Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Judges 21:1-25

Judges 21:1-12
The aftermath of this situation hardly improves for Israel.

The people worship the Lord, the ask ‘why’, but they do not appear to ask him, ‘what next?’

They find one town that has not taken the oath against Benjamin, kill all the men and married woman and steal 400 young girls, virgins, that they may be given to the 600 Benjamites.

We cannot imagine that our Lord would tell his people to do such a thing. It happened, but there is not one word of the Lord commanding it. There is no sign of the Lord approving of this wicked deed. The people have gone off script, not only in chapter 21 but way before this. The continual cycle of sin has lead the nation to this point. There is no other outcome for repeated sin.

Judges 21:13-25
Their first scheme is only partly successful, they need another 200 wives. Why not steal them? Well since you murdered the fathers of the first 400 why not!

Verse 24 may sound as though all is well, each man is entering the promised inheritance. But how have they entered it? Not in the Lord’s way. What are the doing in it? Not living for the glory of God.

Verse 25 is the sad and sober conclusion to this book, ‘there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.’

God’s people need God’s leader, God’s King. The situation in the nation does improve (slightly and only for a short time) under David and some other godly kings. However, this verse points us to Jesus, God’s King for God’s Kingdom. Only when he is King and we do what is right in his eyes will we see God's Kingdom established, only then will we live in his promised land.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Judges 20:1-48

Judges 20:1-17
The nation responds, the tribes gather. 400,000 men prepared for battle. The Levite repeats his story once again in all its horror and the tribes are enraged.

To defend these worthless men Benjamin gathers 26,000 (that is one man for every 15 set against them).

There is no one seeking the Lord here or asking God what he wants them to do. It is more like two mobs preparing for a fight.

Judges 20:18-28
For two days the people of Israel go out against Benjamin, and for two days they are defeated.

Now they seek they Lord, now in their trouble and defeat they call out asking the Lord what they should do.

How gracious is the Lord’s word that the next day they will defeat the enemy (who is really a fellow tribe of Israel).
We might wonder why the Lord continues to bother? Only because he is faithful to his covenant. Even if this people fall into sin and war against one another, he will remain faithful.
Does this mean the Lord is pleased with the majority of Israel? I don't think so. They could have stopped this a long time ago if only someone had stood up against the idol worship growing in the land.
No one comes out of this well.

Judges 20:29-48
Is this a victory? 25,000 killed and 600 escaped to live by a rock in the wilderness. It sounds more like wanton destruction, killing for the sake of killing, without restraint or purpose.

Chaos is too small and tame a word for this, yet it fully describes what is going on in Israel.

The Spirit of the Lord worked order out of chaos, Gen 1, but here we are returning to a chaos of violence and idol worship that denies the creative purposes of our God. Too often the chaos we create is a denial of our God.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Judges 19:22-30

Judges 19:22-30
A tale of horror. The men of the town gather seeking to rape the strange man who has come among them. They are offered two women but refuse. When the concubine in thrown out of the house they rape her to her death.

No one comes out of this story well, the words of the master are harsh and uncaring as he steps over the concubine to leave the house and continue on his way home. His gruesome action in cutting up the concubine and send her pieces around the nation is callous and cruel.

So much for the hospitality of the people of Israel.

Yes, this is a text about the abuse of women. The concubine is treated like a piece of disposable property. So is the virgin daughter who is not raped. There is nothing in this text for us to copy. All we see here are examples of how we should not live.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Judges 19:1-21

Judges 19:1-21
Once again we are reminded, there is no king in Israel. No effective leadership for the people.

An unfaithful concubine is sought that she may be brought home. An extended ritual of hospitality is played out in the house of her father until we think he would be happy for the husband to remain with them in his home.

On the journey home the man and his concubine travel to an Israelite town, expecting some hospitality from the people there, as they found with they concubine’s father. But only one old man will show them kindness.

The scene is set.

The rest of this story may I think rightly be called a text of terror. We should be horrified at what happens in a city of the people of God, in a town within the promised land. This is not why the Lord promised the land to this people. This is not what the Lord intended from his chosen people and royal priesthood.
It would be easy to skip over these chapters, and many do this. Why did the Lord include such chapters in Scripture? Not because he likes horror stories! As with all Scripture it's purpose is to teach, reprove, correct, train in righteousness, equipped God's people for all good work.
This is what happens when God's people abandon God and remake gods of their own choosing. Don't turn your eyes away, because if it could happen to God's people in Israel it can happen to you and me wherever we are!

