April 15, 2017

Today you should read: Judges 21

In Judges 21, the tribes of Israel had sought the Lord’s counsel and obediently battled the tribe of Benjamin. This all derails with their ill-conceived plan to preserve the tribe – apparently without divine counsel. When God’s people make a habit of failing to consult Him, they end up confused about right and wrong, wisdom and foolishness.

When the men of Israel met them at Mizpeh, they were so taken back by the terrible crime these men of Gibeah had committed, that they refused to let their daughters marry a man of Benjamin. They were so disgusted that they took an  oath that anyone who did not fight against the Benjamites and this terrible sin would be killed.  This shows how strongly they felt about it.   The Israelites made an oath not to “give” their daughters to the 600 surviving Benjamites (20:47). But they realized that they would fade as a tribe unless they had wives since the Benjamite women had died in the total sack of Gibeah.  This resulted in a whole myriad of immoral solutions to the problem (v.11-12, 23).  Whenever God’s Word and His standards are not honored, big problems arise.

So the people came to Bethel and sat there before God until evening, and lifted up their voices and wept bitterly. (v.2)  They wept – not only for the 40,000 Israelites that were slain – but for the tribe of Benjamin who was in danger.  They may not survive this and would be lost as a tribe of Israel.  

It came about the next day that the people arose early and built an altar there and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. (v. 4)

What do you do when you’re at a point of desperation?  They worshiped God.  There’s huge power in this lesson.  I don’t know what you’re dealing with – what’s wrecking your world right now – but go to God in prayer and worship.  Prayer to ask Him to move – worship to make sure your focus is on Him as the Omnipotent, Sovereign, Ruler of the Universe – that’s able – more than able to work through your issue.

By: Tim Parsons — Lead Pastor

Advertisements

April 14, 2017

Today you should read: Judges 20

We’ve said it throughout the book of Judges, but the theme that we see highlighted more than any other is the sinfulness of the Israelites. We’ve seen it in all sorts of ways, but perhaps the way that summarizes it best is what we see today. Today we see the beginning of a civil war that would change the landscape of Old Testament history. From the division that this civil war represented, the kingdom of Israel would eventually split. This showed that the sin and apostasy shown throughout the book had now turned onto fellow Israelites.

This passage really exposes the effects of sin doesn’t it? There are a few things for us to draw from:

  1. Sin has consequences. You probably know Romans 6:23—”But the wages of sin is death…” That verse is talking about spiritual death primarily, but in this passage we see that physical death, among other things, can also be a consequence. The division and hatred that we see here is the direct result of our sin.
  2. Sin is personal. What I mean by this is that sin effects people personally. Your sin that no one knows about is still negatively effecting others because it is negatively effecting you.
  3. Sin must be paid for. To realize that your sin is personal and has consequences is bad news. Even to realize that your sin must be paid for isn’t great news! But to know that your sin has already been paid for is amazing news! The effects of sin are unending throughout the Old Testament, because there is always a hopeful expectation for the Messiah who would come and save the people from their sin. What better day, than Good Friday, for us to remember the sacrifice that Jesus made for us by dying on the cross and paying for our sin once and for all.

You might have a sin pattern in your life right now that you are ashamed of and frustrated with. Be encouraged and reminded that Jesus paid the price for your sin, so that you wouldn’t have to.

By: Graham Withers — Pastoral Ministry Apprentice

April 13, 2017

Today you should read: Judges 19

Least surprising thing you probably read from today’s jumpstart Scripture:

And his concubine was unfaithful to him. Judges 19:2a

Most surprising and shocking part?

And when he entered his house, he took a knife, and taking hold of his concubine he divided her, limb by limb, into twelve pieces, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel. Judges 19:29

And in between the two passages is a heartbreaking story of sexual sin, hedonism (multiple verses of  “let your heart be merry”) rape, and sex trafficking (v. 23-26). If I can be honest with everyone reading this, I had a hard time reading this chapter. I hope you did too. Especially if you’re a man. From the Levite’s sin of taking in a concubine in the first place to what it ended up leading to. It’s graphic and grievous but sadly, shouldn’t be surprising. That’s because where hedonism and sexual sin is, rape and sex trafficking will follow. Let this be a sober reminder of this.

From the statistics on college campus rapes  to sex trafficking  we should not be surprised that the concubine’s ending fate was as graphic as it was. That’s sin. Sin that doesn’t seem that big of a deal when your drinking and “letting your heart be merry” for days on end but then leads to the heartbreaking conclusion in Judges 19. If it wasn’t for Jesus, I don’t know how I would process the consequences of such things we dealt with in this chapter and still see in the world today. But by God’s grace we do have Jesus. One who gives hope and healing for such atrocities through the Gospel and the church stepping up and speaking out on such things. In fact that’s how this chapter ends. The last verse of the chapter, the very following verse after the tragic fate of the concubine being chopped up and divided by her Levite “master”, it says:

And all who saw it said, “Such a thing has never happened or been seen from the day that the people of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt until this day; consider it, take counsel, and speak.”

Consider it, take counsel, and speak.  The same we should do today when hearing of and ministering to such sins.

By: Erik Koliser — West Campus Pastor

April 12, 2017

Today you should read: Judges 18

Judges 18 is the continuation of yesterday’s story in 17. An Ephraimite name Micah sets up a private temple and hires for himself a private priest, a Levite from Bethlehem (Side note: the tribe of Ephraim and territory of Bethlehem are very important as they link this story with the following story, and the book of Ruth, creating what some call the Bethlehem trilogy).

This first story of 17 and 18, along with the second story of 19–21 form a sort of appendix to the book of Judges. There isn’t a judge present in these stories, instead we see the depth of the consequences of disobedience and sin. These events, from the people’s perspective, happen because “In those days there was no king of Israel” (18:1).  

Chapter 18 is somewhat reminiscent of Israel’s entering the Promised Land. However, this displaced people was a result of their own disobedience. The Danites were to have conquered the land that they were allotted, yet were unable to do so (Judges 1:34). The fact that they never conquered their own land and pushed out the Amorites, meant they were squished into a smaller territory than their tribe could comfortably occupy. Thus, they felt the need to find a new place where they could spread out a little more—so they headed north.

While the sin of Micah and his personal priest were bad, what the Danites did was even worse. Not only were they guilty of the same level of idolatry as Micah, but they slaughtered the peaceful, if not innocent, people at Laish (18:27).

Instead of taking what God had provided for them, the Danites disobeyed and took for themselves a land not promised to them. They murdered the people living there and set up alters to idols. The author makes note that this was done “all the time that the house of God was at Shiloh” (18:31).

That statement, “all the time that the house of God was at Shiloh” (18:31), is incredibly important as we think about heeding the warning of this passage. God dwelled in the tabernacle at Shiloh, while the tribe of Dan moved far away and set up their own objects of worship. Because God was at Shiloh, he was not with the Danites.

We understand that as believers today, we have the indwelling of the Spirit, so God is ever-present.  But, ask yourself today, “where is God present (or not present) in your life right now?” For example, God was not in the Danites’ taking of Laish because it was sin, is there any sin hindering God’s activity in your life? Where God is active, get busy! Where God is absent, repent and turn away!

 

By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate