Posts Tagged “Judges”

Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartThe world thinks it has the market cornered on celebration. They’ve got it wrong!

They think that Christians are sour and serious all they time. When we’re living as God wants us to live, they’ve got it wrong!

Ahh, there’s the rub – the “living as God wants us to live” part. It’s easy to get caught up in the seriousness of following God. When that fails, the seriousness of life is a huge draw. There’s so much to do and so little time. There’s so many challenges and so much frustration out there. Yes. There is. But God calls us to pull away from all that and enjoy life!

God instructed the Israelites to observe seven feasts each year. Two of them week-long celebrations of God’s goodness. The Feast of Weeks, also known as Pentecost, is a “festival of joy.” It celebrates the giving of the Law to Moses. Isn’t that interesting – it CELEBRATES the GIVING of the Law. The world thinks the Law – any law or restriction – anything that hampers one from doing their own thing (or what seems right in their own eyes as Judges 17:6 and 21:25 put it) – is a bad thing. Yet James says that the “perfect law” “sets you free” (James 1:25). The Psalms say that it revives the soul (Psalm 19:7). So God instructed the Israelites to have a week-long celebration commemorating the giving of the Law.

The second week-long celebration is the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths, rejoicing over the harvest, which represents God’s goodness and blessings. God instructed the Israelites to set aside a week each year to celebrate His goodness to them!

Other feasts included elements of celebration in their observance, but these two call for all-out, prolonged celebration. Stop your work. Interrupt your routine. And celebrate God!

God wants us to be joyful! Rejoice! He says.

And I’m guessing you’re like me and don’t do it enough.

The One who created us knows what we need. He knows we need to rejoice. He knows we need to celebrate.

A joyful heart is good medicine, But a broken spirit dries up the bones.
Proverbs 17:22 (NASB)

Developing a joyful heart by celebrating God’s goodness is “good medicine.” The phrase translated “is good medicine” literally means “causes good health.” Being joyful contributes to being in good health.

I’ll be honest with you. I’ve had a very tough week. Not just a normal tough week, a very tough week. Rejoicing hasn’t been easy. But life is easier when I push myself to rejoice. Before beginning to write tonight, I listened to some reggae Christian music (Christafari). Its fun, reggae beat, weird (to me) words and phraseology, yet honest message gave me reason to rejoice. That’s what it took for me to rejoice today. I started by reading Scripture and it laid the groundwork, but I was a hard case tonight. Scripture alone didn’t do it. But before turning off the music to write, I was singing at the top of my lungs with joy in my heart.

A joyful heart is good medicine. Push yourself to enjoy God this week. I know that sounds wrong. But it’s right! Because God wants us to celebrate! Enjoy God! Enjoy life!

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Join us as we read through God’s Word a few chapters each day. Our Resting at the River’s Edge schedules help you stay on track with us…but if you fall behind, don’t worry. Just keep reading. Before you begin reading, ask God to reveal Himself to you – He promises that He will.  God will meet you and you will be blessed.

Our Resting at the River’s Edge schedules provide two reading plans. The first two columns of the schedule allow you to read through the entire Bible over a two-year period. During those two years we read through the New Testament twice and the Old Testament once. The “Additional Readings” in column 3 put you on a one-year reading plan. If you read through both the scheduled and additional readings, you will read through the entire Bible in 2013.

I hope you’ll join us! Reading through the Bible each year is one of my favorite things to do. I know that God will speak to you and your needs as you read. Since God usually speaks to me as I am reading His Word, you’ll find that many of the blogs I write relate directly to the Resting at the River’s Edge readings for that week (or sometimes from the previous week because I fall behind in the readings sometimes, too).

Click on one of the following buttons to open a PDF file of the May/June bookmark or all bookmarks. After the file has opened, you can print it or save it to your hard drive from your browser’s file menu.

Click here for the May/June 2013 recommended reading bookmark. Click here to download all bookmarks for 2013.

I hope you’ll join us in Resting at the River’s Edge, and that you’ll email me, telling me how it’s going. You can also leave a message on our Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog. What has God spoken into your heart today? Share it with us so that we might also know Him better.

Blessings, Friends!
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for June is below.

Resting at the River's Edge - Reading through the Bible in 2 years - June 2013 Schedule

 

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Resting at the River’s Edge provides an opportunity to participate in reading through the Bible in a systematic way. Here’s more details about the plan and our schedules.

