I am thankfully moving into 1 Samuel now in my yearly read through.
Since I have used The Message on a previous year (2013), I am visually aware of just how far behind I have gotten. The passages of the opening of this book are dated May of that year.
But I am not discouraged or quitting. I am taking in what I can each day and not racing to keep up with a date. My hope is to have longer periods to read but I am accepting that the annual read through this year may be more like a year and a half…we shall see.
Reading Judges was particularly painful for me this year because the insanity of this period in Israel’s history that used to make me wonder how on earth a nation could get so far off track and in such a mess now seems much more easy to believe.
If you have never read the book of Judges in its entirety, it is one shocking foray into disobedience after another.
We like to cherry pick characters such as Gideon and Sampson for our kids, but on closer inspection, these guys are far from the stellar heroes portrayed on a few glossy pages of a toddler’s Bible Stories board book.
Sampson would make better fodder for a reality show or a steamy mini-series and Gideon is exemplary until he decides to collect one earring from each conquering warrior and then fashions an ephod that pulls him and his whole household into idolatry.
But it is the closing pages of this book that just leave a person undone with the depravity of Israel. This is not something you would want to read as a bedtime story for your child nor yourself.
It starts with a concubine who is handed over to an entire city of sick men. She dies as a result. Her “husband” divides up her body and sends the pieces out as a clarion call to the twelve tribes to rise up and fight against the perpetrators of a crime that he allowed.
The atrocity happened in the land of Benjamin so they ask their brothers to hand over the guilty parties, but Benjamin will not do it.
They attack and kill and get their revenge and kill everyone except 600 Benjamite men who escape.
Then lo and behold, they feel bad because now Benjamin won’t be a tribe anymore because they have killed all the women…so they concoct another plan in which they abduct women to be wives for them from other places.
As I read I can only imagine the outrage of our culture on so many levels in all of this and my mind reels with the fact that God is even involving Himself still with a people like this.
And then I look at us.
I look at the insanity of what is considered good and right and true in this world as we try to appease and please everyone except God and yet God continues to bail us out. Time and again.
I look at the disgusting spiraling into sin and idolatry and rebellion in the stories of the Judges and how God continued to work and I think how a mocker would say what kind of God lets this stuff happen…
And my answer is…the kind of God who had planned all along to put on skin like the rest of us and walk this earth with some rag-tag disciples and teach them what the Kingdom of Heaven is really like.
The kind of God who remains holy and yet is willing to work amongst us when we are at our worst.
A God who sent His Spirit to live in us who believe and who would walk through many more culture shifts and world changes and proclaim that He is the way and the truth and the life. The same yesterday, today and forever.
The One who conquered death by taking our sin and the sin of all the world upon Himself and dying and rising and ascending.
The One who will return and will pass the final judgement on all the living and all the dead.
The One who will make all things right again.
I take comfort that no matter how far off the track we get, He is still the same and His promises and covenants hold fast.
When we are unfaithful, He remains faithful.
I praise Him this morning for He alone is worthy.
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we could even think to ask or imagine…to Him be glory forever <3Loose translation of Ephesians 3:20