Matthew 10:26-42 Study Notes

Matthew 10:26-42      Study Notes prepared by WC McCarter from D. A. Carson’s Commentary
Next we get a series of verses about fear. Persecution will obviously cause fear. Remember, where we are in Matthew 10. Jesus is sending out His twelve and has warned them about the opposition they will face. “Do not be afraid” is used several times and is a wonderful verse found throughout the Bible. "Them" refers to the persecutors.
VV26-27. The truth must be declared. These things can not be hidden forever. It is said that the flat rooftops of Palestinian homes provided excellent places for speakers. Jesus told them things in private, but they would go all over many towns telling those things publicly.
V28. A second reason they should not be afraid is that the worst men could do is nothing compared to what God can do. If you truly fear God, then there is nothing else to fear. Hell is a place of torment for the whole person. Nothing on earth compares to that place.
VV29-31. A third reason they do not have to be afraid is because God cares so much for them. An illustration is used; for example, a sparrow, which was food for very poor people. God is sovereign and cares about the little things as much as the big things.
*Much of verses 17 through 42 look beyond the apostles to disciples like us.
VV32-33. The point is made clear by the word “whoever.” A necessary part of being a disciple is it acknowledging Jesus in public. Some people are more bold in public than other,s but we must all acknowledge Him and certainly not deny Him. If we do, He will deny us. Jesus said in John that He is the way the truth and the life. No one goes to the Father but by him. In Acts 4:12 we are told that there is salvation in no other name but the name of Jesus. Here, Jesus connects our relationship to Him in this life with our position in the next life.
VV34-39. Not only will families hate Christians, but families will actually be divided. At some point those first disciples, as well as us, will have to decide where our loyalty lies. We must prefer Jesus to all others. A person must love their parents and children and spouse, but they must love Jesus that much more. To take our cross is to deny oneself. It is a call to discipleship. Finding life means preserving live. If you try to preserve your life here by refusing to submit to the demands of Christian discipleship, you will lose your life in the next. Remember, Jesus has already told us that we should fear the One who can destroy both soul and body.
VV40-42. This last section is on a more positive note, but it highlights what Jesus has been saying all along: the treatment of Jesus and His followers is all totally tied together. The little ones are all those believers who go out sharing the gospel. To give even to the least of the disciples will not go on unrewarded.

John 15:1-8 Glorifying the Father

John 15:1-8                 Glorifying the Father                                                            WC McCarter
Have you ever had a moment in your life when you were completely dependent on someone else or some thing else? In that moment or season, something outside of you controlled everything. Now, maybe that was a frightening moment for you. But it illustrates the way that you are to live every day as a Christian. You are to live everyday trusting someone outside of you. You are completely dependent on another, what He can do.
I often find myself in the midst of something I know nothing about. Throughout life I am dependent on others. For example, I have learned how to do a lot of things, but I know very little about plumbing. Honestly, it is one of the things that I have not really wanted to learn. If something goes on with the plumbing at our house in Lenoir or at the parsonage, I am completely dependent on someone else to come and fix it. Another example would be car problems. I know a few things about cars. I can do a lot of the minor things, but I do not have the resources or knowledge to fix major problems. I do not have the tools. I do not have the shop. I would be completely dependent on someone else’s know-how and resources.
These are simple illustrations about being dependent upon others; but in John 15, Jesus gives us one of the greatest pictures to explain our dependence on Him. The passage we will read is a metaphor given by Jesus to explain our utter reliance upon Him.
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
I Am the True Vine (1-4)
The Bible uses the metaphor of a vine and vineyard on several of occasions. Jesus uses this imagery numerous times. In every case, the metaphor is used to illustrate Israel’s unfruitfulness. Although in this passage Jesus is the vine, and His point is that Christians will bear much fruit. This is New Covenant language. The people of the covenant are no longer dependant on themselves to produce fruit of righteousness, but believers are enabled by the life-giving Vine to produce fruit which glorifies the Father.
