Friday, 4 April 2014

(95) April 5: Judges 12-14 & Luke 9:37-62

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

To discover:­­
As you read note what we learn about the LORD.

To ponder:
Perhaps assuming it their right to lead Israel (Gen 49v22-26), the Ephraimites are provoked for a second time that they were not “called” to fight (see 8v1). Jephthah’s response displays the same qualities of diplomacy and leadership as in chapter 11, but his thorough destruction of his fellow Israelites is not commendable. We should note God is no-where mentioned as sanctioning this inter-tribal warfare. Rather, the Ephraimites’ response suggests it reflects the increasing degeneration of Israel. They act like Canaanites in how they threaten and fight against their fellow Israelites (12v1, 14v15). The church must always guard against such worldy factionism and disunity, so often motivated by the desire to be the greatest, or those who follow the greatest (Lk 22v24-30, 1 Cor 3v1-9).
            Ibzan, Elon and Abdon next judge Israel in succession. Ibzan and Abdon are portrayed as blessed in terms of their families, with the former enjoying wide political influence through marriage with other clans, and the latter the prosperity of seventy donkeys. So this was a time of stability for Israel.
            But “again” Israel “did evil in the eyes of the LORD,” and so “were delivered” to the Philistines for forty years. This time they did not even cry out for help. Nevertheless, the LORD graciously gave it, promising one who would “begin” Israel’s deliverance from the Philistines – a work king David would complete.
The lengthy account of Samson’s birth, the appearance of the angel, the relative miracle, Samson’s life-long consecration to the LORD as a Nazarite (usually this was temporary), and the summary statement that the LORD “blessed” and the Spirit “stirred” him as he grew, all stress his appearance was God’s special provision, raising much hope. Indeed, the righteousness of his parents raises this expectation. They both believe the promise of a son even though “the man” only “looked like an angel.” They pray for instruction about how to raise the boy. And mum displays some refreshingly straight-forward spiritual insight (13v22-23). It all highlights Israel’s need for a righteous ruler to lead then. And the focus on the angel’s appearance to the mother draws a clear line to Gabriel’s appearance to Mary, who believed his word about the coming miraculous birth of the righteous ruler who would fully deliver God’s people.
The need for this ruler is only highlighted by Samson’s subsequent unrighteousness! Twice he demands a Philistine wife even when challenged by his parents, he breaks the law by eating from the unclean carcass of a lion, he fraternizes with Israel’s Philistine enemies at his wedding banquet, and he shows himself a petulant joker. Yet in all this, we see God nevertheless using him, even in his sin. His choice of a Philistine wife is because “God was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines.” He killed the lion because the Spirit “came upon him.” And his fraternizing and joking becomes the means of him first acting against the Philistines when the Spirit comes upon him again. In all this he is like Israel. She was miraculously bought into being and set-apart to God’s service, but has now married Canaanite gods, become unclean and fraternized with the nations she should have driven out. Yet God would still use her.
Once more we see God somehow behind the apparently free choices, desires and passions of human beings, governing even evil to fulfil his good purposes. And we are reassured that although our own sinful acts are not excusable, nor the waywardness of the church, God will be using these things for his own ends. The angel gave his name as “wonderful” or “beyond understanding.” How clearly this describes God’s activity in Samson’s life.

Praying it home:
Praise God that he governs even evil for good, and especially in having brought about the death of Christ. Pray that you and the church would nevertheless be upright and faithful.

Thinking further:
None today.

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