Sunday, April 30, 2017

April 30: Judges 11 – 12; Psalm 101; Proverbs 14:13-14; John 1:1-28



Overview

            Judges: Jephthah was the son of Gilead and a prostitute. His half brothers drove him out and he lived in Tob. When the Ammonites came against Israel, the inhabitants of Gilead asked Jephthah to be their leader to fight the Ammonites. He sent messengers to the Ammonites to find out why they were attacking. They claimed Israel had taken their land from them when they came up out of Egypt. He sent more messengers explaining they had bypassed the king of Edom and Moab but the Lord gave them the land of Sihon, the Amorite king. For 300 years, Moab had not claimed the land so the Lord will judge between Israel and Ammon.
            Jephthah then rallied the people of Gilead and Manasseh and vowed to offer a burnt offering to the Lord of the first thing that came out of his house if he returned home successful in battle. So Jephthah beat the Ammonites. When he returned home, his only child, his daughter came out to meet him. He was distraught but told her about the vow and he couldn’t go back on it. She agreed, but first took two months to roam the hills and weep. When she returned, he kept his vow. The daughters of Israel lament each year for four days for her.
            Ephraim was upset because Jephthah hadn’t called them to the battle and threatened to kill Jephthah because of it. Jephthah said he did call them but they refused to come so he took his own life in his hand and went to battle. Jephthah and the Gileadites fought Ephraim, captured the ford of the Jordan and killed any Ephraimite who tried to cross. They could tell who was an Ephraimite because they couldn’t pronounce Shibboleth with the h. Altogether they killed 42,000 Ephraimites.
            Jephthah judged Israel for six years and died. Ibzan came next and he judged for seven years and died. Elon judged ten years and died. Hillel judged for ten years and died.
            Psalm: David sings of God’s loving kindness and justice. He then expresses his own integrity and how he has been blameless. He will not let evil people be around him but only the faithful in the land. He will destroy the wicked of the land.
            Proverbs: People who are hurting may often put on a cheerful faƧade when they are with others but go home and grieve. A person may also be a sinner at heart but it will show in his ways just as good person’s ways are seen.
            John: The beginning of John tells us that Jesus is eternal and has always been with God. Jesus is the creator of life and everything physical. He is the life and light of men. Though Jesus created everything, the world and his people didn’t know him. Those who do know him are given the right to be children of God. Jesus became flesh and was seen by people. Moses gave the Law but Jesus brought truth and grace. He is the only one who has seen the Father.
            John the Baptist came to witness about Jesus. Jewish leaders wanted to know who he was, but he assured them he was not the Christ, the prophet, or Elijah. However, he quoted from Isaiah 40:3 that he was a voice crying out to make straight the paths of the Lord. They wanted to know why he was baptizing if he wasn’t one of these. John said he baptized with water but there was another among them whom they didn’t know who was greater than he was.

What Stood Out

            Judges: “And at the end of two months, she returned to her father, who did with her according to his vow that he had made” (Judg 11:39).
            Psalm: “Morning by morning I will destroy all the wicked in the land” (Ps 101:8).
            Proverbs: “Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief” (Prov 14:13).
            John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