This is the last of seven “I AM” statements in the Gospel of John. Both the Father and the Son play important roles in this metaphor. Jesus is the Vine and the Father is the Vinedresser. In the Old Testament, Israel is often referred to as a vine, yet that imagery is always connected to God’s judgment on them for their lack of fruitfulness. Jesus says that He is the “True Vine,” that is, He is the One to whom Israel was pointing. He is the fulfillment of their history. He is the fulfillment of their destiny. Jesus has produced the fruit of righteousness that Israel never could.
As the Vinedresser, the Father prunes the branches and He must also remove the bare branches. Notice that the Vinedresser does not prune the Vine, but the branches. Pruning is done to all of the branches. Even if a branch is bearing fruit, the Vinedresser prunes it in order to gain more fruit from that branch. The Vinedresser also cuts off the dead wood. The two are distinguished from one another, the fruit-bearing branches and the dead branches.
The disciples were already “clean” in the sense that they were already connected to Christ by His word spoken to them. What they are required to do is stay in that word, abide in Him. A branch cannot live without being joined to the vine. Christians cannot live without being joined to the Vine. What flows through Him is life, and it must flow through us. How do you remain in Christ? You remain in Him by hearing His word, believing His word, and obeying His word. By “word” I do not mean only the red words in your red-letter Bibles. All of Scripture is God-breathed and uniquely inspired by the Spirit of Christ. You must hear it all, believe it all, and obey it all. It is not just Jesus’ words, but all of the words about Jesus. To abide in His word is to abide in who He is and what He has done as recorded in holy Scripture.
You are the Branches (5-8)
Verses 5-8 repeat what Jesus has just said with only a few differences in His explanation of this abiding. Here he says that we are to abide in Him, and He will abide in us. How does that work? As the nutrient flow goes in and out of a vine and its branches, the life that is in Christ will flow in and out of each one of us giving us what we need to live and produce good fruit.
“Abiding in Christ” speaks of the union between a believer and Christ. This union was initiated by Him and completed by Him. Jesus taught on another occasion that, “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matt 7) and yet again, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit” (Matt 12). As the Vine, Jesus will produce fruit through the branches, and He will produce good fruit. This is inevitable. We cannot point to one thing that Jesus refers to when He talks about fruit. The fruit He refers to is all of the things that come from a life of obedience to Him.
Therefore, those who abide in Him will bear much fruit, and branches that do not produce fruit will be cut off and thrown into the fire. Branches that do not produce the desired fruit are good for nothing but to be cut off. Branches that have been cut off are good for nothing but to be piled into a heap and burned. Dried out wood is the best for building a fire. Many of you burn firewood during the winter. “Green” wood is not much good for a fire, but “seasoned” wood burns easily. Of course, “fire” in the Bible most usually refers to judgment.
When you are abiding in Christ and His words are abiding in you, your prayer life will be completely in tune with the will of God. Your prayer life will be most fruitful. I became convinced years ago that we should be praying what the Scripture says. We find God’s will in the Bible and when we pray the prayers and promises of the Bible, He will answer us. This brings glory to God. When we are in tune with God, we are obedient, we pray for godly things, and He answers our prayers in blessed and even miraculous ways, He receives glory.
Conclusion and Christian Application
(1) The cause of Christ goes forth regardless. God is not dependent on us. We are dependent on Him.
(2) God is the potential of prayer. Fruitfulness is tied to prayer.
(3) There is one thing that is necessary: abide in Him.

Matthew 10:1-25 Study Notes

Matthew 10:1-25        Study Notes prepared by WC McCarter from D. A. Carson’s Commentary
Jesus chooses the twelve to be Apostles from among the multitudes of disciples.
