Wednesday, 2 April 2014

(93) April 3: Judges 9-10 & Luke 8:22-56

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read consider what we’re learning about the people of Israel.

To ponder:
As in chapter 5, the different responses of Israel to her enemies dominates. The Ephraimites criticize Gideon for not involving them more, whereas when Gideon and his 300 men seek bread from the men of Succoth and Peniel, they are refused. These Israelites don’t want to take sides whilst the Midianite kings are still at large (8v6). Let us be those eager for more service in the purposes of God’s kingdom rather than holding back in-case this might result in trouble with the world.
            Such reluctance is foolish because the LORD will still prevail. So having been reduced from 120,000 to 15,000 men, the remaining Midianites are routed by Gideon’s small force, and the kings captured. Gideon then punishes the men of Succoth and Peniel – tearing the flesh of the first with thorns and briers, and demolishing the tower of the second and killing its men. He then executes vengeance on the Midianite Kings for killing his brothers. Although this vengeance would seem in-line with God’s law (Num 35v16-28), we are not told whether Gideon’s other acts were commendable. Nevertheless, they are a judgement on the unfaithful Israelites, looking to the final judgement of those within the church who prove themselves faithless by their lack of willingness to serve (Matt 25v24-30).
Israel’s failure to honour God continues. The people want Gideon and his descendents to rule them like a King because “you have saved us.” Gideon’s response shows this stems from a lack of faith in God to be their Saviour: “the LORD will rule over you.” Any desire for a king should be for one to mediate God’s rule not take his place! And the context shows this is particularly necessary because men are not fit to rule. This is probably why the failure of Gideon’s son to administer justice against Israel’s enemies is noted (8v20), and certainly why we’re told of Gideon making a gold version of the High Priest’s ephod (outer garment) for where he lived. In being crafted from Midianite plunder this would not only be defiled, but provide an alternative focus for worship to Shiloh, whilst implying that Gideon’s family were more important than others. Indeed, people then “worshipped” it, and it became a “snare” to Gideon’s family, perhaps by leading them into this idolatry or into pride. It’s a warning against celebrity culture within the church. So easily gifted ministers can be looked to as if they not God are building the church. This subtly undermines our faith and prayerfulness in the Lord, and so easily leads these ministers into pride.
            As soon as Gideon dies Israel again fall into idolatry, forgetting the LORD who “rescued them” and failing to show kindness to the family of the one who contended with the god they now worship (6v32). However, despite his own sins, Gideon was blessed with seventy sons and long life. Nevertheless, although he affirmed God should be the ruler, one son (Abimelech) draws the people of his mother’s clan in Shechem to himself, gets money from them to hire mercenaries, murders all his brothers except Jotham, and is crowned “king.”   
Jotham’s story (9v7-21) highlights that Shechem don’t really want Abimelech as king, and that this will lead to “fire” from him to them (9v15) as a judgement for how they treated Gideon’s family. So Sechem transfer their allegiance to Gaal, fight Gideon’s mercenaries and end up taking refuge not in God but in a pagan temple (9v46), which Abimelech then sets on fire, before being killed himself in a humiliating way when laying siege to Thebez. The conclusion is key (9v56-57): “God” the true King “repaid the wickedness” of Abimelech and Sechem in response to Jotham’s curse.

Praying it home:
Thank God for ruling us so perfectly through Christ his King. Pray that you would display the eagerness of the Ephraimites to serve his purposes, and in no way side with whatever stands against him.

Thinking further: Evil spirits or demons
Judges 9v23 tells us God “sent and evil spirit” between Abimelech and the men of Shechem. We see the same in 1 Samuel 16v14-23, 18v10, 19v9, 1 Kings 22v19-23. The Bible portrays God as sovereign even over the powers of evil. Just as the demons had to plead with Jesus not to send them into the abyss (Lk 8v31), evil spirits do nothing that God doesn’t permit or even command. That’s how utterly in control he is. However, he cannot be charged with evil, because his use of evil – whether evil spirits or evil people, is to achieve good ends (Gen 50v15-21). In Judges 9, that is his judgement on Abimelech and the men of Shechem. Elsewhere it may be to test, prove, mature or display someone’s faith, as it was in allowing Satan to inflict Job (Job 1v8-22). There is mystery here. However, it wonderfully assures us that we cannot be tempted beyond what we can bear, nothing can separate us from God’s love, that God is doing something even in evil that befalls us, and his purposes can never be thwarted, and all because even the powers of darkness are subject to his control now expressed through Christ (Eph 1v19-22). To read Jim Packer on “Demons” click here.

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