Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Judges Chapters 19-21

Sorry about the 9 day hiatus...during the holidays, I have a had a tough time getting a chunk of quiet bad!

19:4-10 - The hospitality of the concubine's dad stands in stark contrast to the anti-hospitality that the Levite is going to experience when he gets to Gibeah. It really stands out when God's people are not living as a reflection of Him.

19:16 - It is interesting when you look at it...the old man is a traveler/foreigner/non-Israelite and he is the only non-corrupt person in Gibeah - doesn't really speak well of the spiritual condition of God's people.

19:20 - The old man knowing how corrupt the people of the city are, begs the Levite to stay with him that night. He can't stand by and do nothing as this man and his entourage are abused...again, it is the non-Israelite who is the only heroic person in this story.

19:22 - "Worthless fellows" is translated literally as "sons of Belial" a horrifying deity of the near east. Basically the author is calling these men the sons of Satan. Their lives and actions mark them as followers of the evil one - not God. What do our lives tell people?

19:25ff - The priestly Levite "man of God" then forces his concubine out to the men to be raped until she dies...really high quality guy. How have the men of Israel sunk so far? In verse 28, we see that he basically steps over her dead body the next morning and orders her to get up so they can go. He is callous and uncaring - nothing like a representative of Gd should be.

19:29 - Again, we see how this man is actually an sick is this? He couldn't just send a message to the people? He had to cut her up and send her body parts out?

20:9 - Throughout the bible God is always in control of the lots, but in this situation, H is not mentioned at all. They have taken the casting of the lots into their own hands and we see that God is not with them as they get their butts kicked by the Benjaminites.

20:16 - The left-handed slingers are menacing, because they throw at an angle warriors are unused to dealing with - very deadly. It is also ironic that the tribe of Benjamin has left-handed warriors, because Benjamin literally means "son of the right hand" - a little brevity in an otherwise sick chapter.

20:26-27 - Finally the Israelites turn to God fasting and praying and sacrificing (all which were rare in this time period in Israel). They humble themselves before God and go back to their covenant and He becomes their protector again. God is the judge in this chapter and He would have been their king and judge for all time, if they had sopped breaking their covenant!

20:47 - These 600 men are the core that rebuilds the tribe of Benjamin.

21:10 - Again, we see that they immediately ditch God to pursue their own plans. They slaughter their own brothers to find wives for the Benjaminites.

21:20-21 - How twisted s the leadership of Israel? They allow the men of Benjamin to get wives by stealing daughters from their fellow Israelites.

21:25 - The book of Judges is depressing and ends with a picture of Israel in total spiritual and relational depravity. They have turned their backs on God and are heaping judgement upon themselves. The reader is left longing for a godly king. And me? I am longing for a God-king...a man named Jesus who will show us all what true living looks like.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Judges Chapters 16-18

16:1 - If he is going to Gaza to look for prostitutes, he had to go on a long journey out of his way. This was no accidental sin - this was premeditated (And stupid walking into enemy territory).

16:3 - It is really cool that Samson has the strength to rip a gate off it hinges and carry it up a mountain, but it serves absolutely no purpose. He could have just destroyed the gate and left. His actions serve only to honor himself and show that his arrogance is a monumental as his strength.

16:5 - This is pretty interesting...Samson must not have been a huge guy physically. The Philistines are convinced that there has to be some magical secret to his immense strength. If he had been huge, they would have assumed it was the size of his muscles, but he was probably just an average sized guy who could rip city gates off their posts! I've never thought of it like that. Just goes to bring God more honor.

16:15ff - He gives in to lust AGAIN and pours his heart out to a pagan woman who has been tying to get him captured! He cannot see how destructive these woman are and continues to turn to them for love. It is also really sad that he admits to her that he is under a Nazerite vow, because that means he has always known about the vow. That means he has been breaking the vow on purpose!

16:20 - This is another sad verse...Samson is totally unaware that God has left him and he goes out to fight, only to be captured. He is so uninvested in his relationship with God, that he cannot even tell when God leaves.

16:28 - A sad end to the life of a terrible judge. Even in the end, he asks God for power only to pout out revenge for himself. He cares nothing about God, or God's people, or justice...he wants only to kill these people because of what they have done to him. He is still as selfish as ever, yet God chooses to use Samson with all his flaws to destroy Dagon utterly. All the leaders of Philistia are destroyed in the temple of their god by a blind, bald guy...if that doesn't show the power of Yahweh, I don't know what does!

17:4ff - Ironically, Micah means, "Who is like Yahweh?" It's ironic because Micah is nothing like Yahweh. He steal from his mom, makes idols and creates his own religion. Who is like Yahweh? Definitely not Micah!

17:13 - From the idols to the Levite priest, Micah sees everything as religion that he can control for his own purposes. He thinks he can manipulate things to get what he wants, like magic. This is how the majority of God's people operate at this point in the history of Israel.

18:27ff - The men of Dan steal the idols and the priest from Micah because they believe it will bring them power in battle, and because they believe just like Micah did that they can control God through those things. Then they head out and destroy a helpless group of people who are trying only to keep to themselves. None of this is sanctioned by God, in fact, it is in the book of judges to paint a picture of the degradation of God's people! Verse 28 implies that the people of Laish need a deliverer from the Israelites...meaning that the Israelites are the evil people in this scenario. This book just gets more and more depressing as the weeks roll on.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Judges Chapters 13-15

13:4-5 - The Nazerite vow is typically a voluntary vow that lasts for a specified period of time. God is calling for Samson to be a Nazerite for his entire life. It is also interesting to note that the angel has to tell the mom not to eat unclean food...this means she is not keeping the food laws. It gives us a little clue about how far the people of God have fallen. Where the judges were once being called from God honoring families...God now has to make due with people who don;t even really honor Him.

13:8 - We see that Manoah lacks faith...he doesn't believe his wife and has to see for himself. (Kinda reminds me of Gideon and the fleece incident) Just another clue about how faithless the parents of Samson are, which may be an indicator of why he turns out to be one of the worst judges as we will see later.

13:15-17 - Here we see Manoah actually trying to manipulate God by manipulating the angel God has sent. First he trues to get him to stay for dinner, which in their culture would have meant that God "owed" Manoah, so that Manoah could cal in the chips later to get what he wanted. The angel will have nothing to do with being manipulated, he says, "Why don't you make a sacrifice to God?" God followers always trying to bring focus back to God! Next we see Manoah tries to know the name of the angel. In the ancient near east, they believed that if you knew the real name of a god, you would have power over that god. Manoah is trying again to manipulate and again the angel will have none of it.

13:24 - How crazy are these people? After meeting the angel of the Lord, they still don't have enough faith to give Samson a traditional, God-honoring Hebrew name. They name him Samson after the Canaanite sun god. God really shows patience and mercy with this family!

14:4 - Samson demands a foreign bride, even after his parents try to persuade him to look for an Israelite bride. He is such a far cry from Othniel the greatest of the judges. Othniel lived to honor God and married a God-honoring woman. Samson lives only for himself and lusts after foreign women his entire life. He is controlled by his lust, and God chooses to work His plan out through Samson's shortcomings.

14:6 - Nazerites are not supposed to touch anything dead. If a Nazerite ever accidentally came in contact with something death (Like by killing a lion while defending themselves), they would have to go to the tabernacle and go through a cleansing ritual that would take 8 days. Samson is to preoccupied with his lust and his own agenda, so instead of doing what was right, he just doesn't tell anybody.

14:9 - He is even so sick as to take other people down with him...he feeds his parents unclean food from a corpse!

14:17 - Samson gives in to lust and finds out where his future bride's loyalty really lies. He is blinded by lust, so he cannot see that she does not love him and that he deserves better from a marriage partner.

14:18 - Clever way to say - YOU CHEATED! People just don't have that kind of creativity in their arguments anymore!