Jesus had been demonstrating His authority in word (Matt 5-7) and in deed (Matt 8-9. Now He commissions His twelve to do what he had been doing. The term “apostle” can refer simply to a messenger, a missionary, a representative, or specifically to the twelve plus Paul who were chosen by Jesus and commissioned to be the authoritative foundation of the church.
The lists of the twelve are found here as well as Mark 3, Luke 6, and Acts 1.
Peter is always first and Judas is always last.
Peter was the first among equals. He was obviously the leader. The first four names of all four lists are those of two pairs of brothers. In each list there are three groups of four headed by Peter, Philip, and James. It appears the twelve were broken into smaller groups, each having a leader.
For this mission the twelve were restricted to only ministering among the Jews in Galilee. Jesus was to fulfill the Jewish history and seek the faithful remnant out first. Remember, Jesus was a Jew. Salvation was for the Jew first and then for the Gentiles. (Paul is clear about this).
The disciples were not supposed to take anything with them. They would learn a few principles: the worker is worth his keep, rely on God, and rely on the hospitality of others. A “worthy” person was the one who would take them in, but not necessarily the most comfortable place. They were not to “shop around.”
A household would be blessed by having the presence of the disciples there because they were Jesus’ ambassadors. They would certainly face opposition.
V16, the shepherd sends His sheep into dangerous territory. The serpent theme is proverbial for prudence. The dove represents innocence. This would be a difficult balance, but a needed one.
VV17-19 explicitly talk about persecution, but in V20 Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will help them. The Holy Spirit came with the kingdom's dramatic entrance and is a vital part of the church's witness.
VV21-23, not only will the disciples be persecuted by Jewish officials and even Roman rulers, but also by their own families. “All men” hating them refers to all kinds of men. Christians must have enough faith that they will lay down their life for Jesus if need be. V23 is difficult to interpret. The coming of the Son of Man most likely refers to His coming in judgment against the unbelieving Jews. This culminated in Jerusalem and the Temple being destroyed in AD 70. Just as the coming of the kingdom is in stages, so too the coming of the Son of Man is in stages.
VV24-25 are proverbial phrases. The disciples are forbidden from being surprised when they suffer persecution. The title “Beelzebub” refers to the Lord of the Flies or Lord of Dung, but in the New Testament it refers to the Prince of demons, even Satan himself. However Jesus is treated the disciples should expect no less.

1 Samuel 12:20-25 Serve the Lord with All Your Heart

1 Samuel 12:20-25     Serve the Lord with All Your Heart                         WC McCarter
In chapter ten of The Story we read about Hannah, a devout woman who turned to the Lord in her misery; Eli, who was a priest and leader of the people; Samuel, who was a prophet, priest, and great leader of Israel; and Saul, who was Israel’s first king. These individuals were significant during a crucial time in Israel’s history. Things would happen during their lives that would change the course of Israel’s history forever.
The paragraph we will read as our main text today is often considered part of Samuel’s farewell address. By the way, the farewell addresses of the Old Testament are outstanding. Think of Moses and Joshua in their final speeches which we have read in past weeks. Yet, I’m not so sure that this is exactly a farewell speech because Samuel promises to keep working for the people, although it is akin to a covenant renewal ceremony as we will see.
The paragraph follows just after the people saw a mighty act performed by God and they confess their wrongdoing. Samuel stated clearly in his speech that the people were rebellious and sinful, most notably in asking for a king over them like the surrounding nations. (It sounds almost childish, doesn’t it? We want what everyone else has. . .). He tells them to stand and watch God’s witness against them as He made thunder and rain to come during the harvest time, which was dry season. “So all the people stood in awe of the Lord and of Samuel. The people all said to Samuel, ‘Pray to the Lord your God for your servants so that we will not die, for we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for a king.’” Today’s reading from the Scripture is Samuel’s direct response to the people.
