When everyone does what is right in his own eyes… God at work behind the scenes… Speak Lord, I’m listening…
DAY ONE – Judges 19-21
The Bible is a ‘no holds barred’ historical account of mankind and his relationship with God. Nothing, regardless its heinous nature, is withheld if it complements the story of human history. And no history, however positive or negative, is irrelevant to the human situation. Such is the tragic story that unfolded near the end of the era of the Judges. A story of perversion, unspeakable group conduct, revelation of the facts, and a ‘wakeup’ call to the entire nation, unfolds before our very eyes. One of the twelve tribes of Israel is decimated during this incident but hangs on by the ‘skin of their teeth.’ And when the whole story has reached an end, a final statement is added: Judges 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did that which was right in his own eyes.
There is a redemptive part of the human narrative that must always be told, if we are to correctly understand the nature and wisdom of Yahweh God. Being the Creator of mankind and the One left holding the bag filled with human failure, God is often blamed for the ills and evils perpetrated throughout nations, in families and even in individuals. Until we know the back story, we cannot understand the secret mysteries of evil and good. Only the Gospel (Good News) of Jesus Christ and His mysterious kingdom brings Truth into focus and reveals what has been, and what is yet to come. The FACTS of history must be rehearsed with the call of Jesus Christ ringing in our ears: Mark 1:14-15 Now after John was taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Good News of God’s Kingdom, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and God’s Kingdom is at hand! Repent, and believe in the Good News.” It has always been true; now it is critical. Time is running out.
DAY TWO – Ruth 1-4
It has been said that virtue has its own reward. However true that may be, the story of Ruth, Naomi and Boaz has all the ingredients of a Hallmark ‘feel good’ movie! Famine, emigration and loss of life fill the early pages of this account of Naomi, whose husband, Elimelech died after they settled in Moab. Following the marriages of Naomi’s two sons, to Orpah and Ruth, both sons also died within a ten-year period. Ruth emerges in the following scenes as a truly devoted, self-giving young woman committed to her aging mother-in-law’s welfare. Back in Bethlehem of Judah, Naomi must now look after the welfare of Ruth, whose future seems very uncertain. For us, the emergence of Boaz, a kinsman redeemer, is something new. The kinsman would traditionally buy the family property and marry the widow in order to maintain the family name. It turned out that Boaz was that kinsman willing to perform that function, even though he already had property and family. He had watched Ruth closely, observed her virtuous behavior and considered Naomi’s fortunes as well. Two profound ‘blessings’ are spoken and should be remembered.
First, acknowledging Ruth’s kindness to Naomi, Boaz blessed her in this manner: Ruth 2:12 May the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.” Without knowing, Ruth, by coming back to Israel with Naomi, had placed herself under Yahweh God’s blessing. And Yahweh, who rewards virtue, had laid a plan for Ruth which would reward the young Moabitess with a perpetual blessing that would outlive her; for she would be named in the ancestry of none other than Jesus the Messiah. Second, once Ruth was married to Boaz, her redeemer, she had a son who was none other than King David’s grandfather! And the women of their hometown lavished this blessing on Naomi: Ruth 4:14-16 “Praise the LORD, who has now provided a redeemer for your family! May this child be famous in Israel. 15 May he restore your youth and care for you in your old age. For he is the son of your daughter-in-law who loves you and has been better to you than seven sons!” 16 Naomi took the baby and cuddled him to her breast. And she cared for him as if he were her own. So this great story reminds us to trust Yahweh God with the oversight of our past, present and future, no matter the difficult circumstances we may encounter along the way. Ruth, by being focused on the welfare of someone other than herself, and by working hard and accepting elder wisdom, was blessed by God more than she could ever have dreamed.
DAY THREE – 1 Samuel 1-3
Much has been made of Hannah’s prayers for a son, and of the priest’s blessing over her, and of the birth of Samuel, and of his early years in the temple. But he was LENT to the Lord by his mother, having only been weaned. And he was delivered into the old priest’s care, and he grew up before the Lord in the house of God. His mother got to see him once a year. Hannah INVESTED in the future of Israel and trusted Yahweh God with that investment, surrendering all control over what she had given to God. It was soon obvious that Yahweh was with Samuel and oversaw his growing up years. But the defining event in these chapters is how Samuel came to know the Lord’s voice. He thought he heard Eli, but it turned out God was calling him. Three times in the night Samuel ran to Eli to know why he was called. Finally the old man realized it was God calling and instructed Samuel how to answer the next time he heard the voice–“Speak, Yahweh, for your servant is listening.”