Insight

            Judges: Jephthah must have been a very persuasive and strong willed person for the Gileadites to ask him to be their leaders. While these traits served him well in his battle with the Ammonites, it was also a problem when it came to sacrificing his daughter after making a rash vow. His problem was a lot like other people during the time of the judges. Their worship of other gods had become so ingrained that they imagined the Lord was just like their other gods. The first problem is that he thought he could make a bargain with God. He didn’t ask the Lord if it was his will to defeat the Ammonites. He assumed that God would do this if he promised to do something. We do the same thing. “Lord if you grant me success in this business, I will give you ten percent of the profits (or maybe more).” The Lord required burnt offerings from his people; this wasn’t something to bargain over. They were supposed to give thank offerings without any strings attached. We are supposed to do what is right and good because that is our response to what God has already done, not in order to get something from him.
            Jephthah didn’t expect he would have to sacrifice his daughter. That is evident by his reaction when she came out of the house. It was common to sacrifice children to the other gods that Israel had recently put away so it made it easier for Jephthah to imagine that God would require him to keep his vow. Jephthah placed his vow to the Lord above God’s clear commandment not to sacrifice children. The Pharisees had the same problem. Their traditions and vows negated God’s commands. This is the basis of sin. We do what we want even when it is in violation of God’s commands. Sin is sin regardless of how great it is or how small it is. We are no better than Jephthah when it comes to violating God’s command. The only difference is that we have a lot more of the Bible than he had and we are therefore less excusable than he is.
            Psalm: I really have to wonder when David wrote this Psalm. Was it when he was tending sheep before he was brought into Saul’s services? Is it his vows when he became king over Judah or later, over all Israel? He sounds a lot like a high school kid who is a newborn Christian after receiving Christ at summer camp. He is zealous for the good things of the Lord. He is all ready to go out and witness on street corners. Then reality sets in when he goes back to school and finds all his friends are doing the things he says he abhors. Like David, he stumbles and falls. When he turns back to the Lord, he recognizes his own sinfulness and his need to repent. He is able to give grace to others and not be so judgmental. We don’t need to stumble before we give grace to others, we just have to read the Bible and find out how much grace God has given us.
            Proverbs: We are a culture that often doesn’t reveal what is really going on in our hearts. We put on a good face when we are hurting inside or sinning inside. It is often a surprise to others when someone commits suicide or has an addiction. I often read in the paper about a person who has been caught red-handed in a crime and the parents are quoted saying how good of person he was. These two proverbs are too true even among Christians. We have brothers and sisters in Christ and we should be able to open up to them and get help whether we have secret grief or sin.
            John: The eternal nature of Jesus is of vital importance to knowing God. Cults most often represent Jesus as a created being. Some say he is the angel Michael, other say he was the first spirit baby conceived in heaven by god and one of his wives. It is extremely important to understand that Jesus, the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity has always existed otherwise he could not be the Savior. Our Savior had to be holy and without sin to take on the sins of the whole world. We will see in the book of John that Jesus claims in various places and ways that he is God. That means he has to be eternal. If he were not, then he lied and that would prevent him from dying for our sins. He wouldn’t be able to even die to cover his own sins. But the proof that he didn’t lie is in his resurrection.
            So, when it says that those who believe in him have the right to become children of God, it means we must believe in his eternality and that Jesus is God. If we don’t believe that, we are believing in a false Christ and that will not save us. This is why John clearly lets everyone know that Jesus is God in the first few verses of his Gospel. The rest of the Gospel backs up this claim.

Application

            I have plenty of opportunities to sin and so does everyone else. My heart isn’t pure but because of Jesus’ blood, I know that I’m forgiven. Since I’m too much like Jephthah, and I know others are as well, I need to give grace to those who are struggling with sin, grief, or other problems of the heart. I need to reach out to others for help when I am.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

