Tag Archives: Judges

Through the Bible, March 15

Reading: Ruth 1-4

Summary: God’s eternal plan encompassing all of humanity’s redemption through His Son, who would one day come to earth, is carried out through individuals.  Some of those people are among the most unlikely of persons.  It would seem that all God has done and plans to do is teetering in the balance of the life of a person wholly unsuited for such immense consequences.  Yet, there they are; people like Naomi and Ruth.

True to form, God incorporates the “wrong” people into His story.  Ruth isn’t even from Israel: a foreign woman, widowed and impoverished, who casts her lot with her embittered mother-in-law and takes a key role in the storyline leading us ultimately to Jesus.

Devotional Thought:

Nobodies of the World, Unite!

            Too many people labor under the notion that you have to be somebody to be somebody.

            Our cultural religion–celebrity worship–has led us to think that the only important people are the ones who possess celebrity status.  We’ve convinced ourselves that these are the real “somebody’s” in life.

Wrong.  Or as my mentor and life-coach, Barney Fife, would say, “Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong” (he’s eloquent like that).

We know about Ruth because a book of the Bible is named for her and hers is a fascinating story of beauty and devotion and God’s providence.  And, not to mention, she is one of only three women named in Jesus’ genealogy–outside of His own mother (Matt. 1:5; another, Bathsheba, is alluded to, but not named).

Who was Ruth?  A nobody.

From the perspective of Israel, she was a foreigner (a Moabitess), the widow of Naomi’s deceased son whom he married when the family left Bethlehem for Moab–itself a move of questionable integrity.  In Naomi’s own words she had left home “full” but was returning “empty” (Ruth 1:21).  All this widow and now childless woman had was one daughter-in-law.

As such, these two women were virtually helpless.  Their only recourse was the provisions of the Mosaic Law for the poor–to glean the fields (pick up what was left over) following the harvest. One could hardly be any more of a “nobody” than Ruth and Naomi.

But we know Ruth as anything but a nobody.  Israel’s perspective on this poor woman is not the important one.  God’s is the one that counts.

In the same way our culture’s perspective on people is not the one that matters; it’s God’s.

To use Paul’s words, “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are” (1 Cor. 1:27-28).

That’s reason for all of us “nobody’s” to rejoice!

Through the Bible, March 14

Reading: No scheduled reading

Thoughts and Reflection: Today is the planned catch up day for the second week of March (8-14).  Though no readings are scheduled, below are thoughts worthy of consideration.

  1. The accounts of the incidents and people recorded in Judges should not necessarily be understood as having occurred in the particular sequence in which they are recorded, nor that they all affected all of the tribes. Some of the events were quite localized and some may have even happened simultaneously, though recorded separately.
  2. The time of the Judges provides ample evidence to the fact that just because God is at work accomplishing His will does not mean that everything and everyone are just as they should be. This is no excuse or rationalization for anyone’s sin. Rather it is true that God does at times use people and circumstances that are far from ideal.

We may not be as “bad” as some of the characters we encounter in Judges, but the truth is that our failures and shortcomings in no way disqualify us from God’s use.

  1. Another reminder from the period of the Judges is that God’s plan–which will ultimately lead to Jesus through the great king David–experienced some very tragic and sad times. The point is that God’s working in our own lives is not negated by our experiencing sad and even tragic times.  The spiritual journey from where we are to where God wants us to be may lead through times and circumstances that would prompt some to question whether God was at work at all or not.  Judges is a reminder to faithfulness and steadfastness despite dark days.

Besides that, the bottom line is not us and our desires, plans, an wishes—it is God, the fulfillment of His will, and giving ourselves over to Him (not so He’ll do “good” by us, but that we’ll serve Him.

Devotional Thought:

Growing Through the Rough Spots

“I am not where I want to be.”

“I am not who I wish to be.”

“Sometimes I don’t even like this person living inside my body.”

Frustration with our spiritual life is common.  We know we could do better and be better.

But is it worth what it takes to do so?

