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A Note of Introduction Hello! I’m thrilled that you’re interested in studying God’s Word with me! Before you jump into this study, allow me to introduce myself and explain what this study is about. I am a full time wife and mom who loves to teach God’s Word through our local church and through blogging. These studies spring from my training in the Bible department at Cedarville University, alongside my own study of the Scriptures and time teaching Bible studies based on the Old Testament books. What you will find in this e-book is a continued “big picture” overview of God’s unfolding story of redemption. I trust that what I have written here will be useful and helpful for you, but in no way is this intended to be read in lieu of your own Bible study. In fact, as you progress through these studies I assume that you are reading and studying on your own as we go. These are my words, not God’s. While I strive to be accurate in my explanations and applications, and while I have found these things to be true in my study of the Scriptures, nothing can take the place of your own time reading the Bible itself. I pray that as you open your Bible that God will challenge and excite you through the study of His Word. I also pray that through looking at the “big picture” of what God is doing in history that you will gain a deeper understanding of your own need for Jesus Christ and grow in your daily walk with Him. May God bless you! -

^Ü|áà|

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
Colossians 2:6-7
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Judges: Take me to your Leader

Image from http://www.travelmania.com Today we will be transitioning into the book of Judges. [This is a long post - I apologize! By the way, no real meaning to the picture of the camel. Just thought it was cool. ;)] If you have never read through the book of Judges, or haven't done so in a while, this book will probably surprise you. Nay, shock you. If someone decided to make a movie based on Judges, I'm pretty sure none of us would go see it. The stories in this book go from bad to worse to horrifying. So, this brings up a question: Why is this in the Bible to begin with? If you haven't read these Bible study posts from the beginning, I encourage you to take a minute to read "So Why do we Have the Bible?". Remember that narratives in Scripture are not given to us to be moral guides, IE: "Samson slept with a prostitute, so it must be OK." Clearly, this violates the rest of Scripture. It's actually hard to find a story in Judges that doesn't violate the clear commands in the rest of Scripture! To figure out what is happening in this book, we need to start back to the end of Joshua. Yesterday, we looked at the people's response, or lack thereof, to Joshua's final plea to abandon the foreign gods among them and commit themselves to serving God alone. They were very enthusiastic about serving God, but seemed to be missing a major piece: throw out the foreign gods! Right there they have set themselves up for major spiritual failure which is vividly illustrated in the book of Judges. There is another element of Joshua's address that we need to look at, as well. Remember that as they enter the land, the entire army of Israel has wiped out the major coalitions of Canaanites, but as each tribe entered their own territories allotted to them by God they were to finish "mop up" operations and completely wipe out the Canaanites. First, read Joshua 23:5-13. The people had been told to drive the people out of the land. Why? The Canaanite culture was wicked and polytheistic. The Israelites' possession of the land was more than just God giving the land to His people; He was also wiping out a

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http://www.krististephens.com stronghold of sin and idolatry. Joshua clearly warned them what would happen if they failed to do this and had association with the people of Canaan: "But if you turn away and ally yourselves with the survivors of these nations that remain among you and if you intermarry with them and associate with them, then you may be sure that the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations before you. Instead, they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the LORD your God has given you. (Joshua 23:12-13) Now, flip over to Judges chapter 1: The LORD was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had iron chariots. As Moses had promised, Hebron was given to Caleb, who drove from it the three sons of Anak. The Benjamites, however, failed to dislodge the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the Benjamites. But Manasseh did not drive out the people of Beth Shan or Taanach or Dor or Ibleam or Megiddo and their surrounding settlements, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that land. When Israel became strong, they pressed the Canaanites into forced labor but never drove them out completely. Nor did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites living in Gezer, but the Canaanites continued to live there among them. Neither did Zebulun drive out the Canaanites living in Kitron or Nahalol, who remained among them; but they did subject them to forced labor. Nor did Asher drive out those living in Acco or Sidon or Ahlab or Aczib or Helbah or Aphek or Rehob, and because of this the people of Asher lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land. Neither did Naphtali drive out those living in Beth Shemesh or Beth Anath; but the Naphtalites too lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land, and those living in Beth Shemesh and Beth Anath became forced laborers for them. The Amorites confined the Danites to the hill country, not allowing them to come down into the plain. And the Amorites were determined also to hold out in Mount Heres, Aijalon and Shaalbim, but when the power of the house of Joseph increased, they too were pressed into forced labor. Judges 1:19-21, 27-35 The mop-up operations were a big fat failure. Why? Remember, God had promised to be with them - check out that story of Caleb and the Anakites that pops up again! If the 85 year old man can, through his great faith in God, drive out the giants of the land that scared the Israelites off to begin with, why are the tribes failing to clear the land? Lack of military power? ...or lack of faith? It's interesting to read God's appraisal of this situation in chapter 2:1-3 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 that I swore to give to your forefathers. I said, 'I will never break my covenant with you, 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? Now therefore I tell you that I will not drive them out before you; they will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you." (Does that wording sound

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http://www.krististephens.com familiar? Glance back up at Joshua 23:12-13) At the risk of making this post too long, there is one more thing we need to notice before diving into Judges. The book of Judges has a very clear structure. Ch. 1-3 - Scary preview of this book: they have disobeyed, and it will not go well. Ch. 3-16 - Downward spiral of spiritual and moral climate during the rule of the judges Ch. 17-21 - Two frightening stories that illustrate the problem During chapters 3-16, there is a four-step cycle that repeats 7 times. 1. The people sin and fall into idolatry (2:10-13) 2. They are oppressed by their enemies (2:14-15) 3. They call out to God in distress (2:15) 4. He raises up a judge to deliver them from their enemies (2:16) Then the judge dies and they repeat step one - only worse than before. (2:17-19) Now, hang onto that mentally and glance at the last verses of the book of Joshua. Two clear events occur in the final verses: Joshua dies, and Joseph's bones (which had been carried with them out of Egypt - fun fact: he likely would have been mummified as a ruler of Egypt!) are buried. The point: We desperately need a leader - we need THE Leader. These two great men are very obviously gone, and everything falls apart. Then God will raise up judges to lead the people, and every time they die, everything gets worse! Remember the "Land, Nation, Leader" promises from Genesis 12? We've got the land (well, partially), Israel is a nation, but that Leader promise is hauntingly empty. Want to know where we'd be without Jesus Christ? It's not a pretty picture - hang on to your hat as we dive into this book.

