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OT(2) Judges

July 21st, 2015
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First Message

We are going to be moving on to Judges in this first message.The Bible describes the early Israelite socio-political unit as the tribe. A tribe is attached to a territory. Within the tribe you have clan elders, and the clan elders are the ones who dispense justice. They make decisions regarding the general welfare of the tribe.

Superimposed upon the authority of the elders is the authority of certain inspired individuals. And these are known as judges, and it is the exploits of these individuals that are recorded in the Book of Judges.

Judges to one who exercises many different powers or functions, not merely judicial. The Israelite judge was actually primarily a military leader, commissioned with a specific task, and only in times of national crisis. The judge had a charismatic quality, which in several cases is expressed by the phrase, “the spirit of the Lord came upon him.” God would raise up the judge to deliver the people from a specific crisis.

The judge might muster troops from two tribes, or three tribes, sometimes only a clan or two, which suggests that there was no real national entity at this particular time. We never see more than one or two tribes acting together or some clans of a tribe. The Ark is said to have circulated among the different tribal territories, it did not rest permanently in the territory of one tribe until somewhat late in the period — it comes to rest at a place called Shiloh.

Judges is set between the conquests of Joshua and the Monarchical system around Samuel, Saul and David.

Chapter 1 gives a detailed summary of the situation at the end of Joshua’s conquest, we get a list of all the places they failed to take from the Canaanites, starting in Judah and moving northward. Their failure contrasts to their promise to be faithful.

The list starts in the southern area, in Judah, and then list things in a northward direction. Then in Judges 2:1-5

1 The angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land I swore to give to your ancestors. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, 2 and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.’ Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? 3 And I have also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; they will become traps for you, and their gods will become snares to you.’”

4 When the angel of the Lord had spoken these things to all the Israelites, the people wept aloud, 5 and they called that place Bokim. There they offered sacrifices to the Lord.

God will be faithful to his covenant, in other words. But it is a two-way street. And if Israel does not do her part, she will be punished. The writer is setting us up with that expectation before we even begin to read an account of what happens. The angel then relates that Israel has already not been obedient, so God has resolved that he will no longer drive the Canaanites out before the Israelites. He will leave them as a snare and a trap to test their resolve and their loyalty.

So that opening announcement listing all of the ways in which they had failed to take the land, and the visit by the angel who tells them: you have already failed in so many ways, and so God is not even going to help you to rout the Canaanites any longer — that is followed then in a section from

Judges 2:11 -3:6

11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the Lord’s anger 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. 14 In his anger against Israel the Lord gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. 15 Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the Lord was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress.

16 Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. 17 Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the Lord’s commands. 18 Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. 19 But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.

Israel’s crises are caused by her infidelity to Yahweh, through the worship of Canaanite gods, and for this sin, God sells the Israelites to their enemies and then, moved to pity when they cry out under the oppression, He raises leaders to deliver Israel. This pattern of sin, punishment, repentance and deliverance through leaders is the recurring pattern throughout the book.

20 Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and said, “Because this nation has violated the covenant I ordained for their ancestors and has not listened to me, 21 I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. 22 I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the Lord and walk in it as their ancestors did.” 23 The Lord had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua.

3:1 These are the nations the Lord left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan 2 (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience): 3 the five rulers of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites living in the Lebanon mountains from Mount Baal Hermon to Lebo Hamath. 4 They were left to test the Israelites to see whether they would obey the Lord’s commands, which he had given their ancestors through Moses.

5 The Israelites lived among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 6 They took their daughters in marriage and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods.

And this is a kind of prospective summary of the book.

So if you were to list the stories of the various judges, the major judges — we have six major and six minor judges.

The minor judge is just simply a reference to the fact that they judged for a certain short period of time. and there are six major judges for each of whom there is a lengthy story, beginning with Ehud in chapter 3. Ehud leads the Israelites against the Moabites; a sort of bathroom humor in that one. In chapters 4 and 5, you have Deborah, who helps the Israelites in battle against certain Canaanite groups. You have four chapters, chapters 6-9, recording the adventures of Gideon. Gideon fights against the Midianites.

