Saturday, February 25: Judges 20- Is the punishment more than the crime deserves.

25,000 Benjamites, the towns of Gibeah plus all of the Israelites who died in the battle (22,000 day one and 18,000 day two, 65,000 people plus the destruction of all the towns (28). This was a massive cost for a heinous crime.

I sat and considered the staggering numbers. Yes, the crime was heinous and maybe the entire town needed to be punished for the act and complicity with the act… but this level of death and destruction is certainly unwarranted. I mean 40,000 non-Benjaminite Israelites died!

The wanton disregard for life staggers me.

This feels much more like retribution and retaliation rather than justice.

It looks and feels like gang wars in inner-cities and much of the ‘tit-for-tat’ violence witnessed in parts of the world from warring tribes or religions. You did ‘X’ to me so I will do ‘XX’ to you.

There is on law, no civility. Where is the spirit of the Lord? Where is justice?

This is an ugly time of history made worse because the perpetrators are supposed to be followers of the Lord!

I don’t really know how to process this, so I guess I should just pray.

Lord, keep me on the straight and narrow. Don’t allow me to stray. Override my sin-nature if need be and keep me close to You.  In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

 

 

Friday, February 24: Judges 19- .

I am disgusted by the story of the traveler and his concubine. My stomach turns over, my heart moans and my eyes water. How vile and uncaring we –we humans –can be.

I think… wow, the traveler avoided pagan cities in favor of an Israelite city and this is what happens. He may have been better off in a pagan city! And this angers me. How can God’s people be so blatantly evil!

And if by some small chance the wicked men of the city (22) were not Israelites but foreigners, the fact that the townspeople allowed depraved behavior in their city is disgusting. God must weep when the people of God look the other way when vile behavior persists and they have an opportunity to do something but do not!

More likely the wicked men are Israelites which then is even worse…

Then heaped on top of all the vileness is the apparent tossing of his concubine (basically his wife) out to these disgusting men. I cannot fathom that kind of disregard for a woman… a woman you supposedly love? Then the coup de gras, his response to his dead concubine lying at the threshold in the morning comes across so cold and uncaring. Get up, let’s go (28),

My stomach is churning… how horrible we humans can be. The depth of our depravity is so great. Thoughts of German ‘science’ experiments on internees and Japanese POW camps during WW2 flash in my mind.

Oh, God, we humans are brutal people and without the general restraint of Your grace extended throughout the world things would be soooooo much worse. 

I find myself being angry and mad at Israel for slipping so far.

I find my thoughts flipping to modern day Christianity. We must beware of slipping, too. Any of us are capable of slipping far from the teaching and directions of the Lord.

Am I turning a blind eye, like the leaders of that town, toward injustices of my day?

·         racial and religious bigotry

·         babies being murdered in utero

·         36 million people being enslaved world wide

Forgive me, Lord, for every blind eye I have turned. And more so, show me what I am called to do. Let me not rest until I am doing the things You have for me to do.  Show me, Lord. Lead me, Lord. Correct me when I want to avoid Your direction and strengthen me to keep on till my dying breath in relentless pursuit of You and living Your will in my life. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Thursday, February 23: Judges 18-Alignment with God's word.

This chapter continues which for me is a most bizarre period in Judge’s history. Israel has strayed so far from their moorings.

One tribe takes something from another tribe. Then they elevate the personal sin of Micah to a tribal sin as this entire tribe offers this false priest a more lucrative position as a tribal priest. As bad as it is when an individual loses his way, now an entire tribe has lost its way. Was the Word lost totally among the Danites?

Was there not one person who knew the truth who was willing to speak the truth?

When we lose the anchor of the Word of God situations go from bad to worse… and that is what this slice of Israel is experiencing.

My heart circles up to today. It seems that there are entire segments of the church careening off course. The Word of God has become peripheral and left to their own judgments, people are falling off the cliff of self-indulgence and sexual pleasure.

Oh. God, send your prophets to call the church back to You and the grounding of Your Word. Oh, God, release Your Spirit in powerful ways to call the wayward home.

I cannot be content and smug to point fingers only at others… I must examine myself. I must keep the Word of God central in my life. I must allow the word to correct and instruct me. I am talking about the plain and originally intended meaning of the Word of God. I cannot take only  those portions of the Word that I ‘like.’ I must let the entirety of the Word speak to me, to correct me, to train me in God-honoring living…

If we want to stay close to the Lord this must be true for all of us!

Oh, God, send Your Spirit to examine and speak to me. Correct my crooked thinking. Strengthen my right thinking and create in me a humble and teachable spirit so that I remain faithful to You and Your way revealed in Your Word. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Wednesday, February 22: Judges 17- When we lose God's word.

The story of Judges just grows stranger and stranger. This account of Micah is breaking so many of God’s laws and to make matters worse, the people in this story think they are being faithful. Micah, the main character in this account, goes so far as to say, “Now I know that the LORD will be good to me, since this Levite has become my priest” (13). And this is in response to setting up an idol with a false priesthood!

I sit stunned. When we step away from God’s Word, when we stop allowing God’s Word to be our center and our base, there is no limit to the error and heresy we can engage BELIEVING we are being faithful.

I am not talking about matters of difference in interpretation. I am speaking to out and out heresy, wrong thinking and wrong teaching!

