June 18th Judges chapters 19-21

Looking in the chapters of today I would like to point out a subject that is seldom mentioned in Christianity.  The treatment of women and how Jesus Christ, even to the present time,  is the greatest liberator of women.  We see in this text that the people are far from God and His will in their lives.   Every action and attitude is affected when we are not in His will; and the further we stray from Him the more perverse we become.  In these chapters the homosexual community of that day (which is not a new thing that we are dealing with today) is depraved to the point that they are wanting to sexually assault another man who has come into their town.  In order to save him, the leader of the house in which he was staying, sent out his own virgin daughter and the man’s concubine for the men to do to them as they would.  I want to stop for a moment before we go on to our main topic and explain something:  Just because evil men did evil things and they were recorded in the Bible does not mean that God has sanctioned such evil things (contrary to popular belief).  We see in this text that even the “good guy” was so debased in his thinking that he sent his own daughter out to be raped by the perverted men in the town (and they raped her to death).  Also notice that these men weren’t called “people of an alternate lifestyle” the Word blatantly calls them perverts.

The common lie in today’s society is that Jesus has caused women to be mistreated, looked down upon and oppressed.  My friends there is not much in this world farther from the truth.  Every woman that Jesus had an encounter with in the written history that we have, has been met with respect and dignity; even the prostitutes and the unclean woman who touched him (that was a big deal and would be cause for punishment).  Jesus sat and talked with the Samaritan woman and announced to her His messiah-ship before the rest of the world knew who He was.  Jesus did not condemn her, but instead confronted her sin and offered a better way of life!  We need to remember that His disciples were “astonished that He talked with the woman.”  If they would have known that He had taken a drink from her water pot they would have went into cardiac arrest!  Jesus had women who followed Him as one of His disciples (not to be confused with the chosen 12).  The woman who “sat at the feet of Jesus” was not doing so as a teen age girl with a crush gazing into the eyes of the Messiah, she was instead being discipled.  This phrase has lost it’s meaning in our society so some may get the wrong idea.  Paul sat at the feet of Gamaliel when he was learning the ways of Judaism.  I imagine that when Jesus was seated before preaching the sermon on the mount the scene would have looked much like a first grade class of today with his disciples circled around Him sitting with their legs crossed in front of Him and learning.  When king Solomon’s mother approached him she had to seek permission to stand before the king and speak; Jesus said to His mother “woman,. my time is not yet come.”  Today that statement would sound like this:  “I’m sorry maam, but God has not called me to that yet.”  Amazingly enough, out of respect for His mother, He evidently received permission from the Father to meet her request due to His respect for her because the water became wine.  Luke 8:1-3 states that women went with the twelve as they witnessed in the cities and even names some of them in the actual text.  Jesus taught that a man was in sin if he “put away his wife..” and stated that the men were using the Law to commit terrible acts of sin against women.  Once a woman was divorced she had no way of providing for herself and basically this is how men kept their ladies in line “do my beckoning or starve to death.”  Jesus said that the reason that Moses allowed a certificate of divorce was because of the hardness of their hearts.  The Pharisees thought that if they gave a certificate of divorce (so the woman could re-marry) they were compassionate and righteous!  Some would leave their wives without a certificate and therefore there would be no way for her to make a living.  Jesus said that it was all evil and If the woman has not committed adultery you cannot divorce her.  That’s liberation at it’s grass roots.  

If Jesus had not come, women would still be treated as they are currently treated in the middle east.  For those who say that Christianity has denigrated women; I invite them to spend six months in a country that practices Islam and follows sharia law.  Come back home after that (if you still have a head) and explain the degradation of women in Christ Jesus.  Long story short:  Life without Jesus is just plain old awful weather you are a man or a woman and the farther we drift from Him, the worse it gets.  Just watch the news today, i believe that it is quite obvious.