Scripture Reading (p. 141) – This is the Word of God
You’ve Done Evil, But You Don’t have to be Afraid (20)
What a great comfort it is to know the gracious God of the universe. He does not strike us dead when we sin against Him. He does not cast us into the lake of fire as soon as we slip up. His mercy endures forever! Samuel tells the people to not be afraid. Of course, there is nothing to fear if you are not living in rebellion to God. But these people had done evil, how can Samuel tell them to not fear? They did not have to be afraid because God had allowed them an opportunity to repent and turn back to Him. All they would have to do is confess their sins and turn again to serve Him.
A major component of the Christian Gospel is that we have sinned. I know that we do not like to talk about it in the contemporary culture, but the truth of the matter does not change no matter how far along humanity progresses through history. We have done evil; whether slightly or majorly, we have sinned against God almighty. If you cannot understand that or are not willing to admit that fact, then you will not enter the kingdom of God.
Therefore, we have established that fact that we have all done evil. What do we do about it? Samuel tells the Israelites of old, and us by extension, what not to do, “Do not be afraid. . . . Do not turn away from the Lord.” Sometimes we need to hear the answer from a different angle. We want to know what to do, but it is best for us to first of all hear what not to do. Although the people had turned away from God by asking for a king, it can be made right by not turning away from the Lord anymore. I think of the phrase, “Go, and sin no more.” Jesus told a man he had healed, “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”
After learning what not to do, we are told what we are to do. Instead of being afraid, you are to cling closely to God and serve the Lord with all your heart. This is a fairly common expression in the Bible. What does it mean? I think it means to have your heart set on Him. Although your heart may be weak at times, it must still be set on Him. All of who you are should be focused on Him. When you are weak, lean on Him. When you have sinned, confess it to Him. When you are making a decision, consider Him. When you are blessed, thank Him.
God is not looking for perfect people. If He were, He would not find any. God is looking for those who will turn to Him by faith; people who will serve Him with all their hearts, people who will seek out His heart. To be faithful is not to be perfect. We are striving everyday to meet up to God’s standard. We want to be perfect because our God is perfect, but we will not achieve that perfection on this side of heaven. God wants you to trust Him on the good days and on the bad days. He wants to you to look at Him when things are going great, and He wants you to look at Him when you mess up. This is called “progressive sanctification.” Each and every day you are progressing into holiness. You study the Bible, you pray, you serve others, you worship God, and you gain more and more experiences until the day you die. You do not ever stop doing these things and little by little you grow in your faith. You progress in your holiness. That is what God wants in your life.
Idols are Useless (21)
How can you not love the blunt truth of this next verse? “Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless.” An idol can be anything that is adored or trusted. Anything that is set up in place of God is useless, even a human king. These things can do a person no good. Only God is good and every good and perfect thing comes from above. These things cannot ultimately rescue a person. Only God can save us from the present wicked age, from ourselves, from the effects of sin, from the deceit of the devil, and from the wrath to come. God is our Redeemer and Savior. All these other things, whether they be people or things, all of them are useless.
For the Sake of His Great Name (22)
Samuel made clear to the people that they did not have to be afraid because God would not forsake them, but they had done wrong against Him. God had established for Himself a great name among the nations by the way He had led the Israelites thus far. He had shown His love and might by bringing them up out of the land of Egypt and then conquering the land of Canaan for them to settle.
God had taken it upon Himself to gather Israel to Him. He made them into a nation. They were nothing before, but now they were something. He had chosen them. He had formed them. Notice that Israel had done nothing to earn this right. Israel had not built their own nation. Israel had not saved themselves from the hand of the Egyptians. Israel had not conquered the land of Canaan on their own. God had done all of this for them. The people were told back in Deut 7, “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors. . . .”
Far Be it from Me (23)
The last thing the Israelites needed at this time was for their leader to throw up his hands and quit on them. Although they had sinned against God, they needed Samuel to work that much harder for them. In fact, because they had sinned against God they needed their priest and prophet to pray for them and teach them what is good and right. That one statement from Samuel is a wonderful picture of a leader of God’s people. That is what a leader is supposed to do. He is to pray for the people, and he is to teach them the word of God. Samuel was saying what the Apostle Paul would say hundreds of years later, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” If the people were going to live lives that were pleasing to God, they would need to continue to learn. Woe to Samuel if he did not pray and teach. Woe to Israel if they did not learn and live godly.
