Day 98: The State of God’s Family

Judges 19-21; Luke 11:1-28

Key Verses

Luke 11:2-4
“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”

What does God’s family look like in these last chapters of Judges? Rape, murder, callous indifference and finally, civil war.

The writer of Judges ends his book with the declaration: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did was right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

God would give the people a king – but the true King would not come until the time was ready for God’s Kingdom to be established on earth. Jesus comes and with Him comes the Kingdom!

What does God’s family look like today? Unfortunately, we don’t look very different than the people of the Judges. The church is called to show the world a glimpse of God’s Kingdom ways. May we strive to be a light in this dark world – as we humbly proclaim our desperate need of forgiveness and that we are rescued only by God’s saving grace!

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Day 97: Proper worship

Judges 17-18; Luke 10:25-42

Key Verses

Judges 17:6
Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Luke 10:36-37
Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

As the time of the Judges comes to an end, somehow, God managed to preserve his people in spite of their apostasy. Yet, this nation was full of people who had no clue how to worship God according to the Mosaic law.

The rest of the book of Judges switches its focus from the threat of foreign invaders to its own inward chaos. The author is persuading the reader that Israel desperately needs the leadership of a godly king. The story recorded in Judges 17-18 is so preposterous that it seems cartoonish!

And the man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and household gods…

And Micah ordained the Levite, and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah. Then Micah said, “Now I know that the Lord will prosper me, because I have a Levite as priest” (Judges 17:5; 12-13).

Since when did people start having their own personal priests?? And this priest doesn’t have an altar or a tabernacle, no, he has Micah’s shrine and carved images to facilitate proper worship. It’s ludicrous!

Fast forward to today’s reading in Luke. At this point in history, the Jews were so absorbed with proper worship – that they had added many extra laws which made the old laws seem permissive. This concern with observing the Mosaic law is obvious from the details in Jesus’ story of the good Samaritan. There was a distinction between the Priest and the Levite. Not just any Levite could be a Priest. Only a descendant of Aaron could be a Priest. I’m sure this detail was overlooked by Micah, our character from Judges ;)

But it is interesting that Jesus takes all of these religious regulations and turns them upside down. The story of the good Samaritan illustrates that it is not the “law-abiding” Priest and Levite that meet the standard of the Law – but rather it was the hated “half-breed” Samaritan who did what was acceptable – that is to sacrificially love his enemy.

Isn’t Jesus wonderful??!! He wants so much more for His people than mere religion!! The rules only teach us we’re not good enough! Then we can look to Jesus with a desperate need to be rescued. This is proper worship! Humble, reliance on the Savior.

Mary understood. She knew that nothing was as important as sitting at the feet of her Lord. All of life could wait – Jesus was in her house! What could be more important than that?!

Day 96: Strength from on High

Judges 15-16; Luke 10:1-24

Key Verses

Judges 16:28
Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.”

Luke 10:17-18
The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”

Samson brings the time of the Judges to a close. His life mirrors the moral condition of the people he judged…corrupt. We do see a glimmer of faith in Samson’s life – but only after he has been blinded and humiliated…

God stooped and granted Samson the strength to topple the house and kill 3,000 Philistines, and in so doing, he also killed himself. But even Samson’s sacrifice was tainted, as it seemed to be motivated by vengeance instead of concern for Israel.

Today’s passage from Luke highlights one of the fundamental differences between the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, God set apart a physical nation whose purpose was to reveal God’s character to the world. The New Testament begins with John the Baptist exhorting the Jews to repent “for the Kingdom of God is near.”

John was preparing the way for Jesus. And when Jesus came, he instituted a spiritual nation, which he called “The Kingdom of God.” Unlike the Israelites, the people of God’s Kingdom do not go to war against other nations – rather they engage in battle in the spiritual realm.

God empowered Samson with physical strength to defeat the Philistines, his physical enemies. In today’s passage from Luke, Jesus empowers the 72 with spiritual strength to overcome their spiritual enemies.

We, as believers in Christ, are part of God’s Kingdom and are commanded to enter the spiritual battle – proclaiming that “The Kingdom of God is near!” If God can empower and use the likes of Samson, He can surely use you and me!

Day 95: The diverse work of the Spirit

Judges 13-14; Luke 9:37-62

Key Verses

Judges 13:24-25
And the woman bore a son and called his name Samson. And the young man grew, and the Lord blessed him. And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.

Luke 9:51
When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.

The next 10 chapters of Luke record Jesus’ teaching and work during his last journey to Jerusalem (9:51-19:27). Jesus knew what would happen. He predicted his death for the 2nd time in vs. 44. But the disciples still didn’t understand…

But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying. (Luke 9:45)

The disciples would understand – but only after the coming of the Holy Spirit. Like the disciples, we also depend on the Holy Spirit to help us understand God’s word and ways!

