A mother in Israel

Judges 4:1-24

We resumed again today with the Sin – Deliverance- Sin again cycle which the Israelites seemed to have gottenn used to. This time around, they were sold to Jabin king of Canaan, and oppressed through the captain of his army -Sisera, for twenty years.

On crying out to God this time around, he raised for them a prophetess in Deborah, who was a judge to the people. Deborah told Barak God’s word to go to war against Siserah with a proise of victory despite Siserah’s chariots of iron. Remember that the tribe of Judah was unable to drive out the inhabitants of the valley areas because of these same chariots of Iron (Judges 1:19).

So no wonder when Barak said he would not go to war except he had the presence of Deborah. Israel had not yet conquered those with chariots of iron beyond Jordan. Deborah decided to go with Barak, but warned him the honour of the victory of the battle would be to a woman. Barak did not seem to be bothered about that at all.

So, when Siserah heard that Barak had gone to mount Tabor he went to war with all his chariots of Iron. The Lord however fought for Israel, discomfited Siserah’s army and gave Israel victory. Siserah fled off from the battle ground on his feet and ran to the tent of Jael the wife of Heber.

Jael completed the work Barak began by killing Siserah while asleep. She invited him in, offered him milk, and while he slept drove a tent peg into his temples. So, the prophecy Deborah gave was fulfilled. Israel had victory, continued to prosper and eventually prevailed against Jabin.

Some verses to remember

vs 15: And the LORD discomfited Sisera, and all his chariots, and all his host, with the edge of the sword before Barak.

Vs 24: And the hand of the children of Israel prospered, and prevailed against Jabin the king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin king of Canaan.

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Othniel, Ehud and Shamgar.

Judges 3:1-31

This chapter begins with four key nations that the Lord left to prove Israel’s obedience to God and to teach them to war. There were the Phiistines, Canaanites, Sidonians and the Hivites. Meanwhile, the people also dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. They allowed marriage with these people and served their gods, forgetting the God of israel.

This evil led to the first punishment for the people – being sold to the hand of Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia for eight years. However when the people of Israel cried out to God he raised Othniel as the first Judge in Israel, who by the Spirit of God judged the people and also conquered Chushanrishathaim. The land then enjoyed rest for the next 40 years until Othniel died.

After his death, the people turned away again, and this time around they had to serve Eglon king of Moab for eighteen years as punishment. On crying out again, God raised the left handed Ehud as their deliverer. Ehud’s ‘message from God’ for Eglon was a double edged dagger skillfully thrust into Eglon’s fat belly with his left hand. Eglon escaped after locking the door on the dead king, gathered the rest of the people and conquered the Moabites, defeating up ten thousand men of valour.  After this victory, the land had rest for eighty years.

The chapter then concludes with a brief mention of Shamgar who was also a deliverer in Israel, who killed six hundred Philistines with an ox goad.

We are just begining the book, and this much has happened. What happens next after that? We’ll soon see!

Some verses to remember

Vs 9: And when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer to the children of Israel.

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Generation X!

Judges 2:1-23

Today starts with the stark reality of Israel’s action (and inaction). The chapter starts with a revealation of by an angel of the Lord of Israel’s disobedience to the Lord by allowing the inhabitants of the land to live with them and influence them to serve other gods. Israel had made a league with the inhabitants of the land, now they are like thorns in Israel’s sides and their gods a snare unto them. Israel wept on hearing this!

We were them reminded of how the people lived under Joshua and the elders who knew the works of God. However, when all that generation died, a new generation arose that did not know the Lord. This new generation began to serve Baalim and forsook the Lord God of their fathers, serving the gods of the people round about them.

What a shame! There are two sides to this problem. The first is obviosuly a failure on the part of the fathers or the previous generation to transfer the reality of the God of Israel to future generations. One of the warnings and commandments of God was that the people should teach their children and generations to come his laws and commanments (see Deut 11:19). Memorials were also in place as reminders of His great works amongs them – what happened to all these?

The second part of the problem is that by allowing the remnants of the land to stay, the influenece of these inhabitants became strong on Israel. The people got accustomed to the ways of the old dwellers, they lost their own values. It now becomes so clear why God warned them beforehand to totally destroy these people, and the real consequence of Israel’s disobedience.