A Final Plea (24-25)
Is it not odd that in verse twenty Samuel said to not be afraid, but then in verse twenty-four he says to fear the Lord? I find that to be strange at the very least. You really have nothing to be fear if you are following after God, but you must always have the fear of God in your heart knowing what He expects and that He must judge your sin if you continue in it. In his final plea, Samuel instructs the people to do three things: fear the Lord, serve the Lord, and consider what great things he had done for them. If you count your blessings, you will be more likely to continue in your pursuit of holiness.
The people had heard plenty of warnings as well as many encouragements to do what is right in the eyes of God. Now the choice would be up to them. If they persisted in doing evil, they would perish along with their king. They would be swept away if they continued in wickedness. We know that the northern tribes of Israel were swept away by Assyria in 722 B.C. never to be seen again. They continued in rebellion and God had to judge them. Judah was also swept away by Babylon in 586 B.C., but God restored a small remnant to the land in order to continue His plan of redemption.
Conclusion- Finding Your Story in God’s Story
1) There is an even greater reality of the phrase, “Do not be afraid” now that Christ has come.
2) What kind of idols are in your life?
3) God made you His. You are a child of God.
4) It is a sin to not do what you are called to do.
5) If you do what is right in your eyes, you will die. If you do what is right in the Lord’s eyes, you will live. There is a proverb that is repeated a couple of times (Prov 14 and 16):
            There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.

Ruth - Naomi's Story

Ruth 2:11-12              From Bitter to Pleasant                                            WC McCarter
We basically get the entire story of the book of Ruth in chapter nine of The Story. This book is one of only two books in the Bible named after a woman (what’s the other one? Esther), and this book is one of only two books in the Old Testament named after a non-Israelite (what’s the other? Job). Despite all of her significance in the narration, Ruth is not the main character of the book that bears her name. Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law is the main character. This is a dramatic story of love and faithfulness between people. There is a lot for us to learn from this book.
Let’s take a look at Naomi’s story found in the book of Ruth to see what we can learn about God and how He deals with people. I would like to take you through the content of the four chapters in the book of Ruth and then share with you how I think we can find our story in Naomi’s story.
Scripture Reading (p. 123) – This is the Word of God
Chapter 1
This dramatic story of love and faithfulness between people takes place during the time of the Judges. What do we know about this period? The people are sinful. Because of their sinful disobedience, God has allowed a famine to come upon the land. “Bethlehem” which means “house of bread” will have no bread in it. Thus, Elimelek and Naomi head to Moab with their two sons, Mahlon and Kilion. Within the first five verses of the book of Ruth, disaster has come crashing down on Naomi’s head over and over again. In these first five verses, she has had to move to a foreign country, she has lost her husband, and she has lost both of her sons.
(APP) Have you ever had disaster come crashing down on you and your family? Have you had seasons in your life when you had one setback after another? What do you do in those times? Sometimes you are forced to do things you would not want to do just to survive that time of trial. You have to humble yourself for the benefit of others. Do you think that Naomi and Elimelek wanted to live in Moab? Of course not, the Moabites were despised among the Israelites because they were descendants of the incestuous relationship between Lot and one of his daughters. They had also had many conflicts with the Moabites through the years. What you do in these times is hold on for dear life and honor your God.
Naomi hears that the Lord had been good to the people in her homeland, and she decided to go back to Israel. At this point, we read of an emotional occasion between Naomi and her two daughters-in-law. Both of the daughters want to go with Naomi. She must have been an amazing woman for her daughters-in-law to love her this much. Naomi tells the two of them, “It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!” Orpah then returns to her parents, but Ruth will not let go. Naomi tries again to persuade Ruth to go back to her family, and Ruth replies with those famous words, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.”
