Tuesday, January 26, 2021

today's meditation (Ruth 1) Remaining Faithful

(Dear Lord Jesus, guide me and give me insight as I read and study Your word...)

(Ruth 1:1-22)  Now it came about in the days when the judges governed, that there was a famine in the land. And a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to reside in the land of Moab with his wife and his two sons. 2 The name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife, Naomi; and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehem in Judah. So they entered the land of Moab and remained there. 3 Then Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left with her two sons. 4 And they took for themselves Moabite women as wives; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other, Ruth. And they lived there about ten years. 5 Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died, and the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.

6 Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the land of Moab, because she had heard in the land of Moab that the Lord had visited His people by giving them food. 7 So she departed from the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. 8 But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to your mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9 May the Lord grant that you may find a place of rest, each one in the house of her husband.” Then she kissed them, and they raised their voices and wept. 10 However, they said to her, “No, but we will return with you to your people.” 11 But Naomi said, “Return, my daughters. Why should you go with me? Do I still have sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? 12 Return, my daughters! Go, for I am too old to have a husband. If I said I have hope, if I were even to have a husband tonight and also give birth to sons, 13 would you therefore wait until they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters; for it is much more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the Lord has come out against me.”

14 And they raised their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.

15 Then she said, “Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not plead with me to leave you or to turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you sleep, I will sleep. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. 17 Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord do so to me, and worse, if anything but death separates me from you.” 18 When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her about it.

19 So they both went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they had come to Bethlehem, all the city was stirred because of them, and the women said, “Is this Naomi?” 20 But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?”

22 So Naomi returned, and with her Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, who returned from the land of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.

TODAY'S THOUGHTS AND MEDITATION:

Can you say "victim"?  Naomi dared to speak for God and declare that God had victimized her!  That God was bitter towards HER!!!  Where to start?!  
At the beginning of the famine, Naomi and her husband did not trust God enough to remain in the promised land.  Instead they disregarded God's will, and took matters into their own hands by moving to a pagan country.  This sin led to more... because they lived in this community, the sons married pagan women.  Ultimately they made this move thinking they'd be safe from death - and yet - three out of four of them - died!!!  
Just because one uses God's name a lot, one might sound spiritual to some people, but it does not make one a believer.  The way Naomi spoke about God tells us that she had a very skewed idea of what and who God is.  She had no qualms about telling her daughters-in-law to return to their own gods.  And in her well-wishes, she said she hoped that God would treat them AS THEY HAD treated her family.  Her idea was that if you are a "good" person and have done some good things, the Lord should return that "favor"... HOPEFULLY!!!
Imagine how it would be if God actually worked that way.  If God gave us exactly what we deserved, and rewarded us based on what we tried to earn in our own efforts... we'd all be in really big trouble!!!  
Yet God does bless and reward the faithful - based on who HE is and on what HE has done and will do for us!  Notice, God provided food to those who stayed in the promised land, waiting on Him and trusting in Him.  
(Deuteronomy 7:9)  Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His faithfulness to a thousand generations for those who love Him and keep His commandments;

Monday, January 25, 2021

today's meditation (Jdg.21) Responding Correctly

(Dear Lord Jesus, guide me and give me insight as I read and study Your word...)

(Judges 21:1-25) Now the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpah, saying, “None of us shall give his daughter to Benjamin in marriage.” 2 So the people came to Bethel and sat there before God until evening, and raised their voices and wept profusely. 3 And they said, “Why, Lord, God of Israel, has this happened in Israel, that one tribe is missing today from Israel?” 4 And it came about the next day that the people got up early and built an altar there, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings.

5 Then the sons of Israel said, “Who is there among all the tribes of Israel who did not go up to the Lord in the assembly?” For they had taken a solemn oath concerning anyone who did not go up to the Lord at Mizpah, saying, “He shall certainly be put to death.” 6 And the sons of Israel were sorry for their brother Benjamin, and said, “Today one tribe is cut off from Israel! 7 What are we to do for wives for those who are left, since we have sworn by the Lord not to give them any of our daughters as wives?”

