JUDGES – Chapter 11

Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a man of valour, and the son of a harlot: and Gilead begat Jephthah (11:1).

Gilead was an area on the east bank on the Jordan. It was an area that was occupied by the tribe of Gath. There was a mountain range called mount Gilead.

This man, Gilead, somehow picked up the name of the area in which he lived. He had a son named Jephthah, who was a son of a harlot. His son Jephthah became a very mighty man of valor, but Gilead’s wife had other sons.

And it came to pass in time, that the other sons ordered Jephthah out. They said unto him, You will not inherit our father’s house; for you are the son of a strange woman.

So, Jephthah was more or less banished from the area of his family.

And Jephthah fled from his brothers and he dwelt in the land of Tob: and there were gathered with him vain men, and they went out with him (11:2-3).

The area of Tob would be east of Gilead, and into the area of Syria. It is necessary to understand that he grew up in this area of Syria, which was an area that was filled with paganism. He became a bit of a Robin Hood. This band of men, rugged individuals, all of them, gathered around him and made their living by marauding the villages and plundering the area. They were really just a bunch of bandits. Folks looked upon him as a type of Robin Hood. It was alright to plunder a village, as long as it was the village of an enemy. It wasn’t okay to plunder your own, but it was looked at as an acceptable thing to plunder an enemy village.

And it came to pass in the process of time, that the children of Ammon made war against Israel. And so it was, that when the children of Ammon made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah out of the land of Tob (11:4):
Evidently, they realized that they didn’t have any man with strong leadership characteristics. They didn’t have anyone who was experienced in warfare anywhere near the level as this guy, Jephthah. So, they went to the land of Tob, to recruit his services, to help them against this invasion by the king of Ammon.

And they said to Jephthah, Come, and be our captain, that we may fight with the children of Ammon. He said, Did you not hate me, you expelled me out of my father’s house? why do you come to me now just because you’re in distress (11:6-7)?

Jephthah was a little reluctant to immediately go with them. He initially turns them down. In his mind, he felt that they had kicked him out of the area but, now that they were in trouble, they came to him for help.

And the elders of Gilead said, We turn to you now, that you might go with us, and fight against the children of Ammon, and be the head over all of the inhabitants of Gilead.

They wanted him to be their chief, the head over all the area of Gilead.

And Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, If you bring me home again to fight against the children of Ammon, and the Lord deliver them before me, shall I be your head? And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, The Lord be witness between us, if we do not so according to your words (11:8-10).

He was concerned that, once he helped them to victory, that they wouldn’t need him after that. So, they took a poll, and they swore to him before the Lord, that if he came and led them to victory over the people of Ammon, that they would make him the ruler over their territory. They swore this to him, before the Lord.
Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and captain over them: and Jephthah uttered all his words before the Lord in Mizpeh (11:11).

When Jacob was fleeing from his uncle Laban, and Laban finally caught up with him, there was a confrontation. It was a tense situation and, as they departed, Laban said to Jacob, “Mizpeh”, which means “the Lord watch after me and thee while we’re absent one from another.” Even today, folks use that statement as a parting comment.

In reality, it was not intended to be a pleasant parting. It was a bit more intense parting, actually. The better translation might be “Now that you are leaving with my daughters, and I can’t watch over you anymore, may the Lord watch over you”. It’s really a bit of a barb. They called the place where they parted Mizpeh, and it was in this area of Gilead. It is interesting that they are back, where Jacob and Laban had their confrontation, which became a city. This is the place where he came, where he moved his family, in the land of Gilead, to set up his headquarters.

And Jephthah sent messengers unto the king of the children of Ammon, saying, What have you to do with me, that you are come against me to fight in my land.

Here, I find it interesting that he lays claim to the land. Today, we might hear “What is your problem? Why are you coming to challenge me in MY house?”
And the king of the children of Ammon answered unto the messengers of Jephthah, Because Israel took away my land, when they came out of Egypt, from Arnon even unto Jabbok, now therefore restore those lands again peaceably.

In other words, he was saying “Just give us back our land.” Arnon is the river to the south. Jabbok is the river that Jacob crossed over, the second time he came back from his uncle Laban. He said, “When I crossed over this stream, all I had was a staff, but now, God has blessed me so much that I’ve had to divide my group into two companies. Great is thy faithfulness O God, morning by morning the mercies of God I see”.

And Jephthah sent messengers again unto the king of the children of Ammon: And he said unto him, Thus saith Jephthah, Israel did not take away the land of Moab, nor the land of the children of Ammon: But when Israel came up from Egypt, and walked through the wilderness unto the Red sea, they came to Kadesh; Then Israel sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, Let me, I pray thee, pass through thy land: but the king of Edom would not hearken thereto. And in like manner they sent to the king of Moab: and he would not consent: and Israel stayed in Kadesh. Then they went along through the wilderness, and encircled the land of Edom, and the land of Moab, and they came by the east side of the land of Moab, and they pitched on the other side of Arnon, but came not within the border of Moab: for Arnon was the border of Moab. And Israel sent messengers unto Sihon king of the Amorites, the king of Heshbon; and Israel said unto him, Let us pass, we pray thee, through thy land into my place. But Sihon trusted not Israel to pass through his coast: but Sihon gathered all his people together, and pitched in Jahaz, and fought against Israel. And the Lord God of Israel delivered Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they smote them: and so Israel possessed all of the land of the Amorites, the inhabitants of the country (11:12-21).

Jephthah was a good student of history. If you take a good look at this description, you will find that he is giving an accurate account of what happened. This is an accurate historical account. I’m giving him an A+ on his history homework. He was, evidently, a good student of the history of the people. What he is saying is exactly true.

When the children of Israel came out of Egypt, they came into the land of Israel, up to Kadesh Barnea. It was there that the ten spies came back with the evil report, and the people were afraid and did not go directly into the land. God told them “Okay, folks, because you haven’t believed me and trusted me, you are going to roam in the wilderness until you all die.” Even then, they attempted to go, but they were defeated. Then, they wanted to encircle the land of Canaan, going up on the opposite side of the Dead sea, and the Jordan River on the east side, which would cause them to pass through the land of Edom, and then through the land of Moab.