At the end of the chapter, Naomi tells the people of Bethlehem to call her Mara, which means, “Bitter.” She said, “The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”
Chapter 2
We found out at the end of chapter one that when the two women arrived in Bethlehem the barley harvest was beginning. At the beginning of chapter two, we are introduced to Boaz. We are told that he was a relative of Elimelek, and he was a man of good standing. Ruth takes advantage of the Mosaic Law which commanded in Lev 19:9-10, “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.”
Boaz immediately takes interest in Ruth, the foreign woman. Boaz himself was a descendant of a foreigner, Rahab the prostitute. Boaz calls for Ruth and tells her to glean only in his fields along with the other women. It was not safe in just any field of Israel during the time of the judges. People were rebellious and sinful during this time, but Boaz stands out from the culture as one who cares for others, looks after the poor, and sees past someone’s nationality.
(APP) We, too, must stand out from our culture today. Everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes, but we must do what is right in the Lord’s eyes. We are to consider the poor and those who are in the most desperate need. I understand that it is difficult because there are so many simply using the system, but you will know when someone really needs your help. We must look at others with the eyes of grace. We must look past their nationality, their heritage, and even their sin. Should we help those who continue in sin? Of course not, but how will they come out of their sin unless someone like you or me reaches out to them?
Ruth’s reputation had gone before her. Boaz knew all that she had done for her mother-in-law, Naomi. So, we have two people who are outstanding among the people: Boaz and Ruth. Boaz goes above and beyond the call of the Mosaic Law. Not only is Ruth allowed to pick up the leftovers, but Boaz tells his men to intentionally leave some extra stalks for Ruth to gather.
(APP) Do we go above and beyond what the Lord has commanded? The Lord Jesus even taught us that if someone compels us to go a mile, we are to go two miles with them. If someone wants your shirt, give them your coat as well. As Christians, we are to do more than we are even expected to do for others.
Ruth reported to Naomi how her day had gone. Naomi was excited about the news. Naomi praised the Lord for His goodness toward them. She realized that Boaz was a kinsman-redeemer (or guardian). All of the bitter things that had come upon Naomi were beginning to turn around.
Chapter 3
Naomi knows that she and Ruth cannot live like this forever. Ruth would need a home where a husband could provide for her and she could bear children. Thus, Naomi has a plan for Ruth to make a proposition to Boaz. In chapter two, Boaz had blessed Ruth and said, “May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” Now Ruth is asking to come under the wing of Boaz for protection and provision when she says, “Spread the corner of your garment over me.” Boaz is honored by the proposal and promises to redeem Ruth if a closer kinsman does not. Boaz sends her home to Naomi with lots of barley.
Chapter 4
At the end of chapter three, Naomi tells Ruth to wait to see what happens. She is confident that Boaz will do all that he can to redeem them. Boaz is a righteous man. He knew that there was a kinsman who was closer in relation to Naomi and Ruth than him. He waits by the city gate with the elders of the town and, without pressure, makes known to him the situation. The man says that he will redeem the land, but then backs out when he learns about the women. Maybe he was already married or did not have enough resources to care for Naomi and Ruth. When he declines, Boaz immediately states in front of all the witnesses that he will redeem Ruth the Moabite. He buys all the property that had belonged to Elimelek, Mahlon, and Kilion.
And all the people said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel.” We read at the end of the book that Boaz and Ruth were the great-grandparents of King David (Naomi was the great-great-grandmother). From their line also came the Christ.
Conclusion- Finding Your Story in God’s Story
1) What a fantastic story of love and faithfulness between people.
2) What a wonderful story of how the Lord provides for His people, even when they think that everything is ruined for them.