The Holy Spirit makes an appearance in today’s reading from Judges as well. It is by the power of God’s Spirit that Samson has the strength to overcome Israel’s enemy, the Philistines.

But.

As is typical of most Old Testament narratives, the author simply retells the story without commenting on the morality of the characters. This is a disadvantage to us as modern readers, because we aren’t as familiar with the ancient culture and Mosaic law. Actions that would have been so obviously horrendous to an ancient Jew are morally ambiguous to us. There are so many instances where Samson breaks God’s law, but you have to be familiar with the laws concerning Nazarites to catch them!

In Chapter 14, he marries a Philistine, touches a dead carcass, and partakes of strong drink at his marriage feast. Nazarites were strictly forbidden to touch anything dead or to partake in strong drink. His flagrant disregard for God’s law is offensive. Yet God sends His Holy Spirit to Samson in spite of his sin. How amazing is God’s grace!

Consider this nuance in Chapter 14… On the way down to marry the Philistine woman, Samson scrapes honey from a lion’s carcass – the very lion that he killed with his bare hands. This is a picture of what sin can do to our hearts. Samson’s pride and independence blinds him to the grotesque carcass. He’s oblivious to the stench and the flies… As we are tempted to compromise God’s standards for the pleasures of this world, we must remember this image of eating honey from a lion’s carcass. All we see is the honey – and we are blinded by the grotesqueness of the sin.

Unlike Samson, we must depend on the Holy Spirit to open our ears to understand God’s word, open our eyes to see the sin in our hearts and finally, to give us hearts to obey!

Day 94: Perplexed and Amazed

Judges 10:6-12:15; Luke 9:10-36

Key Verses

Luke 9:23-25
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?

In Judges, we read of Jephthah. He is a double-sided puzzle to me…

On one hand, Jephthah showed extensive knowledge of Israel’s history and seemed to have faith in the God of Israel. But on the other hand, he made a rash vow which resulted in the sacrifice of his own daughter. The law provided an “out” for rash vows (Lev. 5:4-6), so it is unclear why Jephthah would do something so horrible as child sacrifice.

I think Jephthah’s story illustrates the consequences of idolatry and apostasy on the human heart. The heart becomes duplicitous – double minded.

I wonder what Jephthah and Israel would have thought of Jesus’ words in today’s Key Verse? These verses convict me… Because just like Israel, I make compromises and look to modern-day idols to fill my longings. It always amazes me to read of God working on behalf of his adulterous people. Even though God did not “raise up” Jephthah, He still used him to defeat Israel’s oppressors. But Jephthah’s half-heartedness led to horrible personal consequences. The nation also suffered for their idolatrous hearts… as Judges 12 describes civil war in Israel.

What do we do with a passage like this? I know what I do… I’m more thankful for Jesus! I’m thankful that my sin has been forgiven. I’m thankful that the Holy Spirit convicts and equips me. I’m thankful for Jesus’ life of compassion and grace. And I’m thankful to be swept up in a relationship with the living God.

Oh God, help me live a life worthy of the calling I have received. Help me to love and obey you with a whole heart!

**For commentary on other significant parts of Luke 9, such as Jesus’ first prediction of his death and/or the Transfiguration, see “Day 24: Setting the Stage”.

Day 93: Absolute Power

Judges 9:1-10:5; Luke 8:22-9:9

Key Verses

Judges 9:6
The people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines. And they forsook the Lord and did not serve him.

Luke 8:25
He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”

In these two passages, we see God’s absolute rule and power over all… Luke demonstrates through short narratives Jesus’ control over nature (vs. 22-25), demons (vs. 26-39), disease (vs. 40-48), and even over death (vs. 41-56). In each scene, Jesus is moved by compassion.

In Judges, we read of evil, pure and fearsome evil. God brings judgment by commanding an evil spirit to cause discord between the two evil players, Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem. Consequently, they turn on one another – and they both come to ruin…

Thus God returned the evil of Abimelech, which he committed against his father in killing his seventy brothers. And God also made all the evil of the men of Shechem return on their heads, and upon them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal (Judges 9:56-57).

Both accounts are narratives of God at work. He is both compassion and judge. He rules over all. Even the demon He keeps on a leash. It is only a fool who would not fear this God – this wonderfully awful and loving God!

Consider then how terribly far He has stooped to rescue you. We must not belittle the Sacrifice.

Day 92: Diluted faith

Judges 6-8; Luke 8:1-21

Key Verses

Judges 8:27
And Gideon made an ephod of it and put it in his city, in Ophrah. And all Israel whored after it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family.