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Othniel and Ehud

I'm having a hard time knowing how to cover Judges, just because this book has a lot of detail that all fits together into a big picture - you have to sort of hold on to these things simultaneously in your mind to "get it." We started looking at the point of Judges yesterday, so we'll use that as our base - keep in mind that four-step cycle as we talk about the Judges themselves: 1. The people sin and fall into idolatry 2. They are oppressed by their enemies 3. They call out to God in distress 4. He raises up a judge to deliver them from their enemies Then the judge dies and they repeat step one - only worse than before. Other things to think about as we work through the book: *Progress from one story to the next, or what changes take place *How does each story make you feel? This book is supposed to evoke an affective response. *How does the treatment of women and the roles they take in each story relate to the main theme? The first "judge" or "deliverer" we encounter is Othniel. His story is short and sweet, and gets that four-step pattern going: The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD; they forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs. The anger of the LORD burned against Israel so that he sold them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim, to whom the Israelites were subject for eight years. But when they cried out to the LORD, he raised up for them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, who

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http://www.krististephens.com saved them. The Spirit of the LORD came upon him, so that he became Israel's judge and went to war. The LORD gave Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram into the hands of Othniel, who overpowered him. So the land had peace for forty years, until Othniel son of Kenaz died. (Judges 3:7-11) Not much to say here, except that I think it is interesting that Caleb's younger brother is the first deliverer raised up. This was one faith-ful family. Now, on to Ehud. Step One: Once again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD... Step Two: ...and because they did this evil the LORD gave Eglon king of Moab power over Israel. (3:12) Step Three: Again the Israelites cried out to the LORD... Step Four: ...and he gave them a deliverer—Ehud, a left-handed man, the son of Gera the Benjamite. (3:15) My dear friend Rachel can be happy - the left-handers are not forgotten. :) His handedness really does play into this story - you'll have to read it yourself to know that I am unfortunately not embellishing. Ehud goes to Eglon (who the text points out is a rather large dude) supposedly to bring him tribute money from Israel. He asks to speak to him privately, and when they are all alone, he stabs Eglon with his sword - the guards had frisked him upon entry but had checked the wrong side, not knowing that he was lefthanded. The story gets really pleasant here with a description of how the entire sword sank into his belly and the fat closed around the handle. Ew. So, how does this story make you feel? I think it is rather disgusting, almost crude - it would definitely appeal to junior high boys! The other questions don't really apply yet as we haven't gone through enough to see progress and there aren't any women specifically mentioned in this account. In order to not make this exceedingly long, we'll save Deborah for tomorrow. As always, I really do encourage you to read Judges in your Bible as we move through these posts. I feel strange not ending with a personal application, as I usually do... but again, I think we need to cover a lot of ground in Judges before we fully see the point, and then that will be the time for some application. And oh, Judges has some sobering application for us today.

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Women and their deadly nails

The next story we come to in our study of the book of Judges is Deborah and Barak. This is a really interesting story on many levels - we're just scratching the surface here. The first three verses of chapter 4 show that our pattern is repeating again: Step One: After Ehud died, the Israelites once again did evil in the eyes of the LORD. Step Two: So the LORD sold them into the hands of Jabin, a king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth Haggoyim. Because he had nine hundred iron chariots and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, Step Three: they cried to the LORD for help. So, then step four will follow: God will raise a judge to deliver them. The first interesting thing is that the judge at this time is Deborah, and obviously having a female judge is significant. I do want to point out that Deborah is referred to as a judge, but she calls Barak and tells him that God has called him to deliver the people from the oppression of Sisera. Deborah is not the same type of judge as the other main characters in this book - she is described as a prophetess, and although the same word for "judge" is used for her as many of the other judges, she was not in a warfare/deliverer role. God has called a man to fill the role of deliverer - the other thing that should stick out to us in this story is that he refuses to do it alone! She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, "The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you: 'Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead the way to Mount Tabor. I will lure Sisera, the commander of Jabin's army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.'" Barak said to her, "If you go with me, I will go; but if you don't go with me, I won't go." (4:6-8) First of all, man up, Barak. More importantly - why does he want Deborah to come with him? The wording here reminds me of something we heard Moses say back in Exodus, but in very different circumstances - he, too, was begging for Someone to go with him.

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http://www.krististephens.com Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people." Then he said to Him, "If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here..." Then Moses said, "I pray You, show me Your glory!" (Exodus 33:1518, NASB) Through a long process of being taught and refined by the Lord, Moses had been transformed in God's presence. He understood that if all else failed, he just wanted to be in the presence of God. To see His glory. If Barak really understood what it meant that "The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you," there is no way he'd need Deborah. I firmly believe that God made male and female with very different roles. Some have asked if Deborah was judging because a male was not close enough to God to fill that role. I'll leave that to roll around in your mind as I have no clear answer on that from the text! However, it IS clear that Deborah wasn't meant to be in battle gear leading the army - that was Barak's job. His lack of courage and commitment apart from his female counterpart is evidence of a lack of faith in God, not a shot in the arm for feminists. Ok, back to the story. Deborah tells Barak that because he won't go without her, the honor of killing Sisera will be given to a woman. Enter Jael and her deadly nails. Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, "Come, my Lord , come right in. Don't be afraid." So he entered her tent, and she put a covering over him. "I'm thirsty," he said. "Please give me some water." She opened a skin of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him up. "Stand in the doorway of the tent," he told her. "If someone comes by and asks you, 'Is anyone here?' say 'No.' " But Jael, Heber's wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died. (4:18-21) Lovely. Now let's think about this... Sisera is exhausted and thirsty. She meets him and comforts him, offering him a place to rest. He asks for water, but she gives him milk and covers him up. What is she doing? She's using her feminine capacity for nurturing and giving life, but she's doing it in order to kill him. And this is no quick easy murder! Notice that she doesn't just kill him - she drives the tent peg (not some little roofing nail. A TENT PEG.) all the way through his head into the ground. Now, if you flip to chapter five, you'll find a little song that Deborah and Barak sang about this battle. I'm sure you'll want to sing it to your children at bedtime tonight. "Most blessed of women be Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, most blessed of tent-dwelling women.

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http://www.krististephens.com He asked for water, and she gave him milk; in a bowl fit for nobles she brought him curdled milk. Her hand reached for the tent peg, her right hand for the workman's hammer. She struck Sisera, she crushed his head, she shattered and pierced his temple. At her feet he sank, he fell; there he lay. At her feet he sank, he fell; where he sank, there he fell-dead. Through the window peered Sisera's mother; behind the lattice she cried out, 'Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why is the clatter of his chariots delayed?' The wisest of her ladies answer her; indeed, she keeps saying to herself, 'Are they not finding and dividing the spoils: a girl or two for each man, colorful garments as plunder for Sisera, colorful garments embroidered, highly embroidered garments for my neck— all this as plunder?'" (5:24-30) Obviously, this is a glorification of Jael's violent victory over Sisera. There is another more coarse element to this song, as well. Toward the end of that passage quoted, they begin to mock Sisera's mother. She's looking through the window, wondering where her son is. They say that the wisest of her ladies (note the sarcasm there) assures her that they're just out enjoying the plunder - "boys will be boys." Dr. Miller pointed out when teaching this text that the Hebrew text is so coarse that it is not literally translated here in English - the text actually uses body parts to describe the "girl or two for every man." In other words, "You think your son is raping and pillaging our women? Guess what - he' in a woman's tent, all right... nailed to the ground." This is not a pretty look at Israel's culture. Now, remember our questions to consider as we go through Judges: *Progress from one story to the next, or what changes take place We've moved from the gross story of Ehud to something much worse. This is a glorification of brutality. And it's not men inflicting it. It's the women. *How does each story make you feel? This book is supposed to evoke an affective response. It's not a good take away feeling on my end, that's for sure! *How does the treatment of women and the roles they take in each story relate to the main theme? Deborah is put in a difficult position and pushed to fill a male role. Jael uses her feminine abilities to nurture and give life in order to savagely take life. Bad guy or not, it wasn't a

