Wednesday, May 3, 2017

May 3: Judges 17 – 18; Psalm 104:1-18; Proverbs 14:20-21; John 3:1-21



Overview

            Judges: Micah lived in the hill country of Ephraim. He took 1,100 pieces of silver from his mother but restored them when she uttered a curse after discovering the loss. He confessed he took them and she took 200 pieces dedicated them to the Lord and made an idol out of them for Micah. He also had a shrine with an ephod and household gods. He ordained one of his sons as a priest. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
            Later, a young Levite left Bethlehem looking for a place to live. He came to Micah’s house and Micah offered him a job to be his priest. The young Levite became like a son to Micah and Micah ordained him as a priest because he thought God would bless him if he had a personal priest.
            The Danites had still not taken possession of their territory so they started looking elsewhere. They sent five men to find a place. They stopped by Micah’s house and recognized the young Levite. They inquired of the Lord by him to find out if they would have a successful journey. The Levite said they would.
            The men went to Laish and found them an unsuspecting people living in safety. They went back to the tribe and reported that they should go and conquer them. So the tribe sent 600 men. They stopped at Micah’s house. They took Micah’s ephod, household gods, and metal image. The Levite asked them what they were doing, but they told him to keep quiet. They invited him to be a priest to the tribe of Dan, which was better than being a priest to just one man. That made the Levite happy.
            Micah discovered the raid and went after the men from Dan with his neighbors. They argued but Micah saw they were to strong for him so he went home. The Danites went on to Laish, killed everyone, burned the city and rebuilt it naming it Dan. They set up the image for themselves. The Levite, Jonathan, son of Gershom, son of Moses and his sons were priest to the tribe of Dan until the captivity. They kept the images until then.
            Psalm: The Psalmist praises the greatness of God by describing things in the heavenly realm, God’s own dwelling and the angels. He recounts God’s creation and control over nature describing Noah’s flood. He continues with a description of providing water for animals and the trees of the forest with birds singing in them. God causes grass to grow for livestock bringing food from the earth and wine to gladden men’s hearts. Even the high mountains are places for wild animals.
            Proverbs: People don’t like poor neighbors and if you despise any neighbor, you are a sinner. If you are generous to the poor, you will be blessed. The rich man already has many friends.
            John: The Pharisee, Nicodemus, comes to Jesus at night and confesses that Jesus is from God because of his signs. Jesus tells him that anyone who wants to see the kingdom of God must be born again. Nicodemus is thinking physical birth and that is impossible. So Jesus corrects him by explaining it is a spiritual rebirth. The Spirit works like the wind; you can see the effects but not the wind. The Spirit working in a person is the same.
            Nicodemus is still puzzled. Jesus tells him that it is because he is unwilling to receive what Jesus said. Jesus tried to relate it to earthly things and Nicodemus didn’t believe, so how could he believe heavenly things.
            Jesus explains that the he came from heaven and will ascend again after he is lifted up like the serpent Moses lifted up in the desert. Whoever believes on the Son of Man will have eternal life. God loved the world and sent Jesus so that those who believe on him will be saved. If they don’t believe, they are condemned because they don’t believe. The reason is that Jesus is the light but people love the darkness because the light exposes their evil deeds. People who are true come to the light so that it can be seen that what they do is from God.

What Stood Out

            Judges: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg 17:6).
            Psalm: “The mountains rose, the valleys sank down to the place that you appointed for them” (Ps 104:8).
            Proverbs: “Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner” (Prov 14:21).
            John: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18).

Insight

            Judges: Judges 17:6 is the theme of everything that went wrong for Israel during the time of the judges. Starting with Micah’s mother making an idol for her son to the destruction of the peaceful people in Laish, this whole episode in Israel’s history is one blatant sin after another.
            The root of sin is what we want in our hearts is contrary to what God wants. Whether we are talking about Adam and Eve, Micah’s mother, Micah, the young Levite, Danites, or ourselves, the problem is the same. Deep down in our hearts we want something that is opposed to God’s will for us. It can be something as little as lie so we don’t have to explain to someone why we don’t want to go to a function, or murder and mayhem. There is always God’s way and there are the temptations to sin. As we grow in Christ, we should be taking God’s way more often than our own.
            Psalm: This is another theologically wondrous Psalm. If anyone doubts that God is in control of creation, he should read this and then go beyond man’s feeble cities to the mountains. There is nothing more humbling that to be able to view one of our “great” cities from a mountain top. The skyscrapers are puny compared to the grandeur of mountains.
            In Psalm 104:8 the Psalmist describes what happened during Noah’s flood. These great mountains that we think are so stable, were turned upside down. Some became valleys and other rose up. We can find whale fossils on high Andes Mountains. Who is so awesome to be able to do something like this and still preserve the human race? It is only the Lord God Almighty.
            Not only did he preserve the human race, he also provides for us everything we need every day. We don’t often think about everything that has to be in place to bring food to our tables. The descriptions of water flowing from the hills and the Lord making grass grow should make us sing with the Psalmist, “Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, you are very great” (Ps 104:1)!
            Proverbs: I can see why some poor people are disliked. There seems to be live in some pretty deplorable conditions. Sometimes it isn’t their fault and other times it is directly related to the reason they are poor. However, this doesn’t give us any reason to despise them. Dislike means to consider someone disagreeable or unpleasant. However, despise is to dislike with intensity and contempt. Thus, despise falls right into the heart condition that Jesus condemned in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:21-22). How we view the poor and our neighbors is a good measure of where our hearts are with the Lord. John told us that if we don’t love those we have seen, we can’t love God whom we haven’t seen (1 John 4:20).
            John: Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus provides some interesting insights about the way God works and the way people respond. The first thing is that a person can legitimately believe that Jesus came from God but still not be saved. We must be born again. The theological term is that one must be regenerated. Paul describes it as “The washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). Jesus indicated that we don’t really know how this happens. What we see is a person who used to have little or no interest in Jesus becoming a person who is devoted to Jesus and demonstrates the fruit of the Holy Spirit in his life.
            The next thing we learn is that belief in Jesus is essential to salvation. First, he gave his life to so that we might be saved. Second, we have to believe in him to save us before the possibility of salvation become real. Then we learn the reason that some people are not saved is because they don’t want their evil deeds exposed.

Application

            I need to let Jesus’ light shine in my heart or I will be doing the same things as recorded in Judges. I will despise the poor. I will do what I want without regard for what the Lord wants. That is simply sin, small or large.

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