While I know not everyone believes the Bible is the inspired true word of God, people who profess to believe in Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit must –and I truly mean ‘must’ –anchor themselves to God’s Word, the Bible. There is no Christian faith without God’s Word as our guide. And we must allow the Word of God to define our right and wrong, our ‘dos and don’ts’, our practices and our avoidances.

Today’s reading reminds me how far people can stray from the truth if they assume they know it, but don’t actually know what it says.

Oh, God, my first prayer is that I stay connected to your Word as truth, that I sit with it, study it and allow it to guide my thinking and my doing.

My second prayer is that we, Your church, will return to Your Word, that we will sit with it, study it and allow it to guide us in our thinking and doing.

I pray this in Jesus’ name who said, But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. (Matthew 7:26-27).

 

Tuesday, February 21: Judges 16- A tool in God's hands.

On so many levels Sampson’s story is a strange one.

I think about what it means to ‘lead’ Israel. As near as I can surmise, it can mean as little as ‘be a strong guy who keeps the enemies at bay’. There is no sense of moral leadership. Israel wants a big guy who can keep them safe.

As I consider what I just journaled about Israel I realize, in many respects, we, as humans, haven’t changed much over the millennia. How many of our leaders are little more than the big strong guy today? Sadly, even in the church, moral leadership isn’t always at the top of the list.

I think about what it means to be filled/empowered/used by God. I mean Sampson was no jewel of a person. He was impulsive. He was a womanizer who couldn’t maintain a relationship, and was easily manipulated by women. He doesn’t seem to be too sharp. Come on Sampson, can’t you sniff what Delilah is up to?

Sampson certainly has a vindictive, get-even mentality. There is little wonder why he doesn’t seem to have many (any) friends. Where other leaders in Judges called people around themselves, Sampson is a one-man wrecking crew.

And yet, despite all these negatives, he is a tool in God’s hands to free Israel from the oppression of the Philistines.

Even as that last sentences were appearing on the screen in front of me, it hit me, I just got part of my answer. Sampson was a tool in God’s hands. As a woodworker if I have a tool I can do things. The tool may have nicks and no longer be in factory perfect condition but I can still use it. It is my skill that makes the tool work. Oh, I might have to hone it some to keep it functioning and each tool has a particular purpose. Sampson wasn’t God’s tool to write Psalms or teach the people to pray, he was a warrior.  God put him in positions to make war, win battles and slay enemies.

God has every right to use me (and you) as He sees fit as well...

Oh, Lord, may I be a tool in Your hands. Use me as You will to teach, protect, lead, encourage or whatever You want of me to do for Your people. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

 

Monday, February 20: Judges 15- Are you listening?.

Sampson is a wild man, impulsive and vindictive. Although the Spirit of the Lord comes upon him, there has been no hint in the text that he calls upon the Lord for strength and it doesn’t look like he has a devotional life either. Sampson is not the kind of man I would choose for a friend.

His brother Israelites seem to have much the same attitude toward Sampson as I do. They turn him over to the enemy in order to save their own skin. Still Sampson was a tool in God’s hand. God not only punished the Philistines through Sampson, he led Israel for 20 years. I don’t know that Israel grew closer to the Lord during those 20 years, but they apparently were safe and lived in moderate peace.

I am not sure what to make of Sampson. While he is a great story for a fun Sunday School lesson, I don’t think there is much spiritual maturity to emulate in him. So I sit and ask the Lord for my faith nugget today from this story.

Slowly the reminder came… “I am in control and I can use anyone of my choosing.”

How and why God chooses is His business and prerogative. My responsibility is to be open and faithful… faithful to step out whenever God calls. This means I need to be listening,  listening for God’s whisper and nudge.

We all need to be listening.  Are you?

Lord, open my ears that I may hear, open my eyes that I may see, open my heart that I might feel Your nudges and calls. And, Lord, when they come I pray for strength and obedience to respond ‘Yes’ immediately. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Saturday, February 18: Judges 14- I am available just as I am.

The longest story in Judges is about Sampson. As I read this unfolding story I scratch my head. “Why would the Lord choose him to be a savior for Israel?” Sampson seems to be a bit unstable. He doesn’t seem to think things through either. He creates the issue by offering the riddle and he doesn’t anticipate that the town folk will try to find out the answer. I seems that Sampson isn’t the brightest or most stable blub in the pack.

And yet the Lord chose him!

It hit me… it is God’s call not our human makeup that is ultimately important. In Sampson’s case God will use Sampson’s makeup –as rough around the edges as it is –to bring about His intended goal of releasing Israel from the Philistines grip.

God can and does use me and us, with all of our issues, to bring about His intended purposes, too. This is so freeing. I don’t have to be PERFECT to be used by God!

Now this isn’t a license for me to be lax in my faith and my seeking after maturity, but I don’t have to be perfect to be used.  Halleluiah!

We are valuable to God’s kingdom. We are useful for God’s kingdom. We are important to God’s kingdom just as we are today.

How do you think God might use you today? What gifts, talents, abilities and personality traits will you offer to the Lord? Will you offer yourself, warts and all, to the Lord today, allowing Him to use you in any way He chooses?

Lord, that is my offering to you this morning. You may have all of me, my good traits and my bad ones, my maturity and my immaturity. Lord, God, I place my body, my life, myself, my all on the altar as an offering to You. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.