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http://www.krististephens.com pretty picture. I won't go in depth with personal application on this (again, we'll fill in the blanks more as we get the picture of Judges put together more), but I do want to point out the applications in the story of Jael. Women were designed by God with a powerful capacity and ability to give life. Biologically, socially, emotionally... we were intended to be nurturers and caretakers. The more coarse and ungodly a culture becomes, the more women turn into destroyers. Obviously abortion in my view is a literal murder of our children. In a more subtle and insidious way, we become destroyers as we use our life-giving abilities to control and destroy others. In the study "Five Aspects of Woman," Barbara Mouser comments on two disturbing accounts: the first is the famous story where two prostitutes come before Solomon disputing whose baby is alive and whose is dead, and Solomon determines the mother by ordering that the live baby be cut in two and divided between the women. While the false mother concedes to this plan, the actual mother steps in and says that she will allow the other woman to have the baby rather than see her child killed. In 2 Kings 6:28 there's a more shocking story of two women who were fighting over whose children they were going to eat during a famine. She remarks: "The point is, as people apostatize, their women become increasingly brutalized and brutal. Both of these lawsuits are shocking, but at least in the first case the women are suing to keep the baby. In the second case, the woman is suing to eat the baby. As any people turn away from God, there is a loss of the goodness of human nature; women are treated more and more harshly, and they become more and more harsh. We should note that these women are starving to death; they are in dire straits. We also have heard of women in history who starve themselves to feed their children, not eat their children to feed themselves." (5A, 156). A cursory glance at our culture will tell you where we are with this. Women becoming increasingly brutalized and brutal? Turn on the news. We have wandered far from the Leader, and it is taking its toll.

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Gideon: the cowardly lion turned mighty warrior!

Image from Bible Picture Gallery: http://www.instonebrewer.com/bpg2009 I love the story of Gideon... probably because it is one of the very few uplifting bright spots in the entire book of Judges! I also love it because I think most people will identify with it on some level. In chapter 6, we will not be surprised to find our four step process repeating yet again: Step One: Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD... Step Two: ...and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds. Step Three: Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the LORD for help. (Judges 6:1-2,6) So again, step four is coming: God will raise up a deliverer. This time it will be Gideon. Note how God calls Gideon Gideon was threshing wheat in a wine press to keep it from the Midianites. When the

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http://www.krististephens.com angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, "The LORD is with you, mighty warrior." (6:11b, 12) Oh, I love this! As my husband says, this is "gentle humor," but it cracks me up every single time. :) Gideon is threshing wheat. [Now, I have been a suburban/city girl my entire life, so my understanding of the threshing of wheat is admittedly limited. For those of you who are equally agriculturally challenged, I will do my best to explain.] Threshing is removing the wheat berries from the stalk. In order to thresh the wheat, they would beat it out and then toss it into the air to allow the wind to blow away the chaff. What would be the best place to do this? A hillside. Remember - you're looking for wind. But where do we find Gideon? A wine press! He's basically hiding underground threshing his wheat in an exceedingly unproductive way (was he tossing it in the air and blowing as hard as he could??) - it had to be pretty humiliating and frustrating to do it this way. So why is he? He's afraid of the Midianites. Now notice the address from the Lord (when you see "the angel of the Lord" in the Old Testament, it is usually a preincarnate appearance of Jesus! How do we know? Check verse 14 - suddenly it is the Lord talking to him. Often "the angel of the Lord" and "the Lord" are used interchangeably.) - how does Jesus refer to him? "Mighty warrior." Seriously, it almost makes me laugh out loud. It makes me laugh because it is ironic, but God isn't making fun of Gideon here. God sees Gideon for the man He will make him to be! Oh, let that sink in! All through chapter 6, "mighty warrior" does not seem to be Gideon's appropriate title. He's threshing in a wine press in verse 11. After God calls him to deliver Israel, Gideon answers in verse 15, "how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family." In verse 17-21, Gideon gives the Lord the first test - he prepares a meal and fire comes from a rock and consumes it. That should be fairly convincing, one would think. Next, he is told to go tear down his father's altar to Baal and Asherah pole. He does it, but "because he was afraid of his family and the men of the town, he did it at night rather than in the daytime." (27) Next, he prepares to go to war against Midian. Notice what he prays in verse 36: "If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised..." It's not that Gideon isn't sure what God wants here, or that God's revelation hadn't been crystal clear. He wants to know if God will really do what He already promised He would do! In order to "clarify" that God would keep his word, we now have the famous "Gideon's fleece" accounts. First he wants the fleece to be wet and the ground to be dry. God does it. Then he wants the fleece to be dry and the ground to be wet. God does it again! [Side note here: I have often heard people talk about "setting out a fleece." Remember, just because it's in a Biblical narrative does not mean that it is a good example. Gideon's fleece was not a request for clarification - it was a lack of faith. In Matthew 12, the Pharisees come to Jesus and ask to see a miraculous sign. He replies, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign!"(36) They knew and had seen more

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http://www.krististephens.com than enough - they were simply choosing not to believe. You don't need a fleece! Just believe Him and obey!] Chapter 7, though, is where we see what God saw in Gideon. He obviously did have the potential to be a brave leader, and he does it with gusto. Gideon starts out with 32,000 men ready to battle against Midian. God whittles the army first to 10,000, then to 300. Three hundred Israelites against the Amalekite and Midianite armies - check out how they are described. The Midianites, the Amalekites and all the other eastern peoples had settled in the valley, thick as locusts. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore. (7:36) Wow. This does not look like an even battle. God is making it abundantly clear to the Israelites that when they are victorious it is NOT because of them - it is because of their God. There is one more reference to our old fearful Gideon - I love that God knows him so intimately and reassures him without being asked: the night before the battle, God tells Gideon, "If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp." (7:10-11) I'll let you read the rest of the story on your own - it's a good one! Make sure you read it!! [We'll talk more in the next post about the rest of Gideon's life - he's not flawless, either.] Back to our initial point: God sees Gideon for the man He will make him to be! On his own, Gideon is a wimpy, doubting, fearful man. With God at his side, he does amazing things. God sees past his weaknesses and sees who he will be when He is done with him. No doubt, God has called each one of us to tasks that seem too big. We're hiding in the winepress feeling attacked, and there is no way we feel up to doing the giant things God has told us to do! Some days just staying up with the housework seems too big for me, let alone raising and protecting my children in a wicked culture, ministering to my husband when he has hit the wall, teaching God's Word to women who have twice my years and experience, and sharing the Truth with a lost and hurting world. I want to hide under the afghan on the couch and disengage. Step back from ministry, think about sending the kids to a traditional school, "protect" myself. What are your challenges? Chronically ill or disabled loved ones? Rifts and conflict in the family or your church body? A difficult marriage? A hostile work environment? Remember - God sees you for who He will make you to be. He knows who you are without Him. He's not impressed by us, but He knows His own strength and power to transform us and use us (despite our own failures!). In your weakness, believe in His strength. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed,

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http://www.krististephens.com he remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:13-14

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Abimelech: Gideon's antithesis

