Friday, 30 April 2010

Judges 2:16-23

Judges 2:16-23

The Lord is not only gracious in his keeping a remnant of the nation, holding them through the defeat by enemies. His grace is shown in the provision of Judges, leaders for the people.

Here we see how important a leader, called by God to exercise that leadership is.

The people fell into sin, the Lord raised up a Judge. The people did not listen to the Judge but continued in vile sin. The Judged acted in the power of God to save the people. The people responded to this salvation achieved through the Judge, but, as soon as he died the fall into sin once again.

The frustration of leadership is seen here, the leader is ignored and rejected. It has been said that a leader with no one following is just a guy taking a walk. However, a leader needs only have God with them, or better the one to be used as a leader needs only to keep close to and in step with God and their service will bear fruit.

The Church needs Godly leaders - make this a key prayer request.
Godly leaders need encouragement, need the fellowship of God's Spirit - make this a prayer request.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Judges 2:11-15

Judges 2:11-15
This is a summary passage of the fall of Israel into idolatry which is sin. The presence of other nations beside the Israelites made it easy for them to begin Baal worship. Baal and Ashtaroth were fertility gods believed to bring strength to cattle and to multiply crops. This, I think, is the most common form of idol worship, still common today. Not that we have statues of bulls in our gardens or female idols by our beds, although too many people buy such items as fashion accessories for furnishing their homes!
No, we worship the gods of increase, all is aimed at multiplying our possessions, our money, whatever. We do not live lives content with the provision of the Lord but strive after an excess - it's called idolatry.

If it is suggested that the lesson from this text is that Christians, fearing the dangers of syncretistic idolatry, should withdraw from contact with non Christians, then the suggestion is clearly wrong. Living after the resurrection, the ascension and Pentecost, Christians are strengthened by God's Spirit powerfully working within them in a way that the Israelites were not.
What we should learn is that left to our own strength we would fare no better than ancient Israel. Even with the presence of the Spirit we can still through over familiarity with false patterns of worship find ourselves drawn away into the sin of idolatry, and that all too easily. While living in the world we must take care not to be infected by the godlessness of the world.

The Lord punishes this sin by invasion and defeat. The Lord has spoken of this punishment before, Deut 28:25 and Josh 23:13, when he brings this invasion and defeat the Lord is being faithful to his word.

There are consequences which follow from human sin. It is not unjust that these people bear the penalty for their sin, it is perfectly just. It is amazingly gracious that any survive, that the Lord perseveres with a remnant, who are not less sinful than those who died, but are recipients of grace.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Judges 2

The death of Joshua is once again reported, in this section to illustrate how the people fell into sin following the death of their leader.

We know well that a Godly leader has a great influence on the life of a nation. Together with other leaders the memory of God's gracious acts is kept alive through a Godly leader.
But, when this leader and their generation are gone, it is all too easy for the next generation to forget, or abandon the ways of the Lord.

I think the challenge here to leaders is this: how do we not only teach the ways of the Lord, but enable others to experience the grace and power of the Lord? If my relationship with the Lord is mediated through a leader it always remains second hand, one step removed. We need to lead others into strong, enlivening, personal relationships with the Lord.
For those not leaders in the church: do we desire our own relationship with the Lord? Are we content to allow the 'professionals' to do all the relating to God on our behalf? Beware, this way will lead to our sinful abandoning of the Lord and his ways.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Judges 2

The angel condemns the people of the Lord of disobedience. We should note that in what the angel says he reminds the people of the Lord's gracious work for them:
> freedom from slavery in Egypt;
> being brought into the land;
> being given a covenant to which the Lord is faithful.

In the light of this the people were commanded to break down the altars to other gods, who are not god, used for worship by the people of the land. This they have failed to do. In this they are disobedient to the Lord to their own harm. These altars which they have not destroyed will become the snares which entrap God's people in false worship.

The correct response of the people is weeping and mourning as they sacrifice to the Lord. Confession of sin is a time for mourning our falling into sin, our tears expressing our desire that we should be kept from sin in the future.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Judges 1

Sorry for the long delay in continuing with chapter 1.

1:4-36 can be taken in one unit. We note within this long section that 1:4-18 and 22-26 are more positive, whereas 19-21 and 27-36 reflect a failure within Israel, I'm going to comment on these shorter units.

In these verses the tribe of Judah, in obedience to the Lord's command, go up against the inhabitants of the land. They gain the victory over the people and disposes them of lands and cities.
Caleb, as leader of the tribe, gives gifts to those who act valiantly in the battle(s).
The violence in this section, perhaps especially against Adonibezek may offend, but we should remember this account would not be unusual as a record of warfare of this time, and may indeed by thought of as restrained. Adonibezek receives what he has inflicted upon others in the past.

Here we read of a tribe, Benjamin, failing to drive out the inhabitants of the land. The living together of those who do not serve the Lord with those trying to serve the Lord always results in sin and the Lord being abandoned.
The tempting response is to remove ourselves from contact with non Christians, but this is not right. Newly empowered with God's Spirit and gifts of the resurrection Christians are better able to live in non Christian communities and maintain a faithful discipleship.

Another section recording the Lord going with his people and giving them the victory over their enemies.

While we read of Joseph driving out the inhabitants all the other tribes named here fail to drive out all the natives from their areas of the land.

This is a foreshadow of trouble to come. These nations who do not know the Lord will live together with Israel and lead Israel to worship other gods who are not gods and to abandon the Lord.
Of concern is also that driving out all these nations was the Lord’s purpose, but we see Israel settling for something less than God’s purpose. It is always sinful to settle for less than God desires for us.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Judges 1

ok, can't put it off any more, here goes chapter 1 ...