14:19 - Samson reacts out of anger and violence purely to meet his own needs. He is not fighting for God's people or for freedom...his is fighting because the men cheated him out of a bet. God chooses to use Samson for his own ends, but this is not an example of God-honoring behavior.

15:4ff - Again, he reacts out of vengeance and anger and he completely destroys the Philistine economy.

15:8 - Revenge is now in full swing. Samson tells the men a riddle they cannot solve, so they get his wife to tell them. He reacts by killing 30 men. They react by marrying off his wife to somebody else. He reacts by destroying their economy. They react by killing his wife and father-in-law. Samson reacts by mercilessly slaughtering them (great blow, hip and thigh - means great slaughter). Violence begets violence and revenge begets revenge. None of this is ever done out of motivation other than revenge, so there will be no end to this cycle.

15:15- 16 - Even when he fights, Samson uses an unclean object as a weapon - he cares absolutely nothing about his vow and nothing about honoring God. Let's compare him to Shamgar. Shamgar's motivation was to save Israel - Samson was revenge. Shamgar honors God with his victory - Samson honors himself (see his victory poem - no mention of God). Shamgar uses a clean weapon - Samson use a dead body part. Samson never even acknowledges that God is with him.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Judges Chapters 10-12

10:4 - 30 sons on 30 donkeys? That seems like a weird little phrase to put in there, but it is very meaningful. To be able to have thirty sons (which also implies that there are lots of daughters too, not to mention the children lost in birth), Jair would have to have his own harem. To be able to take care of a harem, he would have to have huge resources. Donkeys, in the ancient near east, were a sign of royal power. So, we have a judge who has a harem like an eastern pagan king, needs resources for his family like that of a king, and has sons riding around like princes. Jair is introducing a new trend in judges, where the Israelite saviors become more worldly and less focused on turning people back to God. Jair's focus is consolidating his own power base more than promoting God's power and justice.

10:10ff - This is a tragic back and forth between God and His people. I read through it and am instantly cut to the heart. How many times do I turn my attention away from God? How often do I bow down to the idols of this culture? And where do I go running when it all falls apart? Just like the Israelites, I go running back to God. I am so glad that God doesn't tell me, "God back to the things you sold me out for and see what those things can offer you in your time of need."

11:1-2 - Gilead must have adopted Jephthah as his son after the prostitute gave birth to him, because there would be no issue of inheritance if he had not. This is probably what went down. Gilead adopts Jephthah as his son. Gilead dies. The other sons take Jep before the elder council and sue to get the inheritance revoked from him. The elders side with the sons, because Jep is the son of a prostitute and Jephthah is driven out of the community. The irony of this understanding of the situation is that the elders who rejected Jep will soon come to beg him to rescue them.

11:3 - These men are not the "adventurers" that are described in the NIV. This is not Robin Hood and his band of merry men running around the desert. These men are morally corrupt, spiritually empty. Jephthah has become a cut-throat mercenary.

11:7 - Another ironic note is that the people treat Jephthah just like they treated God. They rejected him and turned their backs on him...yet when everything falls apart they coming running to him for help.

11:29 - Note that the Spirit of God is "on" Jep and not "in" him. With the OT judges, like we saw in Gideon's story, the Spirit of God is clothing them, almost like armor. This seems to tell us that God is with them in their battles, but the people still make their own choices (Which is evident by the stupid vow Jep is about to make). Since the sacrifice of Jesus Christ it is possible for Christians to have the Holy Spirit of God inside of them...helping them to make decisions and guiding them.

11:30-40 - Really uncomfortable story. First of all, the fact that Jephthah even makes this vow shows that he really has no understanding of God. God was working to deliver the Israelites. Jephthah did not have to make some crazy vow to get help. He makes a rash vow with huge consequences. Who did he think was going to walk through the door? It could have been an animal, but it could also be his wife or daughter - that's crazy! The horrible irony is that God despises human sacrifice - it is the false pagan gods that surround the Israelites that want human sacrifices. The fact that Jephthah follows through on the sacrifice continues to show that he knows nothing of God. Though breaking a vow is sin, God has made concession with stupid vows in the bible. Jep could have gotten out of sacrificing his daughter if he understood the heart of God. But he treats God as one of the pagan gods...he tries to manipulate Him into working for him and then makes a human sacrifice to pay for the help. Jephthah's daughter was killed by her father's ignorance and lack of faith.

12:4 - This is way more intense than saying they are fugitives. The people of Ephraim call the people of Gilead, "bastards (pardon my french)." They are calling the people of Gilead illegitimate heirs to the Israelite nation. It probably doesn't help the prospects of piece that the commander of the army of Gilead is actually the son of a prostitute.

12:5ff - I know this is about executing people, but it is still funny. The people of Gilead have a word that they know the people of Ephraim cannot must be due to an accent or dialect of Hebrew they have. They cannot make the "sh" sound, and every time somebody pronounces it wrong, they kill them. It's like cruelly giving them false hope.

12:9 - Again we see the judges that care little about God. Ibzan gives his sons and daughters int marriage with people from outside of Israel. This is how pagan gods continue to come into the culture of the Israelites. So instead of leading his people towards God, he is setting them up to reject God in the years to come.

12:14 - Here we see another judge that is acting more like a king than God's servant.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Judges Chapters 7-9

7:2 - God wants to make it crystal clear that the victory comes only through His power. Which probably didn't do much for Gideon's already fragile courage!

7:7 - Why do you think God chose only the people who lapped water from their hands? It could be that these people are able to have their head up as they drink, so they are ready if the enemy attacks...they might be the most reliable fighting men. Or it could just be that God chose the smaller group so that He could have even more glory. I lean towards the second option.

7:13ff - Think about this. The Midianite camp is huge - their camels are uncountable...they stretch as far as the eye can see. What is the probability that Gideon walks up to the two guys in camp that are going to be talking about a divinely inspired dream and interpretation about him? What are the odds? It is cool to see how intricately God weaves His plans and brings His people into them. Think about the countless plans that God is working that you are walking towards - it's pretty cool to think about.

7:15 - I find it really ironic that Gideon trusts the words of these Midianite soldiers more than He trusts God. After he hears them, he is finally ready to do what God has called him to do for two chapters now.

8:2 - Gideon puts forth a really good show of diplomacy here. Instead of starting a civil war within the people of God, he uses humility to defuse the situation. He says, "Hey, all we did was smash some pots and are the guys who captured and killed the princes, right?" It is amazing what tact and humility can do compared to hot-headed pride.

8:4 - Unfortunately, we are about to watch everything unravel for Gideon. In the span of a few verses he completely morphs...he was the scared guy, using diplomacy, now he is about to become the vengeful man of action (not necessarily in a God honoring way). Gideon crosses the Jordan and goes off on a personal vendetta outside of the Promised Land - nowhere do we see God call him to do this - his people have already been freed from the oppression of the Midianites (In verse 8:19 we see that he is seeking vengeance for the death of family members).

8:7/9 - These people don't feed his army of three hundred so he instantly pronounces judgement on them. Again, he is taking this into his own hands...we do not see God speak to him at all like we did in previous chapters. Gideon has gone from judge meeting out God's will to a terrorizer.

8:16/17 - We see that his anger worsens as he doesn't get what he wants. The first city that refused to feed his men has its leaders whipped and tortured. The second city really ticked him off with their refusal, so he killed every man in the city. When vengeance and anger are left alive to burn, they continue to get worse and worse.

8:20 - It might just be that his son is uncomfortable with executing defenseless men that God has not called them to kill?