They told the king of Edom, “We want to pass through the land, and we’ll eat our own food and agree not to touch your food or crops, but we just want passage through your land”. But, the king of Edom refused, so they sent to the king of Moab. When he denied them, they made a long journey into the wilderness, encircling around behind the nations of Edom and Moab. They came back towards the land, between the valley of the Arnon and the Jabbok, which was not the land of Moab or Ammon. They did not take the land of the Amorites. Sihon was the king of the Amorites.

Jephthah is absolutely correct. These people are laying claim to land that does not belong to them. Now, way back in their history, they had claimed this land. But, it actually belonged to the Amorites at the time that Moses conquered this land. He conquered Sihon and the Amorites, and he took the land from the Amorites, not from Moab. So, Jephthah is absolutely correct. He actually is pretty much quoting from Numbers and Deuteronomy. He is a good student, who knows the history.

The king of Ammon is claiming this as his territory, even though it never did belong to him. The Israelites did not take it from him, they took it from Sihon, the king of the Amorites. “So, the Lord God of Israel delivered Sihon and all of his people into the hand of Israel, and they smote them: so Israel possessed all the land of the Amorites, the inhabitants of that country.”

And they possessed all the coasts of the Amorites, from Arnon even unto Jabbok, and from the wilderness even to the Jordan river. So now the Lord God of Israel has dispossessed the Amorites from before his people, and why should you possess it?

“The Lord is the one who dispossessed the Amorites, why should you take it over?”

Will you not possess that which Chemosh your god gives you to possess?

He is asking him that his God gave them this land, why don’t they just be happy with what their god can provide them?

So whomsoever the Lord our God shall drive out from before us, them will we possess. And now are you any thing better than Balak the son of Zippor, the king of Moab? did he ever strive against Israel, or did he ever fight against them, So while Israel dwelt in Heshbon and her towns, and in the Aroer and in her towns, and all of the cities that are along the coasts of Arnon, these three hundred years? why therefore did you not recover it within that time 11:22-26)?

It had been 300 years since Moses had conquered this area. This is about the year 1143, and it was about 1460 or so that Moses first conquered the land of the Amorites. So, he says “Hey we’ve had it for about 300 years. There are certain proprietary rights now! Why didn’t you take it back then? Why are you just now stirring this up?”

Wherefore he said, I have not sinned against you, but you are doing wrong in warring against me: and the Lord the Judge be judge this day between the children of Israel and the children of Ammon. Howbeit the king of the children of Ammon hearkened not unto the words of Jephthah which he sent. And then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over unto the children of Ammon.

So, he went through the territory, gathered the troops, and came out against the king of Ammon.

Now, Jephthah grew up in Syria. When he was kicked out by his brothers, he moved to Tob. So, he actually grew up in a pagan culture. In the pagan culture in those days human sacrifice was a common occurrence. To us, who live under the influence of western civilization, which has been highly influenced by the Christian ethic, human sacrifice is reprehensible. It’s an abomination. It was also an abomination to God. The bible speaks consistently against human sacrifice, but it was a common practice among the other nations. Human sacrifice is something that was practiced, not only among the nations of the Middle East, it was something that was practiced even by the American Indians. It was heavily practiced by the Aztecs and the Mayans.

Human sacrifice is something that is practiced today by those who are in satanic cults, in Satanism. As horrible as it is to our own consciousness, human sacrifice is practiced in the United States today. You can talk to any major police department in the United States, and they will confirm the evidence of human sacrifice led by satanic groups. It’s horrible! It’s repulsive! We can’t conceive how a person could take another person’s life, to sacrifice it to their god.

Jephthah had been cast out of Israel, so he had a certain knowledge of God, but not a thorough knowledge. Coming from this pagan background, he had a strange mixture of pagan practices, along with the practices of Judaism.

…….he vowed a vow unto the Lord and said, If you shall without fail deliver the children of Ammon into my hands, Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering (11:30-31).

You can see the combination of the two cultures in this statement. He vowed that, “Whoever comes out of the door of my house when I come home, I will offer it to you, Lord, as a burnt offering”. This is not something the Lord wants. This is a truly foolish vow.

We read through the Old Testament how, in the worship of Molech, they were constantly burning their children in the fires to Molech. This was common practice. During even the future of the children of Israel, they will practice this evil worship, and it will bring future judgment from God against them. They followed after the practices of the pagans around them and they were causing their children to pass through fire unto Molech. It was part of the worship of Baal. If you become comfortable in any culture, or in any situation, the practices that are acceptable in those situations, will become acceptable to you. It is only human nature. We need to tread softly in these areas.

In Museum of Natural History, in Israel, you will see many little representations of Molech, or Baal. The representation is usually with little iron gods. These little iron gods have their little arms outstretched in front of them, with their fingers and hands pointing upward. This design is so that they could cradle the babies.

They would put the iron gods in the fire and heat them until they were glowing red. Then, they would set their babies in the gods’ arms. That is what is meant to cause your children to pass through the fires of Molech. Horrible! Repulsive!

Reprehensible! But, it was a common practice of the people. Here, because of his mixed background, and so much time in the pagan society, Jephthah makes this horrible vow.

And Jephthah passed over to the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the Lord delivered them into his hands. And he smote them from Aroer even till you come to Minith, even twenty cities, and to the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel. And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; and beside her he had neither son nor daughter. And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he tore his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter! you have brought me very low, you are one of them that trouble me, for I have opened my mouth unto the Lord, and I cannot go back (11:32-35).

Every time I read this story, I wonder the same thing. Who did he expect to come out of that door? He only had the one child, a daughter, so he certainly was not wanting her to be the one! The thing that always crossed my mind is whether he was hoping his wife would come out. This is a terrible event for this guy. This was his only daughter, his only child. She came out the door with a timbrel, a tambourine, and she was dancing, in celebration of her father’s homecoming.

Seeing her, his heart is torn.

There is a problem, in his not knowing the whole law. Because, under the law, it did declare that if you were to make a vow to the Lord, you are bound to keep that vow. However, Leviticus, Chapter 27, the Lord spoke to Moses, and told him: “Speak unto the children of Israel, say to them, when a man shall make a singular vow, the persons shall be for the Lord by thy estimation. And thy estimation shall be of the male from twenty years old even unto sixty years old, even thy estimation shall be fifty shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary. If it is a female, thirty shekels. If they are from five to twenty years old, then for a male it is twenty shekels, for a female ten.”

There is little doubt that she was between five and twenty years old, which means that he could have redeemed her from the vow. He could have just given the Lord ten shekels of silver, instead. I don’t know if he actually knew the law.