As God is a jealous God, his anger was provoked when the people served other gods, against his commandments. He gave them up to their enemies round about them, and the began to serve the people who were serving them before. Wherever they went, the hand of the Lord was against them for evil and they were greatly distressed.

We however saw a glimmer of hope, as God is a merciful God. He raised up Judges to deliever the people out of the hand of those that spoiled them. This was however not a lasting solution, as the people were accustomed to sin, and would not listen to these judges – they obeyed when the judges lived but depart as soon as they died. God however still listened to their groanings and always send the judges to deliver them all the same.

The Lord did not drive out all the nations left when Joshua died, he left them to prove Israel whether they will keep His way as their fathers did or not.

In the current world, with all the glitz, glamour, and questions people raise and their reasons to doubt and disobey, the biggest question is – is today’s generation not almost exactly like this Israel’s ‘generation X’?

Some verses to remember

vs 10: And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.

vs 16: Nevertheless the LORD raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them.

vs 21-22: I also will not henceforth drive out any from before them of the nations which Joshua left when he died:  That through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not.

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Taking over the lands of the Canaanites

Judges 1:1-36

Life after Joshua began in the book of Judges with the question of leadership – Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites? The tribe of Judah took up the responsibility, enlisting the support of the tribe of Simeon. So both tribes went and defated the Canaanites and the Perizzites. Simeon also had the support of Judah in conquering their own enemies too.

However, despite the victories Judah had driving out the inhabitants of the mountains, we learnt the tribe could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley because they had chariots of iron. This probably would require a new strategy from Judah, who was just settling in the new possession.

As other tribes to conquer their lands, we also saw the tribe of Joseph who used a strategy similar to that used in Jericho (spies and Rahab). In a somewhat similar story, a man helped the spies into the city of Bethel and in return his life and that of his family were spared when Joseph conquered Bethel.

In summary, despite all the victories the tribes of Israel had, they were unable to drive out all the inhabitants of the lands, but the Canaanites dwelt among them, though put to tribute. What effect will this have later?

Lets go along together!

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The Book of Judges.

Today we move on to a new book – The book of Judges. This book gives a lot of information about Israel’s early history and leaders and their achievements. Joshua had just died and the people had no leader so to say. However, ‘saviours’ keep rising up to recue the Israelites from their enemies.

Come along as we plunge into this book together.

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Choose today!

 

Joshua 24:1-33

As Joshua prepares for his death, he gave his final words to the children of Israel. Starting with the history of the forefathers, he reminded them of where they were coming from – a people without God. Beginning with Abraham’s call to Isaac, Jacob and his children who moved to Egypt, down to how God delivered them through Moses and Aaron, Joshua reminded them of God’s dealings.

He reminded the of the victory at the Red sea, victory over the Amorites, Balak, Jericho, the Perizzites, Canaanites and Jebusites. Joshua then challenged them to fear and serve the Lord. The people have a choice to make between God and the gods of their fathers or of the people of the land, but for Joshua and his household God is the only choice.

The people too responded that they would serve God because he was the one that rescued them from Egypt and drove out the inhabitants of the land for them. However, Joshua pointed to them that he was not asking for an halfhearted commitment because God is a holy God and very ‘jealous’. If the people forsake him, he would turn and hurt them. The people however reaffirmed that they would serve God. Joshua then made a covenant with the people about their commitment and set a stone in Shechem as a reminder for this before the people left.

Finally, Joshua died at the age of 110 years, and was buried. The people served God all the days of Joshua as they promised and all the days of the elders that overlived him, who knew all the works God has done for Israel.

And so we came to the end of the book of Joshua, the first of the 12 history books we will be considering. We have learnt a lot from the life of Joshua and the things God did through him as a leader. What awaits in the other books? We will soon see.

Some verses to remember

Vs 14: Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD.

Vs 15: And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

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Final words of warning

Joshua 23:1-16

A long time after the Lord has given rest to the Israelites, Joshua waxed old and stricken in age. He however had one last mentoring duty to perform as he called for all the people of Israel and their leaders. He reminded them first of all that God has done for them, destroying the natons because of them. He also highlighted that the remaining nations he has divided unto them would also be expelled before them by God.