8 And they said, “What one is there of the tribes of Israel that did not go up to the Lord at Mizpah?” And behold, no one had come to the camp from Jabesh-gilead to the assembly. 9 For when the people were counted, behold, not one of the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead was there. 10 And the congregation sent twelve thousand of the valiant warriors there, and commanded them, saying, “Go and strike the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the edge of the sword, along with the women and the children. 11 And this is the thing that you shall do: you shall utterly destroy every male, and every woman who has slept with a male.” 12 And they found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead four hundred young virgins who had not known a man by sleeping with him; and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.

13 Then the whole congregation sent word and spoke to the sons of Benjamin who were at the rock of Rimmon, and proclaimed peace to them. 14 And the tribe of Benjamin returned at that time, and they gave them the women whom they had allowed to live from the women of Jabesh-gilead; but they were not enough for them. 15 And the people were sorry for Benjamin, because the Lord had created a gap in the tribes of Israel.

16 Then the elders of the congregation said, “What are we to do for wives for those who are left, since the women have been eliminated from Benjamin?” 17 And they said, “There must be an inheritance for the survivors of Benjamin, so that a tribe will not be wiped out from Israel. 18 But we cannot give them wives from our daughters.” For the sons of Israel had sworn, saying, “Cursed is he who gives a wife to Benjamin!”

19 So they said, “Behold, there is a feast of the Lord from year to year in Shiloh, which is on the north side of Bethel, on the east side of the road that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and on the south side of Lebonah.” 20 And they commanded the sons of Benjamin, saying, “Go and lie in wait in the vineyards, 21 and watch; and behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to take part in the dances, then you shall come out of the vineyards, and each of you shall seize his wife from the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin. 22 And when their fathers or their brothers come to complain to us, we shall say to them, ‘Give them to us voluntarily, because we did not take for each man of Benjamin a wife in battle, nor did you give them to them, otherwise you would now be guilty.’” 23 The sons of Benjamin did so, and took wives according to their number from those who danced, whom they seized. And they went and returned to their inheritance, and rebuilt the cities and lived in them. 24 And the sons of Israel departed from there at that time, every man to his tribe and family, and each one departed from there to his inheritance.

25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

TODAY'S THOUGHTS AND MEDITATION:

What I see Israel doing in this chapter is what people typically do... they complain to God and wonder why God has allowed bad things to happen - even though - they are usually the ones who have created their own mess.  It's not like it is wrong to ask the question.  It's all about what we learn from it and how we respond.  And there are three basic responses which can come out of this.  
The right response is to realize that we are sinners and we are suffering the consequences of sin, and we need God as our Lord and Savior.  Or we become angry and blame God for things and choose to rebel against Him.  Or we become religious for a time, trying to do things in our own strength and in our own way, instead of doing things God's way and in His strength.
It's fairly obvious - people need a king in their lives.  The two wrong responses involve us making ourselves king.  The correct response involves us making Jesus our King!  It's our choice:  do we want an imperfect human king in charge of our lives, or do we want the perfect, all-knowing, all-powerful heavenly King of kings in charge of our lives?

Sunday, January 24, 2021

today's meditation (Jdg.20) Being Persistent

(Dear Lord Jesus, guide me and give me insight as I read and study Your word...)

(Judges 20:1-48) Then all the sons of Israel from Dan to Beersheba, including the land of Gilead, came out, and the congregation assembled as one person to the Lord at Mizpah. 2 And the leaders of all the people, all the tribes of Israel, took their stand in the assembly of the people of God, four hundred thousand foot soldiers who drew the sword. 3 (Now the sons of Benjamin heard that the sons of Israel had gone up to Mizpah.) And the sons of Israel said, “Tell us, how did this wickedness take place?” 4 So the Levite, the husband of the woman who was murdered, answered and said, “I came with my concubine to spend the night at Gibeah which belongs to Benjamin. 5 But the citizens of Gibeah rose up against me and surrounded the house at night, threatening me. They intended to kill me; instead, they raped my concubine so that she died. 6 And I took hold of my concubine and cut her in pieces, and sent her throughout the land of Israel’s inheritance; for they have committed an outrageous sin and vile act in Israel. 7 Behold, all you sons of Israel, give your response and advice here.”

