Who is your k(K)ing? by Pastor Dave
“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.”
Judges 21: 25
Judges 19-21 (Psalm 77)
Wow! What a truly disturbing set of chapters; awful to read, horrible to summarise. How do we learn from this, and overcome our modern sensibilities, so as not to read them into the text? The answer in part, I believe, is found in the last verse of the book, ‘Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.’ God was supposed to be Israel’s King but as we unpack this passage we see that each did as they wished. The Levite, from the Priestly tribe, misses the purpose of love within the law and treats his wife as an object. The father-in-law, perhaps fearing the consequences of the law (his daughter’s behaviour being punishable by death), equally treats her as an object. He returns his daughter to the Levite, apparently without her having a say in the matter. This treatment massively escalates as she is given to the men of the town to protect the Levite; no self-sacrifice born out of love. The tradition of welcome and hospitality was completely ignored by the men of the town. They mirror the behaviour of the men of Sodom who made the same demand of the angels that Lot welcomed (Gen. 19: 1-11). Sodom is the great example of rebellion against God. His very own people have learnt nothing, their rebellion going even further; raping, abusing and killing the woman.
The Levite incites the other eleven tribes, retelling the account in a way that reflects favourably on himself, showing no sign of penitence or personal guilt. Israel desires revenge, they appear to seek and gain God’s approval. Benjamin shows no sign of remorse and vindictive massacres follow. Closer examination of their prayers do not indicate hearts open to God’s response. In fact, the wording of the requests do not enable Israel to hear a ‘no’ from God. God apparently says ‘go’, but not ‘I will go with you.’ Perhaps the greatest punishment we receive from God is being allowed to go our own way (Romans 1: 18-24). A rash oath produced a solution that created more problems (21). Jesus taught against the making of oaths, calling instead for simple honest speech (Matt. 5: 33-37).
The book of Judges simply yells out the need for God’s Kingship in the world and our lives. The word judge means to rule with justice. This is what God does through His Son in His Kingdom; amazingly the Church is His ambassador and agent of mission. For God’s rule and love to bless the world the Church and each individual child of God needs to obey and glorify their Lord. God ultimately knows what is best for us so we need to submit to His Kingship. Look at the consequences of life without Him in our readings; look at the world today!
Questions of Application
Rather than one question today I would like you to consider a series of questions based on the passages we have considered:
Merciful Lord, you know our struggle to serve you. When sin spoils our lives and overshadow our hearts, give us not our way, but come to our aid and turn us back again to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
King of Kings – Hillsong Worship
To Christ the King by Sarah Hart
Lord Jesus we invite your Holy Spirit to show us the truth and to enable us to throw aside the lies. As we turn our face towards you, give us grace so we might serve you whole-heartedly in love and in truth.
SONG –– Whatsoever things are true.
Samson (By Chris Barnes)
Text: Judges Chapters 13-15
OBSERVE: We read in chapter 13 that Samson is the only person in the Old Testament whose conception is announced by an angel (Judges 13:3), very much like the angel’s announcement of Jesus’ conception. “His hair must never be cut. For he will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth,” instructed the angel to Samson’s mother (13: 5). A Nazirite was a person who was entirely consecrated to God. As part of his consecration, a Nazirite drank no wine and allowed his hair to grow, untouched by a razor. His long hair made him stand out from the crowd so that when people saw him, they likely said, “That man is God’s man, a Nazirite, set apart.”
INTERPRET: Though outwardly he conformed to the Nazirite vow by never cutting his hair, inwardly Samson was committed to his own pleasure and appetites. Though God endowed him with supernatural strength, Samson had little mental force and even less spiritual power. His whole life was a mix of miracles and follies as he was easily overcome by temptation, enticed, and led astray. Though Israelites were commanded not to intermarry with the people of the land, Samson persisted over his parents objections and married a Philistine woman. As he was on his way to the wedding party, he scooped honey out of a dead lion he had earlier killed, even though Nazirites were forbidden from touching a dead body. Samson’s visit to a prostitute and later liaison with Delilah revealed the reality of Samson’s heart. He simply couldn’t live up to his pledge and calling. He couldn’t rule himself or any of his desires.
APPLICATION: Samson’s birth, under the terms of the Nazirite vow, pointed to the coming of a Nazarene of the tribe of Judah (Jesus) who would fulfill in every respect the law of consecration in ways that no Nazirite ever could. Samson kept only the outward purity of the Nazirite vow and broke even that in the end. True and inward purity would not appear in the judge Samson, but would rather appear in the final judge of Israel (Jesus). While Samson practiced an outward appearance that separated him to God, Jesus was set apart by an infinite inward holiness and perfect obedience.
