Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 2 August 2022:
Note: Here is a short video overview of the Book of Judges: https://youtu.be/kOYy8iCfIJ4
Judges 1:1 — “After the death of Joshua, the people of Israel inquired of the Lord, ‘Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?’”
The Israelites begin the book of Judges well by inquiring of the Lord before making important decisions. After verse 1 in Judges, the Israelites do not “inquire of the Lord” again until the end of the book while facing the catastrophic consequences of their sin as a people: “The people of Israel arose and went up to Bethel and inquired of God, ‘Who shall go up first for us to fight against the people of Benjamin (Judges 20:18)?’” At the beginning of the book, a united people inquire of God who should lead them to fight their enemies. At the end of the book, having drifted far from God, the people ask who should lead them to slaughter each other. They approached God neither in a position of obedience nor of love.
The Book of Judges reveals what happens when God’s people disobey God and compromise their holiness. It also reveals what happens when a nation rejects God’s commands. Judges is highly relevant to us today – consider carefully what you read. At the beginning of the book, God’s people, from a position of great national strength, are inquiring of the Lord as to how to have dominion for His glory. By the end of the book, “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25), though still claiming to be religious, and lawlessness tore the nation apart. Spoiler alert: The Book of Judges does not end on a high note.
Today we read how, after a long period of triumph under the leadership of Joshua (because the Lord was with them), the Israelites disobey God by allowing the Jebusites, Canaanites, and Amorites to live among them rather than driving them out completely as the Lord had commanded. They chose the easy path of compromise rather than the harder but blessed path of disciplined, wholehearted obedience to God. As soon as God’s people chose to be led by their own desires and self-proclaimed ‘wisdom’ rather than the “voice of God,” God no longer supported their efforts (Judges 2:3). At that point, all their religious activities were more than meaningless, they were deceptive and offensive to God (Judges 2:5).
After just one generation, the people “did not know the Lord.” The national decline was shockingly fast – “And the people… did what was evil in the sight of the Lord… and they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers…. And they provoked the Lord to anger…, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And He sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. Whenever they marched out, the hand of the Lord was against them for harm, as the Lord had warned, and as the Lord had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress (Judges 2:11-15).” God in His mercy and grace raised up leaders (Judges) to steer the people back on the course of obedience to God, but “they did not listen to their judges…; they did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways.” Therefore, the nation remained under God’s judgment.
When the people abided in God and obeyed Him, they were loving, unified, strong, and blessed. As the people drifted further and further away from God, their love grew colder and colder as did their trustworthiness, and all relationships depend on trust. Hence, the book of Judges culminates with the people destroying each other –
- 2 Timothy 3:1-5 — But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
- 1 John 3:6, 9, 14, 15, 24; 4:12, 16 — No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him…. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God…. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death…. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him…. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us…. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us…. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
Of the Old Testament, the New Testament says, “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did…. These things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come (1 Corinthians 10:6, 11).” What will we learn from Judges? How will we apply what we learn?
Commit yourself to the road less travelled, which makes all the difference, the way of Christ –
- 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.
- Matthew 7:13, 14 — “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
- John 10:9 — I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.
- John 14:27 — Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
- John 16:33 — I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Luke 7:2-10 — Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore, I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”
The centurion in today’s readings offers a great example of how to integrate faith with profession and how faithful Christian professionals can have a powerful impact on their coworkers and their community to God’s glory:
- Luke 7:2, 3 – “Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant.”
Christian professionals stand out for their compassion for others, serve in an intercessory position to the Lord on their employees’ behalf, and take personal action to care for them. The centurion, a powerful person, went out of his way to take care of a servant because the servant was “highly valued by him.” How do you show others how valuable they are to you, and how to minister to their real needs to God’s glory?
Luke 7:4, 5 — “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.”
The centurion worked diligently in his profession and in service to the church, and his commitment to both were well known and respected by all. The centurion didn’t compartmentalize his faith. For a Christian, there is no secular job. All work is done with God and for God –
- Colossians 3:17, 22-24 — And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him…. Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
- Daniel 6:3 — Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other presidents and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.
- Titus 2:7, 8 — Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.
- Proverbs 22:29 — Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.
- Ephesians 6:7-8 — Rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.
Luke 7:7, 8 – “But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
The centurion, a person of great authority and power in service to a secular nation, recognized, honored, and trusted Jesus’ superior authority, publicly humbling himself before Jesus. When Jesus gave us the Great Commission, He reminded us that we are called to proclaim the Gospel and make disciples under His authority and through His power. Do you use your liberty and freedom to share the Gospel when others say you shouldn’t?
- Acts 4:18-21 — So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened.
- John 19:10, 11 — So Pilate said to him… “Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.”
- Luke 7:9 – “When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, ‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.’”
- Romans 1:16 — For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
- Luke 9:26 — For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
- 2 Timothy 1:8-14 — Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.
Few would have thought that a Roman, gentile soldier would receive such a commendation from Jesus, ahead of the Jewish religious leaders. Because the centurion was willing to live out his faith publicly, he demonstrated that the unifying power of the Gospel transcends all social divides. Notice that even though the centurion worked as a commander for the Roman army, Jesus didn’t ask him to leave his profession. The centurion was a powerful witness right where he was and was used in a powerful way by God. What would happen in our nation if more Christians lived their faith publicly in their professions and demonstrated the power of the Gospel to transform and to overcome all that divides people?
- Daniel 2:47-49 — The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.” Then the king gave Daniel high honors and many great gifts and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. Daniel made a request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon. But Daniel remained at the king’s court.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 2 August 22: Have the faith to serve as an ambassador for Christ where you work. Standout as excellent at what you do while demonstrating the excellencies of whom you ultimately serve, Jesus Christ. Glorify God where He has placed you, and proclaim the Gospel in word and deed.