8 Then all the people rose up as one person, saying, “Not one of us will go to his tent, nor will any of us go home. 9 But now this is the thing which we will do to Gibeah; we will go up against it by lot. 10 And we will take ten men out of a hundred throughout the tribes of Israel, and a hundred out of a thousand, and a thousand out of ten thousand to supply provisions for the people, so that when they come to Gibeah of Benjamin, they may punish them for all the vile sin that they have committed in Israel.” 11 So all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, united as one man.

12 Then the tribes of Israel sent men through the entire tribe of Benjamin, saying, “What is this wickedness that has taken place among you? 13 Now then, turn over the men, the worthless men who are in Gibeah, so that we may put them to death and remove this wickedness from Israel.” But the sons of Benjamin would not listen to the voice of their brothers, the sons of Israel. 14 Instead, the sons of Benjamin gathered from the cities to Gibeah, to go out to battle against the sons of Israel. 15 From the cities on that day the sons of Benjamin were counted, twenty-six thousand men who drew the sword, besides the inhabitants of Gibeah who were counted, seven hundred choice men. 16 Out of all these people seven hundred choice men were left-handed; each one could sling a stone at a hair and not miss.

17 Then the men of Israel besides Benjamin were counted, four hundred thousand men who drew the sword; all of these were men of war.

18 Now the sons of Israel set out, went up to Bethel, and inquired of God and said, “Who shall go up first for us to battle against the sons of Benjamin?” Then the Lord said, “Judah shall go up first.”

19 So the sons of Israel got up in the morning and camped against Gibeah. 20 The men of Israel went to battle against Benjamin, and the men of Israel lined up for battle against them at Gibeah. 21 Then the sons of Benjamin came out of Gibeah and struck to the ground on that day twenty-two thousand men of Israel. 22 But the people, the men of Israel, showed themselves courageous and lined up for battle again in the place where they had lined themselves up on the first day. 23 And the sons of Israel went up and wept before the Lord until evening, and inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall we again advance for battle against the sons of my brother Benjamin?” And the Lord said, “Go up against him.”

24 So the sons of Israel came against the sons of Benjamin on the second day. 25 And Benjamin went out against them from Gibeah the second day and struck to the ground again eighteen thousand men of the sons of Israel; all of these drew the sword. 26 Then all the sons of Israel and all the people went up and came to Bethel, and they wept and remained there before the Lord, and fasted that day until evening. And they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. 27 And the sons of Israel inquired of the Lord (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, 28 and Phinehas the son of Eleazar, Aaron’s son, stood before it to minister in those days), saying, “Shall I yet again go out to battle against the sons of my brother Benjamin, or shall I stop?” And the Lord said, “Go up, for tomorrow I will hand them over to you.”

29 So Israel set men in ambush around Gibeah. 30 And the sons of Israel went up against the sons of Benjamin on the third day and lined up against Gibeah as at other times. 31 When the sons of Benjamin went out against the people, they were lured away from the city, and they began to strike and kill some of the people as at other times, on the roads (one of which goes up to Bethel, and the other to Gibeah), and in the field, about thirty men of Israel. 32 And the sons of Benjamin said, “They are defeated before us, like the first time.” But the sons of Israel said, “Let’s flee, so that we may draw them away from the city to the roads.” 33 Then all the men of Israel rose from their place and lined up at Baal-tamar; and the men of Israel in ambush charged from their place, from Maareh-geba. 34 When ten thousand choice men from all Israel came against Gibeah, the battle became fierce; but Benjamin did not know that disaster was close to them. 35 And the Lord struck Benjamin before Israel, so that the sons of Israel destroyed 25,100 men of Benjamin that day, all who drew the sword.