8:23 - Doesn't it make sense that the people would want to make him a king. He has led the forces against the Midianites. He has started acting like a king by judging people and giving out summary executions. He has started expanding territory outside the Promised Land like kings always do. Why wouldn't they ask him - that what's he's acting like? Fortunately Gideon makes a wise plan and refuses their offer. The only negative is that he does not use this opportunity to set the people right. He doesn't tell them that it was God and God alone that brought victory. And then to ruin his great speech he closes out by asking everybody for their gold earrings!

8:27 - An ephod is what the priests wore, so it is some sort of garment he makes out of gold (generally when people make stuff out of gold after God does something for them, it doesn't turn out well - see: Aaron). If you can recall that God made the fleece miraculously wet and dry, which is what convinced Gideon that the Spirit of God was with him. Maybe Gideon created this golden fleece to make sure that God's Spirit was always with him - but it becomes an idol. He starts out meaning well, but ends up leading people down a road to idolatry and setting his people up for Baal worship in the years to come. It sounds like some of the religious symbols that people today put too much stock starts out well and good, honoring the life of a saint or something, but morphs into something they worship, which is not good.

9:5 - Abimelech is the only son that is from a concubine. He was probably an outcast in his family. He goes only to his mother's side of the family if you notice and destroys his father's side. He probably hated his dad for bringing him into the world as an outsider, and he wanted to show that he was better than Gideon by taking the kingship he refused.

9:7ff - Jotham actually gives a prophetic parable. Each of the big trees the little trees (i.e. people) approach rejects their offer for kingship, because there is no point. Why would a person give up the life God has called them to to rule over others, when God is already doing that? The trees finally turn to the brambles (Abimelelch) and ask him to be their king. He accepts and asks them to come under his vines. It is absurd! Trees can fit under the brambles of a thorn bush - just like it is absurd for the people to reject God for Abimelech. Because of their choice, their lives will end in destruction.

9:49 - Just like Jotham prophecies - their lives end in fire under the branches of the thorn bush (Abimelech).

9:53 - So in one chapter, everyone who conspired to destroy Gideon's family is dead.

9:55 - The Israelites following Abimelech walk away, ending the cycle of revenge and violence (Also showing how little they actually cared about following him).

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Judges Chapters 4-6

Mandy has okayed me for giving our adopted daughter the name Jael as a middle name...hey I'll take what I can get from one of my favorite stories with an awesome feminine hero!

4:6 - Deborah confronts Barak and says, "HAS NOT the Lord commanded you to..." The question we need to ask is, why does Deborah need to show up and prod this guy? It seems that God has already been calling him to act and Barak refuses to trust God and move. How long has he been ignoring God's call? Because of his failure to act when God calls, Barak is not the hero that is honored by this story...our hero (or heroine will show up later - v. 4:9). Are you ignoring the call of God in any way in your life right now?

4:18 - In contrast to Barak, Jael is ready and willing to act the call of God. She goes out to meet Sisera. She is a foreign woman, whose husband was probably an ally of Sisera...she had everything to lose, but she was willing to act. She is the example of heroic faith - not Barak.

4:19-21 - Here are a couple of attributes that make her successful in honoring God with her life. She uses creativity to serve God. She welcomes Sisera in...serves him warm milk...treats him as a man of honor...makes him feel safe - she is thinking outside the box. See is also willing to seize her opportunity as soon as it presents itself. When he nods off to sleep, she doesn't hesitate to bring the judgement of God. Again, it is weird to equate violent death from the OT to current day Christianity, but as followers of God, we must be willing to use creativity when it comes to serving God...and we must be ready to seize any opportunity to benefit His kingdom that presents itself.

5:1 - I just want to say...we do not do enough spontaneous victory songs. Seriously!

5:6 - Just a little reminder for everybody that so far in the book of judges, God has twice had to use foreign people to free his people. In fact, they were foreign people that used a farm tool and a household item to bring judgement. It is clear that God is powerful and uses the weak to humble the strong.

5:15-17 - Reuben, Gilead, Dan and Asher refused to help their fellow Israelites in their war against Sisera. They are mocked in this song, "Why are you in your sheep pens - do you want to hear you sheep whistle? Why do you stay with your boats?" The reality is that these tribes probably did not want to hurt their economy. If the shepherds of Reuben had gone off to war, people could have stolen their flocks. If the other tribes had fought against the Canaanites, it would have ruined their trade opportunities with those people. They were willing to put their own economic interests ahead of their own people...their brothers in the covenant with God. That doesn't have any applicability in our day and age, does it?

5:20-22 - It seems that according to the song, God sent tons of rain and caused a flood in the river which muddied up the battlefield and destroyed the effectiveness of the Canaanite chariots. I like how it is described as the horses run riderless and chaotic all over the battlefield!

5:24 - Interesting...Jael is praised here in the same way that Mary the mother of Jesus is praised. These are the only two instances in the bible where a woman is praised so magnificently. She is called the most blessed of women (How is that not a good name for a baby girl! Other than the fact that it means "Mountain Goat" in Hebrew)!

5:28ff - This is really awesome song writing. After describing how Jael kills Sisera, the singers jump immediately to the chambers of Sisera's mother. She is looking out the window waiting for her son to return. She is worried, because he has never been this late before in returning from battle. He has always come to tell her of his victories. So she and her handmaid think up reasons why he may be late...they settle on thinking that the plunder is so huge that he must still be dividing it up. She even says that each man is probably going to bring back a "womb" or two (literal translation - score another one for the ESV)! It is a disgusting way to describe bringing back women as slaves. It paints a picture of the brutality of ancient war. Women were seen only as object of possessions to be plundered. Fortunately for the women of Israel, Sisera's mother is just fooling herself - her son will never come back.

6:1-6 - Again, they have to be completely brought the their knees before they will turn back to God. I know people like this...who will constantly return to choices that have crushed their life over and over and they don't seem to learn that true life is found in the way of Jesus.

6:11 - Gideon is cowering in fear...threshing grain in the floor of a wine press. Not exactly the picture of the conquering hero.

6:12 - Hilarious...the angel of the Lord sarcastically calls the guy huddled fearful in the bottom of a wine press a "Mighty man of valor!" Hahaha. Nothing like a little mockery to get somebody off their butt.

6:15 - Much like Moses, Gideon is running down the list of excuses of why he is unsuitable to be used by God. What are my excuses? What are yours?

6:25 - His family and people have been totally corrupted. They have an altar to Baal in their encampment...they have an Asherah pole there too. And they wonder why God has allowed them to be oppressed by other people.

6:30-31 - Whether is is out of love for his son, or whether Joash still has some remaining faith in Yahweh...he stands up for his son and does not allow the other men to kill him. He says, "Hey, if Ball is such a powerful God, let him defend himself." He may have started to get wise that this Baal-guy wasn't doing them much good as a people. They traded God for Baal and got oppression. Sounds like what we get when we trade God for any other idol nowadays too.

6:37-39 - Gideon has already seen God consume the sacrifice he offered in person (v.21), yet he still doubts...he still wants absolute confirmation before he acts. This is why he is a lesser hero than the house wife Jael...she acts immediately...she trusts absolutely. Gideon...kinda has to be force into everything. Who are you gonna choose to be like as you live out your faith?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Jusges Chapters 1-3

1:7 - I find it interesting that a king who has just had his thumbs and big toes cut off finds God to be just. Is that not incredible? He basically says, "No seriously, I deserve this - I did this to 70 kings - this is fair." The king has some sort of simple faith in God, accepts his punishment and lives his life out in Israel. As always - God is just.

1:13ff - Achsah is help up for us as a picture of what a godly woman of Israel should look like. She is married to a hero of Israel, who as we see in chapter three turns out to be one of the best rulers in the history of Israel (He keeps the people on track with God for 40 years!). When she is given to Othniel in marriage, she immediately starts speaking up on his behalf on the behalf of her future descendants. She believes this land is the Promised Land and wants as much of it as possible. This is spiritual property that she holds dear. Contrast her to the other daughters of Israel who we see in the first three chapters. They are married off to pagan sons of god-hating cultures and forsake their land.