REFLECTION/QUESTION: Who are you emulating more often, Samson or Jesus?
PRAYER: Holy Jesus, I find myself powerless on my own to rule my passions and discipline my desires. I don’t want to settle for outward conformity that is betrayed by an inner reality in my heart and life. Cleanse me. Purify me. Set me apart for service to you in my innermost being. Implant in me a longing for your holiness.
SONG: Holy (Wedding Day) - The City Harmonic
Judges chapter four begins with Israel doing evil and, as a result, suffering the oppression of the Canaanites who were ruled by their king, Jabin, and the commander of his army, Sisera. Israel cried out to the Lord because of their hardship. Now Deborah was a prophetess who commissions a man named Barak to take ten thousand Israelite men and draw out the forces of Sisera, which included 900 iron chariots, and defeat them in battle. Barak hesitates and eventually says that if Deborah will not go with him to do this, then he will not go. Deborah acquiesces but says that since he did not fully trust her word, the glory of this battle will go to another.
Seeing the forces of Israel gather at Mount Tabor, Sisera brings out all his men and many chariots and rush the Israelite forces, but his army breaks down as the Lord delivers Sisera into the hand of Barak and his warriors. The armies are routed, but Sisera flees and finds refuge in the tent of a woman named Jael who was supposedly an ally of king Jabin. He is given a drink and a place to hide under a rug from the pursuing Israelites and eventually falls asleep from exhaustion. It is at this time that Jael drives a tent spike through Siseras temple and kills him. Following this, Israel rebels against Jabin and free themselves with God’s help. The following chapter is the Song of Deborah and Barak, extolling their God who delivered them from mighty foes.
Judges certainly is not short on action and adventure, nor is it short on the phrase “The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord …” In this epic battle between the Canaanites and the Israelites, two different peoples assemble themselves oriented in very different directions. The Canaanites trust in their numbers and strength of arms. 900 chariots of iron would be an overwhelming sight to any enemy of theirs and would melt the hearts of their foes. The sheer size of their army was sufficient, in their minds, to keep the people of Israel subdued without any major show of force. It is this very dependence on material that proved to be their undoing rather than their victory.
This battle has familiar undertones that point us back to Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. Picture the wheels of pharaoh’s chariots churning in the sticky mud of the red sea as they try to recapture their enslaved people. Sisera’s chariots of iron were formidable too but must have weight a huge amount and been unwieldy in all but the best circumstances. Sisera, in his pride, brought all 900 of them out against an already outnumbered foe which means they were far more likely to tangle with one another. The Lord used their over-reliance on their material goods as a means of their destruction, to say nothing of what else He did in their very hearts. Likewise, putting our trust in ourselves and our material things is to act willfully ignorant towards God.
Contrast this with the attitude of Israel. From them we see that those who trust in and depend on God see opportunity and hope against overwhelming odds. Those who lean into the everlasting arms will see their strength renewed. Those who live not on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God will find that they never hunger or thirst! The Lord Jesus wants your heart and your trust above all else. It may seem counter-intuitive to trust in what you cannot see, but that is the pattern we have set forth by the very God who became one of us and was laid in a manger!
It seems like each day brings with it new challenges, new heartbreaks, and new tasks that seem to drain us more and more. We may not be face to face with a thousand enemy chariots, but that does not mean we are free from suffering. Time and time again in scripture, the Lord shows His saving power and the way in which He loves His children. Take the words of Jesus Christ in Mattew 7:9-11 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
We have a good and loving Father who promises to be with us always. No matter what we are facing, remember that nothing is more important than the trust you put in Him.
Take a look at your to-do schedule or that which weighs on your heart. What would it look like for you to trust God utterly with what’s going on in your life?
Lord Jesus, we confess that we have tried to make ourselves the lord of our lives and relied on material things instead of you. We have tried to do much in our own strength instead of yours. Forgive us these sins and grant that we may have hearts that are strong enough to lean on you and to trust you no matter what we see before us.
Song: The Gates, by Young Oceans
Text: Judges 1-3
Joshua, Israel’s strong and courageous leader is gone and now in chapter 1 of Judges, we read of the conquests of the tribes after his death, beginning with Judah and Simeon. At first, Israel is largely successful in taking more Canaanite territory, but not completely. Many of the tribes fail to complete their commission to totally destroy and conquer all. Inhabitants of the land are only partially conquered and are instead made into forced labour.
The angel of the Lord reprimands Israel for breaking the covenant they made with Him by making covenants with the Canaanites. Consequently, the Lord says Israel will not be able to take all the land and the people of the land will ensnare them. Sure enough, Israel begins to intermarry with the people and serve their foreign gods.