Maybe he didn’t know that the Lord had provided a way out of the law. If a person made a vow to give to the Lord, and they wanted to take back the vow, they simply had to redeem it. He could’ve redeemed his daughter from the vow for 10 shekels of silver. Instead, he said, “I have opened my mouth unto the Lord, and I cannot go back.”

She said unto him, My father, if you have opened your mouth unto the Lord, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of your mouth; forasmuch as the Lord has taken vengeance for thee on your enemies, even of the children of Ammon (11:36).

It is simply amazing to me, that his daughter acquiesced to her father in this issue. You have to commend her for her comments, “Dad, if you’ve taken this vow, go ahead and do to me as you have vowed.”

However, she said, Let this be done for me: let me alone for two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, and let me take my girlfriends with me (11:37).

It was a cultural shame for a woman not to bear a child. So, she wanted the opportunity to grieve over the fact that she would not be able to bear children.

And it came to pass at the end of the two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man. And it was a custom in Israel, That the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite for four days in a year (11:39-40).

So, this became a practice, and this is the only place in the scripture we are told it’s a practice. It’s a practice that faded out in time, but, for at least a time, the girls would go for four days and bewail the fate of Jephthah’s daughter.

Jonathan was the son of King Saul and, during the reign of Saul, Jonathan awoke early one morning and couldn’t go back to sleep. He had a nagging thought that kept him away. The thought he had was “If God wants to deliver the Philistines to Israel today, God doesn’t need the whole army. God can use one man, just as easy as He can the whole army.” Now, this is an interesting thought. God doesn’t need a whole army to do His work, He only needs one man. As Moody once said, “The world has yet to see what God can do, just through one man, who will dedicate his life wholly to God.”

Jonathan simply could not get this off his mind, wondering if God wanted to deliver the Philistines to Israel on that day. He couldn’t go back to sleep. So, he finally woke up his armor bearer and told him of what he was thinking. Jonathan suggested that the two of them go out and see if God wanted to deliver the Philistines on that day.

Jonathan simply ventured out in faith, to see what God might want to do. These ventures in faith are amazing events. It’s exciting to see someone take a step in faith and to watch the results. As they were heading out toward the Philistines, Jonathan laid the whole plan out for his armor bearer. The plan was, when they got close to the Philistines, and the enemy discovered them, if the statement coming from the Philistines was for Jonathan to come to them to fight, then Jonathan and his armor bearer would attack, because God wanted to deliver them. However, if they statement coming from the Philistines was for Jonathan to wait where he was, and they would bring the fight to him, then God was not planning to deliver the Philistines on that day, and Jonathan and his armor bearer would flee.

So, as they got close to the Philistines, the century spotted them and shouted at them to come to the Philistine camp, and they would fight them. So, Jonathan and his armor bearer scrambled up the hill into the camp of the Philistines, where Jonathan began to slay the Philistines, while his armor bearer came around behind him. They just drove through them, until the Philistines began to fall back.

Now, on the other side of the camp was Saul. He was rubbing his eyes, and looking toward the Philistines. He saw the Philistines falling back, and he saw these two guys in the middle, just wailing away. So, he told his troops to number off, so they could see who was missing. When he found out it was Jonathan and his armor bearer, Saul made a foolish vow. He said, “Cursed be the man who eats anything today until Saul is avenged of all of his enemies”.

Saul’s troops rose up and attacked the Philistines and began to pursue them through the woods. They had the Philistines on the run. Now, in the late afternoon, Jonathan was chasing these guys and running through the woods, when he saw a beehive. He took the end of his spear, and put it in the hive and got some honey. No doubt, his energy was low, because of this day long battle. He was weak and tire of chasing the Philistines. This honey gave him a quick jolt of energy, so he could go on chasing the enemy.

As it was getting late in the evening, the men of Israel gathered together to determine if they should continue the chase throughout the night or wait until the next day to continue. They sought God, but God didn’t answer. So, Saul figured that someone had broken his vow, and he said if it was Jonathan, he would be put to death. They drew straws to determine who it was, and the straws fell on Saul and Jonathan. Saul asked Jonathan what he had done, and Jonathan explained to him that he had been out killing the Philistines, when Saul made the vow, so he was unaware. He told Saul that he shouldn’t have made such a vow, because the men needed to eat to keep up their strength for battle. He explained that was the reason the men were exhausted, because they had not eaten, and had they eaten, they would have been able to continue the chase and would have totally wiped out the Philistines. King Saul showed his foolishness again, by telling his men to put Jonathan to death. But, it backfired on Saul. The men of the army refused to touch Jonathan, because they had seen clearly that God was fighting with Jonathan against the Philistines. Jonathan was spared, but Saul almost put his own son to death, all because of a stupid vow that he made foolishly.

Sometimes folks make stupid vows. Folks box themselves in and, many times, keeping the vow ends up in sin. Folks create lose-lose situations for themselves, when they make a vow that would be sinful, and not keeping the vow is sinful.
In our story here, Jephthah has placed himself in a no win situation, with his foolish vow. He cannot win, either way. To keep his vow would be sinful. Human sacrifice is sinful. It is something God never required. In fact, it is something that God forbid. It is wrong. He made a foolish vow, which most likely stemmed from Jephthah’s pagan background. However, living in the area of Syria, where human sacrifice was a common thing, does not excuse Jephthah. Knowing his background serves only to provide us with a little better understanding of how he got to this point, it does nothing to excuse it. Vows were very common in the times of the Old Testament. Folks made promises to God, in order to solicit God’s help or God’s aid in a particular situation.

There are people today who still feel that vows are necessary in order to solicit God’s aid. This is simply not true. God wants to bless you, and He is gracious. God does not reward us for our goodness, because our relationship with God is not a legal kind of relationship. We have a loving relationship with God. God is not Santa Claus, making a list, and checking it twice. God is loving and kind, and He bestows upon us His abundant grace and mercy. This is what we receive from God, His blessings, His goodness. We DO NOT have to promise God that we will be good, or that we promise to be better.

It is not necessary to make promises to God. However, if you do, then you should keep those promises. You should not break your vow with the Lord. Vows are not practiced in the New Testament, with one exception: Paul took the vow of the Nazarene, which was just to shave his head, to signify a period of total consecration to God.

