All Connected

Judges 1-2 and John 4

This year our Bible reading plan has included one Old Testament reading and one New Testament, Psalms or Proverbs reading every day. I’ve enjoyed the daily variety and I think rather than feeling disjointed, like I had feared, it actually helps me see the Bible more as a whole. There have been several times when one reading would refer to something in the other, if not from that same day then something recently read.

On Sunday our devotion was on Psalm 69, one of the most quoted and referenced Psalms in the New Testament. It portrays a zealous suffering servant of God who is surrounded by the enemy. And just 2 days later we read John 2 which included Jesus entering the temple and being shocked to see the disrespect and greed of the moneychangers and those wanting to make a quick buck selling animals for sacrifice rather than revering the house of the Lord and the holy God they should have been focused on. Jesus forcefully clears the temple, and John records, “His disciples remembered that it is written: ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ ” (John 2:17 NIV – quoting Psalm 69:9). Those disciples knew and loved the same book we just read! They saw connections and how Jesus fulfilled and carried out the Scriptures they were devoted to and knew well. That’s just one example of the many times it’s been exciting to see overlap and referencing reminding me of how precious this book is and how it all works together to show us God: His character, story, plan, majesty, and His Son and ultimately, what will our response be? As Joshua said (just yesterday), “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15 NIV)

As we see it all work together, woven together as one, it’s sometimes hard to decide which passage to write about. It’s exciting that God gave us SO much in His Word, we couldn’t possibly discuss it all thoroughly in one year of devotions. But every day we can increase our knowledge and understanding just a little, find a new thought or reference we hadn’t seen before, learning to love it and the God it reveals and putting His word to use to become more and more what He wants us to be and do.

And, today we read of the Samaritan woman by Jacob’s well in the land given to Joseph. This well is not specifically mentioned elsewhere in Scripture – but we did just read a lot about the land of Jacob’s sons’ families and we read of the tribes of Joseph’s sons (Ephraim and Manassah) receiving their inheritance and burying the bones of Joseph in his land. The Samaritan woman knew these stories and these families – and now she was going to meet the Messiah, the Christ, she has been waiting for!

That was a much longer introduction than I expected. No wonder we don’t have time to look closely at every passage every day. But, today I want to try something different. Instead of having you read any more of me than you already have, I want to give you some questions to consider for both the Old Testament and New Testament scripture – two excellent passages God wants us to consider. You could pick some of your favorite questions to think about today and even discuss with your family and circle of influence. Enjoy digging into God’s Word and considering what God wants you to see!

JUDGES 1-2

Judges 2 tells of the cycle of obedience and disobedience that Israel will fall into after the death of Joshua. Can you see in your own life, family, church, community, nation any similar cycles?

Have there been times when you have slipped away further from God? Any ideas what prompted that? What turned things around again?

How would you describe the difference between a life of obedience to God and one of disobedience? The results? (Use personal experience anytime you can)

Have there been times you have benefitted from having a strong Godly leader (like Joshua or one of the judges)? How so? What did they provide? What dangers do we need to avoid in regards to having (or losing) a strong leader?

How/when can you help others who are in a time of disobedience and trouble?

JOHN 4

What do we learn about Jesus in this passage? (especially verse 6, 9, 10, 13, 18, 26, 29, 34, 42, 53).

What did the Samaritan woman already know before meeting Jesus? What did she learn that day?

How would you describe Jesus as the Living Water? Would you say you have experienced him as living water, or will experience it, or have just heard about it? What does Jesus want to offer to the Samaritan Woman? To You?

What was the result of the Samaritan woman’s talk with Jesus?

Jesus said his “food” was “to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (vs 34) and then he asked the disciples to see the harvest work around them. What fills you up or have you been feeling a little starved lately? What can you do today to help you feel full and satisfied? What harvest work around you does Jesus want you to see and act on?