Image from Bible Picture Gallery: http://www.instonebrewer.com/bpg2009 At the end of Judges 8, we see our pattern of apostasy repeating again: No sooner had Gideon died than the Israelites again prostituted themselves to the Baals. They set up Baal-Berith as their god and did not remember the LORD their God, who had rescued them from the hands of all their enemies on every side. They also failed to show kindness to the family of Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) for all the good things he had done for them. (Judges 8:33-35) Now, that was step one. Remember, throughout Judges we have this four step process: 1. The people sin and fall into idolatry 2. They are oppressed by their enemies 3. They call out to God in distress 4. He raises up a judge to deliver them from their enemies Then the judge dies and they repeat step one - only worse than before. Notice what happens here, though. We have an anomaly in the pattern - always

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http://www.krististephens.com something to notice!! Abimelech son of Jerub-Baal went to his mother's brothers in Shechem and said to them and to all his mother's clan, "Ask all the citizens of Shechem, 'Which is better for you: to have all seventy of Jerub-Baal's sons rule over you, or just one man?' Remember, I am your flesh and blood." (Judges 9:1-2) Whoa, whoa, whoa. Who said all 70 of the sons of Jerub-Baal (Remember, that was Gideon's nickname - "He who fights against Baal") were going to rule? Back in Judges 8:23, we looked at Gideon's statement about rulership: But Gideon told them, "I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The LORD will rule over you." The Lord is the King of Israel. When they are oppressed, HE has raised up deliverers for Israel. Notice that this time, Abimelech is appointing himself! This story does not go well. Abimelech slaughters all of his brothers and sets himself up as a self-appointed ruler. God turns the city of Shechem (the ones who followed him to begin with) against him, and they begin to ambush and rob people who are passing through the hills near them in opposition to Abimelech. It ends up being a strange civil war; Abimelech wipes out the entire city of Shechem, besieges another city, and is mortally wounded when a woman drops a millstone on his head from the tower in the city. Abimelech doesn't want to die at the hands of a woman, so he has his armor-bearer kill him with a sword. Warm and cozy! Now, we're going to go back to those questions we're keeping in mind as we work through this book: *What is the progress from one story to the next, or what changes take place? What stands out to me here is that now we have an Israelite killing off his family and countrymen and appointing himself as the leader, rather than God raising up a leader to deliver his people from outside oppression. *How does each story make you feel? I definitely am marking "Abimelech" off the list of possible names for any future sons... *How does the treatment of women and the roles they take in each story relate to the main theme? Not a whole lot new, here - we pretty much covered it in "Women and their Deadly Nails." We've got a woman hefting a millstone off the city tower, and a man so ashamed to be killed by her that he commits assisted suicide. Pretty pictures all around. We're not going to go too much deeper into this here - Abimelech's story is just adding to our overall downward spiral in Judges. However, I do want to point out that Abimelech is Gideon's son. It's intriguing to me how many times we see this pattern in Scripture where the son or grandchildren of a spiritual leader ends up to be completely set against God - I also discussed this topic in "Memory Loss," so I won't beat a dead horse. But again, what is happening here? As parents, it should be a huge challenge to us: we must pass on the

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http://www.krististephens.com Truth. I was recently listening to a message from Alistair Begg on parenting, and he was talking about the hesitancy of people, even genuine believers, in our day to "indoctrinate" their children - in many cases we've bought this lie that we need to let them explore and discover "their own truth," "decide for themselves what is best," etc. He pointed out that as parents, our main job is "indoctrination" - putting doctrine in. Teaching them, training them, imparting wisdom to them. In classic Alistair style he said, "what is this if it's not indoctrination - this is the way we brush our teeth, brush our teeth, brush our teeth..." If I would take it as my parental job to train my kids to properly brush their teeth, why would I not take it as my deep responsibility to train them how to properly understand God and His Truth? It is a high calling - may God strengthen us for the task. Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works. Psalm 145:3-5

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Jephthah: Jephthah: the danger of serving God without knowing Him

Image from wikipedia The story of Jephthah in chapters 10-12 begins in a predictable manner with our four step process surfacing once again: Step One: Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD. They served the Baals and the Ashtoreths, and the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites and the gods of the Philistines. Step Two: And because the Israelites forsook the LORD and no longer served him, he became angry with them. He sold them into the hands of the Philistines and the Ammonites, who that year shattered and crushed them..." Step Three: But the Israelites said to the LORD, "We have sinned. Do with us whatever you think best, but please rescue us now." Then they got rid of the foreign gods among them and served the LORD. And he could bear Israel's misery no longer. Step Four (modified!): Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior. His father was Gilead; his mother was a prostitute. Gilead's wife also bore him sons, and when they were grown up, they drove Jephthah away. "You are not going to get any inheritance in our family," they said, "because you are the son of another woman." So Jephthah fled from his brothers and settled in the land of Tob, where a group of adventurers gathered around him and followed him. (Judges 10:6-7, 15-16; 11:1-3) First of all, that should jump out to you again that Jephthah doesn't completely fit the pattern: he isn't directly appointed by God. He's a despised man, driven from his home by his half-brothers because his mother was a prostitute. If you continue reading in chapter 11, you'll see that the elders of Gilead come to him and ask him to lead them in fighting against the Ammonites. Jephthah really does start out well - he has a clear understanding that God is the ruler and director of affairs for Israel. (11:23-27) As he goes out into battle, however, we see him

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http://www.krististephens.com rashly make a vow: Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah. He crossed Gilead and Manasseh, passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from there he advanced against the Ammonites. And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD : "If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD's, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering." (11:29-31) The plot becomes much more disturbing at the end of the chapter: When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of tambourines! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, "Oh! My daughter! You have made me miserable and wretched, because I have made a vow to the LORD that I cannot break." "My father," she replied, "you have given your word to the LORD. Do to me just as you promised, now that the LORD has avenged you of your enemies, the Ammonites. But grant me this one request," she said. "Give me two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends, because I will never marry." "You may go," he said. And he let her go for two months. She and the girls went into the hills and wept because she would never marry. After the two months, she returned to her father and he did to her as he had vowed. And she was a virgin. (11:34-39) WHAT?!? This story is a great example where you can end up with a horrible, blasphemous, and sickening view of God if you don't know how to read Biblical narrative. Remember, as discussed way back in the post "So why do we have the Bible?", Biblical narratives are not given to us to prescriptively tell us how to live. Many, many times the people described in Biblical narratives are doing the OPPOSITE of God's prescribed will in the rest of Scripture! Take note of that - you cannot read narratives divorced from the rest of Scripture. So, what does the rest of the Bible say about Japheth sacrificing his daughter? Throughout the Old Testament, references are made to the pagan cultures which surrounded Israel engaging in human sacrifice. Horrible practices that involved burning their infant children should have repulsed the Israelites and caused them to cling all the more to the holy and righteous God that they served. Unfortunately, that was not always the result. Jeremiah 32:35 points out that even Israel had so abandoned their devotion to the one True God, and had strayed so far from His Truth, that they had engaged in this practice themselves. They built the high places of Baal that are in the valley of Ben-hinnom to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I had not