This generation, the ones who came after those who personally saw all the great things the Lord had done in Joshua’s time, fell into idol worship, igniting the anger of the Lord, causing Him to stop fighting for them. Enemies came against Israel and plundered them, and in military pursuits, Israel began losing until they were oppressed by other nations.
So began the cycle of the Judges: every so often in His compassion, God would raise up a judge to regain some lost territory, but after their victories, the people soon returned to their former ways, becoming increasingly corrupt. So God would become angry again and allow their enemies to triumph over them. In their misery, the people would call out to God. Then, in His compassion, God would bring another judge. Rinse, repeat: Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar.
We read several times in these chapters that “the Lord was with” the tribes as they made conquest, and yet the tribes doubt the presence of God Almighty is enough. Judah recruits Simeon to help them fight, and Simeon agrees because Judah will in turn help them fight. When the tribes of Joseph attack Bethel, they bribe a city-dweller to show them a way in and in turn they let him and his family live (and create a new city elsewhere!) These people did not fully believe God when He told them He was with them and they would be victorious. Instead of being strong and courageous in battle as modelled to them by their deceased leader, Israel turns to their own resourceful thinking to go about the continued conquest of the Promised Land.
So where did Israel first begin to go wrong? We are told in Ch 2, vs 10: a generation after Joshua’s grew up, “who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel”.
Uh oh. Why didn’t these people know God? God had given Israel the strategy to keep them faithful to Him:
Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the door-frames of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the Lord swore to give your ancestors… (Deuteronomy 11:18-21)
In short, the instruction was: “Don’t forget to remember”. Cues to remember and talk about the Lord and His ways were not put in place or, if they were, they went ignored. The stories of the miraculous hand of God moving on behalf of their nation, the demonstrations of God’s power and might making possible the impossible…all these stories that should have been celebrated and taught to them as children simply were not! The result was a new generation of Israelites who could not wrap their heads around the character of their God. They didn’t know His heart to give them the land, bless them and make them a light, a blessing to all other nations. The previous generation was successful under the leadership of Joshua to take the land, but it seems in the midst of all their battles, they forgot to do one of the most important things: they did not remember to teach their children about the nature and character of their God.
There is a direct correlation between knowing God and trusting Him, and also in trusting him and being obedient to His ways. If there is one thing we take away from today’s reading, it really ought to be the importance of teaching our children and young people about the nature and character of the God we serve. As Steve Rabey says, “Christianity [itself] is never more than one generation away from extinction.” This truth is so applicable for us parents, but also in the broader sense: we are a community of people who serve the Lord together. As such, we as a church, also have a shared responsibility to pass on the knowledge of God to the generations that come after us.
How might you personally contribute to this passing on the knowledge of God to the upcoming generation? What opportunities might you pursue to become more active in this regard? (Read Romans 10:13-14 and Proverbs 22:6)
Lord, thank you for the many ways that you have personally moved in my life to bring me into the knowledge of yourself. Help me to remember and not forget the good things you have done for me. And help me to pass on what I know about you to those around me, especially to those in the upcoming generations. Show me how I can contribute to the faith of the next generation.
Song: Don’t Forget to Remember (Ellie Holcomb)
Who do we serve? by Pastor Dave
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
Deuteronomy 6: 5
Joshua 22-24 (Psalm 69)
Chapter 22 in reality shows a maturing of the people; some lessons have been learnt. Gad, Reuben and half of Manasseh fulfil a promise in supporting the other tribes. They in turn are released from their obligation and are blessed. The altar they set up, however, caused real concern. The people remember what occurred at Peor where a plague took 25 000 because of idol worship (Numbers 25) and where the sin of one man affected the whole (Achan, Joshua 7). Ten tribes set out to put it right but thankfully listened first. The motives had been good and the placing of the altar an act to actually prevent what was feared. The importance of listening and checking facts before taking offence and acting are clear. The desire to glorify God and please Him needs to be the primary motive.
As the Covenant is renewed the people are reminded of where they came from and given a stark choice to make, they are to choose who they will serve. Joshua reminds them though, that it is by God’s strength not their own, that they have the Promised Land (24: 12). Even more, they cannot fulfil their promise to obey and follow God in their own strength, God has to enable them (24: 19). The people are determined though and renew their commitment. In 23:16 we see that the people had been given a specific warning that breaking the covenant would result in the land being taken from them; we will go on to learn that this is what happened in 586 BC
Through our studies since January we have often seen individuals and the people of God pursue their own way believing they know best. They have chosen self-reliance, listened to others, worshiped gods they made and attributed to themselves works of God. Today we are reminded that it is by God’s strength that we achieve (“Not by might nor by power but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty,’ Zech. 4: 6) and that in serving Him we are blessed and find real freedom.