 Then in 11 and into a little bit of chapter 12, you have the story of Jephthah, who fights against the Ammonites — very tragic story of his daughter,

You also have in chapters 13-16, Samson who, of course, fights against the Philistines.

Then towards the end: you have some interesting chapters at the end. 17 and 18 tell the story of Micah or Micah, and his idolatrous shrine. And then finally, the quite horrifying and gruesome tale, beginning in chapter 19, going on through 20 and 21 — the story of the Levite’s concubine and the civil war.

A couple of observations:

1. The judges are not chosen necessarily for their virtue. These are pretty scrappy characters. You’ve got very interesting, colourful people. You’ve got the illegitimate son of a prostitute. Some of them are crafty, tricky types, a bit like Jacob.

Gideon is also known as Jerubbaal. It is a name that is made with Baal, meaning Baal will strive, or Baal will contend. He erects an idol. The people of Shechem, where he is — after his death they continue to worship Baal Berit, the Baal of the covenant, which is a sort of merger of Baalism and covenantal religion.

Jepthah is an outlaw.

Samson is hardly a moral example.

He can lift up the gates of the city. He can tie the tails of 300 foxes with torches and so on. But this great strong man is undone by his one weakness, which is a weakness for foreign women, particularly Philistine women. And that proves to be his downfall. The foreign gods often accessed through marriage to foreign women, exercised a fatal attraction for Israel. And it was the inability to resist the snare of idolatry that would ultimately lead to ruin.

So these are not meant to be idealized heroes, but very human heroes. We don’t study them to understand what it means to be a Christian.

2.The institution of judges never created fixed political forms. And each judge differed from the last in background, in class, and even gender. We do have one female judge, Deborah, who did exercise judicial functions. But there is a deep concern in this book which creates a major tension in Israel’s history. It is a question of government. A question that has been part of our own church history.

 Sermon Transitional Samuel

 There is a very interesting tension in the Book of Judges that will continue beyond into the Book of Samuel, as well. It is a a tension regarding kingship. The individual stories seem to suggest a very deep-seated distrust of kingship.

So in Judges 8, the people ask one of the judges, Gideon at that time, to become king.

Judges 8:22-27

22 The Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson—because you have saved us from the hand of Midian.”

23 But Gideon told them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you.”

24 And he said, “I do have one request, that each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder.” (It was the custom of the Ishmaelites to wear gold earrings.)

25 They answered, “We’ll be glad to give them.” So they spread out a garment, and each of them threw a ring from his plunder onto it. 26 The weight of the gold rings he asked for came to seventeen hundred shekels,[a] not counting the ornaments, the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian or the chains that were on their camels’ necks. 27 Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family.

And indeed, the short reign of Gideon’s ruthless son Abimelekh, which means “my father is king” ironically, is a complete disaster.

The position of judge is temporary. God was viewed as the permanent king in Israel. The temporary authority of the judge derived from the kingship of God. So the judge’s position could not become absolute or permanent or a dynasty. That would be a rejection of God’s leadership. The Book of Judges seems to be against the notion of kingship in Israel. But the book as a whole seems to suggest a certain progression towards kingship.

The final chapters of Judges document Israel’s slow slide into disorder and ultimately into civil war. And many scholars have observed that it is ironic and tragic that the one time the tribes do all act in concert is against one of their own. This is the only time all the other 11 tribes, come out against a common enemy and it is the tribe of Benjamin. At a certain point, however, they realize with some regret that the tribe of Benjamin is near extinction. This is not a good thing, so the other tribes then arrange to kidnap women from Shiloh as mates for the remaining Benjaminites.

At the end of the book of Judges we read:

 Judges 17:6 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.

 Judges 18:1 In those days Israel had no king.

 Judges 19:2 In those days Israel had no king.

 Judges 21:25 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.