“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” And so God again found a voice in Israel, a young man who would come to know God’s voice intimately and would speak God’s words fearlessly to his generation. “The Lord was with Samuel, and let none of his words fall to the ground.” When a person becomes that intimate with God of heaven, the Lord’s voice and the person’s voice sometimes sound the same, and God honors his servant’s words as well. If we are praying for a generation of young men and women who know God’s voice and will speak to their generation, well and good! But if we are not praying that prayer; if we are not willing to lend our sons and daughters to the Lord, why not? What mischief will it take for us to realize the desperate times our world is in? When will we give it all up to the Lord? Hopefully sooner than later.
DAY FOUR – 1 Samuel 4-8
“And the word of Samuel came to all Israel.” That’s a good thing…right? It all depends… The Philistines had been oppressing Israel into service for some time. Now they decided to conquer Israel, so they made war and killed 4,000 Israelis. Recovering from battle, Israel decided to bring the Ark of God into the battle zone to improve their chances of success. Old priest Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phineas, brought the Ark from Shiloh, and a massive shout was raised when it came into the camp! One day later, 30,000 Israelis lay dead, including Hophni and Phineas; and the Ark of God had been taken by the Philistines back to their city. When old priest Eli heard the news, he fell and broke his neck and died. Can it get any worse? Well, Phineas’ wife went into labor and had a boy, whom she named Ichabod–“The glory has departed from Israel.” From “The word of Samuel came to all Israel,” to “The glory has departed from Israel.” Wait a minute…where is the disconnect? Israel is making sacrifices to the Baals and Ashtoreths (foreign pagan gods), having rejected Yahweh as Sovereign. Things have gone from bad to worse. But there are some interesting developments down south…
First, the Philistine god Dagon is not faring well. The Ark of God is in his temple. Day one: Dagon is lying on the ground, knocked off his pedestal. Day two: Dagon is on the ground again, this time his head and hands lying nearby, broken off. Second, the Philistines of Ashdod city are breaking out in tumors all over. Everyone seems infected with the plague. And then a memory surfaces: remember what Yahweh did to the Egyptians? The whole world knew. So the Ark is moved to Gath, then to Ekron, Philistine cities. But the plague is now in those cities too. And the lights come on! Seven months of misery have brought the Philistines to their senses. So they send the Ark of God home and leave Israel alone. That was a great start, but Israel was still in the woods–only when they put away the demon gods and returned to Yahweh did their fortunes begin to improve. And Samuel stood before them all the way, speaking and judging with messages from Yahweh God. May the church of the west hear God’s voice calling us away from pagan persuasions, philosophies and traditions. As Jesus said to the seven churches in the Revelation, “Whoever has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” May we revive the Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven among us and seek His kingdom first.
DAY FIVE – 1 Samuel 9-12
Does our Father in heaven plan ahead for things that happen in our life? The story of Israel’s first king suggests that he does. God’s strategy to discover and choose Saul to be commander over Israel was elaborate and carefully executed, bringing together seemingly unrelated events and people to accomplish His plan. What a great story! What’s even more interesting is that Yahweh God’s hand is so clearly seen in the signs accompanying this incredible event, no one would believe that the Lord considered it a wicked thing! Really? God carried out a plan that made Him an accomplice to a wicked act? Not only did the Lord carry this out, He used it to REVEAL to the people the wickedness of their insistence that they have a king. Remember, from the days of Egypt until the days of this story, Israel had a history of unfaithfulness and disobedience to the heavenly commandments. They repeatedly rejected God in favor of foreign, demonic religious practices. And they were about to do it again, asking for a king so they could be “like the other nations.” So He gave them a king. Then, to prove to the people that they had sinned, God’s word through Samuel brought thunder and rain onto the wheat harvest, destroying it completely! So once again, Israel was sorry; but the damage was done. There would be good kings, but some of them would be so grossly pagan that generations later Israel would be swept away into exile and lose everything they had. Soon we will hear Samuel say to King Saul, “To obey is better than sacrifice.” But today is another learning experience.
Is there no comfort, no redemption? But yes, certainly… 1 Samuel 12:20-24 “Don’t be afraid,” Samuel reassured them. “You have certainly done wrong, but make sure now that you worship the LORD with all your heart, and don’t turn your back on Him. 21 Don’t go back to worshiping worthless idols that cannot help or rescue you—they are totally useless! 22 The LORD will not abandon His people, because that would dishonor His great name. For it has pleased the LORD to make you His very own people. 23 “As for me, I will certainly not sin against the LORD by ending my prayers for you. And I will continue to teach you what is good and right. 24 But be sure to fear the LORD and faithfully serve Him. Think of all the wonderful things He has done for you. Remember today that the Lord’s plans are ALWAYS redemptive, and He is always planning something better for us as we follow Him.