April 29: Judges 9:22 – 10; Psalm 100; Proverbs 14:11-12; Luke 24:13-53



Overview

            Judges: Abimelech ruled for three years. Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem for killing Gideon’s sons. The men of Shechem started robbing people who passed by Shechem in the mountains. Abimelech knew it but did nothing.
             Gaal came to Shechem, threw a party, and bad-mouthed Abimelech and Zebul, the official ruler in Shechem. Zebul warned Abimelech and encouraged him to attack the city and kill Gaal and his forces when they came out to fight. The battle was not conclusive so Abimelech stayed in Arumah but Zebul kicked Gaal and his relatives out of Shechem.
            The next day, Abimelech saw the people of Shechem coming out to the fields so he attacked them. He captured the city and killed the people. However, some of the citizens escaped to a tower, which was also a stronghold and the temple of El-Berith. Abimelech and his men took tree branches, piled them against the tower, and set it on fire killing everyone inside.
            Abimelech went to Thebez and attacked it. The people had a strong tower in the city and fled into it. When Abimelech approached the tower to burn it, a woman dropped a millstone on his head. He asked his armor-bearer to kill him so no one could say a woman killed him. That ended Abimilech. The curse of Jotham came true as God caused it all to happen.
            After Abimelech, Dodo was judge for twenty-three years, and then Jair led for twenty-two years. After that, the people did evil in the sight of the Lord again going after other gods. The Lord let the Philistines oppress Israel for eighteen years. The Ammonites also attacked from the other side.
            Israel cried out to the Lord for relief but the Lord told them to cry out to their false gods for salvation. The people admitted they sinned and resigned to God’s judgment. They put away their idols and served the Lord. The Lord couldn’t bear their misery any longer.
            The Ammonites camped in Gilead and Israel gathered in Mizpah. The leaders of Gilead agreed that whoever led the attacked would be ruler over them.
            Psalm: We are to praise God gladly and loudly with noise and music. We must remember he is our make and we belong to him. When we worship, it should be with thanksgiving and praise because he is good and his love endures forever. He is faithful to all generations.
            Proverbs: The wicked will perish but the upright will continue and expand. People think they know the right way outside of God’s way, but that ends in death.
            Luke: Two disciples were walking to Emmaus after Jesus’ resurrection. They were talking about what happened when Jesus walked near them but he kept them from recognizing him. He told them from Scripture that everything that happened to him had to happen to the Christ. When they got to Emmaus, he went in to eat with them. When he blessed and broke bread, they recognized him but he vanished. They went back and told the other disciples.
            Jesus appeared to the disciples as the two were telling what happened to them. He spoke peace to them but they were frightened. He showed them his wounds, invited them to touch him, and ate food to show he was not a ghost. He reminded them that he had told them ahead of time that Scripture predicted everything that happened to him. He opened their minds to the Scriptures and explained his suffering and rise from the dead on the third day. Repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all people starting in Jerusalem. He told them to stay in Jerusalem until the promise of the Father comes on them and they have power because they are witnesses.
            Jesus then led them out toward Bethany, blessed them, and ascended into heaven. The disciples worshiped and returned with great joy.

What Stood Out

            Judges: “And God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem, and the leaders of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech” (Judg 9:23).
            Psalm: “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth” (Ps 100:1)!
            Proverbs: “The house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will flourish” (Prov 14:11).
            Luke: “[Jesus] said to them, ‘Peace to you!’ But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit” (Luke 24:36-37).