Joshua then gave an important warning on the need for the people to keep God’s commandments and avoid a negative influence by the people of the nations that remained with them, to avoid being lured to serve their gods, but to cleave unto God.

Finally, he reminded them that as all the good things God has promised them have happened to them, so will all the evil things he warned about come to pass if they depart from him and follow other gods, he would destroy them from the good land he had brought them into.

These are the stern warnings of an old, wise leader, and they were very serious and needed to be heeded to. Never forget God!
Some verses to remember
vs 3: And ye have seen all that the LORD your God hath done unto all these nations because of you; for the LORD your God is he that hath fought for you.

Vs 6: Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left.

Vs 10: One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the LORD your God, he it is that fighteth for you, as he hath promised you.

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‘An altar of conflict’

Joshua 22:1-34.

Today, Joshua told the Rebeunites, Gadites and half tribe of Manasseh that they have fulfilled the commandment that Moses gave them in helping their brothers posses their lands across Jordan, and now they are free to their own lands.

He also reminded them as they leave to remember God’s laws, to love him and walk in his ways, serving him with all their heart and soul. And so these tribes returned to Gilead, their land of possession.

However, things took a new turn when these two and half tribes built an altar over against the land of Canaan in the borders of Jordan. Infact the remaining tribes were ready to go to war with them, wondering why they would ‘disobey’ God in building another altar- ‘having another God aside him’.

When elders and leaders were however sent to these tribes to discuss the issue, much clarity was gained on the matter. These two and half tribes had built the altar in order to serve as a witness for future generations to come. It was to remind their own children’s children that they belong to Israel and to the Lord, and not to depart from Him.

When the elders heard the reason given by these tribes, they were pleased. They returned to canaan to the remaining group who heard the same message and were also pleased. The altar was called Ed ( a witness between us that Lord is God).

Dialogue could achieve so much more than confrontation. Striving for understanding wins over going to war. May we not may haste when we are supposed to make way.

Some verses to remember:
Vs 5 : But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.

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The Levites’ Portion

 

Joshua 21:1-45

Today, the head of the fathers of the Levites came to Joshua nad the leaders of Israel and requested for cities to dwell in and suburbs for their cattle as the Lord commanded Moses.

The Levites themselves were not alloted lands, however Moses had commanded before that they would be given cities and suburbs out of the inheritance of the children of Israel.

So, the Children of Isarel gave unto the Levites out of their inheritance as the Lord commanded. The cities given unto the Levites within the possession of the children of israel were forty eight in all with their suburbs.

The chapter conlcudes by reminding us that the promise God made to the Fathers (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) had been fulfilled. The children of Israel possessed the lands God promised and dwelt in them, and enjoyed rest round about. None of the good things God spoke of to Israel failed, all came to pass.

Has he promised you, it will come to pass!
Some verses to remember

vs 43: And the LORD gave unto Israel all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein.

vs 44: And the LORD gave them rest round about, according to all that he sware unto their fathers: and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; the LORD delivered all their enemies into their hand.

vs 45: There failed not ought of any good thing which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.

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Cities of Refuge

Joshua 20:1-9

Joshua 20:1-9

The children of Israel today appointed cities of refuge as God commanded Moses. The purpose of theses cities is to protect someone who kills another person unawares or unwittingly from the avenger of blood for such killing.

Once the elders of these cities take sucha person into the city they are not to release him to the avenger when he comes ‘calling for his head’. His safety is to continue until he stands fair judgement or until the death of the reigning high priest, then shall he return unto his own city from where he fled. Kedesh, Schechem, Hebron, Bezer, Ramoth and Golan were the cities selected for this purpose.

God is clearly a just God, a fair judge, and an understanding father. He knows human are capable of mistake, and is also aware of the hurt another feels when wronged (even when unintentional). He doesn’t want hatred to breed, nor revenge to multiply, he truly desires that his people live together in love and harmony, his provisions for them are simply amazing.

He is our true city of refuge!

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