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?