3) The story of Naomi makes Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Throughout Naomi’s story, God does not directly become involved. There is no story of God coming to speak face to face. There are no angels sent with messages from God. There are no visions or dreams. But all along God was at work. Our lives are much the same.

Judges 2:16-19 The Lord Raised Up Judges

Judges 2:16-19           The Lord Raised Up Judges                                      WC McCarter
In chapter eight of The Story we read about the period of the judges. This was a sinful time in Israel’s history that takes place between the death of Joshua and the rise of the monarchy. We know from our reading that a common statement God made about the people was, “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord; they forgot the Lord their God. . . .” No, there were no mis-printings in this chapter. The Bible uses that phrase repeatedly. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes and did not follow the Lord’s commands. Despite the sins of the people, God would still raise up a judge to save them when the pressure became too much. God would not allow the covenant people, whom He had chosen, to be destroyed by a foreign nation.
The judges were nothing new in Israel; Moses had established judges among all of the tribes. The judges we read about in chapter eight were heads of their clans who became military leaders to provide deliverance for the whole nation. God did not raise up an individual during this period as He had in time past with Moses and then Joshua. He would choose one for a brief window of time in order to preserve a remnant of Israel.
“Several of the judges are portrayed as deeply flawed human beings chosen to deliver a deeply flawed nation” (Dillard and Longman, 119). You get the sense that during this period of their history the Israelites were becoming progressively worse in their ungodliness and immorality. Even the judges seem to get worse, climaxing with the life of Samson, one of the most irreverent, sinful men of all the Bible.
Do you ever find yourself repeating mistakes from your past? As much as we would like to learn from mistakes and break bad habits, we tend to find ourselves falling into the same trap over and over again. We all have our areas of weakness, flaws in our own lives. It takes a lot for us to turn away from these things. Most of the time, we do not lean on the Lord to overcome these addictions and weaknesses. We either try to do it on our own and fail, or we do not even try to defeat the temptations that plague us. The Scripture says that the Spirit puts to death the deeds of the flesh, but if we are grieving the Holy Spirit, He will not work in our lives. I think we all find ourselves repeating past mistakes just like the Israelites of the period of the judges. May the Lord grab a hold of each of us and make us obedient to His word. May we be found faithful at every point, unlike those Israelites of old.
The Israelites continued to follow the same cycle for hundreds of years. They would forget the Lord and wallow in sin which would lead to the Lord withdrawing His hand of protection. What would happen after that? A foreign nation would step in and harass the Israelites for a number of years. Finally, the covenant people would cry out to God for help, and God would send a judge to rescue them from oppression. What was the cycle? SinàSufferingàSorrowàSalvation. Let us take a look at our reading today to consider the sin of the nation and the salvation by the hand of the judges.
Scripture Reading (p. 104) – This is the Word of God
Judges, Who Saved Them
The Israelites forsook the Lord and turned to the worship of idols. They forgot who the Lord was and what He had done for their people in time past. Because of this, the Lord would withdraw His hand of protection and the Israelites’ land would be raided by foreigners, they would be harasses and oppressed by surrounding peoples, and many of them would be sold into slavery. This was divine discipline. Because of His holiness, God cannot allow sin to continue forever with no consequence. He would use the pagans to discipline the chosen nation.
There was a group of fifteen individuals, it appears, that can be identified as military judges during this time. Each of them had great weakness and extraordinary stories of what God did in their lives. The salvation that is talked about in this book (chapter 8 of The Story) was not eternal salvation, but military deliverance. Remember that before this time God used one man to lead the people; first it was Moses and then it was Joshua. Why didn’t God raise up a successor to Joshua for the leadership role over the entire nation? The people remained faithful to the Lord all the years of Joshua’s leadership and beyond. The land had mostly been conquered, and the people were settling in. It was completely appropriate that the mantle of leadership be handed over to the family heads within each tribe. These people were called “judges” because they resolved disputes and offered wisdom to their people. Yet, the judges we read about in this book were called to do much more than settle disputes. They were called to lead the cause of military deliverance and victory. The Lord would choose these individuals to do a mighty work.