Teaching notes on Judges 11
Don D. Stephens

JUDGES – Chapter 10

After Abimelech there arose to defend Israel Tola the son of Puah, the son of Dodo, a man of Issachar;

Interesting names, don’t you think? When you speak these names, they have odd sounds, but they also have unique meanings. Dodo means “loving.” Puah means “splendor.” So, we don’t know anything else about him except that he was from the tribe of Issachar.

And he dwelt in Shamir in mount Ephraim. And he judged Israel for twenty years, and died, and was buried in his city of Shamir. And then after him there arose Jair, who was a Gileadite,

Being a Gileadite, simply means he was from the other side of the Jordan River, from the tribe of Gad on the opposite side of the Jordan.

…….and he judged Israel for twenty two years. And he had thirty sons that rode on thirty ass colts, and they had thirty cities, which they called Havothjair unto this day, which are in the land of Gilead. And Jair died, and was buried in Camon.

Now comes cycle number six.

And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim, and Ashtaroth, the gods of Syria, the gods of Zidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the children of Ammon, the gods of the Philistines, and they forsook Jehovah, and did not serve him.

Again, the people turned away from Jehovah God. They began to worship Baalim, Ashtaroth, and the various gods of the surrounding nations.

And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hands of the Philistines, and into the hands of the children of Ammon.

They began to be pressed in from both sides, the Philistines from the coastal cities, and the Ammonites from the area of Moab.

And that year they vexed and oppressed the children of Israel: and for eighteen years, all of the children of Israel that were on the other side of Jordan in the land of the Amorites, which is in Gilead. Moreover the children of Ammon passed over Jordan to fight also against Judah, and against Benjamin, and against the house of Ephraim; so that Israel was sore distressed.

They had conquered the two and one-half tribes on their side of the Jordan River, and then, they actually came on across the Jordan River to attack Judah, the tribe of Benjamin, and the tribe of Ephraim. They attacked all the way into the middle of the country, and Israel was sore distressed because the Philistines were pushing on them from one side, and the Ammonites were pushing on them from the other side.

And the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, saying, We have sinned against thee, both because we have forsaken our God, and served Baalim.

So, they confessed their sin. The Bible has quite a few things to say about sin. The Bible tells us that, “you can be sure that your sin will find you out.” It tells us that, “the way of the transgressor is hard.” We are told that, “Whatever a man sows, that he’s also going to reap.” These people confessed their sins. Why? Because they were reaping the result of their sins. They had forsaken the Lord, and now the Lord had forsaken them, and they were being oppressed by their enemies. The first thing they do is to make the confession of sin. They knew what they had done wrong.

“We have forsaken the LORD, and we have been serving Baalim.”

So the LORD said to the children of Israel, “Did I not deliver you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites and from the people of Ammon and from the Philistines? Also the Sidonians and Amalekites and Maonites oppressed you; and you cried out to Me, and I delivered you from their hand. Yet you have forsaken Me and served other gods. Therefore I will deliver you no more. “Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in your time of distress.”

And the children of Israel said to the LORD, “We have sinned! Do to us whatever seems best to You; only deliver us this day, we pray.” So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the LORD. And His soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel.

Then the people of Ammon gathered together and encamped in Gilead. And the children of Israel assembled together and encamped in Mizpah. And the people, the leaders of Gilead, said to one another, “Who is the man who will begin the fight against the people of Ammon? He shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.”

So, God tells them to ask for help from their other gods. They tell God to do with them as He will and, as they are being pressed by Ammon, they begin to search for a leader to help them to fight against Ammon.

Teaching notes: Don D. Don Stephens
Short chapter this week, so I will probably post chapter 11 in a couple of days.

Come Up Hither – Book of Revelations Chapter 3

Now we have come to the third portion of the Book of Revelation, the things which will be after the things of the church. We are about to take a trip into Heaven. John is about to enter a time warp and be catapulted 2000 years into the future to view the things which are to come. To begin this chapter, I want to share a few bits of information, provided in other books of the Bible, which I believe to be extremely pertinent at this point.

In the Book of Genesis, we find the story of Noah. Because the earth had fallen into a perverse nature and was found unacceptable to God, God decided to purge the earth with a great flood. In order to continue the human race, God selected Noah and his family to save for the purpose of replenishing the earth. God assigned Noah the task of building an ark on dry land. Needless to say, this task was viewed as the acts of an insane man. Noah and his family were ridiculed, but Noah was true to God’s request.

When the rains came, God told Noah to enter the ark and close the door. In Chapter 7 of the Book of Genesis, we find the following:

7:1 And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.

Decide for yourselves the significance of this command being found in the very first verse of Chapter 7.

7:2 Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female. 7:3 Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth. 7:4 For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth. 7:5 And Noah did according unto all that the LORD commanded him.

7:6 And Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth.

It is interesting to me that man was created on the 6th day of creation, and Noah was 6 hundred years old when the flood came, noted in the 6th verse of the story of the new beginning.

7:7 And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood.

Again, the number of completion seems pertinent to the story. In the 7th verse of the 7th Chapter of the new beginning, Noah and his family receive the reward of their faith. The task is complete. Noah and his family escape the great judgment of God.

A similar story appears in the 19th Chapter of Genesis. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are found by God to be evil and perverse. God sent two angels to bring Lot and his family out of the city before God destroyed it. The wickedness of Sodom was evident in the fact that the men of Sodom surrounded Lot’s house and called for Lot to send out the two men “that we may know them.” The two men were the angels sent by God. Lot went so far as to offer his two virgin daughters, if the men of the city would leave the angels. The angels actually had to blind the men to keep them from making further advances.

Lot’s son-in-laws laughed at Lot, when offered the opportunity to leave Sodom and be saved from God’s judgment. They did not escape, because they refused to believe. Lot and his wife and two daughters were the only ones to escape the destruction of these wicked cities. Please take the time to read for yourself this amazing story of the grace of God.

Gen 19:1 And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; 19:2 And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night. 19:3 And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat. 19:4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: 19:5 And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them. 19:6 And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him, 19:7 And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. 19:8 Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof. 19:9 And they said, Stand back. And they said again, This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with thee, than with them. And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door. 19:10 But the men put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut to the door. 19:11 And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great: so that they wearied themselves to find the door. 19:12 And the men said unto Lot, Hast thou here any besides? son in law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place: 19:13 For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the LORD; and the LORD hath sent us to destroy it. 19:14 And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law. 19:15 And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city. 19:16 And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the LORD being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city. 19:17 And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said, Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed. 19:18 And Lot said unto them, Oh, not so, my LORD: 19:19 Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die: 19:20 Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live. 19:21 And he said unto him, See, I have accepted thee concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow this city, for the which thou hast spoken. 19:22 Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do anything till thou be come thither.

Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar. 19:23 The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered into Zoar. 19:24 Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; 19:25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. 19:26 But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt. 19:27 And Abraham gat up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the LORD: 19:28 And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace. 19:29 And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities in the which Lot dwelt. 19:30 And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters. 19:31 And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth: 19:32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. 19:33 And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. 19:34 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. 19:35 And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. 19:36 Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father. 19:37 And the first born bare a son, and called his name Moab: the same is the father of the Moabites unto this day. 19:38 And the younger, she also bare a son, and called his name Benammi: the same is the father of the children of Ammon unto this day.

In the times in which we live, we are told that we must be “sensitive” to the beliefs of others. We are told that we must be “politically correct” in addressing other beliefs. I cannot do that. I must speak the truth. From the pulpits all over this great nation, we hear the politically correct story of Lot. We hear the denial of the fact that sexual perversion is an abomination to God. Preacher in churches all over the county are telling the flock that it is “okay” to be different, it is “okay” to be sexually perverse, even to the point of accepting “gays” as pastors and teachers.

Let me share a few key scriptures regarding God’s thoughts regarding today’s “gay movement.”

Lev 18:22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

If you have a sexual relationship with a man, and with a woman, it is an abomination to God. Not a good thing to do.

Lev 20:13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

If a man has a sexual relationship with another man, both men have committed an abomination before God. Not a good thing for either to do.

Rom 1:26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 1:27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. 1:28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 1:29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 1:30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 1:31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 1:32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

Men and women having homosexual relationships are called “vile” affection. Homosexual relationships are not “natural.” In all cases, they are worthy of death.

Col 3:5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: 3:6 For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:

The “wrath of God” is warned to all those who do not repent of “inordinate affection.”

II Tim 3:1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 3:2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3:3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 3:4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 3:5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

Here, Paul is talking of the last days. Warning of perilous time to come. One of the signs is man “without natural affection.” Sound familiar doesn’t it? Billy Graham said “If God doesn’t pass judgment on San Francisco, He owes Sodom and Gomorrah an apology.” The signs of the times are all around us. Not only do we accept the “gay liberation movement,” we actually offer special privileges to those with a “gay” lifestyle. There is no doubt that we are moving toward the final judgment from God. But, there is a way out.

Heb 11:7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

Paul tells us here in Hebrews that Noah moved with fear and prepared an ark to save his house from the destruction to come.

In Second Peter, we find the same comparison of the things to come in the last days with the things of Noah and Lot.

II Peter 2:1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2:2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. 2:3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. 2:4 For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; 2:5 And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; 2:6 And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; 2:7 And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: 2:8 (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) 2:9 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: 2:10 But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.

Peter knew that there would come a time when final judgment would come upon the world. He was also keenly aware of the fact the some would be spared this time of great tribulation. He uses the same examples that are used elsewhere to describe the escape of those chosen by God. Noah and his family escaped the judgment of the entire world. Lot and his family escaped the judgment of the evil cities. We, the church can escape the final judgment that is soon to come upon the earth, just like Noah and Lot.
Still have doubts? Then listen to what Jesus said.

Luke 17:26 And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. 17:27 They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.

Jesus compares the final days to the days of Noah.

Luke 17:28 Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; 17:29 But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. 17:30 Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.
Jesus compares the final days to the days of Lot.

Luke 17:31 In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. 17:32 Remember Lot’s wife. 17:33 Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.

The angels warned Lot not to look back. Lot’s wife did so and was turned into a pillar of salt. She still had desires for those things left behind and suffered great loss for acting out on those desires.

Luke 17:34 I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. 17:35 Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 17:36 Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

Notice the warning of Jesus about the escape. It is instantaneous. Two together, then one is gone. Instantaneous. Also of note are the three examples. You sleep at night, you grind in the evening, and you work the field in the day. People from around the earth will see this event that has come to be called “the Rapture of the church.”

Let’s take a look at some other key verses contained in the Bible regarding this instantaneous event.

I Thessalonians 4:16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 4:17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
4:18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

We, who are alive when the Lord returns, will be caught up in the clouds to forever be with the Lord. We are directed to comfort each other with these words. I find them to be a personal comfort every minute of every day.

I Corinthians 15:51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 15:52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 15:53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 15:54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 15:55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 15:56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 15:57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

Both these passages of scripture are speaking of the same event, the Rapture of the church. Both speak of a trumpet sounding and us changing from a physical body to a spiritual body. When will this happen? Two passages of scripture provide what I believe to be the answer to this question. The first in found in Matthew, Chapter 24.

Matthew 24:32 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:

The fig tree is commonly used in scripture to represent Israel. In 1948, the state of Israel was re-established after almost 2000 years of wandering. The fig tree is yet tender and putting forth leaves. Summer is nigh.

Matthew 24:33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.

When you see Israel become a nation and the signs of the times begin to take place all around you, know that the Lord is coming soon.

24:34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.

The generation that sees Israel become a nation shall not pass away until the fulfillment of the scriptures.

24:35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. 24:36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. 24:37 But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

No one knows the day or the hour, not even the angels of heaven, only God. Then, Jesus goes on with the promise of escape, as did Noah. The day and the hour are not ours to know, but we are told to watch and look for his coming, lest we be caught unaware. Israel is a nation again and we are to be watching for His coming. The times and the seasons are ours to know. We have been told that summer draws near. The times of the Gentiles must be completed before the church is taken away and the Jewish people will know the reality of the true Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Now, here, in Verse 1, of Chapter 4, of the Book of Revelation is another announcement for us to heed. Chapter 4, Verse 1 begins with the Greek word “Metatalsa.” Chapter 4, Verse 1 also ends with the Greek word “Metatalsa.” This word literally means “after these things.” The church age comes to an end, with the end of Chapter 3 of the Book of Revelation. Now begins the things, which must come hereafter. “After these things.”

Rev 4:1 After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.