 The writer seems to be saying something. And of course we could immediately jump on the bandwagon and say “Look at all that chaos and evil.” And then draw the conclusion that God’s way is to have a king: a dynastic order from the top down. Is the conclusion as simple as that?

 And do we study the OT to discover how God’s government works?

 Are we meant to go back to a very ancient people and say that is how the church is to operate if we understand the kingdom of God?

 Is the lesson that God works through one man from the top down to be drawn from these accounts?

 What we have seen in the book of Judge is that a community in which God is the king and led by inspired judges in times of crisis — that institutional structure -failed to establish stability, a stable continuous government. It failed to provide leadership against Israel’s enemies within and without. You have Ammon and Moab to the east. You have the Philistines to the west, and they soon manage to subjugate the entire land. So the tribes seem to be conscious of the need for a strong central authority; and the demand for a king arises. This a reaction to their failure.

In their search for a new political order, the people turn to the prophet Samuel. Samuel is the last in a line of prophet judges, and they ask him to anoint a king for them. The Book of Samuel deals with the transition from the period of the judges to the period of the monarchy.

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Message for the Day

The Kingdom of God – what is our role?

July 10th, 2014
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 N.T. Wright: How God Became King (Part 2)

Prof. Wright talks his book, How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels.

(15.93 minutes) To view please click here.

Music

Peace Like a River – Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Peace, Faith, Hope, Love like a River.To watch please click here.

Sermon

How does God measure us as His people? By how much we do for him? Does God have performance markers to see how successful we are or is it more about our faithfulness and trust, in who God is as revealed in Jesus Christ, which inspires thanksgiving in our worship.

 Are we a group of people who have our life together or a group of people who worship the one who has all of life together?

Interview interview with Baxter Kruger and Paul Young http://www.gci.org/YI122 . This section of the interview about the Shack reflects the dangers Paul was talking about with false ideas of God and religion can bring to us.

 Mike: Great to have you guys with us.

Paul: It’s an honor to be here.

Baxter: Good to be back, Mike.

Mike: You’ve been doing a lot of travel together in Australia, other places, talking about the shack, talking about your personal story, Paul, and talking about the theology of the shack, Baxter. After you tell your story, and people line up, you know, Baxter, you talked about how big lines of people want to talk. What’s on their mind? What is it that you said that has touched them, and what is it they want to talk about?

Paul: And it’s not just the line ups.  I know I’ve gotten over 100,000 emails now from all over the world. A few years ago, I was shipping out soldering tips and cleaning toilets, you know, and people ask me what I do now and I tell them I get to hang around burning bushes all day. It’s because I get invited into people’s stories. And there’s so much that unites us, that religion has divided us over, and one of them is authenticity. And I think what people hear in my story, because I’m no different than anybody else, you know.

I’ve got great sadness in my history. I had a very difficult relationship with my father. I have sexual abuse in my history, not from family but from the tribe that I grew up inside of.  And then I went to boarding school when I was six, and abuse took place there.

And all those things, they tend to destroy the house on the inside, the shack. It’s a shack, not a really habitable place. And that place becomes the place where you hide all your addictions and you store your secrets, and it’s just the place of shame. And you don’t want anything to do with it. You hate yourself. You hate this place, which is your own soul. And then religion comes along and tells you that God also hates it, and God wants a nice building. That’s what He wants. And so you don’t know what to do with the shack, so you build a facade outside, you know, a little quarter-inch piece of plywood you can paint as fast as you can pick up people’s expectations, and you begin to perform. Religion is about performance.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve rededicated my life to the Lord, and prayed all night, and fasted, and on and on and on and on the list goes. I’m trying to earn my way into the affection and the approval of God. Because God was largely like my dad, someone whose acceptance I couldn’t ever quite win, and whose approval I never won. And you know, it took me 50 years to wipe the face of my father completely off the face of God. A process that just went totally into the inside world of that facade that I had created that I presented to everybody, known as the spiritual man, the person who had it together, was the facade, and God doesn’t love the facade. He loves the shack, which I didn’t know. I thought He hated it. I hated it. It seemed like my dad hated it. Why would I ever think that he would love that?