 

June 17th Judges chapters 16-18

If we were to jump into these texts without looking in the context of the situations, they would not make sense.  God’s judge is sleeping with prostitutes, the men of Israel are making idols and priests in their homes and even a levite has agreed to be a personal priest to a family for hire.  Things get even worse in the next few chapters.  We need to remember the recurring theme in these chapters “and every one did what was right in his own eyes.”  God is giving us a picture of what happens when people do not repent and turn to Him; sadly, it always leads to depravity.  As we see this picture of sin in the believer’s life we see that if sin is not remedied is will grow worse and worse until we finally end up in a place that we could have never dreamed.  I have personally seen two people very close to me in ministry that harbored sin in their lives and it manifested itself in ways that didn’t even have anything to do with the original sin.  These two each dealt with anger and jealousy.  One of these, literally, crippled an active ministry causing over 300 people to split away from their place of worship and sadly most of them are now unchurched.  Our baptismal was practly empty for about three years.  The other person, who dealt with jealousy and anger, was a church leader and a very dear friend.  When ignoring his sin and allowing it to fester it manifested itself in other ways also:  He left his wife and children of almost 25 years for another woman who had earlier done the same.  We need not be prideful when we realize we are one unrepented sin away from destruction.  We need to be very aware of our walk and stay attached to the vine.  Once again, all of this started due to one sin in Israel: when they did not drive out the inhabitants of Canaan.  We need to be as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves.  We also need to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.  Remember the heroine addict in the gutter did not land there in one day.  It was a life sent in the wrong direction by one or two poor choices of disobedience. 

June 16th Judges chapters 13-15

This morning we are just getting a beginning glimpse at the life of Sampson so we will focus in on him in the next couple of days.  Today we see the cruelty of a nation that has become godless in their society.  The people of the Philistines were supposed to be removed from the land before it was inhabited as was mentioned last week; and today we have an example of why.  The Philistines were idol worshipers and paid homage to it’s god named Dagon.  The name Dagon comes from, in it’s original language, the fish god.  This idol had the body of a fish with a human head and human hands.  Not much is mentioned about the practices of Dagon worship but we see in other gods of the Canaanites that worship was detestable ranging from temple prostitutes all the way to the sacrificing of children.  God wanted to protect His people from such things (knowing that they would do the same things) and this is why He had told them to remove the people from the land; sadly, Israel did not obey and now they are actually under the rule of the Philistines because of their disobedience.  A little leaven leavens the whole lump and this picture of sin in the believer’s life has come full circle.  What God’s people thought was “manageable” has now come and ruled over them.  Romans 6:12 states “Therefore let not sin reign in your mortal body that you obey it’s lusts thereof.” When we think that we can manage just a little infraction, sin, dis-obedient act or what ever else we like to call it; it ends up escalating and controlling our lives.

Imagine the mindset of a group of people, who for a vendetta against a man, would kill his wife and her entire family. These are the things that God did not want for His chosen people and why He commanded that these people be destroyed.  What seems like, at first glance, a blood lust from God the Father was truly an act of love.  God, knowing that the people would be tempted and fall, tried to protect them along with the line of the Messiah to come.  Just as in heaven one day, the Bible says of that place: “and there shall be nothing that defiles.”  It also states the: “there shall be no more curse” and then in Revelation chapter 21 after speaking of all of the glories of the new Jerusalem it states in verse eight a list of the kinds of people that will be cast into the lake of fire.  The people who will not trust in Christ and repent will not be allowed, any longer, to pervert the saints of God.  They will instead be separated, along with Satan, for eternity that His people may remain pure and in a relationship with Him.  Just as a parent looking out for his or her children, would not allow a heroine addict, a pedophile or a murder to come into his home and live with his children God will not allow His children in eternity future to be defiled.  This is another way to see the awesome love of God for those who will serve Him.    

June 13th Judges chapters 6-7

I’m sorry for the irregular posts. The network is still down at the office and I am not real savvy with these other devises.
As we look in today’s reading we see the story of Gideon. In his life we see a picture of God using who He will to accomplish what ever He wishes. Gideon was threshing wheat in a wine press to hide from the enemy it says in the beginning of this story. Today we don’t use these devises so we lose some of the meaning in this text. The wine press was being used for a threshing floor where a farmer would remove the chaff from the grain. If a peanut was a grain of wheat, it would be like removing the shell. The normal way of threshing wheat would be done in a very large place. A dung floor would be made and could be 100 feet in diameter or larger and cattle would tread on the grain to loosen it from the husks. God tells Gideon “go in this might of yours…” as gideon is threshing enough wheat for perhaps one loaf of bread while cowering from the enemy. Gideon was a nobody from a family of Baal worshippers who was terrified of his perdicament. But God knew what he would do once he came to grips that God was going to do it through him. Gideon went from zero to hero in a matter of days.
When we look at a task, especially in evangelism to our friends, we need to remember that He is the one doing the work; we just need to trust and be obedient. God was glorified with 300 men instead of the staggering number that Gideon began with. God shows His strength in our weakness. The only thing that is needed is faith and obedience.

