Friday, September 22, 2017

Year 7, Day 265: Judges 4

Theological Commentary: Click Here

One of the things that I love about the Old Testament is just how often the text causes us to grow and stretch.  Human beings really prefer to read the Bible and think that they have it all figured out.  We really like to put God in a box.  We like to think that we can put God in our bulleted lists and our quaint little platitudes.  The truth, however, is that God is bigger than our conceptions.  We’ll never figure out God.

For example, take this story about Barak.  We like to think that God’s appointed leaders were bold and fearless defenders of the faith.  That’s not what we see today.  Barak knows God’s will.  Deborah tells him that she has told him to go up and be bold.  She reminds him that God has told him to go.  Even when he is reminded, Barak is hesitant and declares that he will only go if Deborah goes with him.  Fortunately for Barak, Deborah agrees.  Barak also only goes out when he manages a huge force against his enemy.  In all of this, we can see that Barak is not the bold defender that we would expect.  He does go, but it isn’t what I would call boldly.

Who is bold?  Jael, the woman.  Jael goes out to meet Sisera.  She invites him in.  She plans his death and executes him.  The enemy leader of the Hebrew people die at the hands of a woman.

We are called out of our comfortable understanding of God by hearing that the only reason Sisera dies is because Jael goes out.  The only reason that Barak comes to battle is because Deborah agrees to go with him.  It isn’t Barak who is the bold defender but these two women!

Here’s the deal for today.  To the people who say that women can’t be called into leadership over men, I present Deborah who clearly led Barak.  To the people who think that women can make powerful moves and save others, I present Jael.  To the people who think that God gives up on people who are timid, I present Barak.  God is in the business of using the unusual suspects to accomplish His will and to bring salvation to His people.


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Year 7, Day 264: Judges 3

Theological Commentary: Click Here

In Judges 3 we get a perspective of God that may make us uncomfortable.  God allowed some of the Canaanites to continue to live in the land.  The disturbing part is why.  Don’t get this point wrong.  The Bible is pretty clear on this point.  The Canaanites who are left are left there so that the Hebrew people would be tested.  God allows them to remain to see whether the Hebrew people would be faithful or not.

The Bible is also clear on the reality that God discovers.  The people do not remain faithful.  It isn’t long at all before the people rebel.  The Hebrew people mingled with the Canaanites, meaning that the Canaanites families – more importantly their gods – became a part of the Hebrew culture.  It isn’t long before the lines blur between God-fearing and those who are walking apart from God.

Again, though, we learn the point from yesterday.  God isn’t abandoning the people.  When the Hebrew people fall away into their selfishness, self-centeredness, and their sin God does not walk away.  God sends judges among the people to intervene.  God sends judges to remind the people where their focus should be.  Rather than abandon and start over, He calls and recalls.

I find that this truly speaks to the nature of forgiveness.  Those who do not forgive are completely able to abandon.  Only those who are willing to forgive cannot abandon.  To put it another way, if we want to be a forgiving people, we cannot be a people who abandon.  God is setting a precedent for us to follow.  People will walk away from us, just like we walk away from God.  We don’t need to actively pursue them; God lets us walk away from Him.  But it is up to us to make sure that there is a way back through forgiveness.  That is vital.  That is largely the overarching premise of the book of Judges.  Truthfully, that’s pretty much the overarching premise of the Bible, too.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Year 7, Day 263: Judges 2

Theological Commentary: Click Here

We get more of a glimpse at humanity as we look to Judges 2.  The pattern that is about to lay out before us comes clear in this chapter.  We have a faithful generation followed by an unfaithful generation.  God raises up a judge and we have more faithful people.  The next generation falls away.  Then a judge comes.  Then people fall away.  Human civilization is always ebbing and flowing in faith depending on whether on our circumstances.  That’s just who we are.

That being said, we learn a good bit about God in this chapter.  God doesn’t abandon us.  He knows our faith ebbs and flows.  But He stays with us.  He doesn’t walk away permanently.  He sends judges into our lives to remind us of faith and faithfulness.

But, that doesn’t mean that we are completely protected from the idiocy of our decisions, either. When the Hebrew people fall away, God doesn’t force them to come back.  He doesn’t force them to endure goodness.  God allows them to experience the pain of failure and the consequences of walking away from His ways.  He does give them judges to help bring them back, but not before they have to deal with the results of their self-centeredness.

The same is true with us.  God is always speaking to us and trying to get our attention.  He will never abandon us.  However, He will allow us to walk away and deal wth the consequences of our actions.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Year 7, Day 262: Judges 1

Theological Commentary: Click Here

Judges is one of my favorite books of the Bible.  I tend to gravitate towards the books of the Bible that have a fair portrayal of humanity.  In Judges we will see the good and the bad.  We see success and failure and often in the same passages.  I love books like Judges because of its honest portrayal of life in general.

In this first chapter, we start out strong.  At the beginning of the chapter, we hear about hos Judah and Simeon rise up and take on the Canaanites after Joshua dies.  The land must be under conquest.  These two tribes try and take the leadership role in pursuit of conquest.  They are largely successful.

However, they are not fully successful.  We hear in a few places that the Canaanites stick around.  The Judahites aren’t actually able to accomplish the goals.  We can’t fault them for their effort.  Even still they are not successful.

Then we hear about the experience of the other tribes.  They aren’t successful, either.  Granted, all of the tribes experience some measure of success.  They don’t experience total success, though.  There are cracks in what they are able to accomplish – and in some cases absolute holes!