Luke 8:21
But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”

In the time of Gideon, the people had fallen so far away from the Lord that Gideon was threatened by his neighbors for destroying the altar of Baal and cutting down the Asherah pole. No longer did the people fear the God of Israel.

God showed amazing grace to Gideon – stooping to fulfill Gideon’s requests for signs and compensating for Gideon’s fear. Gideon was so tainted by his culture that his faith was diluted and weak at best.

In spite of himself, Gideon was used by God to defeat the Midianites and the people enjoyed rest from oppression for 40 years. Truly, Gideon showed great heroism…but in the end, Gideon gave in to pride and led the people away from true worship of their God.

With each subsequent judge, the people fell further and further away from the standards of the Mosaic law – and became even more addicted to “whoring” after other gods.

Judges should serve as a warning to us… How diluted is our faith because of the culture in which we live? Do we compromise our beliefs to avoid conflict or hardship? We will be held accountable for our actions and choices.

Listen to the parable of the sower in Luke 8 and ask yourself… What kind of soil am I? Only by God’s grace can we be the good soil that upon “hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.”

God, I ask for the privilege to hear your word and the grace to obey it. Please, open my eyes to see how the culture dilutes my faith. And grant me the patience to persevere and the discipline to worship you alone.

Day 91: The Deliverer

Judges 3:7-5:31; Luke 7:31-50

Key Verses

Judges 5:3
“Hear, O kings; give ear, O princes;
to the Lord I will sing;
I will make melody to the Lord, the God of Israel.”

Luke 7:37-38
And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.

In today’s readings, we see two women worshipping their Lord. In Judges, it is Deborah – whose song of praise is contained in all of chapter 5. In Luke, it is a woman of ill repute – who worships her Savior extravagantly. In a humble posture, I, too, offer a few lines of verse in response to today’s reading.

The Deliverer

Where is our deliverer? Our enemies are pressing in.
“I will give you a Deliverer to deal with your great sin.”

But Lord we are oppressed, we are slaves in our own land.
“I will send you my Servant. He sits at my right hand.”

But God we need a warrior! We are surrounded from all sides.
“Your Deliverer is before you, yet you follow your blind guides.”

Please God, Deliver us. We need to see your face.
“Bring your jar of ointment and celebrate my Grace!” 

Day 90: The Rescuer

Judges 1:1-3:6; Luke 7:1-30

Key Verses

Judges 2:11-12
And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger.

Luke 7:9
When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”

If you need evidence of the darkness of the human condition, look no further than Judges. It is the story of every human heart apart from Christ. Our best efforts to follow and obey lead only to ruin and apostasy. We just can’t make this journey in our own strength. We need rescuing. The people in Judges needed rescuing…

But as we’ll read over the next few days – the rescuers that God sends are inadequate. The people just keep falling further and further away from the Lord and falling deeper and deeper into worshiping the despicable gods of the Canaanites. The book of Judges ends with the people crying out for a king.

Many kings would come – but it would take many hundreds of years for the real King to come. We read of Him today in Luke. From our modern eyes, we don’t understand how odd Jesus’ ministry was to the Jewish nation. They expected a military ruler in similar form as the Old Testament judges or kings – only more powerful and effective!

Imagine their surprise when rumors spread of a man in rags that could heal and bring people back from the dead! But he was so different – even John the Baptist questioned whether he was truly the Messiah.

And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Luke 7:19).

Jesus answers by referring back to Isaiah’s descriptions of the days of salvation and then Jesus turns to the crowds and praises John the Baptist. John was the last of the Old Testament prophets and the one who had the highest honor of preparing the way of the Savior… But Jesus says that even the least in the Kingdom of God is greater than John! Why?

Because of the Rescuer.

No longer would the people be left to obey a law that was impossible to obey in their own strength. No. When Jesus came and made the ultimate Sacrifice for sin, God instituted a New System. He writes the law on the heart and gives the power of the Holy Spirit.

If you have placed your faith in Jesus to rescue you, your faith is credited to you as righteousness. We live in the New System, under the New Covenant. We, yes, even we, are greater than John the Baptist because we know the Rescuer. We know the Savior. We know Jesus!

Day 98: The state of God’s family

Judges 19-21; Luke 11:1-28

What does God’s family look like in these last chapters of Judges? Rape, murder, callous indifference and finally, civil war.

The writer of Judges ends his book with the declaration: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did was right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

God would give the people a king – but the true King would not come until the time was ready for God’s Kingdom to be established on earth.

Jesus comes and with Him comes the Kingdom!

Jesus teaches the disciples to pray in Luke 11…

“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”

What does God’s family look like today? Unfortunately, we don’t look very different than the people of the Judges. We are sinners in desperate need of forgiveness. But! We are sinners saved by God’s grace!