The main point I want you to see here is the voice, which he heard. He describes it “as it were a trumpet talking with me.” A trumpet? I believe it to be the same trumpet described in I Thessalonians and II Corinthians. I believe it to be the same trump that calls the church to be with the Lord. I believe it to be the Rapture of the church.
The times of the Gentiles are complete with the end of the church age. The church has to be gone from the earth so that the promises to the church are fulfilled. The church has to be rescued so that it truly can be as in the days of Noah and Lot. We are leaving, before the tribulation begins. We have a glorious event for which we are told to watch. My heart races every time I study these scriptures, especially this one. Revelation Chapter 1, Verse 1. The Rapture of the church, the beginning of John’s travel through time, the end of the church age, the beginning of God’s judgment on the earth, the opening of the eyes of the Jewish people, the beginning of the wedding feast in heaven, the beginning of the final seven years preceding the Millennium, are all events portrayed in this verse. If you are not excited about that, start over in Chapter one of this book and read it again. Don’t miss this. Come with us. Become a member of the church of Jesus Christ. Do it now, before it is too late.

Just my thoughts!
Don D. Stephens

From my review notes from the Book of Revelation. This will be the 3rd or 4th Chapter of my book on my notes.

SCREAMING IN THE STREETS

People of Justice Proverbs 29:7, 31:8-9, 16:11, 21:3

SCREAMING IN THE STREETS: People of Justice Proverbs 29:7Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), 31:8-9Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), 16:11Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), 21:3Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)

The stories we tell as a culture, in many ways, shape the lives that we live. They shape the direction we go, they shape the values that we hold. It shouldn’t be any surprise to you that the same was true for the nation of Israel. The stories that they told and that God commanded them to tell and retell were intended to shape the lives that they lived. One of the most prominent stories that the Israelites told over and over and over again, both through festival and ritual and through direct command from God, was the story of their exodus from slavery. All over the pages of Scripture we find this command “Remember where you came from Israel.” Israel was under the mighty, oppressive hand of the Egyptians for 400 years. They were commanded to make bricks without straw; they were beaten down; they were oppressed, and God miraculously and mightily stepped in….and you may have seen Charlton Heston reenact it….but He stepped in and led them out of Egypt. He parted the Red Sea; they walked through it on dry ground. They wandered around in the desert for 40 years and God shaped them and formed them as a people, then eventually led them into the Promised Land. He gave them this command: Never forget where you’ve come from. Don’t forget what it’s like to be on the bottom as I bless you, God said. You are intended to be a people who bless those around you and don’t forget…don’t forget…don’t forget about the least vulnerable people. Remember, that’s who you were when I took you by the hand and I led you into freedom. In the book of Deuteronomy, it’s not unique and just one passage, we start to see this shine through. Speaking to the nation of Israel, God says: You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner (foreigner or immigrant) or to the fatherless, or take a widow’s garment in pledge, but you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this. (Deut. 24:17-18Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)) This is a formative narrative for the people of God. Never forget where you’ve come from.

Why does God have to command Israel to remember? Because they’d forget. The same is true for you and me. It’s easy to forget where we’ve come from when we stand where we are. So he says to them, my nation, my people, my voice, my light, will be a people of justice. Not just a people who can serve you back, and not even to people who are part of your nation, but you’re going to be a unique people amongst all the people of the earth, because you’re going to do justice to the sojourner, to the fatherless, to the widowed, to the groups of people that everybody else takes advantage of. You’re going to be unique, Israel. Why? Because you remember what it’s like to be on the bottom. The hard part is….you forget. The hard part is we trend away from justice naturally because it typically doesn’t benefit us.

My oldest son has a strong sense of justice. So when it’s his birthday he expects to get presents….because that’s what’s right. But the thing is, he expects to get presents on everyone’s birthday! He’s going, “Why did Avery get that?” Well, because it’s her birthday. Well, what am I going to get? Why did Avery get to have that friend over? When is my friend coming over? Your friend’s been….he lives at our house, man! {Ethan} has a strong sense of justice through his own lens. Only when it benefits him does he want justice! {Will you look up at me for a second?} We never grow out of this. This is part of what it means to be human. We have this deep longing for justice in our souls. If you disagree with me, explain to me why we have CSI:Lincoln, NE?! We have twelve different versions of CSI…Crime Scene Investigators because we love justice. Nobody’s rooting for the bad guy who murdered all the people to get away. Have you ever wondered why that is? We’re all rooting for the person to get caught, for what’s right to be done. It’s the reason the podcast “Serial” was so compelling. Episode after episode. I’m going, “Well, is Adnan guilty or is he innocent and are you ever going to tell me?” The answer’s no, they’re never going to tell you. Spoiler alert—if you’re in the middle of it, you’re going to be disappointed….because you love justice, just like I do. It’s the same reason “Making a Murder” on Netflix was so wildly popular…because we love justice. We want things to be fair. We want things to be right.

I would consider this to be the image of God that’s stamped on the human soul. We want justice, we want right, because we’re made in the image of God. What sin does to us is it turns us and it fractures us. Instead of seeing justice as it is, we start to see it through our lens. We start to see it through the lens of….what benefits me? What serves me? What God says to his people all throughout the Scriptures is listen: He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner (the immigrant, the wanderer, the person without a country to call their own), giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. (Deut. 10:18-19Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)) Don’t forget the story!! Don’t forget the bigger narrative that you’re a part of. I redeemed you, I rescued you, and you are to be a people who do the same.

As we see in this passage, justice is really, really, really important to God, because all people are important to God. That’s why it matters. That’s why it matters to God, that’s why it should matter to us as God’s people. Justice matters to God because all people matter to God. In our time together in the Scriptures this morning, we’re going to ask God to press on us a little bit, because, like I said, we start to see things strictly from our point of view and what benefits us. It’s not because we’re intentionally evil or we’re wrong, it’s because it’s part of our human condition. So let’s just admit this morning that we may have some blind spots. Maybe there are some things in our life that we don’t see, so we’re going to go to the Scriptures and we’re going to ask that God would open our eyes and that justice would matter to us because it matters to God. And that justice would matter to us because people matter to us. So even if it costs us something, let’s be people who pursue justice. [00:09:41]

You may be going, alright, Paulson, that’s great, but what is justice? There’s two words in the Hebrew scriptures that are typically translated ‘justice.’ They’re sort of like two sides of the same coin. The first word is the word “mishpat.” {mish-pawt} It’s used over 200 times in the Hebrew scriptures and it simply means “that which is equitable or fair.” To do what’s right. {So, you have this scale in your bulletin….and I understand that if I put all the good things on one side of the scale, it’s going to be uneven. I get it. The metaphor’s going to break down at some point, so we’re going to stack the justice things on one side and injustice on the other.} Equitability means that things are fair and that’s what mishpat means. But it’s more than just correcting wrongs. It’s both punishing the wrong doer, but more than that, it’s restoring the person who is wrong. All throughout the Scriptures, you see this word mishpat that carries with it this relational component…that the person who was taken advantage of is somehow made right again. That they’re made whole. So sometimes when justice is talked about in the Scriptures, the wrong doer, as it were, gets off, but the wronged is restored and God says that’s justice, that’s mishpat. It’s this idea that the wronged is made right and is restored.

