Thursday, May 4, 2017

May 4: Judges 19 – 20; Psalm 104:19-35; Proverbs 14:22-24; John 3:22-4:4


Overview


            Judges: A Levite from Ephraim took a concubine from Bethlehem, but she returned to her father. The Levite went to Bethlehem to be kind to her and bring her back. Her father welcomed him and kept the Levite and concubine from leaving by eating and drinking for five days. Final, near evening of the fifth day, the Levite insisted on going home. He left with his concubine and his servant.

            The servant wanted to stay overnight in Jerusalem but the Jebusites still controlled it so the Levite wanted to continue to Gibeah of Benjamin. They stopped in the town square and finally an Ephraimite invited them to his house. Men from the town surrounded the house and demanded that the stranger come out so they could rape him. The Ephraimite protested that the man was under his protection but would offer his virgin daughter and the Levite’s concubine. The men would not agree but the Levite pushed his concubine outside and the men raped her until morning. She died on the doorstep.

            The Levite cut his concubine into twelve parts and sent a piece to each of the tribes of Israel. This brought all of Israel together at Mizpah, 400,000 men. The Levite explained what happened. They all agreed to repay Gibeah for what had happened. They went to Benjamin and asked for the men who did this evil so they could purge the evil from Israel. However, Benjamin refused and mustered 26,000 men to fight.

            Israel asked the Lord who should go to battle first and he answered, Judah. The first day of the battle, Benjamin killed 22,000 men and all Israel wept before the Lord. The second day, they asked the Lord if they should go again against Benjamin and he said to go against them. The second day, Israel lost 18,000 men. Israel went to Bethel, wept, fasted, and sacrificed burnt offerings to the Lord. They asked again if they should fight or stop. The Lord said this time they would win and told them how to set an ambush against Benjamin. The ambush worked and they killed all but 600 men of Benjamin. They then killed all the rest of the people of Benjamin along with their animals and burned their cities.

            Psalm: The Psalmist continues to glorify and praise God for his attributes. His wisdom is seen in the way he created day and night with animals and people to function in each. In his wisdom, he created the oceans teaming with animals.

            All creatures look to the Lord for their food and life. God is life as he causes living creatures to live by his Spirit and die when his breath is removed.

            The Psalmist asks for God’s glory to continue forever and that he may rejoice in all he has created and upholds. The Psalmist will sing praise to him all his life. He asks that his mediations be pleasing to the Lord. He asks that sinners be removed from the earth.

            Proverbs: People who go astray make up evil. Those who make up good have love and faithfulness. Work brings profit but only talking about it brings poverty. A wise person can achieve wealth but a fool only achieves folly.

            John: Jesus went to the same region as John the Baptist. His disciples began baptizing people there. John’s disciples and some Jews told John that Jesus was baptizing and everyone was deserting John for Jesus. John said he rejoiced at Jesus’ popularity. John knew he had give way to Jesus and Jesus had to increase. He said Jesus is from above but he is from the earth. Jesus bears witness of what he has heard in heaven. The Father loves the Son and has given all this to him. Whoever believes and obeys the Son has eternal life. God’s wrath is on anyone who doesn’t.

            Jesus heard the Pharisees knew he was making disciples and baptizing more than John (Jesus didn’t personally baptize, his disciples did it), he went to Galilee through Samaria.

What Stood Out


            Judges: “They sat there before the Lord and fasted that day until evening, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord” (Judg 20:26).

            Psalm: “When you send forth your Spirit, they are created” (Ps 104:30).

            Proverbs: “Those who devise good meet steadfast love and faithfulness” (Prov 14:22).

            John: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36).

Insight


            Judges: This whole episode with the Levite and his concubine is so wrong that it boggles our minds. If we thought Jephthah was bad for sacrificing his daughter or Lot offering his daughters to the men of Sodom was terrible, this is worse because the man went though with his proposal to give his concubine to the men of Gibeah. We may right this off as the custom of the day. The male guest was more important to protect than any woman, young or old. However, that doesn’t make it right. Another disconcerting thing is that the story is told without any emotions attached to the Levite. When he ate and drank, he made merry. When Israel was defeated by Benjamin, they wept. However, nothing is said about the Levite’s grief or feelings. It is almost as if he were a zombie cutting up an animal.

            Another thing that makes the story sad is Benjamin’s response. They were more willing to battle their brother Hebrews than release the men who brutalized this woman. Their response could only mean that the sexual sin of Gibeah was prevalent among them. This should not be lost on us when Israel vanquishes all but 600 of the men.

            Israel’s response is tremendous outrage. We must give them credit for asking the Lord what to do before going into battle. Their questions of the Lord could not be answered in a yes or no fashion. This had to be the Lord’s direction. However, it wasn’t until they fasted and made offerings that they were victorious. They also lost just as many men in the three battles as did Benjamin.

            Psalm: God’s wisdom is seen clearly in this part of the Psalm. Everything is put together in the universes, the sun, moon, and earth to make sure that life can exist here. We see all the reports of earthlike planets being reported in the news. What they often fail to mention is that life really could not exist there. However, they want us to believe that it could; so they have an artist paint a picture with oceans and land that looks a lot like earth. All they really know is the size, density, and distance from the star. God’s answer is that he has made everything and life comes only because his Spirit causes us, animals, and everything else to live. He receives the glory for this, not the artist that wants us to imagine intelligent being out there somewhere who came to the earth and planted the seeds of life here. When we meditate on this, we should be giving God all the glory.

            Proverbs: When we work at doing good things for others, we will be rewarded with love and faithfulness. This seems to be a no-brainer but not everyone acts on it. Indeed, with sin in the world and people who devise evil, we will surely face calamites because this is a fallen world. However, when we measure steadfast love and faithfulness as God’s response to us in Christ, we know that eternally, this is sure.

            John: Today’s reading should certainly solve the question of whether or not everyone will be saved. Some people believe that John 3:17 tells us that everyone in the world will be saved. While John 3:16 places a requirement of belief, they seem to ignore that. They also ignore what John the Baptist, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said in John 3:36. Yes, belief gives life but they won’t see that life if they don’t disobey Jesus. If that isn’t clear enough, he says that God’s wrath remains on them. So belief that doesn’t result in obedience isn’t the kind of belief that saves. James expressed it this way, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder” (James 2:19)! Those demons believe in Jesus, they also know what it means to have God’s wrath on them.

Application

            There are times when we must act against evil. However, we can’t do that presumptuously. It has to be the way the Lord wants it done. We need to be in prayer. Fasting is also extremely valuable if that is physically possible for you to do.  

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