Track your reading along with us using the table below, the downloadable half-page PDF or the May/June bookmark.

Share with others what God is teaching you. E-mail me, leave a message on the Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog.

Enjoy God as you begin to enjoy summer!
Sandy

Download All 2012 Bookmarks Here

Download only the May/June 2012 Bookmark Here

Download a Half-Page PDF of the June Reading Plan Here

Here’s June’s reading plan:

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As we finished reading Judges, there was one phrase that jumped out because of its frequent use:

In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit. Judges 17:6

In those days Israel had no king. Judges 18:1

In those days Israel had no king. Judges 19:1

In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit. Judges 21:25

If you recall the reading, intermingled with these verses is a description of horrible decline among the Israelites. The sentence seems to be both an indictment and an explanation of their behavior.

I looked up the word “king” in the dictionary. Of the many definitions provided, I found this one to be interesting:

King: One that holds a preeminent position; especially: A chief among competitors (Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary)

Clearly the Israelites had rejected the Lord as their king. He no longer held a preeminent position in their lives – “everyone did as he saw fit.” They no longer asked the Lord what He wanted them to do (until after they got themselves into trouble by running headlong into whatever situation their emotions took them). And while He IS chief among all competitors (so much so that anything and anyone else can hardly be called a competitor because they lag so far behind in excellence and power), the Israelites chose to place other gods and their own desires above Him.

I am reminded of my last blog in which I quoted the following Scripture:

Where there is no vision/revelation/prophecy, the people perish/cast off restraint
Proverbs 29:18 (a combination of KJV, NIV and NRSV)

When the Israelites turned from the Lord, they lost the vision and revelation that He provided and it led to the people casting off all restraint – “everyone did as he saw fit.”

Who is your king today? Who (or what) holds the preeminent position in your life? To whom or what are you giving your allegiance today?
I pray that it is the King of all Kings, the Lord of all Lords, the only true God who is full of mercy and grace and has purposes and plans for your life that go way beyond all the other good things you’re pursuing.

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11The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 12When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”

13“But sir,” Gideon replied, “if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian.”

14The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

15“But Lord,” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

16The LORD answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.”

17Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me.
Judges 6:11-17


2 Lessons of Hope


Did you catch Gideon’s perspective and attitude?

He is living his life in the midst of a terrorist state. Verses 3 through 5 of the chapter paint the picture for us:

3Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. 4They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys. 5They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count the men and their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it.
Judges 6:3-5

Imagine living in a place where every time you are ready to receive your paycheck, terrorists invade your business and steal your check, then ruin all the equipment and set the building on fire. OK, so the first time that happens you’re pretty devastated, but you pick yourself up and you build again and you work and work until you’ve earned enough money to actually take some money out of the business. Or maybe you find someone else who has built again and you work for them and you are about to get your first paycheck in quite a long time. In either scenario, just as you’re about to receive your paycheck, terrorists strike again. They steal your paycheck and all money in the building, again demolish the property and set fire to the building. What do you do? How do you feel?

That’s where Gideon lived. He was doing the best he could for his family, but he was clearly not at the top of his game spiritually. He was secretly threshing wheat in a wine press to feed his family. I imagine as he sat there alone that he struggled to hold onto the faith of his fathers. I imagine that the voices in his head were leading him to despair instead of hope.

You can hardly blame him for his responses to the angel –

“If the Lord…why? Where are all His wonders…?” (v. 13)
“How can I…” (v. 15)
“If…give me a sign…” (v.17)

Yep! Gideon is at a very low point spiritually. I’ve been there. I’m guessing you have as well.

It’s fascinating that this is the person God chooses to use to save the Israelites.
Lesson #1: God can use us in the midst of our own personal crisis of faith!


Did you catch how the angel addressed Gideon?

Gideon – who is at an emotional and spiritual low point and who is hiding from the enemy in terror – is addressed by the angel of the Lord as “mighty warrior.” The word that is translated “warrior” is chayil and means “strength, might, efficiency, wealth and army.” It is often translated valor. (Tomorrow I’ll blog about more about this word – it’s pretty exciting.) The angel makes his point even stronger by adding an adjective (gibbor) that means “strong, mighty.”