36 So the sons of Benjamin saw that they were defeated. When the men of Israel gave ground to Benjamin because they relied on the men in ambush whom they had set against Gibeah, 37 the men in ambush hurried and rushed against Gibeah; the men in ambush also deployed and struck all the city with the edge of the sword. 38 Now the agreed sign between the men of Israel and the men in ambush was that they would make a great cloud of smoke rise from the city. 39 Then the men of Israel turned in the battle, and Benjamin began to strike and kill about thirty men of Israel, for they said, “Undoubtedly they are defeated before us, as in the first battle.” 40 But when the cloud began to rise from the city in a column of smoke, Benjamin looked behind them; and behold, the entire city was going up in smoke to heaven. 41 Then the men of Israel turned, and the men of Benjamin were terrified; for they saw that disaster was close to them. 42 Therefore, they turned their backs before the men of Israel to flee in the direction of the wilderness, but the battle overtook them while those who attacked from the cities were annihilating them in the midst of them. 43 They surrounded Benjamin, pursued them without rest, and trampled them down opposite Gibeah toward the east. 44 So eighteen thousand men of Benjamin fell; all of these were valiant men. 45 The rest turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon, but they caught five thousand of them on the roads and overtook them at Gidom, and killed two thousand of them. 46 So all those of Benjamin who fell that day were twenty-five thousand men who drew the sword; all of these were valiant men. 47 But six hundred men turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon; and they remained at the rock of Rimmon for four months. 48 The men of Israel then turned back against the sons of Benjamin and struck them with the edge of the sword, both the entire city with the cattle and all that they found; they also set on fire all the cities which they found.

TODAY'S THOUGHTS AND MEDITATION:

It was good that Israel wanted to take care of the unjust actions within their country, but why did they wait for something scary and tragic to happen?  Interesting how people tend to ignore God's existence and allow things to slide, thinking, "Eh, it's just a little thing..." But these things will only keep piling up, until things get really out of hand - and THEN - people think about going to God.  But because one hasn't been pursuing God, they don't KNOW Him or understand that He isn't just some big vending-machine-in-the-sky.
At least Israel was persistent in seeking out God's help.  At first they just asked God for one piece of advice.  God answered them.  If only they had asked for complete directions and asked Him for help!  The second time, they wept and asked if they should continue the battle.  Again God answered their question, but they still didn't seek out His will and ask for  His help.  Finally, the third time, Israel wept, fasted, worshipped, honored the Lord by giving offerings, asked for guidance and then waited on Him!
We have to stop thinking that we can do things on our own, or do some things on our own, and leave other things to God.  God wants to do everything - FOR us - all of the time... 24/7... so we should be persistent in our desire to continue a close personal relationship and dependency on the Lord!  When things are bad, as well as when things are good.  ESPECIALLY when things are good, because it is in good times that we can so very easily take God for granted or think that we don't need Him.  

Friday, January 22, 2021

today's meditation (Jdg.19) Desire Justice

(Dear Lord Jesus, guide me and give me insight as I read and study Your word...)

(Judges 19:1-30)   Now it came about in those days, when there was no king in Israel, that there was a certain Levite staying in the remote part of the hill country of Ephraim, who took a concubine for himself from Bethlehem in Judah. 2 But his concubine found him repugnant, and she left him and went to her father’s house in Bethlehem in Judah, and remained there for a period of four months. 3 Then her husband set out and went after her to speak gently to her in order to bring her back, taking with him his servant and a pair of donkeys. And she brought him into her father’s house, and when the girl’s father saw him, he was glad to meet him. 4 His father-in-law, the girl’s father, prevailed upon him, and he remained with him for three days. So they ate and drank and stayed there. 5 Now on the fourth day they got up early in the morning, and he prepared to go; but the girl’s father said to his son-in-law, “Strengthen yourself with a piece of bread, and afterward you may go.” 6 So both of them sat down and ate and drank together; and the girl’s father said to the man, “Please be so kind as to spend the night, and let your heart be cheerful.” 7 However, the man got up to go; but his father-in-law urged him, and he spent the night there again. 8 Now on the fifth day he got up to go early in the morning, but the girl’s father said, “Please strengthen yourself, and wait until late afternoon”; so both of them ate. 9 When the man got up to go, along with his concubine and servant, his father-in-law, the girl’s father, said to him, “Behold now, the day has drawn to a close; please spend the night. Behold, the day is coming to an end; spend the night here so that your heart may be cheerful. Then tomorrow you may arise early for your journey and go home.”