Insight

            Judges: Abimilech was not an appointed Judge over Israel. He was a usurper who did this under his own authority. Still, God allowed him to rule for three years. During these three years, there was no justice in Israel. The people of Shechem ambushed people who passed by and robbed them. They had no regard for justice or righteousness. The Bible says God sent an evil spirit between the men of Shechem and Abimelech. It sounds like their own evil desires would have been enough so that eventually they would have been at each other’s throats. However, this statement shows that even in the midst of evil governments, God is still in control. The timing was his and not that of the people. They may have thought they were in control or even that their gods were in control. But God orchestrated the whole affair.
            Jotham pronounced his curse upon the people and then he fled. He had no power to fight against these people. This is something we need to consider as well. It is God’s job to avenge injustice. Paul reminds us in Romans 12:19 never to avenge ourselves. We need to leave it up to God who will repay. That is exactly what happened to Abimelech and the people of Shechem.
            Psalm: There are many ways to worship God. A few days ago, we read about Gideon worshiping the Lord beside the enemy’s camp (Judg 7:15). I’ll bet that was a silent worship. Abraham’s servant simply bowed his head (Gen 24:48). Joshua fell on his face to the ground (Josh 5:14). Job shaved his head before worshiping (Job 1:20). Then Psalm 100:1 says to worship with joyful noise. It becomes evident that worship isn’t so much about our method but the attitude of our heart and the glorious majesty of our God. We certainly shouldn’t be hung up on the way others worship.
            We need to have an attitude that rightly esteems God and that starts with him being our creator. It also requires we properly esteem ourselves as his people. (That’s usually the hardest part because sin gets in the way, especially pride.) It means we must be thankful. We can start by being thankful for his enduring love and his faithfulness.
            Proverbs: The Old Testament people looked at life as the ultimate test of right and wrong. If you were wicked, you would be destroyed but if you were righteous, you would prosper. The New Testament looks beyond our short life on earth to eternity. Unrepentant sinners who don’t fall on the mercy of God through Jesus Christ will end up in hell even though they may have had riches on earth. Likewise, Christians will flourish in heaven though they may have had suffering in this life. The evil people look at what seems right to them but it ends in death – for eternity.
            Luke: There have been some popular Christian songs that try to express what it might be like when we first see Jesus face to face. One is “I Can Only Imagine” performed by MercyMe and written by Bart Millard. The song expresses joy, awe, and worship in various ways, dancing, kneeling, and singing. Nowhere in the song is there an element of fear such as the disciples had when he appeared among them. I get the feeling that Cleopas and Simon who had listened to Jesus on the road to Emmaus didn’t have that same fear. They had already seen Jesus disappear but he had already opened the Scriptures to them. Because we have had Scripture opened to us, I think MercyMe’s song will better reflect our reaction than did the reaction of the disciples before they understood Scripture.
            These brief appearances of Jesus after his resurrection also reveal that the new body Jesus received is something beyond our comprehension. It would be frightening for us if we didn’t have the Bible. One thing it reveals is that he has a spiritual body, one that can move in and out of the spiritual realm at will. Jesus can disguise himself so that people don’t recognize him. He can appear and disappear. His body is like angels who have done the same thing. We are told that our heavenly bodies will be like his (Phil 3:21). However, there will be one major difference. Since Jesus is God and has all the attributes of God (otherwise, he would not be God), Jesus must also be omnipresent and we will not be. Yeah, I know, some people say he can’t be omnipresent because he has a physical body. No, he has a resurrected spiritual body which according to Paul, is as much different from a physical body as a grain of wheat is from the plant when it is grown. Paul also says there are different levels of heavenly bodies, so there is no reason that Jesus can’t have an omnipresent heavenly body while we will not get that degree of body even though ours will be similar. Now that I’ve confused everyone, read 1 Corinthians 15:35-49 and see if it makes sense. Also read Ephesians 3:17 which says Jesus dwells in our hearts by faith proving he is omnipresent.

Application

            It’s one thing to think about worshiping Jesus when I die or I’m raptured. It is another thing to worship him now. If I’m not doing it now, I’m going to have a problem when I die and face him. It is vitally important for me to worship the risen Lord Jesus.

Friday, April 28, 2017

April 28: Judges 8:18-9:21; Psalm 99; Proverbs 14:9-10; Luke 23:44-24:12



Overview

            Judges: Gideon discovered that Zebah and Zalmunna had killed his brothers so he killed them. The people of Israel wanted Gideon, his son, and grandson to rule over them but he refused. He said the Lord rules over them. But, he asked them for the earrings from the spoil they collected. They agreed and he collected enough gold to make a golden ephod, which he put in his city. All Israel whored after it and it was a snare to Gideon. The land had peace for forty years.
            Gideon had seventy sons from many wives and one son, Abimelech, from a concubine in Shechem. After Gideon died, Israel turned back to the Baals and didn’t honor Gideon’s family.
            Abimelech went to Shechem and convinced them to be their ruler. They gave him money and a house. He hired thugs, went to his father’s house, and killed all but the youngest son, Jotham who escaped. The city of Shechem and Beth-millo made him king over them.
            Jotham called to the elders of Shechem from Mount Gerizim and told a parable against them for making Abimelech king. He said if they were honest about making him king and had treated his father’s according to his deeds in rescuing them from Midian, then may Abimelech be their joy. However, they didn’t so he calls for fire to come from them on Abimelech and vice versa. Then Jotham escaped and lived in Beer.
            Psalm: God is exalted and mighty in his reign. He is enthroned on cherubim. He is holy and loves justice. He establishes righteousness in Israel. He is to be exalted and worshiped.
            Moses, Aaron, and Samuel all called upon God’s name and he answered them. When they did wrong, God forgave them but avenged their wrongdoing. He is holy and to be worshiped.
            Proverbs: Fools mock God’s provision for taking care of guilt. The upright welcome being accepted by God because of his provision.
            Our emotions are truly within us and others can’t fully comprehend either the bitterness or joy we have.
            Luke: Darkness came over the land, the temple curtain was torn in two, and then Jesus gave up his Spirit. The centurion praised God, the people turned and went away. The women who followed Jesus and his acquaintances watched it all happen.
            Joseph of Arimathea was a council member who didn’t approve of Jesus’ death. He took Jesus’ body, wrapped it in a shroud, and put him in a new tomb. The women saw where he was laid then went to prepare spices and ointments. The Sabbath interrupted them so they rested.
            On the first day of the week, they took the spices to the tomb but found the rock rolled away. Instead of finding Jesus, they found two men in dazzling clothes. They told the frightened women that Jesus had risen. They reminded them that it happened just as Jesus said.
            The women remembered what Jesus said and told the other disciples. The disciples thought it was a fairy tale but Peter ran to the tomb. He saw the linen clothes by themselves. He went home marveling at what had happened.