1:19 - This verse kinda bugs me. If the Lord is with Judah, why are they unable to drive out the people with iron chariots in the plains? I'm not sure, but it could be because of something we see go down in the beginning of chapter one. Judah and Simeon make a little side deal about helping each other conquer territory. This wasn't something God told them to do. Maybe their conquest is stopped short because they failed to fully trust God...they felt like they needed to get some extra help (Kinda like Moses striking the rock twice).

1,21,28, 32, 33, etc. - It all begins right here...this sets the stage for the rest of judges and really for the rest of the old testament. The people of God who are in a covenant relationship with Him, refuse to follow through on what He told them to do. They do not drive the pagan people out of the Promised Land and we will see that they pay a heavy price for their disobedience. We are still in the midst of a war. Ephesians 6:12 tells us that our war is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers and powers of the evil spiritual realm. If we are not serious about driving the vile stuff out of our lives, we are going to fail over and over, just like the Israelites. What needs to be driven out of your life?

2:11 - After Joshua dies, the people of Israel leave God behind and all hell breaks loose.

2:17 - Even when God raises up men who are devoted to God and want to lead their people away from rebellion, the people reject them and refuse to listen. They are too entrenched in their culture. We see this all the time in the present day church. On occasion we see men and women who are willing to stand up and speak the hard truth of scripture about the way Christians should be living their lives and most often they are ignored or rejected and people remain content with living the lives their culture tells them to live.

3:4 - Maybe this is the answer to my question about 1:19. Maybe this is why God allows the people with the chariots to remain - He sensed that the Israelite people were on the brink of breaking their covenant and He wanted people around so that He could test them? It's possible. What do you think?

3:11 - Sadly, the people begin to trust too much in men. When Joshua dies, they turn away from God. When Othniel dies, they turn away from God. They don't allow God to be enough for them...they become reliant on the faith of others.

Ehud (One of my favorite bible characters!): a few interesting aspects of the first biblical assassin...
1.) (v.15) He is left-handed. Many times in the ancient world, left-handed people were seen as cursed or rejects. Ehud could be yet another example of God using the least likely to do His will. On the other hand, it is believed that the Israelites also had special military units who were trained in left-handed combat because it offered them distinct advantages in hand to hand fighting.
2.) (v. 16) He has the perfect weapon. It is about one foot long. Short enough to hide on his thigh and long enough to kill. It is double edged so that it will do the maximum damage in the shortest amount of time. The guards only check one of his legs, assuming he is right-handed...but unfortunately for King Eglon - Ehud is left-hand and has a specially designed killing tool strapped to his leg!
3.) (v.17) I know this story is violent, but we also see that this is spiritual warfare taking place. The imagery used in describing the story follows that of a sacrifice. It says that Ehud came to pay tributes - this is language for sacrifice (And we know he wasn't paying tribute to Eglon). Immediately after that is tells us about how fat the king is. King Eglon is the fattened cow that Ehud is going to sacrifice to God. Ehus is not just killing for killings sake - he is killing to end the physical and spiritual oppression that Eglon has put on God's people...Ehud is offering him up to God.
4.) (v.19) Why does Eglon send everybody away? Well, he thinks that Ehud has just come from some pagan idols near Gilgal...and when Ehud says he has a message for the king, the king thinks that the message is going to be a special prophecy for his ears only. He greedily sends the attendants away and gets a sword in the gullet.
* In a time where we don;t go around killing our enemies (remember our battle is not of flesh and blood), what do we do with a story like this? Well, Ehud can teach us a few things. Use the gifts that God has given you to best serve His kingdom. Make sure your sword is sharp (Keep your mind and heart prepared by studying God's word). And look at every area of your life as a time of worship where you can offer yourself fully to God.

3:31 - Whoa! At the top is a picture of an ox goad (You can see that it is possible to do some serious damage with's kinda like a bow staff with a metal point on the end)...

Friday, December 4, 2009

Joshua Chapters 22-24

22:3 - This would be a great verse to be read at a funeral. I would love for someone to stand up and say that I didn't forsake my brothers and I didn't forsake the call that God placed on my life....and now it is time for me to go home to my real inheritance. That would be really great. Great verse to live your life to honor.

22:10 - For a second you get scared after reading this verse. It's guys are really gonna turn away from God right after He gave you the Promised Land? Seriously! But as we continue reading, we see the story has a little twist...

22:15ff - Fortunately, the leaders of Israel decide to talk to the people who built the altar before they charge in and slaughter everyone. They have a conversation first...they ask questions and get clarifications, before they do anything rash. This can teach us alot about how to deal with conflict - before you do anything you're going to to the person!

22:24ff - It's all good! They built the altar so they never forget who they are and so that the Jews on the other side of the Jordan don't forget that they both follow the same God. Nothing wrong with that! In fact, I think they actually lay day a nice challenge for current day Christians. Our lives should be an altar that proclaims our commitment to the Lord. There is often times when Christians have a huge gap between their church lives and their personal could easily look at them and say, "You aren't one of our brothers! We don't serve the same God!" Yet if our lives were shaped by our faith whether at church, at work, or home - they would stand out as a reminder of what we believe to all who saw.

23:7 - American Christians have kinda blown it with this one. We have been molded and shaped by our culture, and we bow down to their gods - greed, pride, wealth, power, self-worship, etc.

23:14 - God never fails to do what He has promised. Never forget!

24:20ff - I thought it was interesting that Joshua really pushed back on the people of Israel...he really wants them to count the cost of discipleship. They make a great speech about serving God and he says - "You sure about this? God is jealous and expects u to keep your word!" They make the covenant anyway and as we will see in the next book of the Bible - they pay a heavy price when they break the covenant they have made with God. Maybe Christian churches of today should be a little more adamant about the cost of seems like sometimes we offer a gospel and a faith up to people that is actually pretty easy to follow...but there is nothing easy about making a covenant with Jesus Christ. Maybe we should take a page from Josh's book.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Joshua Chapters 19-21

20:9 - I love that God always includes foreigners and aliens in His justice and mercy. They are not Israelites, but they are not treated as second class citizens...they are given the same rights as the Jews and treated fairly. I think this shows again God's heart for all people - something Western Christians need to keep in mind.

21:8 - I find this verse and the verses before it interesting, because it hits so close to home for me. The Levitical priesthood served God in the tabernacle and received no inheritance of land like the other tribes, so all the other tribes chipped in together to take care of them. I know things have changed a great deal when it comes to modern ministry leadership, but there is a real sacrifice that vocational ministers make when they choose to pursue full-time ministry. To put it bluntly, a 32 year old man with a degree, working on his masters with 10 years at the same job in the secular market would probably be making significantly more than I make (I'm not complaining...I came into ministry thinking I was going to be a lifelong pauper - we are doing just fine - I'm just saying...there is sacrifice). Yet the body of believers now as they did then chip in together to take care of the ministry leadership. I think that is really cool. Where else do you see people choosing to give some of their hard earned money to support others? I want to say thank you for those of you that chip in and say that the inheritance of changed lives we get to see outdoes any 401-K.

21:13,21,27,38 - Here's an interesting question - did you notice how many of the cities of refuge were given to the Levites? What do you think? Did they give them these cities because they thought the men of the priesthood would be better judges, or did they give them the cities of refuge because they didn't want to deal with the hassle of people running to them being chased by blood thirsty relatives of dead people? Comment on your thoughts.

21:43-45 - How beautiful is that passage. Here is what you can know 100% about God - God keeps His promises! That never changes...from old testament to new testament - God keeps His promises. Take heart in that awesome truth!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Joshua Chapters 16-18

Here is a cheesy map I found showing the tribes of Israel. These chapters we are covering can be a bit dry, so look for the little nuggets of awesomeness within them.

