April 21

April 21

Pause and Reflect:

We have been seeing significant women in our readings recently; this is surprising in a patriarchal society such as Israel. God created all of humanity in ‘His’ image. So feminine and masculine characteristics are ALL part of that image, and gender is not a qualification, or a barrier, to influence or significance.

In what ways has God worked in your life counter to the norms or expectations of the time, place, or culture?

Have a great day!

Mark.

April 20

April 20

Judge Samson — Delilah’s nagging, Samson’s foolishness, & Samson’s death.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Judges 16

Reading 2: Proverbs 5:1-14

Reading 3: Proverbs 27:15-16

Yesterday we said that Samson’s pride, presumption, and foolishness would be his undoing. And today we read about that sad ending. Truly our choices make a difference in the outcomes of our lives, yet God is always merciful when we see our errors and repent.

If Samson had known the wisdom of Solomon in Proverbs, he could have heeded it and avoided so much trouble for himself and his people. But he chose to pursue sexual gratification outside God’s plan and it finally led to his capture. The relationships Samson chose were neither godly nor faithful, and his story shows us the power of sexual sin to hold us captive and lead us to ruin. No wonder Solomon was so clear in his warning to his son!

For decades we have seen the damage that sex outside of God’s plan will wreak.

May we all know God’s wisdom to guide our decisions and lead us to be victorious in Him.

Have a great day!

Mark.

April 19

April 19

Judge Samson — Samson, the spirit, & victory with the jawbone of a donkey.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Judges 14

Reading 2: Judges 15

Reading 3: Zechariah 4:6

Today Samson pursues ungodly ends, especially a wife from the Philistine enemy, but God turns around this disobedience to His own plans as this places Samson in a position to execute judgment on the oppressors of God’s people.

Along the way, we see indications of Samson’s pride, disregard for authority, dishonor of his parents, and self-absorbed decision-making. All these weaknesses will prove to be his undoing but first, we see that God is willing to pour out His Spirit on even the “unsuitable” in order to defeat His enemies and bring freedom to His people.

May we experience such freedom today, not by might, nor by power, but by the Holy Spirit.

Have a great day!

Mark.

April 18

April 18

Judge Samson — The Nazirite Vow to separate yourself to the LORD.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Judges 13

Reading 2: Numbers 6:1-21

Reading 3: Amos 2:10-13

In the cycle of success and failure which repeats throughout the Book of Judges, Samson is perhaps the most representative judge of the people of Israel – we see both the strengths and weaknesses of this unique man.

His birth was miraculous and God called for him to be set apart in a special way from the first. His parents are clearly affected by the Philistine oppression (a result of Israel’s sin) and do not fully recognize God’s activity at first. It would be a little surprising, in the midst of blatantly ungodly circumstances, to be visited by an angel and given instructions for a godly breakthrough to come through your lives!

The requirements for the Nazirite calling of Samson first apply to his mother, so that he will never taste alcohol, whether in utero or after birth. The two characteristics of the Nazirite calling are no alcohol and no hair cutting. In these ways, the Nazirite is set apart for God’s purposes in the same way as Jesus was set apart by His virgin birth and constant obedience to the Father.

Of course, we will read that Samson takes too lightly the holiness of his calling, and thus brings dishonor to his nation, his family, and himself. But for today, let’s remember that in Jesus, we too are called, chosen, and set apart for God. Not in a rules-dominated way, but as a privilege that we must not take lightly. God wants to show His glory through your life!

Have a great day!

Mark.

April 17

April 17

Judge Gideon — God reduces Gideon’s army to ensure God gets all the credit.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Judges 6

Reading 2: Judges 7

Reading 3: 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

The Book of Judges is a series of cycles of disobedience, oppression, despair, crying out to God, and miraculous restoration. Again and again, God reminds His people of their past, and His interventions on their behalf, yet they consistently fail to follow Him.

Today we see God’s angel going to a most unlikely hero – Gideon – who is the least man in the smallest family of the weakest clan in Israel. This shows us that God’s measurement is different from ours – we judge by worldly standards and select those best qualified for success or those with the most power. God has no need of such assistance because He has ALL power and is glorified more when He works through people who don’t qualify!

And that is just what happens – the vast Midianite army, augmented by the Amalekites and the peoples of the East, is defeated by 300 men with trumpets and torches! God is well able to cause our enemies to slaughter themselves in panic without us overpowering them!

Paul tells us that the church is full of nobodies who have become somebodies because God has chosen us. You are somebody in God today. Don’t brag about it, but humbly watch for what God wants you to do as He overcomes your enemies!

Have a great day!

Mark.

April 16

April 16

Judges Deborah & Barak — Deborah’s faith, Barak’s faith, & God’s victory.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Judges 4

Reading 2: Judges 5

Reading 3: Hebrews 11:32-34

As the cycle of weakness continues, and Israel goes through another round of sin and disobedience, God allows them to be oppressed by a cruel commander, Sisera, who leads the army of the Canaanite king Jabin. The Canaanites were notably ungodly: they corrupted Israel as well as oppressing them.

In response to the cries of the people, God raises up powerful leaders who listen to God, speak His Word fearlessly and prophetically, and act on God’s instructions authoritatively and without hesitation. These leaders show great courage and faith. God again gets the glory as Israel is freed from the bonds of sin.