What Stood Out

            Judges: “As soon as Gideon died, the people of Israel turned again and whored after the Baals and made Baal-berith their god” (Judg 8:33).
            Psalm: “O Lord our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them,
but an avenger of their wrongdoings” (Ps 99:8).
            Proverbs: “Fools mock at the guilt offering, but the upright enjoy acceptance” (Prov 14:9).
            Luke: “And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead?’” (Luke 24:5).

Insight

            Judges: Nothing good was reported during this time after Gideon conquered Midian. Even Gideon was drawn away from the Lord by making a golden ephod that all Israel worshiped. He had many wives but that didn’t keep him from having a child by a servant.
            Once again, as soon as a judge dies, the people turn back to the foreign gods and worship them. This worship of other gods affected the people in such a way as to lose all sense of decency. This is highlighted by the way Abimelech sought a position for himself and became king over two cities after murdering all his half brothers, Gideon’s sons. The elders of Shechem were no better as they were the ones who financed the operation and made him king.
            Sin may creep in to a person or a nation in small steps. However, there comes a point where it becomes an avalanche. The downfall of society after Gideon started with the ephod and blew up after his death. It should be a warning to us not to let the small “respectable” sins get a foothold.
            Psalm: Moses, Aaron, and Samuel are three examples of godly men in the Bible. While they were mostly obedient, each had some flaws. Moses struck a rock instead of speaking to it. Aaron was complicit in that as well. They both had previous sins as well. The only bad thing recorded about Samuel was his inability to keep his sons honest. They took bribes and perverted justice (1 Sam 8:3). Even though God forgave them, they still had to face the consequences of their sins. We know Moses and Aaron didn’t get to enter the Promised Land. We don’t know what personally happened to Samuel, but Israel wanted a king as a result of his wayward sons.
            God’s holiness, righteousness, and justice will never be compromised. That is why Jesus had to die for our sins. Someone had to pay the penalty and our sinful lives are never enough.
            Proverbs: There again, fools just reject what is right and holy. In Old Testament times, some people blatantly scoffed at God’s provision to cover guilt and sin through the sacrificial system. It isn’t any different today. Fools scoff at Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. They reject Jesus and act as if his death had no meaning. They trample Jesus under foot and treat as unholy his shed blood of the new covenant (Heb 10:29). Their end is not going to be pretty.
            On the other hand, Old Testament saints rejoiced in knowing that the guilt offering made them acceptable to God. Their acceptance was not perfect as is our because Jesus’ sacrifice was once for all and theirs had to be done over and over (Heb 10:10-14). We can rejoice in our acceptance into God’s family when we trust Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
            Luke: Jesus’ death had a profound impact on many people. The centurion praised God. Many simply turned away. Others watched from a distance. I don’t know how people who watched could bear it.
            Joseph came out of hiding as a disciple and courageously took Jesus’ body down from the cross. The disciples are strangely missing from the accounts. Only John is mentioned in John 19:26. I can’t blame them because they believed they would be killed along with Jesus. I don’t think I could stomach seeing a crucifixion and especially seeing how Jesus was brutalized.
            I can only fathom it from the standpoint of this side of the resurrection. Why seek the living among the dead? Rather than focusing on his death, the angels tell us to look for the risen Christ. We shouldn’t minimize his death because that is what we should all have to suffer for our sins. However, our hope is in the resurrection. It proves out sins are forgiven. It proves Jesus really is God. It proves we are children of God and have eternal life. That all depends on our belief and confession of Jesus as our Lord (Rom 10:9-10). Otherwise, we are just like the scoffers.