16:10 - There are multiple occasions throughout the chapters of Joshua concerning the allotment of the land, where we see Gentile people allowed to live int he midst of the Israelites. There are a couple of different options here. Maybe these people humbled themselves before God and were spared because of belief. We have seen numerous instances in the OT where God is not concerned with ethnicity...He is concerned with faith. On the other hand, maybe the Israelites have failed, yet again, to do what God instructed them to do (i.e. clearing out the land) and these people will be the catalyst for future spiritual rebellion in Israel. Either option is feasible. God is merciful with those who humble themselves before Him, and when God-fearers fail to remove temptation and sinfulness from their lives they frequently turn away from God and towards sin.

17:13 - I find it kinda sad that the Israelites have traded their slavery in Egypt for becoming slave masters in their Promised Land. Though the Promised Land is a blessing for the Israelites themselves, it has become a curse for those who are forced into slave labor. I'm pretty certain this is not what God wanted for His people. God often allows the Israelites to choose their own path, even when it is contrary to what He wants for them...obviously, they also reap the rewards of choosing to ignore the way of God. God wants to be the king of His people, but they want a human king like everybody they get kings who tax the people, and lead the kingdom astray. God wants His people to be married to one man and one woman (see "the garden"), yet He allows them to marry multiple women and we have seen the craziness that ensues after that. I'm sure God wants His people to be just and merciful like He is, but His people choose to treat others like they have been treated when it comes to slavery and foreign people remain a thorn in the side of Israel forever. Are there specific areas of your life where you refuse to follow God's path? What are the consequences of your actions in those areas?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Joshua Chapters 13-15

I am traveling in the morning and will try my best to comment later...please feel free to share your own thoughts on these chapters.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Joshua Chapters 10 - 12

Wow - this is some really tough reading. Three chapters of absolute genocide. What do we do with that? How do we react to it? Well, we start by remembering that God is good and just and always does what it right. Knowing that about God, we can approach these texts from a better perspective.

10:11 - Pretty weird reminder that God is the one who does all the work. Here he does the work with a bunch of death bringing hailstorms. All followers of God today, we should always do our best to serve Him passionately and effectively, but we can also put our trust in the fact that God is the one really doing the hard work. God is gonna fill in where our weaknesses would bring failure and God is going to do so much more with our lives and ministries than could ever be imagined.

10:13-14 - The Sun stands still so the Israelites can have more time to kill their enemies? Whoa. What happened there? Well, to be honest, we have no idea. Some people think that God just stopped the rotation of the earth, but scientists have never been able to find any discrepancies in space that would support that. Maybe He just slowed the earth down enough to make the day really long, yet it didn't cause any noticeable cosmic changes. Maybe God refracted light from the other side of the earth to make it seem like day stayed the whole time. Maybe God just created another source of light for the day - he can do that if He wants to. We just don't know for sure - we weren't there. What we do know is that Joshua didn't really care about the sun standing still. That is not what impresses him...what impresses Joshua is that God listened to him. Joshua prays for victory and it says that something happened that had never been experienced before or after - God fought on the side of human beings. He sided with Joshua and fought for him. That's what blows Joshua's mind!

11:4ff - When are these people going to learn? How many nations and kingdoms need to be wiped out before they figure it out. Thus far in Joshua, only one group has tried to make peace with the Israelites and those people are the only ones still living. It reminds me of us. When are we going to learn. We know how destructive selfish, sinful stuff is to our lives, but we keep going back to it. When are we going to give up trying to go our own way and offer ourselves humbly to God?

11:19-20 - It says that God hardened the kings hearts so that they would attack the Israelites. Why would He do that? If He left them alone, would they have maybe tried to make peace. I don't think so - remember that God is just and righteous. I believe that God is simply speeding up the timetable on their future rebellion so it fits within the time frame of His plan. If He can slow down the sun or make it stop, then I bet He can speed up the descent through which somebody utterly rebels against Him.

* So far in the book of Joshua, we see that every people group who have fought against the people of God are utterly wiped out. The one group that sought peace with His people are left alive. God is not randomly setting people up for genocide - He is protecting His people and doling out judgement. When people groups attack God, they pay for it (Later we see when the Israelites betray God and rebel against Him that they pay for that too).

Friday, November 20, 2009

Joshua Chapters 7-9

6:3 - Why all the pomp and circumstance? Why the trumpets and the marching? Because it needs to be clear that it is God that crushes the people of Jericho and not the Israelites by their own power. If they had attacked and scaled the walls, people might have thought it was human power not divine...with the marching and trumpets there is not doubt.

6:17 - God's judgement is never about ethnicity, it is about the condition of the heart. Everyone in Jericho had the opportunity to react as Rahab did, but they did not.

7:11-12 - Jericho was a sacrifice to God...Achan stole God's sacrifice, defiled the offering to God. That's generally not a good thing.

7:26 - In answer to defiling the sacrifice and stealing what was dedicated to God, Achan and his family have to pay the ultimate price. For her sins, they were sacrificed along with the things they stole.

8:5ff - I really like that God expects His people to be creative and wise. Did you notice that they don't just roll up to Ai and attack? they still use their intelligence and strategy to pull off an incredible victory. This is really good leadership insight. Leaders shouldn't just show up expecting God to do everything for them...God has gifted us uniquely for a reason.

8:26 - They are consecrating the land, making it holy by destroying he evil within it.

8:34 - I love that they never fail to remember who they are ad why they have had success. W can learn alot from that.

9:24 - Again, we see heart of God for all people. These non-Jewish people are spared because they believed in the power of God and they humbled themselves before Him.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Joshua Chapters 4 - 6

Please post your comments...

Joshua Chapters 1 - 3

Hey, I am slammed at work right now and cannot put a good blog in, so please feel free to comment and I will spend some time catching up tomorrow...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Deuteronomy Chapters 31-34

Let's finish this bad boy out!

31:12 - The way Moses describes their gatherings reminds me of the mission of church gatherings. Why do we get together? We gather together so that we never forget who we belong to. We gather together to remind each other that we are the body of Christ...we gather together to encourage one another to live out our beliefs. Is that what is happening at our church? I hope so.

31:16 - Imagine you have spent a huge chunk of your life leading a people out of slavery, into a relationship with the one true God in existence and taking them to the Promised Land. Now imagine that when you are about to die, God tells you how these people you have given everything to are going to turn away from Him...they are going to destroy everything Moses has worked towards. Not very fun is it?

32:6 - How do you respond to the love of God? Do you repay God with obedience and honor or self-indulgence and rebellion? Very challenging words from Moses - "Is that how you repay the Lord?" It is foolishness to give God anything but your everything.

32:32 - When you are connected into something - rooted in something - that is where you get your sustenance. If we make sure our lives our rooted into God - if He is the vine we are connected to - we will get clean, pure, life-giving sustenance. If we are attached to the systems of this world, we will be filled with corrupt, toxic, death-bringing sustenance. And sustenance that does not sustain us is no sustenance at all!

32:51 - God loves Moses. Moses is described as a man of the end of this book, he is described as a man who was closer to God than any human would ever be. Yet, there were still consequences for his sinful actions. Some people think that when they become Christian or give their life to God that all the things from their past will magically go away, but that is not how justice works. We need to be like Moses and accept the consequences of our actions, while living to honor God in the now.

34:9 - I know that something powerful and spiritual was taking place between God and Joshua to give Joshua the ability to lead that he would need. But I also believe that Joshua was able to lead because Moses did a really good job of mentoring him. We see throughout Deuteronomy that Moses always takes Joshua along with him when he is making big decisions...he walked Joshua through leadership step by step and trained up his replacement. Joshua was able to lead because Moses taught him how to lead. Joshua is a part of Moses' legacy. What is the legacy that you are leaving behind?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Deuteronomy Chapters 28-30

Whoa! There is some pretty intense stuff in there. Never accuse the bible of candy-coating anything...we get the raw in your face version of truth. If you follow God, things will go well for you. If you don't, well...