We see this all throughout the Scriptures. It tends to focus, in the Old Testament, around Israel being the kind of people who have mishpat, or have justice, towards the people that everybody else takes advantage of. Deuteronomy 27:19Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) — Cursed by anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and widow. If you add “the poor” in there, what you have is what many people refer to as the quartet of the vulnerable. The people that everybody takes advantage of simply because they can. God says, no, no, not my people. They do justice or they’re right in their dealings with everybody.

The second word is similar. It’s the word “tzadeqah” (tsed-aw-kaw’). It means ‘righteousness.’ It means to treat others the way that you would want to be treated. It’s the type of thing where if everybody lived with tzadeqah, mishpat wouldn’t be necessary because people would be treated right. Here’s what God presses on his people. In fact, early on in the Scriptures, you see the calling over Abraham’s life is this — For I (God) have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness (tzadeqah) and justice (mishpat). (Gen. 18:19Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)) It’s the first time the word ‘justice’ is used in the Scriptures and it’s tied together with this term ‘righteous.’ Living rightly in relationship to the people around you. Justice isn’t just this judicial ‘somebody’s wrong and somebody’s right.’ Justice is this relational ‘somebody’s broken and restored.’ That’s what’s at the heart of God when we talk about justice…..people who are fractured being made whole and being made right. So this righteousness is living in right relationship to God and to everyone around us, and mishpat is God stepping in and saying, “I’m going to right the wrongs and restore the broken and heal the hurting.” God says to you and I, “That’s really important to me and it should be really important to you too as my people.” He doesn’t mince words about this. It’s all over the pages of Scripture.

As I said, in your notes you see a scale. It’s a scale of justice. The book of Proverbs is going to take this idea of God’s justice and put it on the ground for us. The book of Proverbs is a book of wisdom literature, of short, little sayings that reflect the way God has designed the world to work. One of the ways that God’s designed and wired the world to work is that it would be fair, that it would be just, that it would be good. As his people, he presses on us and says this is not something you get to pray about. You hear me? We don’t get to pray about whether we want to be people of justice. We get to pray about HOW we’re people of justice, but we don’t get to bring this before the Lord and go, “God, do you want to be just?” He’ll come back, “Have you read my word?” This is something I’ve commanded my people from the beginning of time; that you would reflect my heart for all people. So as a follower of Jesus, this just in, you don’t get to pray about whether you care about justice. God cares about it and therefore, he calls his people to care about it. Richard Stearns, CEO of World Vision, says: “So often there’s a hole in our gospel when it comes to justice.” There’s a lack. There’s a lack of care, sometimes. There’s a lack of voice, sometimes. As we go to the Scriptures today, let’s go with the heart attitude that maybe, just maybe, there’s something that God may have for us. [00:15:46]

If you’ve been with us over the course of the summer as we’ve looked at the book of Proverbs, you know that after chapter 9, it turns into a potpourri of wisdom sayings. There’s not one single thread per chapter, or per section, there’s a number of themes that the author of Proverbs wants to draw out, but they’re scattered all over the book. We’re going to draw together this theme of justice and see the way it plays out over the course of this book of Proverbs. Proverbs 29:7Open in Logos Bible Software (if available). A righteous (tzadeqah) man knows the rights of the poor; a wicked man does not understand such knowledge. Other versions say a righteous man remembers the poor. Doesn’t just walk right by.

I was reminded of a story I read a while back — In January 12, 2007, a man by the name of Joshua Bell took his 3.5 million dollar violin and went and sat at the entrance of a subway in Washington, D.C. It was during rush hour and thousands of people walked by him as he played this beautiful instrument, in the way only a professional could, because that’s exactly what he was. He played for 45 minutes, six different pieces by Bach. At the end of the 45 minutes, he had $32 in his case. He had 20 people that had stopped, for just a short period of time. The most compelled was a child, who leaned in. The ironic part about it was that three days earlier, Joshua Bell sold out a stadium in Boston to play the same violin, the same songs, for the same amount of time…$100 a seat. Context matters. He had dressed like a homeless man to play the violin in the corner and people just walked right by him. Didn’t even notice him. Just in the background. Just noise.

I started to wonder how many people do I just walk by? How many people are in my background? How many people are just noise? The reason God tells his people to remember the rights of the poor is because it’s easy to forget. It’s easy to forget that if we perceive that people don’t add something to our life they don’t deserve something from us or the people around them, or they don’t hold or have value. But God says that in my kingdom things are different. Instead of ignorance….I don’t mean that in the sense that we are actively ignorant, I mean in the literal sense that we ignore things, we ignore people. Instead of that, God says my people are people of compassion. They see the foreigner, the fatherless, the widowed, and the poor and they care. In a book that is all about the Gospel, the book of Galatians, the apostle Paul slips in there what he longs to and hopes to do as he goes to visit the churches in Galatia. Listen to what he says: Only, they asked us to remember the poor… {In the midst of all this beautiful, marvelous, gospel proclamation….Paul says, the one thing I want to do when I’m on the ground, I need to remember the poor and he says…} …the very thing I was eager to do. (Gal. 2:10Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)) His preaching was accompanied by his living.