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http://www.krististephens.com commanded them nor had it entered My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin. It's obvious that God is far from pleased by this practice. So, what gives with Japheth? Is God ok with it in this instance since Jephthah vowed he would do it? Was it pleasing to Him? I believe that Jephthah is a horrifying case of what happens when we think we are serving God, but don't really know Him or what He requires. Sincerity is not enough, folks. Jephthah was sincere, and he was sincerely wrong. In his efforts to please God, he did something that should have been obviously completely contrary to what God would have wanted. Burnt offerings were supposed to be acts of complete devotion, a pleasing aroma to the Lord. I am quite confident that the act of slaying and burning his own daughter to ashes was repugnant, not pleasing, in the sight of God. The Israelites had worshipped false gods for so long, that even when they turned back to God, they didn't know who He really was and what He fundamentally wanted. Jephthah had probably absorbed so much of the pagan philosophies around him that this seemed reasonable and good, when it should have been appalling. Add to that the fact that his family was an utter disaster (obviously he inherited a great set of values from his parents), and the end is somewhat predictable. I've discussed this before, so I will only briefly comment: if we do not know our God, we don't even know what He requires!! It might sound great to us, and even be applauded as pious and excellent by the people around us, but we could actually be in direct opposition to His will. We must worship Him in Spirit AND in TRUTH. Now, briefly back to our questions to consider as we go through Judges: Progression from one story to the next? *I think it's noteworthy that even when they are trying to serve God, they're acting contrary to His will. How does it make you feel? *Pretty sick and angry! *How are women treated? *I think this is obvious! Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the LORD is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed. I Samuel 2:3

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Gideon's ephod

Image from http://www.encyclopedia.com We're picking our study of Judges back up today and are still on the account of Gideon. Now, for our purposes of this study, I'm not going to go into great detail with this, but I want to mention that the general structure of the book of Judges is such that the accounts of Gideon and Abimelech, his antithesis, are emphasized. Why? Remember back to our last post - Gideon is not a faultless leader, that's for sure, but he has a couple of things straight [in the next post we'll look at Abimelech's contrast to these two points]: 1. As already covered, although not specifically discussed, Gideon knows that God, not Baal, is the God of Israel. Remember back to chapter 6:25-32 - his first act of obedience as Israel's appointed judge and deliverer was to tear down his father's altar to Baal and the Asherah pole next to it. The people of the town end up naming him "Jerub-baal" - meaning "he who fights against Baal." 2. Gideon knows that God, not Gideon, is the King of Israel. Check out Judges 8:22-23 - The Israelites said to Gideon, "Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson—because you have saved us out of the hand of Midian." But Gideon told them, "I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The LORD will rule over you." Well done, Gideon. God is king, no one else. However, I mentioned in the last post that unfortunately Gideon doesn't end on the greatest note. In the next verses, immediately after turning down the offer of becoming king, we find the crucial mistake in his tenure of leadership. 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.) They answered, "We'll be glad to give them." So they spread out a garment, and each man threw a ring from his plunder onto it. The weight of the gold rings he asked for came to seventeen hundred shekels, 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. 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. (Judges 8:24-27)

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http://www.krististephens.com Why did he make a golden ephod? John MacArthur states, "This was certainly a sad end to Gideon's influence as he, perhaps in an expression of pride, sought to lift himself up in the eyes of the people. Gideon intended nothing more than to make a breastplate as David later did (I Chr. 15:27) to indicate civil rule, not priestly rule. It was never intended to set up idolatrous worship, but to be a symbol of civil power." This is quite convicting to me. I think pride is definitely the temptation that Satan likes to lob my way most frequently, unfortunately because it's one that trips me up often. Perhaps outwardly I make the right choice, and keep God in the place of honor He deserves. But how easy it is to somehow keep some of that glory for myself. To either mentally our outwardly set myself apart from those around me. And even if this is not done in an overtly malicious way, it's end will be the same as Gideon's mistake was: idolatry. I will begin to worship and honor myself, and sadly, others can be led to do the same thing. To give a human being honor and adoration that God alone deserves. It started out small - "all I ask is..." and it ends with a nation being led further into idolatry. As fallen humans, everything about us is messed up by sin. My ability to reason, my emotions, my will... everything is skewed. It is frighteningly easy to convince ourselves that we are living correctly and that God would be pleased with us. As I pondered this, I thought of this verse: The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9) Only God can examine our hearts and see the sin that lies undetected even by our own well-intentioned introspection. The next verse in Jeremiah 17 says, "I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind..." One of my favorite passages in the Psalms speaks to this also: "Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer." (Psalm 19:12-14) Oh, Lord, search my heart! It is so easy to deceive myself, and even easier to deceive others. You, alone, know the hidden faults buried deep in my heart and mind. We are frequently handed honor and praise by those around us. Lord, teach us how to truly deflect that to You alone. How tempting to keep some of that praise for ourselves, just as Gideon asked only for one tiny token from each person. But you alone are God, and you alone are King. And you alone deserve all of the praise. "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12

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Samson: Strong Man Gone Bad

Image from Bible Picture Gallery: http://www.instonebrewer.com/bpg2009 Ah, Samson. Just the name conjures up images of Stretch Armstrong toys from my childhood - blond with rippling muscles... and no brain. I like to think of Samson as the "dumb jock" deliverer! However, I don't think this was the scenario God wanted him to play out - he was born with great potential. If you read Judges 13, you'll find that Samson has quite a good start in life - a miraculous birth foretold to a barren woman. Set apart to God from conception. He's in good company here - Isaac, Jacob and Esau, John the Baptist... God instructs Samson's mother and father that he is to be brought up as a Nazirite (another parallel with John the Baptist). So, what's a Nazirite? Numbers 6 contains the regulations for a person who wants to take a special vow of separation to the Lord by becoming a Nazirite. The instructions given to Samson's parents parallel these stipulations in Numbers:

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http://www.krististephens.com 1. No grapes, wine, or other fermented drink. Why? The Nazarite was to be in control at all times. 2. No haircuts. Why? The Nazirite was to be unashamed of his open dedication to the Lord. 3. No close association with death. Why? Death has no place in God's presence. [In my opinion, a strong argument against Halloween. But, that's another topic entirely.] Wow, things are looking up! God has set a man apart from conception to be the leader and deliverer of Israel. He is going to be a man wholly and unashamedly devoted to the Lord! Add super-human strength, and bingo - he's the whole package! Sadly, this is not how we see the story playing out. Please read chapters 13-16 on your own, as we won't go through all of the events together - there are just a couple of things I'd like to highlight. First of all, how does he do on sticking to his lifelong dedication as a Nazarite? He obviously doesn't cut his hair (well, until Delilah gives him a makeover), and we don't see him drinking wine... however, was he in control at all times, focused in his service of the Lord? Yeah, not so much - hold on to that thought and we'll come back to it. How about that death thing? That weird part of the story with him scooping honey out of the lion carcass... not on the "Nazarite diet." One more obvious account where he flagrantly violates this: slaying 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey. This man also has a shockingly small amount of self-control, if any - he is completely ruled by his appetites. Chapter 14:2-7 pictures this well. The way he talks about the woman he wants to marry (who, by the way, is a Philistine) is really odd: "I saw a woman in Timnah... get her for me..." (14:2) "Get her for me, for she looks good to me" (14:3) "So he went down and talked to the woman; and she looked good to Samson." (14:7) This gets even more interesting in chapter 16. Samson goes to Gaza and spends the night with a prostitute. (Enough said, right?) The people hear that he's there and are lying in wait for him. Samson, however, gets up in the middle of the night and tears out the city gate and carries it on his shoulders to the mountain opposite Hebron. This might not strike you from reading the text, so let's talk about that a bit. First of all, the city gate. 16:3 says he "took hold of the doors of the city gate, together with the two posts, and tore them loose, bar and all." If you have never seen pictures of what the city gates at this time period looked like, this might not seem impressive. Get that image of a little garden gate out of your head. Remember, the walls around a city were your primary mode of defense in these days. The weakest point of the wall was obviously the gate. So they made these gates HUGE, and I'm sure they were reinforced in any possible way they knew how! So, he rips this ginormous gate out, puts it on his shoulders, and takes it... to the mountain opposite Hebron. Hebron was 40 miles east, and 3,300 feet up from Gaza!

