Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 12 August 2022:
Judges 11:2, 3 — …they drove Jephthah out and said to him, “You shall not have an inheritance in our father’s house, for you are the son of another woman.” Then Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob, and worthless fellows collected around Jephthah and went out with him.
How often do we judge others without considering the circumstances that contributed to who they have become and that helped to influence their behavior? If we had experienced their circumstances, are we certain that we wouldn’t have made the same mistakes in life if not worse? And how often does our response to sinners merely drive them into deeper sin rather than lead them toward repentance, reconciliation, and a right relationship with God? God has given us a message of reconciliation before a sinful world. Does our behavior draw sinners towards Jesus Christ or repel them?
- 2 Corinthians 5:17-19 -- Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
Judges 11:31-39 – Did Jephthah sacrifice his daughter? Jephthah may not have actually killed his daughter, though this is what is usually preached. Jephthah may have committed his daughter to celibate service to the Lord (a living sacrifice). Human sacrifice was forbidden to a Jew (Leviticus 20:2; Deuteronomy 18:10), and the Bible offers substitute (or redemption) for human sacrifice — “And all the firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem.” (Exodus 13:13) Many believe that Jephthah and his daughter did not mourn her looming death but rather the fact that she would never marry and have children:
“Several contextual indicators support this conclusion. First, the two-month period of mourning that Jephthah granted to his daughter was not for the purpose of grieving over her impending loss of life, but over the fact that she would never be able to marry. She bewailed her virginity (bethulim)—not her death (11:37). Second, the text goes out of its way to state that Jephthah had no other children: “She was his only child. Besides her he had neither son nor daughter” (11:34). For his daughter to be consigned to perpetual celibacy meant the extinction of Jephthah’s family line—an extremely serious and tragic matter to an Israelite (cf. Numbers 27:1-11; 36:1ff.). Third, the sacrifice is treated as unfortunate—again, not because of any concern over her death, but because she would not become a mother. After stating that Jephthah “did with her according to his vow which he had vowed,” the inspired writer immediately adds, “and knew no man” (11:39). This statement would be a completely superfluous and callous remark if she had been put to death. Fourth, the declaration of Jephthah’s own sorrow (11:35) follows immediately after we are informed that he had no other children (11:34). Jephthah was not upset because his daughter would die a virgin. He was upset because she would live and remain a virgin. Hannah made a similar sacrifice when she turned her son over to the priestly direction of Eli for the rest of his life (1 Samuel 1:11). How many are willing to make such sacrifices? Actually, however, these tremendous acts of devotion were no greater than that which God requires of all Christians: to offer ourselves as spiritual burnt-offerings in service to God (Romans 12:1).” — Apologetics Press
On the other hand, if Jephthah did kill his daughter, it would be no more shocking than other stories we are about to read in Judges. As previously mentioned, Gideon’s personal ephod was a direct affront to God that should jump out as scandalous to the highest degree; the Bible does not specifically call out the point, assuming the reader would clearly understand the nature of the offense. Human sacrifice was common among the Baal worshippers, and we know that God punished the Israelites for practicing child sacrifices as the Baal worshippers did. Archeology has also confirmed that the Jews slipped into child sacrifice associated with Baal worship. There is no limit to the evil of people who have rejected God. Where God reigns in the hearts of men, we have a reflection of Heaven – “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).” Conversely, were God has been rejected, we will see a reflection of Hell. The Book of Judges is a warning to future generations as to what happens when society turns from God; it is appalling. “Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.” (Luke 10:11)
Judges 11:35 — I have opened my mouth to the LORD, and I cannot take back my vow.
Take your promises to God very seriously — He does, and He demands that you fulfill them, holding you accountable if you don’t. Be very careful not to make promises to God in haste. Having said that, if you have made a vow to sin against God, you must not keep it. Better to bear the burden of your careless words (Matthew 12:36) than to also suffer the guilt and punishment resulting from the act.
Judges 11:36 — My father, you have opened your mouth to the LORD; do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth.
Jephthah’s daughter demonstrates incredible faith, surrendering her fate to God while honoring the promises of her father.
Luke 15:1-3 – Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So, he told them this parable….