So again, back to performance, and I performed well. It wasn’t until my facade came crashing down, and that’s what I talked about, in part, is this struggle, and the damage, the religious paradigm of performance, trying to please God brought into my life. And to find out it’s not about pleasing God, it’s about learning to trust God? Well that’s like, that can’t be right. That would mean that God would have to be of such a character that I could actually trust God. Let’s go back to pleasing God because then that’s about me, and how good I’m performing. And every religion is about pleasing God, you know, it’s just the rules are different, or the criteria is different. But as soon as you have it, you know how to compare your criteria against somebody else’s and how good your performance is, and how you can be self-righteous because you’re better than somebody.

And you get a false sense of value, and a false sense of worth and significance and all these things that you think is righteous and biblical and all this, and you say, “Oh yeah, I trust God.” Yeah, because religion taught me to use that language. Do I really? No, just let the economy go sideways and I’ll tell you; I start screaming. Because, you know, fundamentally, I don’t trust anybody.

McKenzie, in the book, spends a weekend in the shack, which is the dismantling of his entire existence and the reforming of it within the truth. That weekend represents eleven years for me. So when I talk to people, a lot of us who grew up in the religious community, we didn’t even know that people could come to healing. We didn’t know. Because anytime their crap showed up, we just kicked them out. Which meant the rest of us really wanted to be transparent and honest about our stuff.

So we got all this performance orientation. We’re hidden. We’re not authentic. And when I talk, they hear a couple things. God loves the shack. A lot of people don’t know that. He crawled inside of it. He’s there already, knowing everything there is to know about me. Authenticity, this drive I have to be real, is there because that’s the way I was created to be, and healing is possible. The healing of the soul, the shack, not this performance. God doesn’t care about the performance, and in fact, the facade has got to come crashing down at some point, so that real healing comes to me. But I tell you, we will hold on to that facade because that’s what we’ve been told real righteousness happens, real spirituality is. )It’s a lie, but again, it’s all based on the fact that you don’t believe God’s good. I didn’t. Not really. But I knew the language. I can tell you that I did. But I didn’t even know that I didn’t trust anybody else except myself. But that’s because I had no reason to.

So when people come and they talk, they tell me their stories. They tell me how the Book has landed in the middle of their great sadnesses of one sort or another. They tell me about their histories and their abuse and the fact that maybe this is the first time that they have hope. And some of them tell me they’re terrified. They’re terrified that if they take some little incremental steps of trust that the God that I’m telling them about may not turn out to be the one that’s really there, and why should they take that risk? Right? And faith is about that risk. It’s about beginning to believe in the certainty of His character. That God is love. That there is no deeper reality that the character and nature of God than love and relationship. And that God, by nature, is not able to act in any other way than the deepest way that we would sense love is.

And so for me, that’s the way I love my kids. That’s the touch point for me. As a father, I would die for my kids. While if God isn’t at least that good, then what kind of a God do we have? And a lot of times, we think we know how to love our kids better than God knows how to love His. I mean, He’s asking us to forgive in a way that he can’t forgive Himself. And what’s that? That either means that I’m wrong or the character of God is wrong, so why then should I trust Him? And the question goes back to, Who is this God? And I believe that He is, in essence, good and loving all the time. And that means that judgment and wrath and all these words, hell and all this stuff, have got to be understood within this commitment to His goodness and His love.

When I was in the States the abuse and affects on people’s lives was just beginning to come out. In Australia we were at least 10 years behind on these matters. I remember hearing rumours of paedophile rings in various State institutions back in the seventies – but society was blind to the suffering of its most vulnerable members. It appears even to just recently it still is.

There is a darkness in this world that can dismay us.

Even distorted views of God can add to this darkness, with guilt, shame and anxiety. The response to the Shack –indicates a lot of people who have attended churches feel confused about what God is like and what we have to do for God to love us.