Have you ever wondered why the book of Judges is even in the Bible?  Or better yet, why God even allowed for a time of the Judges?  Certainly if God knew of the Egyptian enslavement long before it happened (see Gen. 15:13), then He surely saw this coming too.

The point, though, is that this isn’t the end of the story.  They were not yet that “great nation” God promised Abraham his descendants would be (Gen. 12:2).  He was not yet finished with them. This story continues.

Neither is God finished with me.  My redemptive story is not yet complete.  And sure enough, there are likely to be some rough spots along the way, maybe even some very dark days.

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18).

Judges is a good and necessary reminder that something more, and better, is yet to come.

Through the Bible, March 13

Reading: Judges 17-19

Summary: If one is looking for a happy ending to the book of Judges they will be sadly disappointed.  The moral depravity and spiritual bankruptcy of this time is in full view to the very end.

Appropriately, the closing chapters of the book twice state this assessment of the time, “In those days there was no king in Israel.  Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (21:25; see also 17:6).

Devotional Thought:

The Leadership of Me

The lack of leadership is appalling. And you and I are to blame.

“Now, wait just a minute!” you say. “I am in no position of leadership” you object. “I’m not responsible.”  Oh, really?

The famous–or rather, infamous–assessment of the dark and difficult time of the Judges is worthy of another look.  “In those days there was no king in Israel.  Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg. 17:6).

Undoubtedly Israel was experiencing a leadership crisis.  But don’t begin to think that because of such a vacuum on the national level, the people were absolved of personal responsibility.  Leadership is not most important on the biggest scale, but on the smallest–with myself.

Earlier, at a time of very strong leadership, Moses charged, “You shall not do according to all that we are doing here today, everyone doing whatever is right in his own eyes” (Deut. 12:8).  The problem was not national; it was personal.

The Bible has a word for the person who believes “his own eyes” are a sufficient measure and guide by which one’s life might be led.  The word is “fool.”

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice” (Prov. 12:15).

Successful personal leadership demands knowing that our own thoughts and our own ideas are not good or right simply because they are our own.  Wisdom demands better counsel, better guidance, better instruction.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil”  (Prov. 3:5-7).

Now that’s the key to the most important leadership of all; the leadership of me.

Through the Bible, March 12

Reading: Judges 13-16

Summary: Samson is surely as memorable as is Gideon, but not for the same reasons.  A genuinely remarkable Bible character, Samson’s physical strength was nearly matched by his spiritual weakness.  Yet God used this flawed and selfish man to accomplish His own purposes.

Devotional Thought:

Samson–Rock Star

Samson was a rock star.

Well, he had that kind of personality and celebrity status.  He was strong and handsome and apparently had his pick of women.  And, true to the form of his modern counterparts, he made self-destructive choices.

What a tragedy.  What a waste.

Here was a man who from before his birth had been selected by God to accomplish His will.  He had been specially designated and prepared for this task (under the Nazarite vow, see Judges 13:7).  As he grew from a child “the Lord blessed him” and God’s Spirit moved him (Judges 13:24-25).

That certainly sounds like a recipe for success, yet we know how sadly Samson’s life ended.  How could a person with so much promise and so many advantages fail so miserably?

Simply put, Samson’s own free will was part of this equation, and he exercised it foolishly.  He seemed to have a particular inability to decide appropriately when it came to female companionship.

The point is, no matter what God does for us and how He helps us, we still have to choose right and do His will.

For all of his advantages, Samson messed it up.  For all of our advantages–and they are greater than were Samson’s–we dare not mess it up.

Through the Bible, March 11

Reading: Judges 9-12

Summary: Gideon’s effectiveness as a leader is seen in the people’s desire to make him their ruler, which he rightfully declined (Judges 8:22-23).  Unfortunately, one of his sons, Abimelech, saw an opportunity for advancement and attempted to seize power with disastrous results.

Further, one of Scripture’s saddest stories is told in the career of Jephthah as Judge.