10 But the man was unwilling to spend the night, so he got up and left, and came to a place opposite Jebus (that is, Jerusalem). And with him was a pair of saddled donkeys; his concubine also was with him. 11 When they were near Jebus, the day was almost gone; and the servant said to his master, “Please come, and let’s turn aside into this city of the Jebusites and spend the night in it.” 12 However, his master said to him, “We will not turn aside into a city of foreigners who are not of the sons of Israel; instead, we will go on as far as Gibeah.” 13 And he said to his servant, “Come, and let’s approach one of these places; and we will spend the night in Gibeah or Ramah.” 14 So they passed along and went their way, and the sun set on them near Gibeah which belongs to Benjamin. 15 They turned aside there to enter and spend the night in Gibeah. When they entered, they sat down in the public square of the city, for no one took them into his house to spend the night.

16 Then behold, an old man was coming out of the field from his work at evening. Now the man was from the hill country of Ephraim, and he was staying in Gibeah, but the men of the place were Benjaminites. 17 And he raised his eyes and saw the traveler in the public square of the city; and the old man said, “Where are you going, and where do you come from?” 18 And he said to him, “We are passing from Bethlehem in Judah to the remote part of the hill country of Ephraim, for I am from there, and I went to Bethlehem in Judah. But I am now going to my house, and no one will take me into his house. 19 Yet there is both straw and feed for our donkeys, and also bread and wine for me, and your female slave, and the young man who is with your servants; there is no lack of anything.” 20 Then the old man said, “Peace to you. Only let me take care of all your needs; however, do not spend the night in the public square.” 21 So he took him into his house and fed the donkeys, and they washed their feet and ate and drank.

22 While they were celebrating, behold, the men of the city, certain worthless men, surrounded the house, pushing one another at the door; and they spoke to the owner of the house, the old man, saying, “Bring out the man who entered your house that we may have relations with him.” 23 Then the man, the owner of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my brothers, please do not act so wickedly. Since this man has come into my house, do not commit this vile sin. 24 Here is my virgin daughter and the man’s concubine. Please let me bring them out, then rape them and do to them whatever you wish. But do not commit this act of vile sin against this man.” 25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and brought her outside to them; and they raped her and abused her all night until morning, then let her go at the approach of dawn. 26 As the day began to dawn, the woman came and fell down at the doorway of the man’s house where her master was, until full daylight.

27 When her master got up in the morning and opened the doors of the house and went out to go on his way, then behold, his concubine was lying at the doorway of the house with her hands on the threshold. 28 And he said to her, “Get up and let’s go,” but there was no answer. Then he put her on the donkey; and the man set out and went to his home. 29 When he entered his house, he took a knife and seized his concubine, and cut her in twelve pieces, limb by limb. Then he sent her throughout the territory of Israel. 30 All who saw it said, “Nothing like this has ever happened or been seen from the day when the sons of Israel came up from the land of Egypt to this day. Consider it, make a plan, and speak up!”

TODAY'S THOUGHTS AND MEDITATION:

Clearly these events were not meant for us to use as examples of what to do - but as examples of what NOT to do!  These crimes - these sins - should never be allowed.  And to stop one crime from happening, we should never encourage or allow another one to be committed.  None of this is acceptable.  
1.  the Levite had more than one wife
2.  the Levite was not kind to his woman (or women)
3.  although the Levite was annoyed at being detained any further, it was unwise to leave his father-in-law's house so late in the day
4.  although the Levite thought he would receive better treatment from his own people, the Israelites had been extremely unhospitable
5.  the Israelites in that town had not dealt with the "worthless men" there and allowed them to run amok
6.  the attitude in this Israelite town wasn't any better than the pagans of Sodom
7.  the old man thought he could stop one crime by allowing another
8.  the old man valued the life of the man over the lives of the women
9.  the worthless men committed sinful acts
10. the Levite didn't seem to care about his woman except as far as that she was his "property"
Where we can, we need to speak out against injustices, and stand up for justice.  No matter who they are, we need to protect and look out for the weak and the vulnerable.  We need to treat all people with love, dignity and respect, but most especially we need to exercise those things towards our family members, friends and fellow believers! 
And always, we should be praying for peace and safety in our countries!