June 11th Judges chapters 1-2

As we mentioned yeterday, Israel has begun to disobey God after inhabiting the land. These chapter and the ones coming are not only history, but an illustration of the life of the backslidden believer. God wanted to remove the people from the promised land for Israel’s protection; protection from sin. The people groups in Canaan were exceedingly evil even sinking to sacrificing their own children to their idols. God knew that if they remained His chosen line for the Messiah would be tempted and drawn away from Him. So the picture that we have today as we look at this text is the picture of sin remaining in life. Israel went in with good intentions and they removed the bulk of the sinful people. But as time progresses and lands expanded they let some small bands remain. Now watch this analagy: These people were supposedly put under subjection and in the control of the children of Israel, so they thought any way. Later these people groups caused Gods anointed people to run after false Gods. The Canaanites represent sin. Even the small “manageable” sins in the believer’s life that are left instead of being put to death will destroy us. We may think that they are manageable, or even helpful (they charged the remaining Canaanites taxes) but they lead to death. James 1:14-15 states: “every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lusts and enticed. But lust when it is conceived bringeth forth sin; and sin when it is finished bringeth forth death.” We cannot handle any sin in our lives as the bible says “can a man place fire in his bosom and not get burned?” David in II Samuel 11 shows this stair step to destruction as he simply began to admire a woman from his balcony. This seemingly minute infraction ended up causing adultry, treachery, an illegitimate son and the murder of Urriah the Hittite. God shows us in these chapters that every aspect of life must come under subjection and abandoned or destroyed.
Often the Old Testament is left to sit in dust when there is so much for us to learn from it.

June 10th “a Pre-curser to the book of Judges”

Before we discuss our entering into the book of Judges I want us to look at one last thing in Joshua. In chapter 9 we see that Israel made a treaty with the Gibeonites. What seemed right in the eyes of the people of God was not a good thing. So, just as in earlier chapters when Joshua only sent a few men into Ai because they were a small people, they have begun to make decisions without seeking God’s guidance. But before we point at them and begin to judge them I think it would be wise to look inward first. How many times, especially when things are running smoothly, do we do the same. In the middle of God’ working and blessing we can begin to think that it is our own wisdom or our own thoughts or our own programs that are doing well for God’s kingdom. But sadly it often takes disaster for us to realize that we really have nothing to offer but obedience. Proverbs says “There is a way that seems right unto man but in the end it leads to destruction.” This is why it is paramount for the believer to be steadily in the Word of God and in prayer. We must stay connected to the vine as Jesus said in John chapter 15 or our decisions in life will become our own and not His.
As we begin in the book of Judges it would be good to kind of get an historical look at this journey that Israel is on. We just read of the times of obedience and blessing, but sadly we are now going to see the constant drifting away of this nation that God had done so much through.
The Hebrew word used for “Judges” means deliverers or saviors. These men (and women) were called out by God at certain times to deliver Israel from their sin and the oppression that it had brought them. It is good to note that these people were nothing special or holy until God chose to use them for a specific purpose. If Eli and Samuel are counted in this list, there are fourteen different individuals used at appropriate times to redeem Isreal. This is a sad book that shows the nature of man who runs from God until God reins him back to where he needs to be, usually through tragic events. We will be reading stories that you may remember in Sunday school such as Sampson and Gideon. Thank you for being in His Word together.

June 5th Joshua chapters 5-8

My mind is running a hundred miles an hour this morning trying to consider which part of these chapters to comment on.  There is just so much in these three little chapters.  I have decided to look at something that I had never considered before while reading this text.  It is amazing to me that no matter how many times we read His Word, or how familiar the passage is; God almost always gives new insight!