The unusual aspect of this story is the gender of the leaders – this is a patriarchal society, yet God uses two very strong women to lead the nation back to Him. It is a most unfortunate corruption of scripture for any church to teach that women have no place of leadership. In today’s readings, and in many other places in scripture, women are called by God, placed in leadership, and fulfill God’s calling when the men are either too frightened or too inept to do so!

The message of scripture is that leadership is a calling from God, given to men and women, which carries great responsibility and brings great victory when exercised in obedience and faith.

Let’s pray for all our leaders today, especially those who have been taught by tradition that they are excluded from leadership. And let’s trust God to show each of us how to lead others as we follow Him!

Have a great day!

Mark.

April 15

April 15

Pause and Reflect:

The judges highlight for us the reversals that humanity experiences when our own effort is all we have to maintain our relationship with God.

As you reflect today, consider some of the ways God has extended grace to you, overcoming the weakness of your own efforts.

Have a great day.

Mark.

April 14

April 14

Judges Othniel, Ehud, & Shamgar — The cycle of sin, judgment, prayer, & deliverance

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Judges 3

Reading 2: Isaiah 59:12-18

Reading 3: Psalm 50:15

Yesterday we saw the cycle of sin, judgment, prayer, and deliverance, as Israel was tested by the enemies they had failed to drive out of the land. Today the cycle continues for several generations. God raises up judges to lead Israel out of their compromise and sin, and back into the power of wholehearted commitment to Him.

The first is Othniel (remember him? the man who won the hand of Caleb’s daughter Acsah by conquering the town of Kiriath-Sepher in Judges 1). He is Caleb’s nephew, so he comes from a family of brave followers of God. After his intervention, there is peace in the land for 40 years.

After Othniel’s death, the people go astray and God gives them into captivity again (to the king of Moab). After 18 years of suffering, they cry out to God and He delivers them through Ehud, who kills the obese king of Moab and escapes through the latrine! (and you thought you had a hard life!).

The cycle repeats again and again – sin/compromise, judgment, prayer, and deliverance. Isaiah correctly diagnoses the problem – “We have turned our backs on our God.” He also defines the solution – “The Lord looked and was displeased to find there was no justice. He was amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed. So he himself stepped in to save them with his strong arm, and his justice sustained him. He put on righteousness as his body armor and placed the helmet of salvation on his head. He clothed himself with a robe of vengeance and wrapped himself in a cloak of divine passion. He will repay his enemies for their evil deeds. His fury will fall on his foes.”

Do you see the description of Jesus in those verses? God steps in to intervene and save us! His justice sustained Him, He will repay His enemies! Here is our solution to the cycle of sin; as the Psalmist records God’s cry: “call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.”

Let’s call on Him today, AND give Him glory!

Have a great day!

Mark.

April 13

April 13

Judges Origin — The days of the judges & the cycle of sin/judgment/prayer/deliverance.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Judges 1

Reading 2: Judges 2

Reading 3: Judges 21:25

Have you ever heard the saying “It’s a test!”? Of course you have. Tests are very valuable because they show us what we have mastered, as well as what we have not. Sometimes tests show us how far we have drifted from a course we have been following, and that is the theme of the Book of Judges. Israel has been set a course: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” But they keep drifting away from it, failing the test.

The cycle of test and failure is not the only available option: they could learn from their mistakes, repent for their self-centeredness, and pass the test next time. But that is not the path they choose. So God sends judges to test them, call them back to their purpose, and restore their direction. Between judges, they turn back to their own ways, just as we often do when left to our own devices. The final verse of Judges is an indictment of us all: “all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.”

This is why we need God’s Word (to show us the way) and God’s people (to help us stay on course). Who has God placed in your life to help you in this way? Why not thank them today, and agree with them that together you will serve the Lord?

Have a great day!

Mark.

April 12

April 12

Joshua’s Charge & Death — Joshua’s warning about serving two masters.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Joshua 24

Reading 2: 1 Samuel 7:2-4

Reading 3: Matthew 6:24

Yesterday we saw that the gift of the Promised Land reflected God’s gift of destiny to each of us. Today we read about the repeated sins of the Israelites in worshipping other Gods. This is similar to wanting the freedom to choose between gasoline and diesel for your car. You can claim that freedom, but the consequences of your choice follow sooner or later! One is intended for your vehicle, the other is not! In the end, it is wiser to follow the maker’s instructions.

So they are presented with a clear choice – the gods of their ancestors, the gods of the people they are driving out, or the Lord? And Joshua adds a famous statement: “as for me and my household, we will serve The Lord.”

Today it is hard for us to relate to such stories (there are few baals and ashtoreths being worshiped openly today). But we are surrounded by gods which are foreign to our heavenly Father’s nature and character: the god of money or possessions (including the god of poverty), the god of self-determination and independence, the god of sexual ‘freedom’, the god of ‘might is right’, and the god of ‘tolerance’.

None of these gods (and you can probably think of some others) is true to the nature of the true God – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God who is revealed in Jesus, the God who chose us before the world began and loves us in our sin.

So who will you choose today? One choice will make you part of this Story – One Story of One God with One Love – mankind.

Have a great day!

Mark.