Thursday, January 21, 2021

today's meditation (Jdg.17-18) Doing it God's Way

(Dear Lord Jesus, guide me and give me insight as I read and study Your word...)

(Judges 17:1-13)  Now there was a man of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Micah. 2 And he said to his mother, “The 1,100 pieces of silver that were taken from you, about which you uttered a curse and also spoke it in my hearing, behold, the silver is with me; I took it.” And his mother said, “Blessed be my son by the Lord.” 3 He then returned the 1,100 pieces of silver to his mother, and his mother said, “I wholly consecrate the silver from my hand to the Lord for my son to make a carved image and a cast metal image; so now I will return them to you.” 4 So when he returned the silver to his mother, his mother took two hundred pieces of silver and gave them to the silversmith, who made them into a carved image and a cast metal image, and they were in the house of Micah. 5 And the man Micah had a shrine and he made an ephod and household idols, and consecrated one of his sons, so that he might become his priest. 6 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

7 Now there was a young man from Bethlehem in Judah, of the family of Judah, who was a Levite; and he was staying there. 8 Then the man left the city, Bethlehem in Judah, to stay wherever he would find a place; and as he made his journey, he came to the hill country of Ephraim, to the house of Micah. 9 Micah said to him, “Where do you come from?” And he said to him, “I am a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to stay wherever I may find a place.” 10 Micah then said to him, “Stay with me and be a father and a priest to me, and I will give you ten pieces of silver a year, a supply of clothing, and your sustenance.” So the Levite went in. 11 The Levite agreed to live with the man, and the young man became to him like one of his sons. 12 So Micah consecrated the Levite, and the young man became his priest and lived in the house of Micah. 13 Then Micah said, “Now I know that the Lord will prosper me, because I have a Levite as a priest.”
(Judges 18:1-31)  In those days there was no king of Israel; and in those days the tribe of the Danites was seeking an inheritance for themselves to live in, for until that day an inheritance had not been allotted to them as a possession among the tribes of Israel. 2 So the sons of Dan sent from their family five men out of their whole number, valiant men from Zorah and Eshtaol, to spy out the land and to explore it; and they said to them, “Go, explore the land.” And they came to the hill country of Ephraim, to the house of Micah, and stayed overnight there. 3 When they were near the house of Micah, they recognized the voice of the young man, the Levite; and they turned aside there and said to him, “Who brought you here? And what are you doing in this place? And what do you have here?” 4 He said to them, “Micah has done this and that for me, and he has hired me and I have become his priest.” 5 Then they said to him, “Inquire of God, please, that we may know whether our way on which we are going will be successful.” 6 And the priest said to them, “Go in peace; your way in which you are going has the Lord’s approval.”

7 So the five men departed and came to Laish, and saw the people who were in it living in security, in the way of the Sidonians, quiet and unsuspecting; for there was no oppressive ruler humiliating them for anything in the land, and they were far from the Sidonians and had no dealings with anyone. 8 When they came back to their brothers at Zorah and Eshtaol, their brothers said to them, “What do you say?” 9 And they said, “Arise, and let’s go up against them; for we have seen the land, and behold, it is very good. And will you sit still? Do not hesitate to go, to enter, to take possession of the land. 10 When you enter, you will come to an unsuspecting people with a spacious land; for God has handed it over to you, a place where there is no lack of anything that is on the earth.”

11 Then from the family of the Danites, from Zorah and from Eshtaol, six hundred men armed with weapons of war set out. 12 They went up and camped at Kiriath-jearim in Judah. Therefore they called that place Mahaneh-dan to this day; behold, it is west of Kiriath-jearim. 13 And they passed from there to the hill country of Ephraim and came to the house of Micah.