28:12 - Because Moses is talking to a people - a nation - I thought alot about America throughout these chapters. I know the fit is not perfect, because the Israelites were people in a covenant relationships with God...but there is still a great deal that is applicable to the U.S. - especially if you are talking about Christians in the U.S. who are in a covenant relationship with God! If a nation has been blessed by God with an abundance of resources - they should use that to help others in need. Wealth is not given to corrupt (It often does, but that is not the goal) is given so that the wealthy may be able to bless others.

28:25 - They became a "horror to all the kingdoms of the earth." I can't help but think about the poor countries of the world who look at the United States as vile and evil. I realize part of the issue is propaganda from the media sources in those countries, but some of it we bring upon ourselves. There are countries that have extreme poverty and sickness, yet they can look disgustedly upon the US because of the corruption they see coming from us. What can believers do to change that?

28:47 - This is an interesting verse. Do you think the abundance of things actually led the people away from God? Were they so blessed that they eventually rejected God? Is that what too much of a good thing does to you? Sometimes I think human beings are absolutely insane. When God allows people to be blessed...when He gives us more than we need...we start to think we don;t need Him anymore. The abundance of goodness can sometimes lead us to evil. Why do we do that?

28:55ff - These are some of the most disgusting verses in all of scripture. Moses is prophesying that there will come a time when people are so desperate for food that they will be hoarding the flesh of their children only for themselves! That is insanely repulsive! When people allow themselves to turn their back on God and serve only themselves - they walk the path of selfishness. The basest instinct of selfishness is survival at all costs...they reject God and they become like animals, thinking only of themselves and how to stay alive.

29:14 - This covenant was made for all the generations of Israel...even the ones who were not there or not born yet. I like this verse, because we are a part of those people who are not there. Through Jesus Christ we have been given access into this covenant...we are a part of the people of God and it is a beautiful thing.

29:19 - When you know what you are supposed to do and you do not do it, you heap curses and dire consequences on your life. How many times have I made excuses in my life for not doing what I know I am supposed to do? Listen to the person in the verse saying, "Hey, it's all right, I'm gonna be safe." They are walking in the stubbornness of their heart...walking away from God and thinking everything is perfect. That's a dangerous place to be.

30:18ff - This sums up everything in chapters 28-30 very well. The choice is right there for every one of us. What are you going to choose - life or death. It really is that simply. Yeah, there are a bunch of laws that are covered in the OT books we've read so far, but it all comes down to a simple choice - life or death. God or yourself. If you choose to give yourself fully to God, those other things are going to fall in place, and you will experience the abundant life that comes along with being connected to God. If you choose to serve yourself only, you choose the emptiness and death that comes along with that.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Deuteronomy Chapters 25-27

25:6 - I love that God cares about an individual person's legacy...God wants that to be held up and defended. Each individual life is important to God. God cares about the impact we had on this world and the impact that our lives had on eternity, and so should we. What kind of legacy is your life leaving behind? I want to leave behind a legacy of faith - I don't want my name to be blotted out because I failed to live up to my destiny in God.

25:9-10 - Being a part of the community of God means that you always build one another up. Anyone who claims they are a part of the family of God and yet tears down his brothers and sisters should be spit on ad slapped in the face with their on shoe! I bet that would really drive the point home, if we practiced that in churches today!

25:13 - I found this interesting, because it definitely applies to us. You never honor God by living dual lives...a life where you honor God and a life where you honor yourself. As followers of God there is only room for one are either in or out - there is no middle ground in faith.

26:2 - Tithing is about giving you first and your best to God, it is not about giving Him your leftover budget table scraps.

26:4-11 - I love that! They use their offering as a time to remember their story...their testimony. They aren't recounting on the monetary wealth and material things God has given, but the priceless blessings He has poured out like protection, hope, freedom from slavery, etc. How healthy would it be for Christians today if they approaches the time of offering with the same heart? Offering is a time of joy and celebration!

27:2-3 - The first thing they do upon entering into the promised land is to remember how they got there. They don't throw a party first...they commit themselves to backbreaking labor. They move huge uncut stones into a pile and plaster over them. Then they painstakingly write the commands that God has given them out on the monument. They do all this because they know essential it is that they always remember who they are. They chisel into the stones and their hearts exactly what it means to be God's people. What do you do to make sure that is always at the forefront of your mind?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Deuteronomy Chapters 22-24

You could comment on every single miscellaneous law given, but I just chose a few that stood out to me...

22:1-4 - You look out for your brother. If you can lend a hand and help a brother out, you do it. You don;t disrespect God and your community by ignoring their problem. This is what people who love God and love others do.

22:5 - This may seem like an insignificant law, but God is serious about His creation. He crated man to be male and women to be female and He doesn't want the two confused. Dressing up as the opposite sex messes with the sanctity of the created human form. If you blur the lines between right and wrong, eventually there is no longer any right.

22:6-7 - Again we see God protecting nature. God does not want to see the destruction of any species He created. If you want to eat, take the eggs and leave the mother, because the mother can continue to produce eggs and the bird population can safely continue on. I think we have really let God down when it comes to earth stewardship.

22:9-11 - Again we see that God even wants the species of grain separated. People in ancient times would often sow two types of seeds, because as the plants grew, they would feed off of one another and help to grow. God also may want the Israelites to sow only one type of seed because it is harder and He wants them to trust that He is the one providing.

22:12 - These tassels serve as a constant reminder that they are the people of the Most High God. What do you use as a reminder?

23:1 - This verse describes two common forms of castration in ancient times. Castration was associated with pagan rituals and foreign peoples - the Israelites are not know to have used any form of castration culturally. This means that God is prohibiting the influence of foreign people who have be deeply impacted by pagan cultures on the community of Israel. (We also need to understand that this is not referring to worshipping the Lord. People are not being restricted from honoring God...they are being restricted from being a part of the main assembly with was the ruling structure of Israel.)

23:9 - Something you need to recognize here - this is referring to a camp of war. A camp set up when the Israelites go off to war. The men are warned to be very conscious of their purity, so that they will stay focused on God...the camp had to holy because the Israelites were dependant on God for military victory. I think we would all be more focused on offering ourselves fully to God and setting ourselves apart for Him if we truly believed we needed Him to get by day to day. Don't balk - do you really live every day like you are in desperate need of God...that your every breath depends on Him?

23:18 - What is this fee of the dog thing? Well...(cough) is most likely a reference to male homosexuality. The offerings given from prostitution whether male or female were considered unacceptable to God. It's kinda like when we offer God scraps of our live...or distracted prayers...or worship Him with a heart set on others things...God wants the best and purest of what we have to offer.

23:19 - I love this. The Israelites are a community...they are a family and they do not try to make money off one another.

24:1 - We know from elsewhere in scripture that God hates divorce. We know that God only allowed divorce to take place because of the hardness of peoples' hearts. Early rabbis looked at this passage from Moses and tried to make the case that a man could divorce a woman for any reason at all - any reason! Later teachers of the law understood that a man could only divorce a woman fro something truly indecent, like apostasy, adultery, refusal of sex, etc. (Though not mentioned here...women would also traditionally have the right to divorce because of their husband's indecency.) We see through these laws that God, even when He allows the people to follow paths that go against what He made us for, always sets laws in place to protect the weak and the poor.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Deuteronomy Chapters 19-21

19:21 - Moses instructs that the punishment fit the crime as perfectly as possible. In this example if someone lies at a trial to try to get another person killed with capital punishment, the liar is to be put to death. He tried to have someone killed through the court system, so he is punished with death. Life for life. This goes for any intentional murders...unintentional killings are treated with grace as long as the killer gets to a city of refuge and is deemed innocent by the elders there. When we look at other verses we have read in the past, like Numbers 35, we see that there was a system of paying penalties monetarily instead if bodily. There was a price that could be paid for an eye, a hand, etc. But with regards to murder, there was only one price to be paid - life for life.