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Judges 1-2 and John 4

Over and over and over

Monday – Judges 3-5

Judges Devotions (1)

Judges reminds me of the movie “Groundhog Day”—the one where Bill Murray, the local weatherman, relives the same day over and over and over. While not a single groundhog makes an appearance in Judges, the book does repeat itself over and over and over. You see, the Israelites are in a downward spiral, stuck in a vicious cycle of sin. In the reading for today, Judges 3-5, we see this cycle play out three times, once under Othniel, again under Ehud, and finally under Deborah. Today, we’ll take a closer look at this cycle using the example of Othniel:

1. SIN – “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD; they forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs” (Judges 3:7). The Israelites neglected to kick out all the bad people from the Promised Land, and they often find themselves tempted by the Canaanite’s sinful ways. Their temptation leads to habitual sin, tearing themselves further from God.

2. OPPRESSION – “The anger of the LORD burned against Israel so that he sold them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathain king of Aram Naharaim, to whom the Israelites were subject for eight years” (Judges 3:8). I think, perhaps, God uses oppression as a tool to bring His people to their knees. His people become so desperate with no other choice but to turn to Him.

3. REPENTANCE – “But when they cried out to the LORD…” (Judges 3:9a) In their newly humbled position, the Israelites cry out to God. They recognize their sin and run from it, towards a God whose arms are always open.

4. DELIVERANCE – “He raised up for them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, who saved them. The Spirit of the LORD came on him, so that he became Israel’s judge and went to war” (Judges 3:9b & 10a). God works for His people through His people. He fills people with His Holy Spirit to accomplish His work.

5. PEACE – “So the land had peace for forty years” (Judges 3:11a). With a newfound trust in God and a godly leader to follow, the Israelites find peace. Unfortunately, after Othniel passes, this peace leads to complacency which leads right back to sin.

As a soon-to-be English teacher, this literary structure of the book of Judges is impressive. As a follower of God, this repetition is alarming. Why do the Israelites keep finding themselves back in a stage of sin? Why am I a repeat offender of the same sins?

Temptation and habit.

First, just like the Israelites were tempted by the corrupt and wicked ways of the Canaanites dwelling in the Promised Land, we, too, are surrounded by temptation. Set healthy boundaries from whatever may be luring you towards sin because the more distance we give between ourselves and temptation, the less likely we are to fall into sin.

Second, the Israelites were caught sinning over and over and over—their sin became their habit. Recognize the power of your habits and work diligently to set healthy rhythms that honor God. Ever since I read this quote, I’ve been convicted of the power of my own habits: “People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures” -F.M. Alexander

Let the boundaries and habits you set lead you away from sin and towards God.

 

Mackenzie McClain

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Judges+3-5&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Judges 6-7 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.  Reading God’s Word daily is one healthy habit to pursue.  Keep at it!  It has the power to determine your future.

Faithfulness in Spite of the Faithless (Judges 9-11)

Monday, October 3

cycle-of-sin

Shelby Upton

In Judges there is a reoccurring theme of Israel being faithless, turning to false gods, running into hardships and crying out to God.  Then the judge intercedes for them, they turn back to God and he takes them back once more.
We  see this scenario happening once again in Judges 10. Things are quiet and faithful with two judges for about 40 years until Israel turns away from God, again. God then gives them over to the Philistines and Ammonites. Then they cry out to God once again, recognizing their sin and begging God to deliver them.
I see this situation in my own life. When things are going really well and I forget to keep God as my focus and I let things like relationships, entertainment, my career, my possessions become idols in my life.  Inevitably something happens and I need God to deliver me.
The Israelites then turn from their idolatry and worship God. Even though God is angry with the Israelites He is burdened by their suffering and then does deliver them from their misery.
Repentance is key in this scenario.  We all struggle with sin and losing God as our focus.  We need to learn from Israel’s mistake of turning from our faith at all but when sin does creep in we know that God is a loving God and he will forgive us when we repent because even when we are faithless he remains faithful.
2 Chronicles 7:14
“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”
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It’s So Shiny! (Judges 1-3)