14 Then the five men who went to spy out the country of Laish said to their kinsmen, “Do you know that there are in these houses an ephod and household idols, and a carved image and a cast metal image? Now then, consider what you should do.” 15 So they turned aside there and came to the house of the young man, the Levite, to the house of Micah, and asked him how he was doing. 16 Meanwhile, the six hundred men armed with their weapons of war, who were of the sons of Dan, were positioned at the entrance of the gate. 17 Now the five men who went to spy out the land went up and entered there; they took the carved image, the ephod, the household idols, and the cast metal image, while the priest was standing at the entrance of the gate with the six hundred men armed with weapons of war. 18 When these men entered Micah’s house and took the carved image, the ephod, household idols, and the cast metal image, the priest said to them, “What are you doing?” 19 And they said to him, “Be silent, put your hand over your mouth, and go with us, and be to us a father and a priest. Is it better for you to be a priest to the house of one man, or to be priest to a tribe and a family in Israel?” 20 The priest’s heart was glad, and he took the ephod, the household idols, and the carved image, and went among the people.

21 Then they turned and left, and put the children, the livestock, and the valuables in front of them. 22 When they had distanced themselves from Micah’s house, the men who were in the houses near Micah’s house assembled by command and overtook the sons of Dan. 23 Then they called out to the sons of Dan, who turned around and said to Micah, “What is the matter with you, that you have assembled together?” 24 And he said, “You have taken my gods which I made, and the priest, and have gone away; what more do I have? So how can you say to me, ‘What is the matter with you?’” 25 Then the sons of Dan said to him, “Do not let your voice be heard among us, or else fierce men will attack you, and you will lose your life and the lives of your household.” 26 So the sons of Dan went on their way; and when Micah saw that they were too strong for him, he turned and went back to his house.

27 Then they took what Micah had made and the priest who had belonged to him, and came to Laish, to a people quiet and unsuspecting, and struck them with the edge of the sword; and they burned the city with fire. 28 And there was no one to save them, because it was far from Sidon and they had no dealings with anyone, and it was in the valley which is near Beth-rehob. So they rebuilt the city and lived in it. 29 And they named the city Dan, after the name of Dan their father who was born to Israel; however, the name of the city was previously Laish. 30 The sons of Dan set up for themselves the carved image; and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity of the land. 31 So they set up for themselves Micah’s carved image which he had made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh.

TODAY'S THOUGHTS AND MEDITATION:

Here was a mom who put a curse on the one who stole from her, which turned out to be her own son.  In hopes of negating the curse, he quickly returned the silver coins, and they made a few household idols with the silver, as well as an ephod (a priest's vest).  Micah then quickly made his unqualified son a priest until someone "better" came along.  When Micah found the young Levite, he quickly paid him to be his personal priest, hoping that this, like a good luck charm, would bring him financial success.
These people were simply religious, talking about God, and talking "for" God, but we never see them talking TO God.  Even the Levite priest just made everything up and told people what they wanted to hear.  Had the Levite priest actually listened to and followed God, he would have known to do away with idols! 
It's not enough to just desire that God should be on our side, or appear like God is close to us... This is where people get into so much trouble - creating religions and cults.  In North America alone, there are thousands of KNOWN cults, never mind all the churches who say they follow the Bible, but only to the extent that it suits themselves.  The rest of God's words - they twist, delete or make up.  All of mankind's religious efforts are hopeless and filled with emptiness and darkness.  
To find hope, fulfillment and light, we must go to God and do things His way.  Jesus is the only way!
(John 14:6)  Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me."

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

today's meditation (Jdg.16) It's Never Too Late

(Dear Lord Jesus, guide me and give me insight as I read and study Your word...)

(Judges 16:1-31)  Now Samson went to Gaza and saw a prostitute there, and had relations with her. 2 When it was reported to the Gazites, saying, “Samson has come here,” they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the gate of the city. And they kept silent all night, saying, “Let’s wait until the morning light, then we will kill him.” 3 Now Samson lay asleep until midnight, and at midnight he got up and took hold of the doors of the city gate and the two doorposts, and pulled them up along with the bars; then he put them on his shoulders, and carried them up to the top of the mountain which is opposite Hebron.

