Day 73 – Thru the Bible
Today we continue Judges and Psalms.
Judges 9 – At this moment in Israel’s story, Jotham’s fable illustrates several features of Abimelech’s reign and instructs God’s people moving forward.
The wrong kind of king fails to promote “good faith and integrity” and instead motivates God’s people to devour one another. God loves His people too much to allow this mutual destroying to continue indefinitely. We need the king of God’s own choosing (Mark 1:9–11; Luke 9:35). In the rule of King Jesus—the ultimate righteous King that Israel desired and truly needed but could not find in her human ranks—we have a Shepherd under whom we flourish, who frees us to love one another well rather than feeding upon one another (Galatians 5:13–15).
How does King Jesus lead us in our true freedom? Hint: 2 Corinthians 5:14–15.
Judges 10 – This major summary prepares us for the final two major judges. The Ammonites oppress Israel from the east during Jephthah’s days (chapters 11–12) while the Philistines arise from the west during the time of Samson (chapters 13–16). The relationship of Israel with their Lord continues to deteriorate. Limited idolatry that goes unchecked eventually results in pervasive idolatry. Israel no longer serves only the Baals and the Ashtaroth; they have added to their pantheon the gods of surrounding peoples while forsaking their covenant-keeping God.
God is patient and longsuffering (Exodus 34:6–7), and yet He turns them over to the consequences of their rebellion as He uses godless foreign enemies to oppress His people. Oppression, suffering, and difficulty are intended to drive God’s people (then and now) back to Him. For the first and only time in Judges we have the clear corporate confession: we have sinned (vv. 10, 15). Genuine repentance follows: confession of sin, without condition, to God; the cry for deliverance, without manipulation, from God; and the abandonment of idols that are attempts to live without God.
How do we see, in Jesus, God’s unending love for us?
Judges 11 – Jephthah is a complicated judge. His maternal lineage causes him to be rejected by his people. As an outcast, he attracts “worthless fellows”. However, he is also a “mighty warrior” with a God-centered understanding of Israel’s history and his role in it. Like God Himself, Jephthah is rejected by his people who later, when in grave distress, appeal to him only for the benefits he provides. The treatment of God’s chosen deliverer by his people often reflects their treatment of God Himself (John 8:18–19; 14:7–11).
The full extent of God’s faithfulness pulses through all phases of redemptive history. Features of Jephthah point ahead to the Savior Jesus, whose lineage made His wisdom and works suspect (Matthew 13:55–58), who was rejected by His people (Isaiah 53:3; Acts 4:11), who was thrust outside the camp (Hebrews 13:11–13), and yet who was welcomed by those despised by society (Mark 2:15–17).
The intention of Jephthah’s vow is debated. Unquestionably, child sacrifice is among the “abominable practices” of the nations (Deuteronomy 18:9–12) and is abhorrent to God (2 Kings 16:2–3; 17:17; 21:6; 23:10; Psalm 106:37–39; Jeremiah 19:5). Despite Jephthah’s claim that he must fulfill the vow to sacrifice his only child, impulsive oaths require repentance, not fulfillment (Leviticus 5:4–6).
In light of God’s prohibitions against human sacrifice and in light of the daughter’s grieving over her virginity—i.e., a life without children, not the loss of her own life—it is likely that Jephthah dedicated his daughter to the Lord in temple service rather than in blood sacrifice.
Whatever actually occurred, the ironies of the narrative make it clear that Jephthah’s vow was foolish and was not something of which God or Israel approved. In this era, prior to kings and with only sporadic prophets, much foolishness prevailed that is not consistent with the gospel priorities ultimately revealed—and, in fact, the foolishness speaks loudly of the need for gospel clarity and revelation.
That clarity and revelation come in an altogether unique offering acceptable to God. Jesus, Lamb and Shepherd, fully God and fully man (John 1:14–18), willingly gave His life, the Shepherd for the sheep (John 1:29; 10:14–18). He did so to make the great exchange of our sin for His holiness (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 3:18). What scandalous mercy!
With hearts filled with loving gratitude, what are we who trust in Jesus invited to “sacrifice“? Hint: Romans 12:1.
What do we get to offer back to God? Hint: Philippians 4:18; Hebrews 13:15–16.
Judges 12 – This episode recalls Ephraim’s earlier challenge to Gideon (8:1–3). While Gideon was able to pacify Ephraim, Jephthah was not, and a civil war erupted. The Ephraimites were defeated, and they never again played any important role in Israel’s history.
Shibboleth . . . Sibboleth. The Gileadites devised a test to catch the Ephraimites using a word that was difficult for outsiders to pronounce correctly. Modern English uses the term “shibboleth” to refer to words, expressions, ideas, or beliefs used by “insiders” to differentiate themselves from “outsiders.” Tragically, Israel is again turning upon itself in internal strife.
Sadly, at times, we can see this within the Church today. When we see this at the extreme level of this chapter, it’s clear how destructive it is. Because we create division in much less outwardly violent ways today, we can miss how horrible it is, but the result is still the same.
How can we recognize when we’re falling into this same trap, and encourage each other in the Gospel rather than be divisive?
Psalm 73 – The psalmists arrive at accurate perspectives on the world by voicing their complaints to God. Asaph shows believers how to express doubts, questions, or anger to God, and the goodness of God makes it safe to do so.
The core complaint is that the wicked seem never to suffer disappointment or consequences for their ungodly actions. Asaph is even so bold as to accuse the Lord of turning a blind eye to the actions of the ungodly, thus removing all incentive for pursuing godliness.
It all changes when Asaph begins to worship in verse 17. Throughout redemptive history, worshipers have been encouraged to remember that, while God’s time line for justice is not short, it progresses with steady assurances.
How do we know that in Jesus all of God’s promises of justice will be fulfilled? Hint: 2 Peter 3:8–10.
Bitterness obscures rationality, and ingratitude blinds us to God’s grace that is ultimately seen again after Asaph confesses his narrowed vision and sin. Bitterness and ingratitude cause us to forget the unique comfort of God’s nearness, neglect the transformative power of his Word, and fail to look to our Advocate in heaven.
God can handle our honest anger and frustration, and yet, it is the Gospel that reminds of of what is true.
Who are the people in your life who can remind you to worship when you feel the same way Asaph felt?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
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