Application

            I need to think about Jesus’ death to put my sins in perspective. I don’t need to dwell on them because they are forgiven. I need to go forward in the power of Jesus’ resurrection.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

April 27: Judges 7 – 8:17; Psalm 97 – 98; Proverbs 14:7-8; Luke 23:13-43



Overview

            Judges: Gideon camped by the spring of Harod. The Lord told him that there were too many men with him. If they won the battle, they might boast that they did it. So the Lord had Gideon tell fearful men to go home. 22,000 left and 10,000 remained. That was still too many so the Lord sorted them out by having men drink from the spring. 300 men lapped water and were selected. The rest went home leaving provisions for the 300.
            The Lord told Gideon to fight. If he was afraid, he was to first sneak down and listen to the Midianites in their camp. When he was listening, a Midianite told a dream and the interpretation by another was that the Lord had given Midian into Gideon’s hand.
            Gideon worshiped when he heard it. He went back and assembled the 300, each with a trumpet and a torch under a jar. They circled the Midian camp, broke the jar, sounded their trumpets, and shouted, “A sword for the Lord and Gideon.” The Midianites panicked and killed each other. Survivors fled and the men of Israel from Naphtali, Asher, and Manasseh were called to pursue them. Ephraim was also called and they killed many including two Midian princes, Oreb and Zeeb.
            The Ephraimites were angry with Gideon for not calling them sooner. But Gideon cooled them off saying that capturing Oreb and Zeeb was better than what he had done.
            Gideon and his 300 men crossed the Jordon and asked for food at Succoth and Penuel. They were refused at both because they hadn’t yet captured Zebah and Zalmunna, the Midian kings. Gideon promised he would punish them for not helping. Only 15,000 out of 135,000 were left from the Midianite army. Gideon surprised them, captured Zebah and Zalmunna and sent the remaining army into a panic.
            Gideon returned to Succoth and whipped the men of the city with thorns. He killed the men of Penuel.
            Psalm 97: The Lord reigns and everyone should rejoice because he is righteous and just. His power is demonstrated in fire and lightning before which no one or thing can stand. Looking at the heavens shows that he is righteous and that idol worshipers put their trust in the wrong things. Zion and Judah rejoice at God’s judgments and his exaltation. People who love God hate evil. God takes care of them giving them righteousness, joy, and they thank the Lord.
            Psalm 98: Sing to the Lord because he has revealed his salvation and righteousness before all nations. It is seen in his love and faithfulness to Israel. All the earth should sing and make joyful music to the Lord. All nature will praise him when he comes to judge the earth.
            Proverbs: A prudent person knows his way and will leave fools because there is no wisdom among them and their ways are deceiving.
            Luke: Pilate called the Jewish leaders together and told them he didn’t find Jesus guilty and neither did Herod. He would punish Jesus and release him. But they demanded to have Jesus crucified. Pilate tried three times to release Jesus but they persisted and he released Barabbas, as they demanded.
            They led Jesus away to be crucified and forced Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross. Many people followed, mourning and lamenting. Jesus told them to weep for themselves, for if people are doing this now, what will it be like later when there is even more evil.
            Two criminals were crucified with him. Jesus asked the Father to forgive the soldiers because they didn’t know what they were doing. The soldiers divided Jesus’ clothing and mocked him, the people watched, and the rulers scoffed. One criminal railed at him wanting Jesus to save them if he was the Christ. The other criminal rebuked the first and asked Jesus to remember him when Jesus came into his kingdom. Jesus assured him that he would be with him in paradise that day.

