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March 29th, 2010

DAILY BIBLE READING

 Mar 29: Josh 22-24
Mar 30:
Jud 1-2
Mar 31:
Jud 3-5
Apr 1:
Jud 6-7
Apr 2:
Jud 8-9
Apr 3:
Jud 10-12
Apr 4:
Jud 13-15
Apr 5:
Jud 16-18

 

NOTES ON JUDGES

·         There’s really just one verse that summarizes the book of Judges, repeated four times (17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25).  “In those days Israel had no king.”  In two of those verses the text adds, “Everyone did as he saw fit.”

·         Judges is a downward spiritual spiral for the Israelites after they possessed their promised land.  The spiral is cyclical – sin > judgment > repentance > deliverance – then the cycle repeats itself.  Reading the book is almost nauseating as it repeats this generational cycle. 

·         Speaking of “generation,” the cycle is often mentioned as lasting 40 years.  That round number is probably not meant to be literal – it’s the author’s way of describing one generation.

·         What was so attractive to the Israelites about the religion of the Canaanites and surrounding cultures?  The cultures Israel displaced and neighbored were advanced in arts, literature, and politics, and their religions offered a good deal more sexual license than the Mosaic Law.

·         The purpose of the book is to set up the reader for the books of the kings (what we call 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings) – to show what results from anarchy.

·         The “judges” themselves are not judges in the sense that we speak of them.  There is no “separation of church and state,” nor is there “separation of powers” in Israel.  The judges are spiritual/political/military leaders whom God raises up for a particular season.  Most of them are local/regional, since there is also no centralized government in Israel during this time.

·         Some of the judges are well-known (Deborah, Samson, Gideon) while others are lesser known.  Samson is in some ways a great hero – but also a greatly flawed hero.  Try to discern why each judge’s story is told in the Bible.

 

DEVOTIONS

Last week as I was reading the book of Judges (I stay about a week ahead of the Bible reading schedule), I was also reading a book called Skeptics and True Believers: The Exhilarating Connection Between Science and Religion (Chet Raymo). 

I’m not finished with the book, and I don’t know exactly where he will end up.  But so far, the author gives a lot more credence to science than religion.  (I had hoped for a little more balance.)

To be sure, some of what Raymo includes under “religion” (UFOs, horoscopes, an earth that is less than 10,000 years old) evokes as much skepticism for me as for the author.   But Raymo seems to include prayer, angels, heaven, and hell with the same degree of skepticism.  At least in what I’ve read so far, science trumps all as his god.

And that brings me back to the book of Judges.  We live in an age of increasing skepticism that there is anything meaningful outside of our ability to touch, research, and understand.  I wonder if God isn’t still saying to us when we face some kind of trial, “Cry out to the gods you have chosen!  Let them save you when you are in trouble!”

The same would be true of other popular gods of our age.  Timothy Keller’s Counterfeit Gods identifies them as money, sex, and power.  Their shrines are ubiquitous.  When we come to rely on those gods for meaning and help – and they fail us, we often choose those moments to come back to church and rediscover prayer. 

We do serve a God of grace.  His capacity to give another chance is astounding – as the book of Judges illustrates.  The cost he was willing to pay to forgive us is worship-worthy – as this Holy Week reminds us. 

But let’s not be among those who test the limits of his longsuffering.

 

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