Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Arc de Triumph

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Mar 24, Jdg 16-18

Today's readings are Jdg 16-18.

Samson, with all his flaws and failings, manages to serve Israel. As the temple falls, crushing some significant Philistines but not all, Samson brings about his own demise as well. Ironically, more Philistines die in this event than Samson has killed in his entire career (Jdg 16:27-31).

Here's the lesson we can learn from Samson’s sad tale: Samson's death leads to an even greater triumph over Israel’s enemies than his life. You can hear the faint echo of the death of Christ in this, whose death led to His resurrection which became the foundation of our faith, giving all believers victory over their enemy, sin.

Another lesson we can learn from Samson is that, in spite of his weaknesses and failings, he was blessed. God used Samson in a mighty way. His flaws reveal his humanity. His victories, because of his flaws, can only serve to give glory to God. None of the credit for his supernatural strength can go to Samson. Samson was not worthy of such blessings, and he certainly did not earn them. Samson's power was a gift of grace. Many believe flawed people can receive neither blessings nor victory. Samson is God's beautiful example of how He uses unexceptional people in an exceptional way.

Israel is on a downhill slide. The mistakes and failings of their invasion of the Promised Land are starting to catch up to them. Everything God warned them about is coming to pass. They are marrying into the native tribes, calling out to their gods and living like the ungodly people among them live.

The most amazing thing we see here is that God remains faithful. He continues to send redeemers. For certain, there is a price to pay but, through it all, the Israelites remain His children.

The good news for believers is that whenever Israel calls out to God with a truly repentant heart, He delivers them. Why? Because He loves them. Notwithstanding the consequences of their wrong actions, God wants to refine them, not destroy them. He wants to bring them closer, not punish them. It's a beautiful life-lesson. He wants the same thing for us.

Jdg 17 chronicles Israel's ongoing downhill slide. Despite God’s grace and mercy, they are theologically reprobate and weak. This becomes evident when Micah, who stole from his mother (Jdg 17:1-2), creates his own shrine, priesthood and graven images (Jdg 17:3-6). None of this is commanded by God making the Levite’s decision to stay with Micah highly questionable (Jdg 17:7-13).

The Tribe of Dan (Danites), having lost their allocation on the coast (Jos 19:40-47) begin searching for a new home rather than fighting for the one they were promised. Along the way, they take the ephod, the idol and the Levite from Micah. Notice, these are Jews subjugating other Jews.

In a seemingly wise move, the Danites consult the priest about their plans (Jdg 18:5) wanting to know if they will be successful. It is only seemingly wise because the Danites do not ask if they’re in God’s will, they merely ask if their plans will succeed. The priest-for-hire gives them an ambiguous answer, telling them God sees everything they are doing. There is no indication that the priest even prays and none that God is blessing the Danites, only that He sees (Jdg 18:6). God’s lack of blessing will soon become apparent.

The priest told the Danites what they wanted to hear and the Danites chose to believe what they wanted to believe. The tribe of Dan knew the ephod wasn’t authentic, the priest was errant and the graven images were an abomination. Yet, eager to affirm themselves, they took the priest’s answer to be an endorsement of their ungodly behavior. How easy it is for God’s people to read what their own desires are into His word instead of objectively appropriating it to their lives!

A questionable priest, an unholy ephod and a graven image in hand, Dan captures Laish (Leshem), a city in the far North of the kingdom where they set up an altar and worship the idol they took from Micah. (Jdg 18:27-31).

What happened here? How did God’s people slide so far so quickly?

"A little leaven leavens the whole lump!" (1 Cor 5:6) Israel let sin creep in slowly and quietly until it began to gain more and more control over them. Early compromises that seemed good or inconsequential at the time had a long-term impact on Israel's walk. They drifted far from what the word of God said. They began to "do what was right in their own eyes" instead of what God said was right. God tells us to be vigilant in our walk, resolute in our discipline and uncompromising in striving for holiness. If we devote ourselves to these things, our own backsliding will become less likely.

The lesson of the leaven works both ways. Those wise choices we make, even though some of them may be relatively small, can yield great blessings further down the road. For instance, committing to reading our Bibles for 15 minutes a day, over the long run, will make us more familiar with the Scriptures. The more diligent we remain to that commitment, the more familiar we become with the Scriptures, the character and nature of God and the overall narrative of the Bible. As time passes, it becomes easier to make godly decisions. Furthermore, when crises arise, we are better equipped to navigate them and less likely to live in fear and doubt. Small, godly decisions can have a huge impact further down the road.

Israel is beginning to see the sobering effects of the dark side of the lesson on leaven.

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