As we look at the conquest of Jericho and Ai  God gives two different sets of instructions.  When Jericho fell God considered all of their belongings accursed, but in Ai the people were allowed to keep the spoils of war.  God is placing judgement on the people of Canaan and all involved are obviously wicked and contrary to God.  So the question lingers; why did God allow the spoils of Ai and not Jericho?  We can see the answer in later texts and even in the New Testament.  Jericho was the first conquest of the Isrealites and God always demands our “first fruits.”  The items that were found in Jericho were accursed to the people of Israel because they belonged to God.  God commanded all of the precious metals to be put into the treasury of the temple and everything else burned with fire.  When they took over Ai God allowed them the spoils.  God wanted them to trust that more was coming and the He would meet their needs.  In Joshua 5:12 it is stated that the manna had been stopped and they were to eat from the land.  They now needed to trust God again, but in a different way, in order to survive.  They had no kingdom, fields or grocery store, and the manna had stopped.  To burn all available food and sustenance would be an act of faith; and that act of faith had to be accomplished.  God did not take lightly this act of disobedience and began to punish the entire nation due to the disobedient act of unfaithfulness.

God, still today, demands our first fruits.  People tend to give the “leftovers” after they have taken what they deem that they need.  This requires no faith and is unacceptable giving.  God does not need this first fruit, He owns it all!  God does though, need us to trust Him and rely on Him for daily bread.  In Malachi it talks about the tithe and asks the people what their governor would think of their offering if offered to him.  He goes on to say how the people offer the blind and the lame to Him as sacrifice.  See these would be the leftovers, the things that they had no need of.  God is not satisfied with the leftovers and goes on to say that this is stealing from God.  I am persuaded to believe that every Sunday morning there are a great number of stolen vehicles in the parking lot of my church.  If angels were working the repo gig they would hit the jack pot in our church parking lot on a Sunday morning!  The first fruits have been spent before it is even made with our toys and luxury while God gets, if anything, the leftovers.  It is said that in the standard church only 20% of the people tithe.  According to Malachi, 80% of our congregation are robbers.  As we look at How Achan was dealt with is it any wonder why so many of our churches are plateaued or declining?

But we see what happens after the sin was rectified:  Ai was taken and God said “take all the spoils.”  Not some, but all!  It is like an illustration that I heard years ago form a former pastor, Dr. Gregg Cooper.  Dr. Cooper said that when in McDonald’s with his five year old daughter he asks her for a french fry.  He doesn’t need a french fry, in fact he could buy enough french fries to bathe in them.  But he wants to see if his little girl is willing to give him one.  God doesn’t need our money, He wants our life and sadly enough our money so often keeps us from offering it to Him. 

June 4th Joshua chapters 1-4

We are seeing that God has raised up a new leader in Israel at this point in history.  Moses has died and it is time to enter the promised land.  Although in years past Joshua was scorned by his peers for wanting to take Canaan as God had commanded, he is now the commander.  Joshua was unpopular back in those days and it would have been very easy for him and Caleb to have just “gone with the flow” but they did not.  I am sure that these two young men (at the time they were young, Joshua is now between 80 and 90 years old) felt as though they were being chastised and abandoned by God in the face of adversity.  But God is faithful and in His own timing, Joshua is exonerated.

Joshua now has the demanding task of leading an entire nation to inhabit a new land and to govern it.  This would be a tough enough task in of itself; but there is another problem: the land is already populated!  So as he begins his task God speaks to him to encourage him.  God could have told him to show strong leadership among his people or perhaps in the face of this great task He could have given Joshua a study book on  leadership.  God did not.  God instead in 1:8-9 tells Joshua all that he needs to know.  God tell Joshua to never forget the law that was given to Moses.  He tells him that it “should not depart out of his mouth” and that he should “meditate on it day and night.”  The Word of God is amazing, life changing and fruit bearing.  This God breathed Word is all sufficient for what we need in life, as we see in Joshua’s.  God goes on to say “Then you will make your way prosperous and have good success.”  God also promised that He would always be with Joshua and that he should “be of good courage.”  OH how prosperous the people of God could be today if we would heed this advise!

The other statement that stands out in these verses is when God tells him “Have I not sent you?”  In all the turmoil that Joshua would face in his life I wonder how many times he thought that perhaps he was not the man for the job; or perhaps that he should have led in another direction.  I can see these words as a great comfort to Joshua as he remembers that God himself was the author of his journey, not himself.  How can a leader fail if he is doing exactly what God has commanded him.