Friday, September 30

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Nikki Green

Joshua spends significant time during his life encouraging the Israelites to remember.  Remember… the commands of Moses, the allotted inheritance, all the LORD has done for you… However – we soon see, what appears to be, short term memory loss as we jump into the book of Judges.  I think many of us, as Christians, want to make great choices… then we see something attractive, fun, accessible, & maybe a little shiny.  We think we want it and we can handle it.  As you look at our friends from Finding Nemo staring at the shiny object, they feel happy and mesmerized by something they aren’t familiar with –but it’s close and it’s shiny and hard to turn away from.  The period of Judges spotlights some dark times and poor choices made by God’s chosen people.  The Israelites seem to trap themselves in a repetitive cycle throughout this book.  They persist in forgetting the LORD and follow a pattern of: sin, bondage, deliverance by a Judge, blessing, death of the Judge, and sin again.  It seems their shiny lure comes in the form of heathen people and their idols.

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“The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD” (Judges 3:7).  “The anger of the LORD burned against Israel so that he sold them … into the hands of …the king of Aram” (Judges 3:8).  Their shiny idols and lifestyle changes have now turned on them.  (Notice Dory’s shiny attraction turned on her too).  They were greatly oppressed for 8 years by these pagans.  God raised up Othniel (Caleb’s nephew) to deliver his people.  He went to war and overpowered the enemy, and the land had peace for 40 years.

It would be great if the Israelites brushed up on their history lessons and took a stroll down memory lane, but no!  They revert to their ever-so-popular repetitive cycle of sin.  The shiny idols and old pattern of infidelity reasserts itself.  They once again fall into the hands of their enemy.  This enemy is King Eglon of Moab and they are overpowered for 18 years.  We see a cry for help, and God is faithful to give them a deliverer.  Ehud is clever and uses his gifts of left-handedness and wit to his advantage.  He made an 18 inch double-edged sword and strapped it to his right thigh.  He secured this under his clothing when he joined other Israelites to present tribute to the king of Moab and his thugs.  Ehud and his men left the tribute and headed back to their people – but Ehud stopped and returned alone to the king.  As Ehud approached big ol’ King Eglon, I am sure the king and his guards were keeping their eyes on Ehud’s right hand – the expected offensive strong arm.  Ehud used a technique on the king that he couldn’t resist.  A little bait and hook!  Maybe this was King Eglon’s moment to want something special and shiny just for himself.  Ehud said, “I have a secret message for you, O King” (Judges 3:19).  Eglon was intrigued and selfish enough to want this all to himself!  He sent everyone out of the room.  He was ready for his special message.  Ehud approached him and told him he had “… a secret message from God for you” (3:20).  The King didn’t see it coming… Ehud used his dominant left hand to grab the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king’s belly.  Following this sneaky execution, Ehud led the Israelites in battle against the Moabites and won.  They had peace for 80 years.

Each time the Israelites relapsed to their infuriating cycle of sin, God was faithful to their cries to Him for help.  Judges 2:18 tells us, “Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them.”

We don’t know a lot about Shamgar, the third judge of Israel.  We do know he killed 600 Philistines with only an ox goad and he too saved Israel.  The Philistines were wise enough to realize if one man can defeat that many men with one farmer’s tool (long pole with a sharp metal point for herding oxen), maybe they should walk away.  If one man could do that – what could a dozen men, armed with ox goads, do?!  God’s power was written all over this story.  Why the Israelites couldn’t just hang out in the “deliverance by a Judge/ blessing” portion of their repetitive cycle… who knows?? Maybe too many shiny choices?  Let’s not allow distractions or shiny things to blind us.  We can attract others for the kingdom by reflecting God’s radiant light.  “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Let’s remember everything the LORD has done.  Let’s also turn away from sinful (shiny) desires… and, in the words of Dory, “just keep swimming!”

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