The Question of Application
How do we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and strength (Deut. 6: 5)?
Almighty God, you show to those who are in error the light of your truth, that they may return to the way of righteousness: grant to all those who are admitted into the fellowship of Christ's religion, that they may reject those things that are contrary to their profession, and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
Lord, Whose love in humble service
Lord Jesus we invite your Holy Spirit to clean out all our entrenched thoughts and behaviours that align against you. Turn us around to face you and give us grace so we might serve you whole-heartedly.
SONG – Take my life and let it be – Chris Tomlin
March 8th Blog (Joshua Chapters 1-12)
OBSERVE: In chapter 2, two spies had made their way across the Jordan River and into Jericho to scout out the enemy territory. There, to avoid any kind of suspicion, they spent the night in the house of a prostitute name Rahab. Rahab had heard about the Israelites and their journey. But more significantly, we read that Rahab had heard about the God of the Israelites.
“I know the Lord has given you this land,” she told them. “We are all afraid of you. Everyone in the land is living in terror. For we have heard how the Lord made a dry path for you through the Red Sea when you left Egypt. And we know what you did to Sihon and Og, the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan River, whose people you completely destroyed. No wonder our hearts have melted in fear! No one has the courage to fight after hearing such things. For the Lord you God is the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below. Now swear to me by the Lord that you will be kind to me and my family since I have helped you.” (Joshua 2: 9-12)
INTERPRET: The spies agree, telling Rahab to leave a scarlet rope hanging form her window so that she and her family would be spared when the Israelites overtook Jericho. In the New Testament, the writer to the Hebrews revealed that though Rahab was a notorious sinner, her grabbing hold of the promises of God revealed that she was a woman of great faith. She believed in the power of God and was willing to risk everything to become a part of the people of God (Hebrews 11:31). Rahab was delivered from the judgment that fell upon Jericho because she knew that Yahweh was the true and living God, and she believed he would succeed in leading his people into the land as he had promised.
APPLICATION: Not only did Rahab desire to be saved from the judgement of God about to fall on Jericho, she wanted to get in on the promises of God that belong to those who live by faith. Because Rahab was justified through faith and her sins were forgiven, she lived the rest of her life as a citizen among God’s people. Not only that, she married among these people and is included in the family line of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5), the One whom all of the promises of God are ultimately fulfilled. For all who have faith in Jesus Christ, God has promised safety from judgement and to be a member of God’s family forever.
QUESTION/REFELCTION: God promises that all who live by faith in Jesus Christ will have more abundant life now and eternal life with God. Have you grabbed hold of these promises?
PRAYER: Holy God, in your sight I stand in the Rahab’s place. I deserve your judgement. But because I believe you will fulfill your promises, you have given me a scarlet rope and grafted me into the people of God. AMEN.
SONG: Jericho (Andrew Ripp)
No Empty Word - by Richard Neufeld
Deuteronomy 32-34 marks the end of the Torah and also the death of Moses. Chapter 32 is the Song of Moses, 43 verses in which he exhorts Israel to listen to God and remember all He has done for them. Moses outlines the general Exodus story and gives insight into the character of God, ending with the charge all creation to worship Him. After this, Moses’ death is foretold, and he goes on to give a final blessing, naming almost all twelve of the tribes as he speaks. Chapter 34, the last chapter of the Torah, tells of Moses walking off to see the promised land from afar and, still in the prime of his health, died. The torch is then passed to Joshua who has the Spirit of wisdom upon him after Moses had laid his hands upon him.
The entire song of Moses can be summed up in one short verse, Deuteronomy 32:47: “For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.” He says this in reference to all the blessings, all the laws, all the commandments, the warnings and the curses given Israel thus far, and you can almost hear the urgency in his voice as he drives home that what they have learned following the Lord out of Egypt is not merely bureaucracy, but life itself. To tend these commandments is more than a hobby or a lifestyle, it is the foundation of their very existence.
They were to take this God seriously and listen to that which He had commanded. They were to wait on God to bring the Law and the Prophets to fulfillment in the Son of God, who said in John 8:12 “Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” Moses had completed the work his Lord would have him do – he had walked with God and met Him face to face. He was a friend of God and a light to the people, a familiar face who had been with them through so much, and then they had to watch as he walked off to die.
He did not give in to self pity but urged his fellow brothers and sisters to heed the commandments they had been given and to take it to heart – to actually live like they were God’s chosen people!