Joshua is dead. We read again of his death in chapter 2. This is the setting for the opening of Judges, just as the death of Moses served as the setting for the opening of Joshua.
The death of a great leader is always a traumatic event for a nation and a people. Will the leader be forgotten? Will all the achievements of that leader be swept away under a new broom?

The people make a good beginning, the ask the Lord what they should do next. They know, because Joshua told them often enough, that the purpose of the Lord is for them to conquer the land and drive out all the inhabitants, the general plan is clear. But, specifically what are they to do first, or who is to go up first? Asking the Lord is always a good place to start and obeying his reply is even better.

Judah makes a good beginning. Once they know the Lord is sending them first, they go to a brother tribe, Simeon, and ask for help. We are probably to imagine that Judah could have done this by themselves, as so often we can carry out areas of Christian service by ourselves. However, it is better to share service with others and the mutuality of Judah's request is heartening and for us very often a challenge.

A good beginning, I'll get on to the 'success' of this beginning in another post.

Three books on Judges

I'm getting closer to the text, it is coming. Here are some recommended books on Judges.

1. David Jackman 'Mastering The Old Testament: Vol 7: Judges and Ruth', pub 1991.
David Jackman, is in my opinion, one of the finest preacher of the last 20 years. His work is consistent good, of a very high standard and covers the text well. This book is aimed at preachers but would be of value to anyone seriously reading Judges.

2. Michael Wilcock 'The Message of Judges', pub 1992 (in the IVP The Bible Speaks Today series)
At only 175 pages this isn't a long book and probably isn't the most exciting book on Judges, if it's exciting you want try Wilcock on Revelation in the same series! It is a good treatement of the text, apart from the final five chapters which are given only 25 pages (and the text is printed in these few pages).

3. Dale Ralph Davis 'Judges: Such a great salvation', pub 2000 (in the Christian Focus ed.)
Dale Ralph Davis on the former prophets is a must have, these are truly great books on passages of Scripture which many Christians struggle with. Judges is covered in 21 chapters and although not every stone is overturned this is a very good book and probably my top recommendation from these three.

I generally don't recommend series' as a whole, most series' are good in parts. I don't have any critical texts on Judges, and nothing on the Hebrew text so I don't know what's good in these areas.

If you have, or know of any good books on Judges why not leave a comment with a recommendation.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Judges - An Overview

Still on general introduction to Judges.

An overview of the book can be given as follows:

1:1-3:6 - A general introduction to the book and the period, most of the key themes of the book are
                introduced in these verses.
3:7-31 - the first three Judges
4:1-5:31 - Deborah and Barak (a very interesting section as it allows us to compare a Hebrew prose
                 account of an event with a poetic retelling of the same event.)
6:1-8:35 - Gideon
9:1-12:15 - various Judges, two chapters on Jephthah
13:1-16:31 - Samson
17:1-18:31 - Micah's idols
19:1-21:24 - A levite and his concubine
21:25 - programatic summary of the book

Such an overview allows us to identify the major narrative sections, Gideon, Samson, Deborah and Barak, Jephthah. Because we have not limited the key themes of Judges to the lives and events of the Judges chapters 17 to 21 do not appear as some kind of appendage roughly added to this text, but are a key part of the shape of Judges and its theological importance. These chapters are of course some of the most 'offensive' in the OT and it is good to tie them closely into the structure of the book and therefore the main story line of the whole OT.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Judges - key themes

Before diving into the text, which is what we really want to do, let me set out what I think are a few of the key themes in this book of Judges.

1. The land.
Forming part of the promise to Abraham from Gen 12 on the land, this particular land, features prominently, not only in Judges, but in Joshua, Ruth and the latter Prophets.

2. Repeated sin.
This book is designed to highlight the cyclical nature of human sin. Over and over the people fall into rebellion against the God who has brought them up out of Egypt.

3. Repeated faithfulness.
Not from the people, but from God. Our Father's response to human sin is divine mercy and grace - yes, even if that grace is shown through the hard times of judgement and punishment upon sin.

4. Repeated failure.
The title of the book comes from the Judges who are the main characters. They are raised up by repeated fail to change the people, they cannot arrest the cycle of sin.

5. Where is the king?
21:25 is probably the programatic verse in this book. Where the Judges fail we are offered the hope that a king might succeed. This launches us into the narratives of Samuel and Kings.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Coming Next

Thanks to everyone who has been following the posts on Galatians. I hope they have been helpful.

Next week I'm on holiday so beginning on Monday 12 April (fanfare now ...) Judges!

A recent Bible Society survey of bible reading people reveals a great discomfort with the OT in general and the narrative portions in particular. Judges has a few of the so-called 'texts of terror', so pray that as I post and you read over the coming weeks that God will open our eyes to his word in this book.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Gal 6

Verses 11 to 18

If Paul has dictated this letter to a scribe, v. 11 becomes an authenticating mark in his own hand. Which can only work if someone receiving the letter would recognise Paul's large letters.

Paul ends this letter with the contrast between making a show in the flesh and holding fast to the cross of Christ. Circumcision has this value, you can measure it. You can boast of it. You can do neither with the cross of Christ.
It is claimed that by circumcision the law is kept, however, the whole law is not kept or even attempted.

A Christian's boast is in the cross of Christ - note, not the Christ upon the cross, but the cross of Christ. In union with Christ we die, we die to the world and its poor, selfish desires. Under the cross we are like those who are dead to the world.
Paul is not arguing that uncircumcision is better than circumcision. The new creation which follows the cross is everything.

There will be peace and mercy upon all who are in union with Christ and who cling fast to the cross.