20:1 - Sometimes as Christians today, it seems like the spiritual war we are facing is insurmountable. All around we see Christians falling to the culture. All around we see evil and we see levels of brutality, hatred and selfishness that seem more powerful than the forces of good in the world. But we must never forget that the Lord is on our side. The ultimate battle has already been won by Jesus Christ. There is hope and resurrection, and no matter what the odds, when God is with us, we have the advantage.

20:10 - Here we see God instructing the Israelites to offer peace the the cities that lay siege on. If the cities accept, they are spared. So we know that God does not simply order the destruction of every people group that stands int he way of the Israelites. There must be something deeper going on when He does order absolute destruction.

20:14 - Even the people that fight back against the Israelites have their women and children spared. Merciful treatment in that day and age. Again, why do some peoples get mercy and others total judgement?

20:16 - Why is it different with these people? Because God as the ultimate judge has declared judgement on these people groups. These people have hardened their hearts against God and as described in previous chapters...they infect the Israelites with their pagan beliefs. These people are destroyed because it is a matter of life and death for God's people. These people have and will lead the Israelites away from God and when the Israelites turn away from God - they lose their protection...they face the wrath of God...they are judged. (See: verse 18)

20:19 - I thought this was interesting. This shows the responsibility that human beings have to nature itself. Moses tells the people not to destroy trees that bear fruit, because the trees cannot protect themselves. They cannot run into a city for protection like the people can. Often in these times, besieging armies would destroy every fruit bearing tree to utterly demolish the economy and livelihood of the people they were attacking. God doesn't want good fruit bearing trees destroyed, just because that is an easier path to take in their human ambitions. God has set us as the overseers of nature, something that most Christians don't take seriously at all.

21:9 - Blood guilt was something that polluted a community as a whole and had to be dealt with or God would remove His hand of protection from the people of Israel. Throughout these three chapters we see how important it is to God that innocent blood guilt be washed away - 19:10, 11, 19.

21:12-13 - Why the shaving of the hair and the removal of the clothes. These are parts of a person that can be removed and destroyed. This was probably symbolic of the gentile woman shedding her old life, so she could live as part of the Jewish community. We as Christians know a little bit about shedding the old life, huh? We are buried with Christ Jesus and rise in his resurrection life. Are there remnants of your old life that you are still clinging on to...things that need to be shed once and for all?

21:14 - In the Jewish commentaries, rabbis look at this story as a lesson in true love. Since this relationship was based purely on lust and beauty, Moses seems to imply that there is little hope for the fulfillment to last. Beauty is fleeting and a man who bases his love solely on that - is bound to find out quickly that beauty does not satisfy in the long run. We also see again the merciful love of God as He gives the woman rights to free choice, since it is not her fault that the man took her as his wife because he was blinded by beauty.

21:18ff - Wow - pretty intense stuff here! This passage speaks to children who are repeat offenders. Over and over they are corrected and punished and they refuse to change. They refuse to honor their parents and respect the community of Israel. It should be noted that the husband and the wife have to bring the child together...the husband does not have the right to do this alone in his anger. And you gotta figure, if a mother is willing to take her kid before the elders...this kid is crazy rebellious! What would you have to do to get a mom to take their son to a capital trial? And again, there is justice, the parents can't just kill the child...there is a trial that takes place. The elders preside over the situation and sentence death only as a last option to a completely obstinate and rebellious young man. We also see that the parents do not take part in the stoning. In every other case of offense, the offended party is the first to throw stones, but here we see the parents don;t take part. This is so the parents don't have to take part in the killing of their son. This shows that the whole process must be heartbreaking...this is only a last resort (And in all reality it may not have happened very often if at all - maybe the possibility of this being an option was enough to deter young people). The whole punishment process highlights the seriousness of respect for parents and authority in the Israelite world. It is a reflection of the ability to be humble and obedient before God and this respect was vital to the health of the community as a whole.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Deuteronomy Chapters 16-18

16:3 - God knows that symbolism is so powerful for human beings...He frequently instructs His people to use symbols as reminders of who they are and where they come from. The Israelites use unleavened bread because when they were fleeing Egypt, there was no time for them to let yeast rise...they had to use flat bread that could be made quickly. When they celebrate the passover, they eat this flat bread to remember that the Lord brought them out of slavery. We use symbols to remember God's love too. The cross, the bread, the wine...we have to make sure that these things never become stale in our minds, but they exist as constant reminders of the incredible love of God.

16:12 - Again, the focus is on remembering where you came from. We were once slaves to sin...we were once absolute under the sway of sin and death - but Jesus Christ changed all that. If you don't take time to remember that you were a slave, you are bound to let yourself fall back into that slavery. Remember the brutality of our slavery to sin...remember the hopelessness...remember the confusion. What can you do as a reminder? The Israelites would fail to remember how horrible their slavery was and from time to time in the desert they would beg to go back to Egypt. They remembered the food and shelter and allowed themselves to forget the crack of the whip - the back-breaking labor - the horrible treatment. Don't allow yourself to candy-coat your slavery to sin. Again, what can you do to remember?

16:20 - As followers of Jesus Christ, we are the temple of God - the Holy Spirit lives within us. We are a part of the holy priesthood of all believers. We are living in the Promised Land, because we are living the life of freedom that Jesus promised us - freedom from sin! If that is who you are as a God follower, then justice should be a part of your DNA. God's people seek out justice because God is just. God's people do not allow injustice to run wild when they can do something about it.

17:7 - Have you purged the evil from your midst? What is it that is hanging around in your life, trying to drag you back to that slavery we talked about earlier? Have you taken drastic measures to go to war are the sin struggles that have plagued your life? God fearers do whatever it takes to combat sin - what is it gonna take for you?

17:16/17 - How shocking are these verses when you think about the kings of Israel like David and Solomon? Those guys were filthy rich! Solomon alone had thousands of wives and concubines! How did the kings of Israel react when they read the law about how kings were really supposed to act? A king of Israel was supposed to be a spiritual leader, not somebody who was gonna to get wealthy and take advantage of his position of power. What do you think Solomon thought when he read these verses? Flip that to us...what do we think when we read how differently our lives look from what Jesus throws out there in the NT? How do we react when we read about the life Paul was calling Christians to live? Probably the same way David and Solomon did - lame excuses.

18:2 - As Christians we are a priesthood of believers...should our attitude reflect that of the Levite priests? They were instructed to forget about an inheritance...their inheritance was found in God. The OT priests were not worried about the future...they were not worried about wealth and possessions...they we content in what God gave them. As priests of Jesus Christ we should be able to ignore the things of this world and find contentment in God (Phil. 4).

18:10ff - These verses talk about the abomination of a parent putting their children through fire - sacrificing them to false gods. Does this speak to the modern American system of putting your kids through the fire? We "encourage" (force) them into sports, music, school achievement, etc...pushing them to more and more practice/study...doing it "for their own good." So many parents are living out their dreams through their many parents are trying to find their own worth in their kids' achievements. Oh yeah, and in doing so they are sacrificing their kids to our culture.Is that evil? I would love to see parents following the example that Moses holds up in the Torah, of writing the word of God on the hearts of their kids. If we're gonna push our kids into something...why not something that is eternally meaningful...something that actually matters? (I'll get off my bitter little soap box now - and by the way, I have already been warring with the feelings of false personal fulfillment that come from my son's athletic I'm speaking to myself as much as anybody)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Deuteronomy Chapters 13-15

13:1ff - There are going to be things that exist in this world that amaze - that boggle the mind - that seem to be miraculous - that seem to be fact or true...but if they lead us away from God, they are not good. God allows these things to exist to test our faith. We show that we love God with everything we have, when we can live in a world filled with things trying to lead us away from God, and stay true. I think we have all seen how convincing and tempting are the arguments that lead us from God...what's your biggest struggle along these lines?