Through parables in Luke 15, Jesus reveals the difference between the pharisaical attitude toward sinners and the Christian attitude. While the Pharisees in their self-righteous indignation despised sinners and looked forward to their punishment, Jesus, with love and compassion, greatly desired to save sinners and bring reconciliation to their broken relationship with the Father. In His parables, Jesus describes a heart for reconciliation that is as enthusiastic or desperate as one would be searching for a lost treasure or lost child. How desperate are you to bring people to Christ for their reconciliation?
From 2 Corinthians 5: “So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. We are not trying to commend ourselves…. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again…. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
In his compassion, was Jesus making light of, condoning, or accepting sin which is contrary to God’s will? Of course not. In Luke 15:7, 10, Jesus describes the rejoicing in heaven that comes from reconciliation when the “sinner… repents.” And in the Parable of the Lost Son, Jesus tells the other brother who remained faithful and obedient: “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
Luke 15:7 — “I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
The Pharisees, who saw themselves as the protectors of God’s standards, likely felt Jesus was condoning sin or making light of sin by reaching out to sinners. However, Jesus was doing neither. His message from the very beginning of His ministry was, “Repent,” and Jesus kept Himself holy and blameless amid sinners, always proclaiming the truth in love. Jesus was ‘about His Father’s business’ of bringing the lost back to Him, and Jesus makes to point that all of God’s Kingdom, His true subjects, rejoice greatly when the lost are found. In fact, Jesus repeats the point three times, which is an old way of demonstrating the highest degree of exclamation — “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents…. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.” (Luke 15:10, 32)
Usually, the parable of the lost sheep is preached to extol the virtues of evangelism – reaching those who do not know about Jesus. Evangelism is certainly the call of the church, given by Jesus in the Great Commission (Matthew 28); however, the parable of the lost sheep refers to reconciling believers who have gone astray, sheep that are already part of the fold, not unbelievers who aren’t yet part of the fold. Jesus first calls us to bring repentance to the church that light might shine from the church to unbelievers. Unrepentant sinners are not fit for evangelism. You don’t have to be perfect for evangelism, none of are, but you must be repentant and humbly reliant on God’s grace in order to proclaim God’s grace; and those to whom to seek should see the evidence of your faith in your changed life. We need corporate repentance and revival in our church.
Luke 15:15, 16 – So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
Too many Christians have sought to partner with the world for their prosperity, denying the birthright in Christ, only to discover that the world is heartless and has nothing for them.
Luke 15:18 – I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.
Returning to the Father starts with genuine repentance.
Luke 15:19 — I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.
The truly repentant person is more than happy to be a servant.
Luke 15:20 – And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
Reconciliation requires action by the offender and a willingness by the offended to receive the offender. God runs to those who are truly repentant. How do you treat those who have sinned terribly against you?
Luke 15:29 — I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends.
Though the older son stayed with the Father, He did not share the Father’s heart of compassion and grace. Rather, the ‘faithful’ son had a heart of pride and resentment towards His brother, and in his pride, he judged both his brother and his father. The self-righteous person arrogantly demands justice be administered against others, forgetting their own reliance on grace and the blessings they have received from God. The self-righteous display the traits of the flesh — anger, bitterness, jealousy, envy, etc. Sin is a loss of perspective of who God is, who we aren’t, and what God wills. When we display sinful attitudes towards others it is because we have made ourselves more important than God. This is idolatry.
“God is concerned with bringing people from death to life. His heart rejoices over each person who returns to Him from a time of rebellion. If your heart is like God’s, you, too, will rejoice when a sinner returns to the Father.
Jesus’ parable about the prodigal son is as much about the older son who remained as it is about the wayward son or the father. Year after year the older son labored for his father, waiting for a future reward. He had seen the brokenness his brother’s rebellion had caused his father. Yet when his brother returned, the older son did not rejoice with his father. He felt no pleasure in seeing his father happy. His concern was for himself and the injustice he perceived he’d been dealt. He felt like a martyr and totally missed the blessing of celebrating with his father.
