Well it’s not because I didn’t read but because I couldn’t read. It’s Thursday morning and till now I’ve had no internet since last Friday. Our local service provider’s antenna got hit by lighting the second week in a row out here. I guess when you put an antenna on top of the co-op’s tallest bin you’re just begging for a lighting strike.
The end result, on top of missing the fact that I was linked on the ESV blog is that I’m unintentionally three days behind. Well enough of that, Tallyho!
Let’s do Judges and 1 Samuel today and Psalms 60-75.
Plus, to mix things up a bit, I’m going to start with the Psalms Today. From a cry for deliverance to cries of victory the Psalms resound with faith in the midst of struggle. Surely as on preacher said, there is no life situation which the Psalms fail to encounter and encourage us. Perhaps the crown of today’s reading in the Psalms comes from PS 64:10.
Let the Righteous one rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him! Let all the upright in heart exult!
All in all these fifteen Psalms, while they encompass a variety of literary types they center around the theme of salvation as echoed most strongly in the 68th Psalm.
Our God is a God of salvation,
oand to God, the Lord, belong deliverances from death.
-Ps 68:20 ESV
And again the 73rd Psalm is a beautiful and very realistic Psalm of Asaph in which a godly man struggles internally with the apparent wealth and comfort of the wicked while the godly struggle and go without. It is not until Asaph enters the temple and gains an eternal perspective that his life and his heart is rectified again and he turns to worship the Lord who saves him. Since we live in Asaph’s world so to speak this Psalm should be precious to us who have turned our back upon the wealth of the world in favor of the wealth of heaven. My earnest prayer for myself and for you today is that you will be captivated by the splendor and riches of heaven; let the wicked enjoy the wealth of unrighteousness which will not last. For my treasure is not to be of this earth, but in heaven.
There is no sadder more destitute passage in the Old testament than in the second chapter of Judges. The people did not keep their end of the covenant to completely wipe out the inhabitants of the land and thus consigned themselves to servitude with the idols of those nations. “
And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel
It is from this horrible reality that the book of Judges and it’s downward spiral begins. In a flash we move from the unbridled victories of Joshua’s day to the pitiful gleanings of the period of the judges. And this for a simple reason. The word of God was not passed on. As great as Joshua’s generation might have been, they failed in their most crucial role. Deuteronomy 6:4ff says that parents must by every means and every opportunity train thier children in the Lord. Failure to obey that commandment signed the death warrant for thousands of Israelites for generations to come.
One after another, God raises judges who deliver the people for a time. And afterward they return like a dog to it’s vomit to the sins that drove them into subservience. Sigh. And yet how many times do we enter into our own cycles of wandering?
From Othniel’s sword to Gideon’s halting faith to Jeptha’s fatal vow and the unamed Levite and his illfated concubine the story of Judges is both fascinating and horrifying. An honest but tender hearted reader will almost want to read it like a child with his hands over his eyes but fingers parted that he might see just a little more.
It is worse than anything that Hollywood can put out. Gang rapes, infanticide, maurauding armies, heartless husbands, fearful men, fallen heroes, idolatrous deliverers, real men with real vices and godly men falling far short of the glory. The book of Judges is both real and surreal in it’s portrayal of the depths of the depravity of man.
Like a single precious stone in a pit of refuse the book of Ruth arises from the midst of the time of the judges as if God were shouting, “Though I cannot find faithfulness in Israel I can bring faithfullness even out of Moab!” Behold the book of Ruth which in a single reading unfolds a tender love story touched with tradgedy and triumph. If the book of Judges with it’s gore and violence is the ultimate guy movie, the book of Ruth would be the penultimate “chick flick” (don’t even what kind of movie the The Song of Solomon could be).
In a single breath taking speach, Ruth sets the tone of her life when she proclaims to Naomi,
“Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”
To make a short story even shorter, God rewards Ruth not only with a godly husband but by his great chesed (lovingkindness) injects her into the family tree of his Messiah.
The rise and fall of king Saul is an epic tale that begins with the rise and demise of the last judge: Samuel for whom the book is named and quite possibly by whom the book is written. Whatever else the books of Samuel tell they describe the transfer from Theocracy to Monarchy. And it all begins with a mother’s earnest and faithful prayer. I wonder how many mothers, how many parents have any knowledge of how far their prayers for their children will go. Hanna’s prayer starts the book and initiates a legacy.
But legacies are themselves fleeting. Samuel’s sons did not walk with the Lord. I beleive the people of Israel looked back at their years since Joshua’s death and say spiritual Chaos and they had enough. While they should have perhaps asked for God to give them a leader who would guide them towards obedience they asked instead for a king to be just like everyone else. So God gave them what they wanted. Saul a man a head taller than the rest of Israel, quite handsome and a little slow on the uptake. Yup, handsome and stupid – that way they could be just like everyone else. Be careful what you ask for, you might get it.
Saul’s failure to obey God’s clear and well understood command brings about the end of his dynasty and institutes the rise of David. God chose for Israel Saul the man they wanted but when it came time for a new king, God chose a man he wanted. Therein lies the difference.
As the book of 1 Samuel closes on the smoldering ruins of Saul and his sons, including David’s dearest friend Jonathan, on the heights of Gilboa the book of 2 Samuel beckons us tomorrow with the promise of a brighter day. Saul has fallen it is time for the rise of David the King.