The Prostitution of Israel
The judges were to lead the people within their own families and tribes by offering wisdom and encouraging them to follow the Lord, yet they were not obeyed. The people would not listen to them. Instead, they would chase after other gods. I hate talking about “gods” because there is only one God. It is like the Apostle Paul talking about heresy in the church. He would call it, “Another gospel,” but would quickly say, “Which is no gospel at all.” The Israelites would worship other gods, who were not gods at all. The old saying, “In the eye of the beholder” applies here. The people would do what was right in their own eyes and not what was right in the eyes of the Lord. What were merely idols of stone and metal, the pagans worshiped as gods, and the Israelites quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the Lord, to worship these false gods.
The idea of prostitution is used throughout the Old Testament in reference to the Israelites relationship with the pagan nations and their false gods. That language is used so often because it clearly explains what the Lord expected and what the people did. These Israelites were in a covenant with God. They had been chosen by God to be His holy nation, and the Israelites had said that they would be loyal to the covenant and obedient to the Lord. This relationship is often considered a marriage. The Israelites were yoked to the Lord. He was the Husband and they were the bride. When they would forsake Him, it would be like forsaking marriage vows; when they would worship other gods, it would be like committing adultery; and when they would worship pagan gods thinking they were going to get something out of it (fertility gods), it was like they were prostituting themselves. “Moreover, the worship of the Canaanite gods literally involved sexual conduct with temple prostitutes supposedly to promote the fertility of the soil” (Wolf, 395).
The Lord Relented
The phrase at the end of verse eighteen sounds a lot like the language used in reference to the Exodus event. It says, “. . . for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them.” There would be a “mini-Exodus” each time a judge was raised up by God. The people would end up in slavery and oppression because of their own hard-heartedness. They would groan because of the tyranny of another nation, and the Lord would respond. The same thing happened to the people in Egypt. The Lord would not allow the covenant people to be crushed under the hand of foreign oppression. They were too valuable to the salvation of the world. Through Abraham’s seed, through Israel, through the covenant people, through the Jews would come the Savior of the world. Although the Israelites deserved utter defeat on many occasions because of their great rebellion, the Lord preserved them throughout their history in order to save as many from the world as He can, all those who will come to Him by faith in Jesus Christ.
As I have already mentioned, the judges were weak and sinful people as well. Yet, that is the reason the Lord chose them. He wanted to show His glory. Consider the story of Gideon. Why would the Lord choose such a timid man to lead the military? Why would the Lord slim the army from 32,000 all the way down to 300 when they had to face an army that was innumerable? He did not want Israel to have any reason to think that they saved themselves. He would be the One to rescue them. He would be the One to gain all of the glory.
Even More Corrupt
The Lord would give victory to Israel through a judge, and the people would be safe during the lifetime of that leader. When the judge died, the people would return to their rebellious ways. In fact, we are told that they would become progressively more corrupt through every period of the sin cycle (sin-slavery-sorrow-salvation). Each generation got worse and worse. We get a trio at the end of our text that stresses the nature of their ungodliness: they followed, served, and worshiped other gods. The last sentence says, “They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.” The Israelites were stiff-necked in the wilderness, and they were stiff-necked in the Promised Land. They were rebellious in the bad times, and they were rebellious in the good times. The scene and situation did not make a difference. Their heart was always bent on evil.
Conclusion- Finding Your Story in God’s Story
1) The Gospel message should encourage you to live a holy life. The standard by which you must consider your life is God’s standard found in the Bible. Do not evaluate your life on the basis of the world’s standards.
2) Biblical transformation takes place in the heart and mind. We are not to conform to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
3) God is faithful to forgive you of your sins and to cleanse you of all unrighteousness if you confess your sins to Him. You must repent: turn away from sin and to the Lord.