It is possible to serve God year after year and yet have a heart that is far from Him. You might be one of the hardest workers in your church and yet be filled with bitterness because others do not share your load. You can become so preoccupied with your spiritual labors that when God works miracles in the lives of those around you, you cannot rejoice.
If you serve the Lord out of pride, duty, or habit, but not out of love, joy, and gratitude, you will feel like a martyr. You will envy those who are experiencing joy in the Lord while you feel weighed down by the work you are doing. This is not the abundant life your Father has planned for you. Come to the celebration, spend time with the Father, and share in His joy!” (Henry T. Blackaby)
Luke 15:29 — “I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends.”
Jesus’ parable about the prodigal son is as much about the older son as it is about the wayward son and the father. Although the older son faithfully stayed with the Father and served him, he did not share the Father’s heart of compassion and grace – he was not “one” with the father in spirit. The older son’s motivation was acknowledgement, status, and his future inheritance, and he was intent on earning his father’s favor for those purposes. While the father was overjoyed with the wayward son’s return, the ‘faithful’ son didn’t share his father’s joy. Instead, the older son had a heart of pride and resentment towards His brother, and in his pride, he judged both his brother and his father. The father loved the prodigal son, and the prodigal son was eager to receive that love. However, the older son stood bitterly outside that love, unable to understand or accept it. At the climax of the story, the prodigal son was closer to the father than the dutiful son because the prodigal son sought the father’s love and his fellowship while the older son sought recognition and reward.
The heart of the self-righteous is one of comparison, judgment, and resentment. The self-righteous arrogantly demand justice be administered against others, forgetting their own reliance on grace and the blessings they have received from God. The self-righteous display the traits of the flesh — anger, bitterness, jealousy, envy, etc. Sin is a loss of perspective of who God is, who we aren’t, and what God desires. Sin is a lack of love, separation from God and His love, and defiance to God and a rejection of His love. When we display sinful attitudes towards others it is because we have made ourselves more important than God and others in our own eyes. This is idolatry. “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.” (1 Samuel 15:23)
Consider what the older son in this story has in common with Martha, Mary’s sister – “But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.’” (Luke 10:40-42) Martha’s true motive behind her ‘good deeds’ was revealed by her attitude toward her sister who did less. Martha was “distracted”, felt abandoned, and was “anxious and troubled.” She compared, judged, and complained while “serving.” She resented the unmerited favor (grace) her sister received. She revealed the difference between prideful service and sacrificial service from a heart of genuine love. While serving others who don’t deserve it, what does your attitude reveal about your love and your appreciation of God’s grace?
“It is possible to serve God year after year and yet have a heart that is far from Him. You might be one of the hardest workers in your church and yet be filled with bitterness because others do not share your load. You can become so preoccupied with your spiritual labors that when God works miracles in the lives of those around you, you cannot rejoice. If you serve the Lord out of pride, duty, or habit, but not out of love, joy, and gratitude, you will feel like a martyr. You will envy those who are experiencing joy in the Lord while you feel weighed down by the work you are doing. This is not the abundant life your Father has planned for you. Come to the celebration, spend time with the Father, and share in His joy!” [Henry T. Blackaby]
Luke 15:31, 32 – And he said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.”
Eternal life is knowing Jesus — relationship with Jesus is our reward, both on earth and in Heaven. We should not desire anything else in life or envy the wicked who pursue other things. Our earthly joy should be both in knowing Jesus but also in helping others know Him too; loving Him wholeheartedly and loving others as He has loved us; displaying the grace to others that God has displayed to us. We should not resent the sinner but hope that they would come to Jesus. Rejoice in the grace given to those who are or were once trapped in sin.
Luke 15:31, 32 – “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
Eternal life is knowing Jesus, relationship with Jesus is our reward, both on earth and in Heaven. We should not desire anything else in life or envy the wicked who pursue other things. Our earthly joy should be both in knowing Jesus but also in helping others know Him too. We should not resent the sinner but hope that they would come to Jesus. Rejoice in the grace given to those who were once trapped in evil.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 12 Aug 22: Luke 15 is all about God’s desire for His lost people to repent and return to Him through Jesus, reuniting with Him. Today, make your total desire knowing Jesus more and more and helping others do the same.