get into our defensive stance.
If the Bible says something, then we have to take that as a baseline truth. After all, if we believe that the Bible is inerrant, then it is the bottom line. However, a better response to any type of challenge is to actually listen and then reasonably and rationally explain the Biblical position.
You don’t have to compromise anything about the Bible, and I would never advocate doing that, but if you listen to other people and find out where they’re coming from, I would argue that it is easier to present the Bible to them because they will probably give you the respect of listening as well.
Leviticus 21 gives some special directions to the priests of Israel. While there are a lot of things in this chapter, I want to highlight one verse in particular.
Lev 21:6 They shall be holy unto their God, and not profane the name of their God: for the offerings of the LORD made by fire, and the bread of their God, they do offer: therefore they shall be holy.
For the record, to profane basically means to disrespect something. The priests are not supposed to disrespect the name of God because they bring the sacrifices before Him. There are other passages in Leviticus that talk about their condition that your heart must be in to be the one that actually offers the sacrifices to God.
Lev 10:1 And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not.
Lev 10:2 And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.
Lev 10:3 Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the LORD spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace.
If you remember these two guys, they died because they were irreverent.
Now, to make this applicable to today, we need to remember that we are capable of speaking directly to Jesus who speaks on our behalf before God.
1Ti 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
In a way then, we need to make sure that we come to prayer with the respect it deserves. Of course, after everything that God has done for us, He obviously deserves our respect to begin with. However, this verse in Leviticus 21 stood out to me as particularly important because it referred to priests. Today, we don’t need a human intermediary like the Israelites did; we can talk directly to Jesus who relays our message to God, so we should have as much respect as the priests did when they approach God in the tabernacle.
Joseph could have been an incredibly bitter man, but in Genesis chapter 45, we see almost the exact opposite.
Finally, after everything that has been going on over the past few chapters, Joseph finally broke down and told his brothers who he really was.
At first, his brothers were afraid of this new prospect. After all, they could be in deep trouble. Joseph might hate them because of everything they put him through, and he was now in a position of power where he could easily make their lives miserable.
However, Joseph quickly put a stop to those thoughts.
Gen 45:4 And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt.
Gen 45:5 Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.
Gen 45:6 For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest.
Gen 45:7 And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.
Gen 45:8 So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.
Everything in this passage points directly back to God. Joseph never took any credit for becoming the second most powerful man in Egypt. He recognized the fact that everything was orchestrated through God’s plan.
As we go to Ecclesiastes 12:13, we find out what we are on earth to do.
Ecc 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
The entire purpose of our lives is essentially to glorify and respect God through all that we do and keep his commandments. Notice that that is our “whole duty.” There is no other task that we are called to do because this task fills the entirety of our mission.
Joseph obviously understood this concept even though the Biblical text as we know it wasn’t written when he was on earth. He understood that he wasn’t on earth to glorify his own accomplishments. He quickly turned the focus on what God had done through his life.
I think that this is a standard we should all strive for. When something goes really well, it is tempting to take credit for everything. It is easy to want to say that because I did something, a positive result happened.
However, when we take a page out of the life of Joseph and combine it with our mission as described in Ecclesiastes, we can understand a little more about how we are supposed to be God credit for what He does. It is one of our main purposes while on earth.