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http://www.krististephens.com Samson was unmatched when it came to physcial strength, but is sorely lacking in moral and spiritual strength. He's consumed with and controlled by lust. He disregards the sacredness of his calling and uses his physical strength for his own fleshly desires for sex, control, and revenge. One more comment about Delilah. I won't spend much time here since most people are familiar with this story. Was he really that stupid? Every single time Delilah asks what would make him able to be overpowered, he tells her something, and the next thing he knows, she's tried it and has a bunch of Philistines trying to take him down! My suggestion for consideration is: I don't think he didn't figure it out. Rather, I think he was so impressed with himself that he thought he could fight his way out. Notice that after she shaves his head, the text says: He awoke from his sleep and thought, "I'll go out as before and shake myself free." But he did not know that the LORD had left him. (16:20) I think Samson so disregarded the supernatural source of his power, felt so sure of his own strength and ability, that he cast aside his call to obedience and thought he could make it on his own. Several items for your reflection and application, and then I'll be done: 1. God still used Samson even in all of his lustful, perverted ways. How do we deal with that? The reality is that God is in control, and He can use anyone He wants to accomplish His plans. Now, ponder this: Hebrews 11 lists Samson among those of great faith! ...but that doesn't make him flawless. God is the real hero of the story. Every time. He doesn't use us because we have it all together - it's all about Him. 2. That being said, as soon as start thinking of ourselves as the source of our own strength, we're in deep trouble. We can start living life like Samson with Delilah - "I'll never fall to temptation," "that would never happen to me," "look at those poor people being deceived," etc. Pretty soon the Philistines are on top of us - we have trusted in ourselves and we will quickly realize that we're only human after all. Remember Peter walking on the water? He wasn't able to do it because he had power in and of himself - he walked on the water through the power of relying fully on Jesus Christ. 3. Finally, Samson is one more example of how poorly we often teach the Bible to children. Samson is not just a big strong guy who does amazing things. He is a fallen, flawed, messed up man who did some incredibly stupid things. But His God was big enough to use even him and whatever faith he had to help deliver His people. Once again, it's all about God!

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Every man did that which was right in his own eyes

Image from Bible Picture Gallery: http://www.instonebrewer.com/bpg2009 Samson is the last detailed look we have at the specific judges, or deliverers, that rule over Israel during this time period. If you remember back to the first posts on Judges, I said that this book falls into a fairly neat outline: Ch. 1-3 - Scary preview of this book: they have disobeyed, and it will not go well. Ch. 3-16 - Downward spiral of spiritual and moral climate during the rule of the judges Ch. 17-21 - Two frightening stories that illustrate the problem Today we will look at the first of those last two stories - it involves a man named Micah, a Levite from Bethlehem, and the tribe of Dan. Please read chapters 17-18 on your own, as we will be leaving a lot of details out. This story begins with Micah, who tells his mother that he is the one who stole her silver. What might you expect a good mother to do? Deal with the issue of stealing, perhaps? Nope. Then his mother said, "The LORD bless you, my son!" When he returned the eleven hundred shekels of silver to his mother, she said, "I solemnly consecrate my silver to the LORD for my son to make a carved image and a cast idol. I will give it back to you." (17:2b-3)

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http://www.krististephens.com There are so many things wrong with this story already. She blesses him for stealing. Then she says she will consecrate her silver to the Lord... "to make a carved image and a cast idol." What!? You're consecrating this to the Lord to make an IDOL? It's doesn't take a PhD in Old Testament theology to know that she's way off base. Ok, so now Micah has his idols from his mother's silver. He puts them and an ephod (again, I don't really know the significance of that and if it ties into Gideon's ephod...) and some other things in his own personal shrine, and sets his son up as a his own private priest. How nice. Notice that they were from the tribe of Ephraim, not Levi, and his son was an illegal priest over idolatrous images in Micah's own shrine of idolatrous worship. Now, catch the next verse: In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit. (17:6) Next, we find that a young Levite leaves to look for another place to stay. (This also is disobedient, as the Lord had prescribed certain cities where the Levites were to live throughout the tribes of Israel.) He comes to Micah's house, and when Micah finds out that he is a Levite, he asks him to stay on, and he would pay him to be his priest. Isn't this better, to have a disobedient Levite as your priest over your shrine of idols, rather than your son who is from the wrong tribe? Apparently, Micah thinks it is, for verse 13 says, And Micah said, "Now I know that the LORD will be good to me, since this Levite has become my priest." In 18:1, we see a repetition of 17:6, In those days Israel had no king. Then, we find the tribe of Dan looking for a place to live. And in those days the tribe of the Danites was seeking a place of their own where they might settle, because they had not yet come into an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. (18:1) Now, before you feel badly for the Danites and think that they are just looking for a place to live, remember back to chapter 1 of Judges. We discussed in Judges: Take me to your Leader that the tribes failed to obey and trust the Lord to claim their land as their own. The Danites were no exception. They, too, had been allotted a specific tract of land from the Lord, and they had failed to take it as their own. Judges 1:34 says that the Amorites confined the Danites to the hill country, not allowing them to come down into the plain. The tribe of Dan had failed to obey God's command to posses the land, and now they were wandering around looking for someone else's land that they could take. They are passing by and hear the Levite's voice. They go in and find out that he has been hired as Micah's priest, and they ask him to inquire of God about whether or not their journey will be successful. Notice that the text never says that he did this! He assures them that their journey "has the Lord's approval." (18:6) (The disobedient priest over an idolatrous shrine assures the disobedient tribe looking to steal land that is not theirs that God approves of them? I think not.) So, the spies from the Danites go check out the land and decide that they want to take it. Six hundred armed men from the tribe join them, and on their way they pass by Micah's