This feels like life to me.  In some cases we try and find success.  In other cases we try and find marginal success.  In other cases we try and fail.  We seldom ever go in and do something so absolutely perfectly that it cannot be improved upon.

Note that God doesn’t abandon the Hebrew people because of their inability.  Their inability will even come back to affect them, but God doesn’t hold that against them.  God stays by their side.  He continues to call them His people.  The same is true for us.  God will not abandon us.  We need to try as hard as we can and for His sake.  But God will no more abandon us as His people as He abandons the Hebrew people in their moments of failure.  God will stick by His people regardless.


Monday, September 18, 2017

Year 7, Day 261: Acts 28

Theological Commentary: Click Here

As we finish up the book of Acts, the focus is right where it should be.  No, it’s not on Paul.  We know it isn’t on Paul because the story doesn’t continue with Paul’s life.  We don’t know what happens to Paul.  It is one of the more frustrating elements of this book, in fact.  But it shows us that the emphasis isn’t really on Paul.  If it was, we’d know what happens to him.

The focus is on God and God’s hand at work. 

The shipwreck victims land on Malta and find a group of people who are willing to help hundreds of shipwrecked victims.  In fact, they take them in because the weather is turning poor.  What is the result of this?  The people are blessed by God’s presence.  Because of their kindness to the shipwrecked victims, God blesses them and their sick are healed.  The people who are shipwrecked are blessed by God because of their willingness to listen to God through Paul.

When Paul gets to Rome, he defends himself.  God goes before him.  The Romans are willing to listen to Paul, acknowledging that the Christians don’t have the best reputation.  As they listen, some believe and some don’t.  God’s Word spreads among those in Rome.

In fact, we do know that Paul stays in Rome for a few years, preaching and teaching. He continued to teach at his own expense.   God’s Word spreads in Rome.  Now we look back and see the end of chapter 26 in the correct light.  Yes, Agrippa was right.  Had Paul not declared that he wanted to go to Rome, he could have been sent free.  But had Paul been sent free, would he have ended up in Rome with a two-year mission to proclaim God to the people? 

This is what Acts is all about.  This is what Paul is all about.  We are to be about doing whatever it takes to get the message out.  We are to be willing to proclaim whenever and wherever God leads us.


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Year 7, Day 260: Acts 27

Theological Commentary: Click Here

I think that Acts 27 boils down to wisdom and faith.  Paul is full of wisdom, and I choose to believe that he has his wisdom because he is in relationship with God throughout this journey.  Paul seems to know when to sail, when they shouldn’t sail, and how to keep the people alive when the people are in danger.  Proximity to God tends to allow us the ability to make good choices.

The interesting dynamic in this chapter is how the people around him respond to the wisdom.  The pilot of the boat seems to have no regard for Paul at all.  His mind is on the profit that can be made through the journey.  Safety is on seemingly no concern.  It is dangerous for us when we partner with or even put ourselves in proximity t people whose primary concern is profit.

The centurion in charge of Paul seems to have a growing respect for Paul’s wisdom.  At first, he seems focused simply on doing his job, which makes sense.  He wants to get to Rome, deliver his charge, and accomplish the task.  However, the centurion does show that ultimately he respects living more than money.  As the situation grows more and more dire, he stops listening to the pilot and starts listening to Paul.  Here is a man who can garner some respect.  When there is a chance of success, the centurion pursues his obligation.  But when threatened, he knows enough to abandon the obligation until such a time as it can be properly pursed without walking headlong into danger without a care.

In the end, Paul carries the day and the people are all saved through the storm by God’s hand.  The centurion wins the day through Paul’s advice and keeps his soldiers from killing all of their prisoners.  The centurion listens to Paul and has the boat cut away so that everyone would remain under God’s protection through Paul.  The people listen to Paul, have a good meal before abandoning ship, and then make their way to an island where they might find refuge.  Wisdom does occasionally carry the day in human circles.  When it does, the credit should go ack to God as it does here in this chapter.


Saturday, September 16, 2017

Year 7, Day 259: Acts 26

Theological Commentary: Click Here

Once more we see Paul making his defense.  Once more, he tells the story as it happens.  This time, Festus tells Paul that he is out of his mind.  Festus, of course, is a Roman unfamiliar with God.  He isn’t familiar with a personal God who has relationship with His followers.  Of course, Paul sounds insane to Festus.

Notice, however, that Paul doesn’t let that bother him.  In fact, he doesn’t really even defend himself other than deny the charge.  Paul puts Festus in his place by turning to and appealing to Agrippa, who is familiar with God.  Paul lets Festus know that he’s the only person in the room who thinks the tale is strange.

I think there is a piece of wisdom in this story.  How prepared are we to accept and speak to God’s hand in our life?  Do we shrink from the amazing nature of it and assume people will think us crazy?  Or are we willing to speak and send a message to the world that it truly they who are missing out?  Do we compromise the truth for our public image or are we willing to risk our image for the sake of truth?

Before I leave, I have one small comment.  I used to read the conclusion of this chapter and feel sad.  It seems like Paul would have gotten free had he not appealed to Caesar.  As I’ve studied this year, I’ve lost that sensation.  Remember that the Jews wanted to kill him.  Festus would have probably put Paul in a position to be killed by the Jews.  In truth, the only reason that Paul is alive right now is because of his appeal.  Furthermore, Paul’s appeal is what eventually gets him to Rome, speaking God’s message as he goes along the way and even into the court of Caesar himself.  There is no reason to be sad that Paul doesn’t go free at the end of this chapter.  Paul is once more on a mission; that’s a good thing.