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Judges 18:21-31

Judges 18:21-26
Micah calls out his household and gives chase to the tribe who have stolen his idols. Notice how Micah speak about these things, ‘You have taken away my gods that I made’. How could he not notice, he a creature of the Living God is now upset because the gods he made have been stolen.

If I have made it, it isn’t God. God made me, I did not make God. Even to say such things betrays how far from truth and Godliness Micah has fallen.

How often our casual words, words spoken in haste or anger betray where our hearts lie.

Micah sees his gods stolen and fears that he is left with nothing. To be without God is indeed to be left with nothing, no hope, no peace, no future. But our God cannot be stolen from us because he is the one who keeps us in his powerful hands – not the other way round.

Judges 18:27-31
The people of Dan do gain an piece of the land for themselves. But it turns out not to be the promised land they gain.

It is a land polluted by idols of their own choosing. They worship gods that are not god, they worship in ways that are not the Lord’s ways, they set up priests not called to this task by the Lord.

They could hardly be further from the promised land if they had set up home in Hawaii.

How easy it is to think we are making a home for ourselves with the Lord, and forget that he is the one who makes a home for us and calls us to live in that home in ways that honour and please him.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Judges 18:1-20

Judges 18:1-6
The disaster of Micah’s idols spills out beyond one family and one Levite priest. Note the refrain of these chapters is repeated in v. 1.

The tribe of Dan has failed to gain its inheritance, they are searching though the land looking for somewhere to call home. The come across Micah’s house and the priest, the seek the Lord’s will from him and are given the kind of guidance they would be pleased to receive. However, contaminated by Micah’s idols nothing will work out well for them.

Judges 18:7-10
The five Danite spies find an unsuspecting group, poorly defended and return to the main body of the tribe reporting success.

The appearance of success can be deceitful, no doubt they think they are on the right road with God blessing them.

Is this not a failing that often falls upon us? We believe that success is the only measure of whether the Lord is pleased with us, whether the Lord is guiding our labours. We can be 'apparently' successful while living in great disobedience. This is not to advise against success, we rightly pray for the Lord to bless our labours in his service, but we need a wider perspective on his blessing than merely what is successful.
Judges 18:11-20
As the tribe of Dan go off to defeat this unsuspecting people they pass by the house of Micah. The five spies tell of the worship centre and idols they have seen.

The whole tribe turns aside to see this, and having seen they lay hold of these false idols to take them for their own. And the false priest, proving faithless towards Micah runs down the road after his useless idols. It started in stealing and comes to stealing again. What a mess!
From one man and his idols we now have a whole tribe entrapped in false worship. Do we heed this warning?

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Judges 17:1-13

Sorry for the long delay in following on from chapter 16. Honest, I never intended to dodge these final chapters. So, here goes ...

Judges 17:1-6
I don’t like to say Scripture is difficult, but these final chapters of Judges are difficult, because they are so unpleasant.

The cycle of sin, defeat, calling to the Lord, raising of a Judge appears to vanish here, we are dropped right into the middle of some terrible situations.

We begin with Micah making idols and setting up one of his sons as priest in his own house. In this he is encouraged by his mother, who clearly doesn’t understand what it means to dedicate something to the Lord. And this sorry situation started with Micah stealing the money from his mother before returning it to her. A broken picture of broken lives in a nation about to be devastated by sin.

Verse 6, "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.", introduces the new refrain of these final chapters.

What do we mean by dedication to the Lord? Do we ever try, like Micah's mother to dedicate to the Lord something he doesn't want, or in a way that will not please him?

Judges 17:7-13
It is not just one family that is falling into sin. A Levite, if anyone should know better in the nation then a Levite should. But no, coming across Micah and his false idols and false worship centre the Levite is persuaded to remain with Micah and become a priest to one family.

Is there no one to stand up for the Lord? No one to say that this behaviour is wrong? Is there no authority (no king) who will serve the Lord? No, at this time there is no one. What a dreadful state of affairs for a nation to fall into.

We know it is not always easy to stand up, but there is a time when we must. Even if we are the only one we cannot and must not deny and be ashamed of our Lord.