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http://www.krististephens.com house again. Then the five men who had spied out the land of Laish said to their brothers, "Do you know that one of these houses has an ephod, other household gods, a carved image and a cast idol? Now you know what to do." (18:14) Yes, this house has a whole bunch of idols! What should the obvious answer have been to "you know what to do!"? Leviticus 17:2-7 makes the answer to that question crystal clear: If a man or woman living among you in one of the towns the LORD gives you is found doing evil in the eyes of the LORD your God in violation of his covenant, and contrary to my command has worshiped other gods, bowing down to them or to the sun or the moon or the stars of the sky, and this has been brought to your attention, then you must investigate it thoroughly. If it is true and it has been proved that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, take the man or woman who has done this evil deed to your city gate and stone that person to death. On the testimony of two or three witnesses a man shall be put to death, but no one shall be put to death on the testimony of only one witness. The hands of the witnesses must be the first in putting him to death, and then the hands of all the people. You must purge the evil from among you. So, if the Danites are obedient Israelites who are seeking to follow the Lord, we expect them to find out if this is true, and then stone Micah and the Levite to death. Idolatry was that serious. So, let's see if that's what happens... So they turned in there and went to the house of the young Levite at Micah's place and greeted him. The six hundred Danites, armed for battle, stood at the entrance to the gate. The five men who had spied out the land went inside and took the carved image, the ephod, the other household gods and the cast idol while the priest and the six hundred armed men stood at the entrance to the gate. When these men went into Micah's house and took the carved image, the ephod, the other household gods and the cast idol, the priest said to them, "What are you doing?" They answered him, "Be quiet! Don't say a word. Come with us, and be our father and priest. Isn't it better that you serve a tribe and clan in Israel as priest rather than just one man's household?" Then the priest was glad. He took the ephod, the other household gods and the carved image and went along with the people. Putting their little children, their livestock and their possessions in front of them, they turned away and left. (Judges 18:15-21) They did the opposite of obedience! Leviticus warned solemnly to purge the evil of idolatry from their midst. Rather than purging, they embraced this idolatry and took it to be their own! Then the text says that Micah and other men from his household chase after them, and in their confrontation he says, You took the gods I made, and my priest, and went away. What else do I have? What a horribly sad statement! What else do you have?? Try Yahweh, the True God of Israel!! So, the Danites continue on their way, and the description of their conquest is disturbing. Then they took what Micah had made, and his priest, and went on to Laish, against a peaceful and unsuspecting people. They attacked them with the sword and burned down their city. There was no one to rescue them because they lived a long way from Sidon and

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http://www.krististephens.com had no relationship with anyone else. (18:27-28) But it gets worse. There the Danites set up for themselves the idols, and Jonathan son of Gershom, the son of Moses, and his sons were priests for the tribe of Dan until the time of the captivity of the land. (18:30) Moses' own grandson and his family were the priests over this wicked scene. Every man was doing as he saw fit, and they were woefully, horribly wrong. As we saw in the story of Jephthah, their understanding of God was so skewed that they thought he would bless this flagrant rebellion against His nature and His word. Hold on, because the next story gets even worse... In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit. Judges 17:6

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Every man did that which was right in his own eyes (Part two)
The last story was bad, but this one does get worse, unfortunately! This next account primarily involves a Levite, his concubine, and the tribe of Benjamin. Again, please read Judges 19-21 to get all the details. The Levite's exact relationship to the woman is a little fuzzy - the text refers to her both as his concubine, and also as his wife. Anyway, she has left him for some reason, and after a while he follows her and stays with her and her father; after a few days, he decides it's time to leave her father's house and get on their way. When they were near Jebus and the day was almost gone, the servant said to his master, "Come, let's stop at this city of the Jebusites and spend the night." His master replied, "No. We won't go into an alien city, whose people are not Israelites. We will go on to Gibeah." He added, "Come, let's try to reach Gibeah or Ramah and spend the night in one of those places." So they went on, and the sun set as they neared Gibeah in Benjamin. There they stopped to spend the night. They went and sat in the city square, but no one took them into his home for the night. (19:11-12) Implication? He wants to stay among Israelites, presumably to be safer. They arrive in Gibeah, and no one will take them in. During these times, strangers to a town would wait in the city square for someone to offer hospitality and let them stay for the night. Finally, an old man comes in from the fields and invites them into his home for shelter. The next events are so appalling I will just quote the text. While they were enjoying themselves, some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, "Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him." The owner of the house went outside and said to them, "No, my friends, don't be so vile. Since this man is my guest, don't do this disgraceful thing. Look, here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine. I will bring them out to you now, and you can use them and do to them whatever you wish. But to this man, don't do such a disgraceful thing." But the men would not listen to him. So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight. When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. He said to her, "Get up; let's go." But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home. When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel. Everyone who saw it said, "Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt.

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http://www.krististephens.com Think about it! Consider it! Tell us what to do!" (Judges 19:22-30) What does this awful story remind you of? Hopefully, it's ringing a bell - it's written very much in parallel with Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19. And in both cases, the men who should have been the leaders and protectors in the situation offer the women of the house in exchange for themselves! It's also disturbing to note that the Levite apparently slept all night, or at least stayed in bed, until getting up to continue on his journey. You see absolutely no concern for the welfare of this woman. After unspeakable evil committed against her, she apparently drags herself back to the house and dies with her hands on the threshold. He must have stepped over her to get out of the door and then just says, "Get up. Let's go." All of the tribes are outraged after receiving the "message" from the Levite. They assemble together to attack the tribe of Benjamin. After several days of battle, only a few hundred men are left from Benjamin. All of the other tribes take an oath to not give their daughters in marriage to a Benjamite, but then they realize that the entire tribe will be extinguished with no women for the survivors to marry. The solution? They realize that no one from the town of Jabesh Gilead came to help them, so they decide to go up and slaughter the entire city except for the virgin women. 400 virgins are taken captive and given to the surviving Benjamites, but there aren't enough to go around. Then the brilliant plan develops to have the Benjamites who don't have wives hide in the vineyards during a festival to the Lord that was to be held in Shiloh. While the young women were dancing, they each ran out and kidnapped a bride! Notice how they justify this: When their fathers or brothers complain to us, we will say to them, 'Do us a kindness by helping them, because we did not get wives for them during the war, and you are innocent, since you did not give your daughters to them.' (Judges 21:22) Oh, well in that case, I guess it's ok. ?? This story is confusing - God apparently approves of the outrage against this unspeakable evil committed in the tribe of Benjamin and directs that Judah will lead the battle against them. This is consistent with the law - as the passage I quoted from Leviticus states, when such evil was uncovered in Israel, they were to blot it out. It sounds cruel to us, but again, we must remember: God is a HOLY God. It was unacceptable for the people called by His name to act in such utter wickedness. If Sodom and Gommorah were destroyed for this kind of evil, how much more the people who have God living amongst them? Notice, however, that the text does NOT show God giving approval for any of the rest of the story - the mutilation of this young woman's body, the slaughter of Jabesh Gilead, and the kidnapping of women to provide wives. The last verse of the book of Judges is haunting and familiar: In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit. (21:25) In the next post, I will look more at the overall message of Judges and tie some things

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http://www.krististephens.com together. Today I just want to leave you with this thought: what happens to humanity when we shrug off the authority of God and a standard for Truth outside of our own personal feelings and judgement? What does the book of Judges have to say to us today? There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers. Proverbs 6:16-19

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Judges wrap up: so what is this strange book all about?