What Stood Out

            Judges: “The Lord said to Gideon, ‘The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, “My own hand has saved me”’” (Judg 7:2).
            Psalm: “The Lord has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations” (Ps 98:2).
            Proverbs: “Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge” (Prov 14:7).
            Luke: “And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ And he said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise’” (Luke 23:42-43).

Insight

            Judges: One thing that becomes evident in the Bible is that God will not let anyone get the glory that belongs to him. Giving credit to people for what God has done is a serious affront to God. From a human perspective, we are also upset when someone takes credit for something we’ve done. However, we will overlook it unless it is of a major importance. From God’s perspective, taking credit for anything God has done is always of major importance because it means a person is taking God’s place. There is only one place for God and that is first in everything.
            Since Israel’s problems stemmed from worshiping other God, it was of vital importance for God to show them he was taking care of them and it wasn’t their own strength and especially their own gods. We need to be careful. We can become self-sufficient and think we are able to do great things. When we put God first in our lives, we acknowledge that the Lord is the only reason we can do anything. If we stop and think about it, we should realize that every breath we take is only because it is God’s will. When we give glory to God in all things (1 Cor 10:31), we will be able to worship the Lord correctly. Look at Gideon when he heard the Midianites admit that God had given them into his hand. He worshiped (Judg 7:15). That should be our daily, all day long, response.
            Psalm: Trying to understand that salvation is a gift from God and not by our own efforts is one of the areas that people have the greatest difficulty. Psalm 98:2 clearly states that God has made know his salvation to all nations. Note, it is his salvation, not ours. God will not give his glory to another and is one reason salvation is a gift from God and not because of our ability, potential, good deeds, baptism, or anything else we can imagine. 1 Corinthians 1:18-29 explains God’s salvation to the whole world. It is through the cross of Jesus Christ and God chooses who will be saved. Anyone who come to God thinking he is something special will be greatly disappointed because God’s salvation is accomplished in his way “so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Cor 1:29).
            Proverbs: We should take Proverbs 14:7 to heart with all the fake news and alternative facts being proclaimed today. Before the internet and email, people had to print the fake news and it was harder to spread. I remember getting copies of an urgent request to keep the FCC from shutting down Christian Radio stations because Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the famous atheist, was suing the FCC. It was fake news in the 70s and the same fake news still is passed in emails with some of the details changed. A little decrement, a little research, and trust in the Lord will always keep us from becoming alarmed or anxious about claims we see even when the news is supposed to be correct, in the newspapers. The proverbs are right; fools are deceiving. Don’t fall for it, don’t pass it on.
            Luke: The second criminal expressed a faith in Jesus that isn’t always obvious. He didn’t ask forgiveness, he didn’t confess Jesus is Lord, he didn’t pray the sinner’s prayer. He didn’t do any of the things that we normally associate as accoutrements to receiving salvation.
            What he said reveals that he knew Jesus was the Messiah. How he knew is not recorded. If he had not known, he would not have asked to be remembered in Jesus’ kingdom. Only the Messiah is going to have a kingdom after his death. His faith is evident in believing Jesus would die but still have a kingdom. He didn’t confess his sin, but simply asking Jesus to remember him was a confession of need.
            Jesus’ reply speaks volumes as well. It tells us that the criminal was right. Jesus has a kingdom that extends past his death. It tells us that works don’t save because the criminal had no opportunity to do any good works. It tells us that baptism doesn’t save or any other rituals. It tells us that when we die with faith in Jesus, we will be with him immediately. We don’t have to wait for the resurrection. We won’t be in some kind of soul sleep. Where we are going will be a paradise. It won’t be a dark holding cell. It won’t be full of fiery demons. It will be a beautiful place. Think of the Garden of Eden, only better. It tells us that Jesus is omnipresent because he will be with the criminal and he also was raised three days later. We’ll talk more about that when we get to his after-resurrection appearances.
            We can draw much assurance from this because it is by faith we are saved.

Application

            I need to be careful to give God all the glory due him. I have to be careful not to take it for myself. It isn’t always easy to do this because it is an all day, every day, attitude that is opposed to my sinful nature.