13:10 - Are there relationships in your life that need to be ended (Not by stoning someone...just ended), because they keep drawing you away from God? We must always be vigilant about what is influencing us and what we are being influenced towards.

14:23 - Why is tithing important? Because it keeps your priorities straight. It's like we talked about last night, when you give your wealth away (especially if you are giving it to God's work) you are not going to be able to worship that wealth. Giving to God leads us to trust Him - we are saying that we trust He will take care of us. Giving to God means that we fear God - we want to keep Him central in our minds and remove any distractions, like wealth.

15:4 and 11 - How can he say in 4 that there will be no poor and then 7 verses later in 11 he tells us that there will always be poor around - have we found a contradiction in the bible? No, not really. Moses is saying that after the Sabbatical year there will not be any people who are poor because of debt...everybody will be on the same page - debt free! In verse 11 he wants us all to understand, that after the Sabbatical year, there are always gonna be people who get themselves into tough situations. There will be people who go through horrific loses and there will be people up to their eyeballs in debt - that will always exist. The point of saying that there will always be poor with us, is not to get people to think, "Well, if they'll always be here - why even bother trying to help them out?(I have known Christians who thought like this)" The point is that there will always be opportunities for God's people to be generous. God is a generous God who is pouring our His blessings on undeserving people every moment of every day - the least we could do as His followers would be to live out His example on earth and give generously, even when people don't deserve it.

15:8 - Moses is pretty clear a God follower, you do whatever it takes to help somebody. Do not allow your heart to shut somebody out.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Deuteronomy Chapters 10-12

10:12-13 - God is laying out beautifully our end of the covenant with Him...fear Him, love Him, serve Him, etc. At first glance, that may seem like quite a lot to ask, but think about it...if you love God and believe in what He has done for you, it all just falls into place. The belief will bring the fear and love ad service, and you will naturally follow His commands as faith is lived out in your life. And to top it all off, life is better when you serve God! So He is simply asking us to do what we were created to do and what brings us fulfillment and in return God remains eternally faithful to His promises and gives us everything we need and more - quite a deal!

10:15 - How cool is this? God created everything, is above everything, holds everything together, lives in heaven with creatures of beauty and power beyond our wildest imagination...and He chose to fall in love with us! His love is so amazing!

10:16 - Even in the OT, there was a clear picture of what the circumcision is really all about. It isn't about is about the sinful, rebellious part of us being cut away to live in God's service. It is like baptism...baptism is not about some sort of magical water that cleanses your sins - it is a sacred act that signifies putting your old life to death and being resurrected into a new life in Christ.

11:16 - How many times has Moses warned the people about this. He says to stay on guard so that you do not get distracted by the things of this world and turn away from God. Its like Moses knows this is a problem with human beings or something. Luckily we are well beyond this kind of temptation today, right? Oh...wait...

11:27-28 - Your life will be truly blessed if you follow God and truly cursed if you do not. And buy blessings, don't let your mind go immediately to wealth from human perspective...the blessings are so much more incredible than something that temporary. Th blessings are eternal and life-changing. Look around and you can see the truth of this statement from Moses lived out. You can see people all around you living under a curse because they have rejected God...i is heartbreaking.

12:2-3 - It is clear from the NT that we as Christians do not need to be running into the secular world bringing destruction and hatred, but think it is clear that when Christians enter into the world we should bring positive change! We should bring healing and light. Yet so often it is the opposite that takes place. We enter into the culture and allow ourselves to be changed...we allow ourselves to look more like the culture than Christ. Don't let that happen!

12:8 - How cool is that? Moses is addressing moral relativism thousands of years ago - MORAL RELATIVISM! Even then, the followers of God could recognize the danger involved when each person simply follows his/her own way, and creates his/her own truth. Yeah, the OT is real irrelevant (dripping with sarcasm).

12:30 - In the NT Jesus encourages us to live out our faith among the lost - the secular peoples of the world, but we have to beware of our motivations as we enter into the cultures of the world. Are we really looking to bring truth and change? Are we looking o live out our faith? Or our we looking to see what the other side lives like? Are we looking to see if they really have it better - if that life is more satisfying? Are we trying to find out how they serve their "gods"? Don't belittle your faith in God by tempting yourself with the false "gods" of this world that offer you nothing but death and emptiness.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Deuteronomy Chapters 7-9

7:2 - Again, this sounds so harsh - "you must devote them to complete destruction," but it is necessary in the eyes of God, for His plan to be carried out. These people are God-haters and they will lead the Israelites away from God if left alone. Check my thoughts on Numbers 31 if this is really messing with your mind. We will also cover it a little more in the next two chapters.

7:7ff - God does not choose the Israelites because they were the most powerful people on earth or because they were the most innovative. He chose them because they were weak. He chose them because He has a heart for the oppressed. He chose them out of love...not because they deserved it. They could do nothing to save themselves, so God stepped in and took care of it - He brought them out of slavery. In the same way, we still see God's heart for the enslaved in our lives today. There is nothing we can do to save ourselves, yet God steps in and offers freedom. We don't deserve it...we didn't earn it...God just chooses to offer His love and grace.

7:26 - I think its a little bit scary how nonchalant we are about the destructive things we allow into our lives. Moses is adamant that the people cannot allow evil things into their houses...into their tribes...these things will destroy the Israelites from the inside out. Christians today seem to be bringing destructive elements into their homes and lives at an alarming rate. We assume its no big deal...we want to fit in culturally, yet we pay the price. We pay as we become more and more numb to sin in our lives and deaf to the voice of God.

8:2ff - God allows His people to go through hard times. He allows us to go through experience brokenness, but He never leaves us. Through the hard times He is there carrying us through. He allows us to go through difficult situations, because it draws us to Him. In the garden, Adam and Eve had everything they could ever want. Life was perfect...they were connected fully with each other and God, yet it wasn't enough for them. When they had everything they wanted more and rejected God. God allows us to experience nothingness, so that we will understand how much we need Him and we will realize that we were made to be connected with Him.

8:5 - When my sons get in trouble, I always sit them down afterward on my lap and have a little talk with them. I tell them how much I love them and I tell them that I discipline them because I want them to grow up to be the best, godliest men that they can be. If that is my attitude with my kids, and I am a flawed, sinful human being who is still learning what it truly means to love...why would we ever think that God wouldn't discipline us. We are the children of God...because of His love for us, we are disciplined so that we can become the people God created us to be. He is a God of love, that is why sins have consequences...that is why we pay the price for our it will lead us to redemption.

8:20 - Read that verse. That seems to imply that the native people were given a chance to hear the voice of God and they rejected it. God is saying, "Hey Israelites - these people are being judged by me because they refused to hear my voice...they refused to humble themselves before me, and you are going to get the same if you reject me." This shows us that God is not a callous ruler who looks out only for the people of Israel...He is a God of justice who wants all people to hear His voice and come to Him. Unfortunately, there are consequences when we refuse.

9:4 - Again, God does not conquer these people because the Israelites are so holy...He allows these people to be conquered because they have brought judgement upon themselves. They are reaping what they sowed...they are experiencing the consequences of their actions. This is also a good lesson in humility for us. Don't look down on other people judgementally because of your didn't do anything to earn it. Salvation only comes through the free gift of God's grace...that is why you are saved, not because of anything you ever did. So live humbly and treat people graciously.