Thursday, April 26, 2018

Judges: Lady Deb

Say what you want about Ehud, or just read my previous blog about him, but Israel stayed faithful to the Lord while he was alive.  He was not the promised Messiah, the deliverer of the people, but he got the job done.  But even so, people only served Yahweh on the outside but not with their hearts.  And so when Ehud died, they sinned again.

This time, God sent Sisera, the general of king Jabin, to inflict pain on Israel.  A woman named Deborah, wife of Lappidoth, from the tribe of Ephraim, sat under a tree and judged cases for Israel.  She loved the Lord and wanted to do what was right.  The land was under oppression from Jabin and needed a strong warrior to stop Sisera.  She called for Barak from Naphtali.  She said, "God wants you to go fight Sisera."

Barak said he would go, but he would not go unless Deborah went with him.  She said she would go with Barak, but the true victory would belong to the woman. 

And so Barak had a good victory.  But Sisera wandered over to the tent of Heber the Kenite.  The Kenites were the family of Moses's wife.  Jabin's people were not at war with Heber.  Sisera went to his tent.  Jael, the wife of Heber, invited him in. 

Rabbit trail: I lived in Macon, GA from 1990 to 1994.  I was in kindergarten through 3rd grade there.  There was a Sonny's BBQ that later changed its name to JL's.  Whenever I read about Jael I think about JL's.  I don't think JL's is around anymore, but I did like that place once.

Okay, so Jael did not offer Sisera barbecue.  But with pure intentions, he came in and she gave him milk and let him sleep in a blanket.  Somewhere in that time, she got some feeling that she should kill Sisera and so she did.  And that was the end of the war.

Israel had people who loved the Lord and people who loved their passions and followed them via Baal worship. The land was never pure.  Say what you want about women leadership, but the Bible is clear that men should mostly be leaders because although Adam and Eve were equal, God granted Adam headship. 

And I like Deborah.  Deborah was a cool woman with wonderful gifts and blessings from the true God.  But even she realized she needed Barak to lead the army, not herself.  And the fact that Barak wanted to not take full leadership but have Deborah go with him caused Deb to say that he won't get the glory for this victory.  It will go to a woman.  And after this, it seems Deborah was the last really pure judge of Israel as everyone after her, except maybe Jephthah, seemed very compromised in their egos and sexuality. 

It's like when men decide they don't want to be the head of families or God's community, the community slides into more compromise with sin, accepting of "alternative" lifestyles, and more open to shady theology.  Now, don't get me wrong, I like women and honor their leadership, but I also become more complementarian as life goes on and see the lack of true men in society who are willing to lay down their lives for their women and simply want to have fun and feel good.  They have less men to look to as godly examples.  Plus, it's okay to have a binary society.  In fact, God made mankind male and female and it was very good.  It's how life is meant to be. 

Friday, April 13, 2018

Judges: Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar - will the real Savior please stand up? Oh, and Hercules

Caleb has died and the cycle continues.  The Israelites betrayed God and followed the gods of the culture whose worship included recreational sex and child sacrifice.  Sounds a lot like America today.  Then enemies come along to oppress them, they turn back to God, and he sends a judge to save them.  Then they turn away again.  This cycle keeps reminding them, and us, how helpless we are in our sins.  We just love ourselves and our ways way too much and will never turn to God.  And we need a Savior.

Othniel seems like a good candidate.  He's Caleb's nephew/son-in-law and from the tribe of Judah.  He wastes no time in saving the land Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram.  But is he the Savior we're looking for?  No, because he will die and the land will return to their idolatry.

Then king Eglon comes along from Moab to torture the land.  Ehud from the tribe of Benjamin comes along.  He's a southpaw, which is not bad in itself but is superstitiously seen as a curse and was even up until my parents' generation.  He gets the job done of ridding the land of Eglon, but he does it with more trickery.  He goes to Eglon's palace, tells him that he has a message from God, pulls his sword off of his right thigh with his left hand (because Eglon would suspect a sword from the opposite direction), and plunges it into his fat belly in a rather graphic scene.  Eglon's attendants wait to the point of embarrassment and then finally get a key and find out the truth.  Is Ehud the man we're looking for?  No.  He's a jerk and eventually dies.  The Savior will certainly not come from Benjamin.  He'll be more like Othniel from Judah.  He will do his job honestly and directly and not die.

And finally, we have two sentences and no more about Shamgar until Deborah sings about him in chapter 5.  He killed 600 Philistines with an oxgoad.  He has a pretty good write-up here.  I read about this backwoods farmer guy and simply think of Hercules.  I was very much into Kevin Sorbo's Hercules when I was in 5th grade and middle school.  I could see him doing this with very cheesy special effects.  His story was surpassed by Samson who I'm pretty sure the myth of Herc was based on.  Herc was a mix of Samson and Jesus (being a son of a god and all).  Is he the man we seek to save us from our sins?  I mean Jesus is always compared to Melchizedek in Genesis 14 who also makes a brief appearance, then disappears.  No, because Hebrews says that Jesus is a priest FOREVER.  Like Mel and like Shamgar, but FOREVER.  And when he finally comes to finish the job, his people will never turn away again because he's given them his Holy Spirit to grow and guide us.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Judges: Faithful Caleb

In Numbers 13, Moses sent twelve spies to see the new land of Canaan and check it out.  They came back and said it was a very nice land.  Here are some grapes. 

But, oh no, there are giants, descendants of Anak, there, and they are going to destroy us. 

Only two men sent a completely good report: Joshua and Caleb.  Verse 30:

Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”

These two men were the only ones to survive the next 40 years and did take the land.  God led the rest of the people on a u-turn and took them back through the wilderness until the grumbling generation died off and their kids were old enough to take the land.

Now, they have come to the promised land.  Caleb got to see the realization of his dreams at last.  He led the tribe of Judah to Jerusalem and Hebron and took that area of the land and settled there.  He also promised his daughter Achsah to the man who would also help conquer Kiriath Sepher.  His nephew Othniel did that and married Achsah.  Then Achsah asked her dad if she could also have some streams in her land.  He said yes.

So, did Caleb save the nation and all was happy ever after?  No, eventually Caleb died and the people turned to other gods again.  In fact, David had to conquer Jerusalem again and make it his capital when he became king.  Caleb didn't finish the job.  Who will finish the job of conquering evil and destroying sin?  Jesus of course.  Caleb was only a preview of what Jesus would accomplish. 

Jesus didn't make Israel an independent country again, like they wanted.  But he did make the true Israel, the Church, independent from the consequences of her sin.  All Christ's believers were saved from slavery to their own wicked desires and headed toward God's sentence of eternity under his wrath in hell, but Jesus died on the cross as the perfect substitutionary sacrifice for our sins.  Now our sentence has been served and we are free.  Even better, we have the Holy Spirit in us to continue making us holy until Christ returns.

Has God called you to a task?  Does it seem that the task is impossible because you made some mistake and destroyed your career or because people simply won't give you the chance?  Perhaps you should keep believing, like Caleb, that if something is God's will, then he will bring it to pass. 

I know with in me are giants called anger, impulsiveness, discontentment, faithlessness, and impatience.  It seems like I will never be mature enough to conquer them.  But I know God sent me his Holy Spirit who will fashion me daily and yearly until they are finally gone.

I know I was called to children's ministry, but right now I'm not there.  But in the past I have led in children's ministry and have been successful.  And I am encouraged every time I see one of my students whether they are nine years old or 20 and they give me a huge hug and tell me they miss me that perhaps I can come back some time soon.  If God means me to come back, then nothing will stop it.

What are some things you need Christ to conquer in your life?