Now I am not promoting the Shack – I haven’t actually read it. But there are aspects of that conversation that rings true in a lot of people’s lives and their experience with religion.

In 1 John 2:8

Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.

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Message for the Day

Luke19:28-40

December 9th, 2013
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For the disciples Jesus is hopefully the Lion of Judah. Yet he is going up to Jerusalem paradoxically to be the lamb who was slain.. On one hand we have the King and on the other one who will become the sacrifice, tortured to death shamefully on the cross.

They seem like a contradiction, yet Luke is going to make a profound point about the nature of Jesus’ kingship and thus the nature of the his kingdom.

Luke 19:28-29(a)

28 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

We re now so close to the destination of Jesus’ journey: Jerusalem. Despite all the instruction, Jesus is the only one who understands the nature of his Kingdom and what he will experience in Jerusalem which will be at the centre of it.

This is the very reason he was born.

29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives,

So close. The Mount of Olives was associated with Messianic expectations in

Zechariah 14:4-9

4 On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. 5 You will flee by my mountain valley, for it will extend to Azel. You will flee as you fled from the earthquake[a] in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.

6 On that day there will be neither sunlight nor cold, frosty darkness. 7 It will be a unique day—a day known only to the Lord—with no distinction between day and night. When evening comes, there will be light.

8 On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half of it east to the Dead Sea and half of it west to the Mediterranean Sea, in summer and in winter.

9 The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name.

The Lord will be King. It is so easy to project our expectations upon the Christ’s Kingship –this was covered that at Ulladulla on the last day.

Israel was instructed not to have kings like the nations they encountered.

 Deuteronomy 17: 16-20

 16 The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the Lord has told you, “You are not to go back that way again.” 17 He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.

 Prohibits kings from “multiplying” horses, wives, or gold and silver

 18 When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. 19 It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees 20 and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel.

 The rule of law protects their freedom to be like God to one another.

 Instead of imitating Yahweh in his ways, they looked for their Kingdom ideas from the nations around them.

 We see this warning in 1 Samuel 8:1-18

 1 When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders. 2 The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. 3 But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.

 4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead[b] us, such as all the other nations have.”

 So even the judging of Israel became a family business to benefit oneself. A warning that we should listen to about appointing one’s family into leadership.

 6 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.

 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”

 Fundamentally they want someone who can provide stability through hereditary leadership.

 10 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots.

 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants.

 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle[c] and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves.

 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

 They would be serving their King, not the King serving them.

 I could call this warning the Iron Law of Oligarchy based on observation of human behaviour.

 Wikipaedia:

 The iron law of oligarchy is a political theory, first developed by the German syndicalist sociologist Robert Michels in his 1911 book, Political Parties.[1] It claims that rule by an elite, or “oligarchy”, is inevitable as an “iron law” within any organization as part of the “tactical and technical necessities” of organization.[1]

 Michels particularly addressed the application of this law to representative democracy, and stated: “It is organization which gives birth to the dominion of the elected over the electors, of the mandataries over the mandators, of the delegates over the delegators. Who says organization, says oligarchy.”[1]

 ..] Michels stated that the official goal of representative democracy of eliminating elite rule was impossible, that representative democracy is a façade legitimizing the rule of a particular elite, and that elite rule, that he refers to as oligarchy, is inevitable

 The Bosses of the Senate”, a cartoon by Joseph Keppler depicting corporate interests–from steel, copper, oil, iron, sugar, tin, and coal to paper bags, envelopes, and salt–as giant money bags looming over the tiny senators at their desks in the Chamber of the United States Senate. Published in Puck on January 23, 1889.

 The Iron law of Oligarchy seems to be so true in any society, nation or religious arrangement. It was true in the time of Jesus. It influenced the disciples response to the words kingdom, king and rule.

 It contradicts who God is toward us as revealed in Jesus Christ. He said “ I am among you as one who serves”: that’s the bottom line.

 Yes, here is the anointed one of Israel, The King is preparing for his royal entry in to Jerusalem.

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Message for the Day