4 After this it came about that he was in love with a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. 5 So the governors of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, “Entice him, and see where his great strength lies and how we can overpower him so that we may bind him to humble him. Then we will each give you 1,100 pieces of silver.” 6 So Delilah said to Samson, “Please tell me where your great strength lies, and how you can be bound to humble you.” 7 And Samson said to her, “If they bind me with seven fresh animal tendons that have not been dried, then I will become weak and be like any other man.” 8 Then the governors of the Philistines brought up to her seven fresh animal tendons that had not been dried, and she bound him with them. 9 Now she had men prepared for an ambush in an inner room. And she said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he tore the tendons to pieces just like a thread of flax is torn apart when it comes too close to fire. So his strength was not discovered.

10 Then Delilah said to Samson, “Behold, you have toyed with me and told me lies; now please tell me how you may be bound.” 11 Then He said to her, “If they bind me tightly with new ropes which have not been used, then I will become weak and be like any other man.” 12 So Delilah took new ropes and bound him with them and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” For the men in the ambush were waiting in the inner room. But he tore the ropes from his arms like thread.

13 Then Delilah said to Samson, “Up to now you have toyed with me and told me lies; tell me how you may be bound.” And he said to her, “If you weave the seven locks of my hair with the web [and fasten it with the pin, then I will be weak like any other man.” 14 So while he slept, Delilah wove the seven locks of his hair with the web]. And she fastened it with the pin and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he awoke from his sleep and pulled out the pin of the loom and the web.

15 Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? You have toyed with me these three times and have not told me where your great strength is.” 16 And it came about, when she pressed him daily with her words and urged him, that his soul was annoyed to death. 17 So he told her all that was in his heart and said to her, “A razor has never come on my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaved, then my strength will leave me and I will become weak and be like any other man.”

18 When Delilah saw that he had told her all that was in his heart, she sent word and called the governors of the Philistines, saying, “Come up once more, for he has told me all that is in his heart.” Then the governors of the Philistines came up to her and brought up the money in their hands. 19 And she made him sleep on her knees, and called for a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. Then she began to humble him, and his strength left him. 20 She said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him. 21 Then the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes; and they brought him down to Gaza and restrained him with bronze chains, and he became a grinder in the prison. 22 However, the hair of his head began to grow again after it was shaved off.

23 Now the governors of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god, and to celebrate, for they said,

“Our god has handed Samson our enemy over to us.”

24 When the people saw him, they praised their god, for they said,

“Our god has handed our enemy over to us,
Even the destroyer of our country,
Who has killed many of us.”

25 It so happened when they were in high spirits, that they said, “Call for Samson, that he may amuse us.” So they called for Samson from the prison, and he entertained them. And they made him stand between the pillars. 26 Then Samson said to the boy who was holding his hand, “Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests, so that I may lean against them.” 27 Now the house was full of men and women, and all the governors of the Philistines were there. And about three thousand men and women were on the roof looking on while Samson was entertaining them.

28 Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me just this time, O God, that I may at once take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes.” 29 Then Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and braced himself against them, the one with his right hand and the other with his left. 30 And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” And he pushed outwards powerfully, so that the house fell on the governors and all the people who were in it. And the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he killed during his lifetime. 31 Then his brothers and all his father’s household came down and took him, and brought him up and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of his father Manoah. So he had judged Israel for twenty years.

TODAY'S THOUGHTS AND MEDITATION:

Wow!  Samson really knew how to pick 'em!  Not!  I'm very curious if he had ever been curious about how different his life would have been had he found a wife doing it God's way?  And even though he managed to kill many Philistines, how many more would there have been had he done things differently?  
I know I'm playing the "what-if-game", and I'd be shocked if Samson didn't also play this game while he was blinded, held hostage and humiliated.  Especially because most of his struggles were consequences of his own decisions.  But it is never too late to turn (back) to the Lord!  We should never get stuck in that "what-if-game".  We need to consider what happened, where we went wrong, confess those sins, and then consider how we could do things better moving forward, making the decision to do things God's way.