I repeat – the angel of the Lord called Gideon “mighty warrior.” I imagine Gideon looked around to see who the angel was talking to. Given his current mindset and experience, I wouldn’t be surprised if a moment of terror seized his heart as he imagined that the angel was talking to someone about to steal his family’s food again.

Lesson #2: God sees us as the finished product, not as we are in the midst of our failures.
Yes, He sees our sins and our failures. But He sees BEYOND our sins and our failures to the person we truly are. Our sin and failure does not need to define us for all our life.


Perhaps my real-life example helps illustrate this:
Yesterday, I was experiencing a moment of weak faith, wandering about mentally and emotionally and fighting against despair about my future (I’ll blog about this in a few days). But even in that moment, God knew that I would skirt the brink of despair and settle on the Rock of Hope. He would have been totally correct to address me as “Rock of Hope settler” had He spoken to me as I was resting at “Despair Place” because that is where I ended the day.

“Mighty warrior” is the person God saw in Gideon. “Rock of Hope settler” is the person He sees in me.

Where are you, friend? Are you hiding from the world, having been terrorized by the enemy? God can still use you. He sees beyond your weaknesses and failures and even beyond your sin. Be encouraged. Gideon went on, after a bit of coaxing by the Lord, to be that “mighty warrior” the angel found hiding in the wine press. You can too.

28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

31What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? …

37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Romans 8:28-37

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Six Books in One Month – A Treasure Trove of Good Stuff!

During the month of June, we’ll be reading from six different books! It’ll be one of our busiest months, in terms of books, but it will still be maintaining our pace of three chapters a day. Here’s where we’ll be:

Joshua: I am thoroughly enjoying this book! Seeing how God passed the baton to Joshua and solidified his leadership among the Israelites, and then reading about how God’s unique strategy for taking the city of Jericho has me looking forward to the rest of the book.

Judges: After Joshua we’ll move on to the book of Judges. It’ll be “déjà vu all over again” as the Israelites fall into the cycle of following after other gods and finding themself in a jam, crying out to God for help, God raising up a righteous Judge to lead them and then the Israelites repenting and following God…until that judge dies and the cycle starts again. The book ends on the following very sad note:

In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.
Joshua 21:25

Israel had forsaken their true King and everyone did as they pleased.

Psalms: After Judges we’ll take a break from the history for a few weeks by reading through the first 41 Psalms. The book of Psalms is broken into five “books” or “collections.” We’ll be reading the first one. It’s interesting that these divisions probably existed as early as the third, and perhaps even the second century B.C. Some think that the five-part division may have been deliberate, matching five books of praise with the already existing five books of the law (i.e., Genesis through Deuteronomy). Each of the books end with a final verse or psalm of doxology (praise).

Galatians: After we finish the last chapter of 2 Thessalonians, we’ll read Galatians. Paul is writing to correct heretical teaching that has infiltrated the church and writes about grace vs. the Law. My favorite passage of the book (favorite because the Holy Spirit brings it to my mind often when I need to hear it) is this:

1You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?
Galatians 3:1-3

Lord, let us not fall back to relying on our own efforts, our own strength (or lack thereof), but to fully trust You for everything in our lives.

1 & 2 Corinthians: Finally, we’ll read 1 & 2 Corinthians. These books might be summarized as being about a church behaving badly. We’ll find many verses we quote regularly and I trust God has some new nuggets for us as well.

Be blessed as you read this month! May God reveal His Word for you.

The recommended reading schedule is below.

To download a PDF of June’s recommended reading plan, click here.

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Reading about Kings and Churches…

If I were to break the Israelites history into major segments, it would look something like this:

  • The Years of the Patriarchs: Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph (Genesis)
  • The “Moses Years” (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers & Deuteronomy)
  • Moving into the Promised Land (Joshua)
  • Period of the Judges (Judges, part of 1 Samuel)
  • Period of the Kings (1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, most of the prophets)
  • After the Captivity (Nehemiah, Ezra, Esther, Malachi)

In June our Resting at the River’s Edge reading plan has us leaving the period of the Judges and moving into the period of the kings as we read 1st and 2nd Samuel. First Samuel begins with the grief of a woman who has been unable to bear children and ends with the death of Israel’s first king, Saul. Second Samuel begins with David learning of Saul’s death and carries us through most of David’s Kingship.

 A study of the life of David has been rich food for Christians for 2,000 years. There is much we can learn from the life of this key figure of the Old Testament.