Devotional Thought:

Selfish is as Selfish Does

Few influences and forces are as destructive as selfishness.

Selfishness is itself a contradiction. Promising to promote and help and satisfy, it only hurts us in the end.

Surely one of Satan’s greatest deceptions is that the path to happiness is satisfying and gratifying ourselves first.  Could that be any more contrary to Jesus’ own teaching that if we are to follow Him, we must first deny self (Matt. 16:24)?

It may seem a contradiction itself, but the abundant life Jesus gives is found by loosing our own life (Luke 9:24), that is, seeking the good and well-being of others ahead of ourselves (Php. 2:4).  It’s in this way that the first shall be last and the last shall be first (Matt. 19:30).

What better example of this truth can be found than Gideon and his son, Abimelech.  Gideon refused when Israel wanted him to rule over them.  He knew that place was not for him, but the Lord (Judges 8:23).  By contrast Abimelech did everything he could to promote himself and seize power, up to and including killing his own brothers. It turns out that his selfishness proved to be his own undoing as “God repaid the wickedness of Abilmelech which he had done to his father, in killing his seventy brothers” (Judges 9:56).

The option is basically this; we can promote and elevate ourselves–selfishness–or we can in humility allow God to so (Jas. 4:10).

Through the Bible, March 10

Reading: Judges 6-8

Summary: Among the greatest and most memorable of the Judges was Gideon.  His victory over the Midianites provides one of the Bible’s most powerful lessons in trusting God for our victories rather than our own strength.

Devotional Thought:

A Bug and Gideon

Ok, I confess; I’m a Disney Pixar fan. (Whew!  Glad to have that off my chest.) Maybe it’s because several of their movies served as a point of contact between my kids and me when they were much younger.  For whatever reason, I like them.

One of those movies comes to mind when I read Judges 6.  It tells how the Midianites would come up against Israel when they had planted their crops and would “devour the produce of the land…and leave no sustenance in Israel and no sheep or ox or donkey…they were like locusts in number…And Israel was brought very low because of Midian” (Judges 6:4-6).

I don’t know if the writers of “A Bug’s Life” knew about Gideon and the Midianites or not, but the similarities are striking–minus the insects as leading characters.  Even the bad guys in the movie are locusts (or grasshoppers).

There is one major difference though. The animated movie teaches how people, even oppressed people, can work together, stand up for themselves and overcome their enemies and oppression. The message from Gideon is about how people should rely on God for their help.  It is not by our own strength, whether individually or banded together, but by God’s help that we can overcome.

God deliberately led Gideon through the process of whittling his army down to a mere 300 men–minute compared to the Midianites who were “like locusts in abundance, and their camels were without number, as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance” (Judges. 7:12).

With his small army Gideon routed Midian in a battle reminiscent of the improbably Jericho battle plan.  The victory was God’s.

As big and imposing and threatening as our own obstacles, enemies, and opponents may seem, it is not by our hand, but God’s, that we will overcome.

Through the Bible, March 9

Reading: Judges 3:7-5:31

Summary: To say the Judges and their times were colorful would be a tremendous understatement.  Today’s reading includes the first Judge, a Judge who used an oppressive king’s obesity against him, and the only female Judge.

Devotional Thought:

The Bible Against Women?

The Bible catches a lot of flack in some quarters for being so male-centered.

At the same time it is the teaching of the Bible that has done more for the plight of women in the world than any other single influence.  In other words, without the so-called “male-centered” Bible, the state of women would be far, far worse than it is today.

It is not mere coincidence that as our nation moves decidedly and intentionally further away from God and His “male-centered” word, that the exploitation of women—pornography, human sex trafficking, etc.–is on the steady rise.

Yes it is true that the Bible teaches principles such as the husband as the head of the wife and male spiritual leadership (Eph. 5:23; 1 Tim. 2:8-15).  You can’t get around that–though some want and try to.

