Sunday, April 30, 2017

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


            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 façade 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).


            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.


            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.

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