Image from Bible Picture Gallery: http://www.instonebrewer.com/bpg2009 We made it through Judges! Judges is a strange book for so many reasons. I find it strange because it's an easy read - all exciting and intriguing stories - yet I get to the end and feel awful! This is no mistake - narratives like these are meant to elicit an emotional response. To what end? In our first post on Judges, we mentioned that the last chapters of Joshua are crucial to understanding the mess that they are in during the book of Judges (see You Can't Add God to your Pantheon). They have not rejected idolatry and it lands them in a heap of trouble - remember Gideon's ephod? Jephthah's horrible misunderstanding of the demands of God? Micah's household idols made out of stolen silver dedicated to the Lord? All of these strange cases resulted from embracing idolatry and trying to somehow mesh it together with the worship of Yahweh. Not only did this destroy the nation spiritually, it caused an increasing decay of morality.

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http://www.krististephens.com One of the things we were watching for as we worked through the book was the progression from one story to the next. We started back with Ehud, which included some disgusting detail, but it's not too bad when held against the others in the book! Then we moved on to Jael, with the warm and cozy story of this woman nailing a man to the ground inside her tent. As we continued we covered Samson and his lustful, fleshly perversions of the calling God had on his life, then to Micah and the tribe of Dan's immoral slaughter of the town of Laish, and finally ended with the sickening account of the Levite and his concubine, the attack against Jabesh Gilead, and kidnapping women during a festival to the Lord. Notice a progression? We're moving from bad to worse, from God-appointed leaders delivering the people from enemies to people murdering and mutilating for their own selfish ends. What about the other topic we were observing as we moved through: how the role and treatment of women is seen? This, too, goes from bad to worse. From Jael using her maternal instincts to brutally kill a man to a woman being gang raped, left for dead, and dismembered as a "message" to Israel. It ain't pretty. As the overall culture of Israel decays and moves farther and farther from the fear of God, women suffer the effects most vividly. As mentioned back in the story of Jael, women become increasingly brutalized and brutal as a culture moves farther from God. We were created in the image of God. We were meant to be rational and relational beings, created to rule over the earth as stewards, and given the capacity as men and women to glorify God and picture His relationship with mankind through marriage and proper sexual relationship. As mankind plunges into sin and refuses to fear the Lord, we turn into animal-like beings who are irrational, selfish, sexually perverted, and destructive and abusive to one another and everything around us. Left to our own devices, want to know what we would be? Take Judges 17-21 to heart. This is a real story about real people who rejected God and instead lived a nightmare. We need God. We NEED a Savior, for we cannot and will not reach back to Him on our own. This is the significance of the repetition toward the end of Judges: there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes. Remember our "Land, Nation, Leader" promise from Genesis 12? Judges points out how hauntingly empty we are without that promised Leader! We need the True King, we need a Savior! As we approach the celebration of Christmas, keep the book of Judges in mind. Jesus was not just a cute baby who would someday show us how to be kind and good and loving. He was all of that, but He was so much more. He was the promised Redeemer. Without Him, without His death on our behalf, without His transforming grace, our righteousness is filthy rags. Without Him and His grace, we all would be somewhere in the pages of Judges. Maybe we wouldn't look as bad as some in this book, but remember Jephthah even his sincere attempt at worship was corrupt and disgusting. We desperately needed the Leader, and in His perfect timing, He came. For to us a child is born,

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http://www.krististephens.com to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

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The refreshment of Ruth

Image from Bible Picture Gallery: http://www.instonebrewer.com/bpg2009 We're finally back to our OT study! I apologize for the long break between posts - with our traveling this Christmas serious blogging had to be set aside. Now that we're home, unpacked, and (relatively) sane, we can pick up where we left off! This will be our only post on Ruth. Most people are probably somewhat familiar with the book, and it's a quick and enjoyable read, so please take some time to read it in your own Bible or at Biblegateway.com. Since it's been a while, you may also want to revisit our Judges wrapup. Why are we still referring to Judges, you ask? The text itself directs us to do so! Check out Ruth 1:1, "In the days when the judges ruled..." So what? The book begins with sad irony; there is a famine in Bethlehem - Bethlehem actually means "the house of bread." Naomi points out that she left full and has been brought back empty. Noami means "pleasant," and she asks to be called Mara, or "bitter." So, now we find two widows journeying back to Israel alone.

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If you think back through our survey of Judges, we saw repeatedly the increasing degradation of women throughout the book - it is important to note that this occurs during the same time period! After reading Judges, what might you fear would be the outcome for these two defenseless women? Thankfully, this book offers us a much different story. All through Ruth, we have a model of masculinity in Boaz that is very much in contrast with the preceding book. He is a giver, a server of those even beneath his own social status. Every time Ruth comes to him empty, and he sends her away full. Notice even the way his workers greet him when he meets them in the fields! Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, "The LORD be with you!" "The LORD bless you!" they called back. (Ruth 2:4) He always refers to Ruth with utmost tenderness and respect, and seeks to spare her any embarrassment or disgrace. God uses one godly man to preserve and bless both Naomi and Ruth, and then we find at the conclusion of the book that he would become the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather of King David. (and therefore Jesus is in his line, as well!) In the Judges wrap-up, we observed the following: We were created in the image of God. We were meant to be rational and relational beings, created to rule over the earth as stewards, and given the capacity as men and women to glorify God and picture His relationship with mankind through marriage and proper sexual relationship. As mankind plunges into sin and refuses to fear the Lord, we turn into animal-like beings who are irrational, selfish, sexually perverted, and destructive and abusive to one another and everything around us. Samson is a perfect example of perverted masculinity, and unfortunately, he probably fits better with most people's mental image of a "manly man." He's big and gruff and strong, takes what he wants, uses women as objects, humiliates his enemies. Boaz shows us a picture of masculinity, although still fallen, operating in right relationship with God and others. Rather than seeking to get, he gives. Rather than using his power to abuse, he loves and cares for others. Rather than oppressing, he gives freedom to those around him. Ruth is also a beautiful picture of godly femininity; she is strong but tender, willing to sacrifice everything to follow the God she knows to be true, a self-starting thinker who serves and submits herself to those in authority over her, a grateful woman who is undemanding and humble. We saw women in Judges using their nurturing capacity in order to take away life, but Ruth gives life to the people around her. As discussed in Ephesians 5, wives and husbands picture the relationship of Christ and the church. Ruth epitomizes the humble, submissive spirit that all believers must have when we approach our Savior and Lord, and she plays it out for us on a human level in her interactions with Boaz. "I am your servant Ruth," she said. "Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer." (Ruth 3:9) I know that Christians are all over the map when it comes to understanding and accepting God-given gender roles. Wherever you are on that journey, take the book of Ruth to heart

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http://www.krististephens.com today. When you consider masculinity and femininity in our general culture, we are obviously more in line with the book of Judges. How about in our modern church? Which do we line up with more? How about in your own life? Are you a Jael or a Ruth? A Samson or a Boaz? Please don't skim over it lightly - your answer to that question radically impacts the direction of your life, our churches, our world. God has worked deeply in my heart in recent years about this issue, so if you're struggling with the thought I understand! But, please don't underestimate the high calling we have as women, as wives, and mothers! God grant us the grace to trust You more! This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:32-33

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