We have, as of today, finished the Torah. This is no small feat! By now we have seen God’s story from the beginning of creation to the bringing of the Israelites to the cusp of the promised land. We’ve seen the fall of mankind, the earth wash away in a flood, plagues in Egypt, incredible signs and wonders, the giving of the Law, and learned so much about who this God is and how we can be close to Him.
We need to remember that the very God that split the Red Sea and won battle after battle for His people is alive and active and with you this very day and He has not changed. It is by reading His word and meditating on Him that we are changed – for it is no empty word for you, but your very life!
Do we take Him seriously yet? Have we noticed any areas in which He is asking to take over? Are there changes that need to be made? Remember, however hard it might be to rid ourselves of sin, His Spirit and presence and pleasure are worth more than anything this world has to offer.
After reading the Torah, what have you learned about the nature of God? How does this impact your being, and what can we do in our hearts, minds, and lives to give Him more space to work?
Lord, we thank you so much for bringing us through this crazy rough year and for reading the Bible in one year together as a church. We praise you for the mighty things you have done and the way you’ve carefully tended your people over hundreds and thousands of years. Please show us how we can be more like your Son, how we can make ourselves less and you more. We love you, we worship you, and we thank you. Amen!
Song: The Gates, Young Oceans
Choices (By Lynne McCarthy)
Text: Deuteronomy 30-31
“Listen, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your being, and all your might.” Deut. 6:5 – ”Shema”
Observe The Plains of Moab, on the cusp of entering the Promised Land. An entire chapter of blessings and curses had been delivered, and God pleads with Israel to return to His care. His mercy and love have never faltered.
He offers options: obedience and life – or rebellion and death. Their choice. If they choose the former, He will change their hearts to love and serve Him; He will again delight in giving all good to them. His near presence dwells in his command, so doable and so close they can speak it from their hearts (v 14; Rom. 10:5-8). Love the Lord your God. They’ve heard it before. Choose, Israel, choose life!! Shema – listen!! This is the key to your life! Love the Lord your God! Obey him! Commit yourselves firmly to Him!
Ancient of days, exhausted, Moses has more words before he dies. God will go ahead of them to destroy the nations before Israel enters the new land; they will need His strength and courage. Joshua, his worthy successor, receives the promise that God will never fail nor abandon him, or His people.
After commissioning Joshua at the Tabernacle, Moses writes all God’s instructions down. The priests place the Book of Instructions (Torah) in the Ark.
And, God’s word to Joshua and Moses at this last meeting before Moses dies? The people will continue to rebel, to abandon God and go their own way. [Oh, no! Not again!] God will give Moses a song to teach to the people, a witness against them (31:19).
Interpret The Hebrew word for Deuteronomy is ‘haDevarim’ – ‘The Words’, and God’s words through Moses both love and warn. His pleas to a stubborn people reveal His father-heart as we sense the love and tears behind them.
Deuteronomy, Moses’ ‘sermon’ (and we think 30 minutes is long?) recalls God’s covenants and reminds the people of their promises to follow them. Of course, they fail miserably and often, right up to the end, an entire generation destroyed. God wants to save his people, to give them all they need. He persists in calling His people back to Himself, reminding them of His lovingkindness, His mercies, forgiving again and again.
Yes, the news of failure goes on and on. But the dismal news will ultimately be replaced by such glorious news that Israel (and we) can barely grasp. There is a Saviour, waiting in the heavenlies! There are hints and whispers. But they must wait … the people are still on the Plains of Moab…
Apply Repetitions in the Hebrew Bible tell us that God is absolute about His word. In chapter 30, “… with all your heart and soul” is stated three times: verses 2, 6,10. His admonition not to fear, that He will be with them and not forsake them is His strong admonition to trust Him and His word. He will not fail them nor forsake them.
And shouldn’t this be comforting (in the sense of ‘strengthening’) to us when we face unknowns of any description? As we hold fast to Him, we find He is [our] life and length of days. (30:20b). His word is near us – in the Hebrew Bible and in the New Testament. As we read and inwardly apply His truths, they lodge in our hearts and minds as His Spirit plants them deep within, but so accessible. And as we learn Him and take Him at His word, we walk with His Son on the road to His ever-new life. We have trustworthy leaders who faithfully preach His word and love Him. We move together in trust and faith, absorbing His true Word, sharing His life with others, walking a long obedience in the same direction.
Ask So – have we decided? How shall we then live?
Pray Lord of love, bring us into the joy and freedom of loving You with all our hearts, minds and strength because You loved us first; give us the grace to Shema – listen!
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.