The Bible also presents women as ones who often step in and step up when men will not or do not.  The account of the third Judge is just such a case.  It is Deborah who is extolled for her leadership as a prophetess and judge to whom “the people of Israel came for judgment” (Judg. 4:4-5).

It is she who challenged Barak to fulfill God’s command to lead an army to fight against King Jabin’s army led by Sisera.  Barak’s response?  “If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go” (Judges 4:8).

Another heroine of this story is Jael, the wife of Heber. She is the one who actually succeeds where Barak’s army failed.  She killed the enemy of God’s people (Judges 4:17-21).

How ironic that the “Song of Deborah” begins with, “That the leaders took the lead in Israel, that the people offered themselves willingly, bless the LORD!” (Judges 5:2).

Bless the Lord indeed when women such as Deborah and Jael step up to lead in places and at times that men won’t. Bless the Lord for women who as mothers and grandmothers have stepped into the vacuum of spiritual leadership of countless families where men abdicated their God-given roles.

Bless the Lord that His “male-centered” word shows us the strength and authentic beauty of womanhood.

Through the Bible, March 8

Reading: Judges1:1-3:6

Summary: We praise and thank God for effective leaders.  Joshua was just such a man (see Judges 2:7).  But what happens when no good leaders are found to replace the ones who die?  The time of the Judges is a sad answer to that question.  “[T]here arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10).

Today’s reading sets the stage for this very dark and difficult period of Israel’s history.

Devotional Thought:

Generation Next?

Have you ever heard a saying that begins, “The church is just one generation away from…”?

How does that typically end?  The way I’ve heard it is with “apostasy.”  That is biblically accurate, as far as it goes.

The book of Judges sadly tells of a generation that arose “who did not know the Lord” (Judges 2:10).  In one generation Israel fell from faithfulness.

But wait.

Judges also tells of a generation that “served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua” (Judges 2:7).

Which generation is that?  The one that followed the unfaithful one that died in the wilderness.  They came to the promised land and did what their fathers had failed to do.

So, apparently, the church is not only one generation away from apostasy, it is also one generation from greater vitality and strength and growth and trust and faithfulness.

What happens in the next generation has a lot to do with the present generation.

That’s us.  That’s now.

Through the Bible, Week 2 Introduction

Week 2: Judges Over God’s People

March 8-14

            The time of the Judges is hard.  Reading Judges challenges us with much violence, bloodshed, and moral behavior of less than stellar quality.  This is obviously a difficult time that is somewhat less than God’s ideal for this people.  Consequently, God uses some men of less than ideal character.

So it is with our own lives when we find ourselves in very challenging times.  It may not be what we want and know it’s not exactly as God would have it to be.  As with Israel, we too must work through it and strive for better times, to be better people, and to better serve God.

The time of the Judges is characterized by a cycle of unfaithfulness, then oppression, then appeals to God for help, a Judge identified to lead the people, deliverance from the oppressor, and finally a time of faithfulness before it all starts over again (see Judges 2:11-19).

The key reality underlying this time and all of its troubles is found twice in the book: “In those days there was no king in Israel.  Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (17:6; 24:25).

In view of our present American culture, those words sound ominous.

Through the Bible, March 15

Week 3: Transition From Judges to Kings

March 15-21

            Nothing is ever all bad and neither is anything ever all good.

It is often the contrast between the good and bad that causes both to be better seen for what they are.  A light, even a dim one, is most brilliant when it shines in the darkest dark.

This is perhaps why the story of Ruth and Naomi is so beautiful.  Its backdrop is the time of the Judges; perhaps as a reminder that even as bad as this time was–especially as we see it at the end of the book of Judges–some good and some beauty remained.

In like manner, Samuel enters the scene during this trying time.  This last of the Judges proves to be the greatest of all.  He leads this nation as they take their faltering steps from a “loose confederation of tribes” (as their organization at this time has been described) to monarchy. This change involves critical spiritual issues regarding God’s leadership.  Samuel proves to be the man for the times.  When Saul, the first king, fails miserably, Samuel remains the spiritual rock and the nation’s tie to God.