Have you ever been to a church that had problems? I mean real problems? The church in Corinth was messed up six ways to Sunday, but Paul still found some good things to say about them. This month in Resting at the River’s Edge, we’ll dive into Paul’s two letters to the Corinthian church. Read along with us as we watch how this master church planter tries to straighten out this can of worms.

Enjoy!

To download a PDF of June’s reading schedule, click here.

April Reading

June Reading Plan

Enjoy your time at the river’s edge this month!

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22Then the Israelites said to Gideon, “Be our ruler! You and your son and your grandson will be our rulers, for you have rescued us from Midian.” 23But Gideon replied, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son. The LORD will rule over you! 24However, I have one request. Each of you can give me an earring out of the treasures you collected from your fallen enemies.” (The enemies, being Ishmaelites, all wore gold earrings.) 25″Gladly!” they replied. They spread out a cloak, and each one threw in a gold earring he had gathered. 26The weight of the gold earrings was forty-three pounds, not including the crescents and pendants, the royal clothing of the kings, or the chains around the necks of their camels. 27Gideon made a sacred ephod from the gold and put it in Ophrah, his hometown. But soon all the Israelites prostituted themselves by worshiping it, and it became a trap for Gideon and his family. Judges 8:22-27

Gideon made a “sacred ephod” in good faith from the spoils of the victory the Lord gave him. He meant it as a memorial, a reminder of the faithfulness of God…but “soon all the Israelites prostituted themselves by worshiping it.” How easy it is for us to worship the thing we’ve created instead of the One who made it possible for us to create it! How easy it is for us to worship the thing we can see instead of the One who is unseen! How easy it is for us to worship the past instead of the One who gives us a future!

Wow! each of those last three sentences could be a sermon or sermon series! No sermons or sermon series here, but how about a few thoughts to touch your spirit.

What might you or I have created that we are tempted to worship instead of worshipping the One who made it possible? We can make an idol out of anything. Has your career or position in society (or the church) become your idol? How about your marriage (or pursuit of marriage) or your children? Maybe you’ve made an idol out of your leisure time or hobby? Then, there’s always the house and/or car. Perhaps you’ve made pain and/or suffering your idol.

Are you more concerned about any of these things than you are about pursuing God wholeheartedly? Do you make sacrifices for these things that should really be made to God (or not be made at all)? Everything we’ve received in our life has NOT been received by our own efforts alone. It has all come from the hands of a loving and merciful God.

SacramentOfTheMomentHow is one to worship the unseen? I don’t know about you, but it’s WAY easier to worship the thing that is seen, than the One who is unseen! The Message Bible describes Jesus as “this invisible but clearly present God” (Romans 8:9). Worshipping the Invisible begins with acknowledging that He is present. He is everywhere all the time (omnipresent), but unless I seek His presence, I miss it. In the winter 2007 issue of “Christian History and Biography” Richard Foster writes of a book by Jean-Pierre de Caussade called The Sacrament of the Present Moment saying that it “changed forever the way I look at ‘ordinary’ life” (page 50).

Caussade urges us to experience each moment “as a holy sacrament, a visible sign of invisible grace.” Is this perhaps the connection…the link that allows us to worship the One who is unseen by seeing Him in what is seen? That’s whag Caussade is suggesting. What an adventure it would be to embark on such a journey, because it would be an adventure of constantly seeking God (the Invisible). And God’s Word tells me that this seeking will result in finding: “If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me. I will be found by you,” says the LORD.” (Jeremiah 29:13-14a, NLT)

Letting go of the past to worship the God of our future: David Seamands has a book called Putting Away Childish Things. It’s an excellent book about identifying and dealing with past hurts, attitudes and wrong thinking that yield responses in our lives today that limit what God wants to do with our future. You migth be more familiar with the book by Joyce Meyer, The Battlefield of the Mind. The premises for both books are similar, but I found Seamonds’ book to be the more insightful/thoughtful. In reading his book, I was able to identify incidents and patterns from childhood that shaped how I responded to situations today. Identifying them was the first step toward “putting them away” (1 Corinthians 13:11).

Sacred ephods…things created in good faith that have become objects of worship, idols. “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” (Jonah 2:8 NIV) Let’s not settle for worshipping the ephod. Let’s worship the One who gives perfect gifts.

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