{Will you look up at me a moment?} I’m not, at least in this section, I’m not making a political statement. In fact, I think it’s way too easy to put our calling as a church on politicians. This is our calling as a people of God, not a politician’s calling. Our calling as a people of God is to remember the poor. Let’s not give somebody else the church’s job. This is our job. I think…..one of the reasons I absolutely love pastoring this church is because I think you guys do it in a real beautiful way. In the course of a given month, did you know that there would be over 425 people that come through our food bank to get food? Seventy to a hundred families every single week. We collect between 3,000 – 3,500 pounds of food every single week. This last year, we’ve hosted Family Promise four different times, because you are a church that says if there’s anything within our power to do, we want to provide a place for homeless people to sleep. We partnered with twelve other churches around the Denver area to open the doors of our church to 21 families, to 69 people, with over 100 volunteers (you guys) saying, “This matters to us.” We’ve been able to provide housing to those people four different times throughout the course of this year, because we believe that all people matter to God and therefore, all people matter to us. [00:21:58]

I love this picture of Jesus….when it would have been so easy for Jesus to be on his “mission” and miss the people, we see that your king is the kind of king who, when he sees the crowds, he doesn’t just walk by and he’s not so busy that he looks passed, but he actually sees them. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matt. 9:36Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)) Maybe the question back to God today is God, are there people in my life that I don’t see because of the position that they have? Are there people in my life that I just walk by that have become background noise? That you want me to see, that you see, God, and that you want me to see differently? Did you pray that prayer today? Did you ask him if there are people that you’re not seeing because of where they’re situated or what they lack? God says that my people are the kind of people who take note of the poor and we’ll see what they do in the light of that.

Proverbs 31:8-9Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) give us this next invitation to be people of justice. Open your mouth for the mute, {For people that don’t have a voice. God’s people are designed and intended to be a voice.} ..for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy. The tendency throughout all of history is to trend away from the poor, away from the needy, away from the oppressed, where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. There’s never been a time—-unless people were intentional about saying that’s not who we’re going to be—-that it didn’t happen. So God’s says, “I want my people, when they start to see injustice, to not be people who remain silent, but to be people who raise their voice.” To be people who say something. Who, when they see something, they say something. So, it’s this movement from apathy to advocacy.

Let’s have a quick talk. We cannot raise our voice, if we have not first opened our ears. If we haven’t heard the stories of people who are oppressed and listened without a judgmental attitude. Or, if only you would have pulled up your boot straps. Or, if only you would have done what I’ve done. Listen, if they were in your situation, they may have done what you’ve done. But they’re not, they’re in their situation. Until we start to hear people’s stories and start to actually listen to people’s hearts, we will not be able to stand up and speak on their behalf. So before we speak, we’ve got to first listen. What if the church became known as a community where people listened to the stories of the broken? Instead of deciding whether or not we think that they were right or wrong or what they should have done, what if we opened our heart and listened? The tendency in all of us when we are in a system (and we are) that benefits us, it’s hard to see the way that it hurts others. That’s true of human nature, you guys. When we listen, what we start to do is we start to say there may be a different narrative going on that’s other than my own. You do know that’s possible, right? When we listen, we open ourselves up to go, okay, maybe the systems we’re in have some flaws. This just in—they’re designed by humans, they DO have flaws! They do!

How do we become the kind of people…..all throughout the Scriptures, God gives people power so that they would leverage their power for those who don’t have it. That’s the invitation of our God. You do know that Jesus is not down on power? You do know that Jesus is not down on influence? He’s not down on authority. He’s actually down on people in positions of power using the power to benefit themselves rather than to advocate for the people underneath them. You’re looking like you don’t believe me. Mark 10:42-45Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) — And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, {See, Jesus isn’t down on power or greatness, he’s down on people of power using greatness to benefit themselves rather than those around them.} and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. {The narrative came in again—don’t forget where you’ve come from.} For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Silence isn’t an option. Richard Stearns, again, said: “A church that’s lost its voice for justice is a church that’s lost its relevance in the world.” Elie Wiesel, Jewish author and concentration camp survivor, said: “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

Let’s be honest, guys, as a Church, capital “C” Church, we’ve got a checkered past. I’m going to be an equal-opportunity offender today. We have a checkered past. In Great Britain in 1787, William Wilberforce and his friends started to speak out about slavery in Great Britain. In 1807, they passed the Slave Trade Act that dramatically limited the way that they were able to not only obtain slaves, but for the rightful treatment of slaves. In 1833, that same group abolished slavery in Great Britain. They were holding their Bible in their hand while they did it. Praise be to God! At the same time, on the other side of the Pond, we had people in the United States going, “No, no, God’s for slavery, God wants slavery…” What happened was people that were greedy and needed a system that would perpetuate itself based on free labor, because they wanted to line their pocketbooks, neglected the invitation from God to value all people. They were blinded and they were greedy and it drove them to do things that we would say were wrong or evil. Oftentimes the Church was silent. That’s what prompted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to say: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

It got me thinking, what are the issues that need the Church’s voice today? We saw one of them last weekend on full display. The issue of racism needs the Church’s voice. It does. It needs us to say that all people are created equal, that the ground is level at the foot of the cross. Nobody is better or worse because of the color of their skin. It needs the Church to rise up and say, what happened in Charlottesville is symptomatic of what’s in all of us, not just a unique thing that happened one weekend, because a statue was removed. The removal of a statue didn’t create a monster, it revealed it. As a church we need to go, “No, no, there’s a better way. His name is Jesus.” We need to say something about racism.

Did you know that there’s 45.8 million slaves in the world today? Here’s the deal, you guys. Even as I say that—-I had lunch with Dr. Jeff Brodsky, JOY International, this week—-I’ve got stories in my mind. It’s such a huge number that it feels insurmountable. Will you pray about what you and we can do to say with our voice, THAT’S. NOT. OK! I’m not okay with people being treated like that. We believe that justice matters to God because all people matter to God, and we want to be the kind of church that advocates and says yes, we believe that’s true, not only with our mouths, but with our lives.

The issue of abortion. Talk about someone who has no voice. In a room this size, I know that some of you have walked through abortion, you’ve walked through that pain. One, I want you to know that you are welcomed here and loved here. We want you here. We also need to say that our position is that life begins at conception. God cares about all people and God cares about those babies; the one million babies that are aborted annually here in the United States. How do we become the type of church, the type of community, that says no, no, no, these things MATTER to us? We can’t just turn a blind eye. So we choose advocacy instead of apathy.

Proverbs 16:11Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) goes on to describe another scene — A just balance and scales are the Lord’s; all the weights in the bag are his work. Proverbs 20:23Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) — Unequal weights are an abomination to the Lord, and false scales are not good. Here’s the picture — If you were selling goods, before 600 B.C. when they developed coinage, you did it by weights. Some people would have a stone on one side of the scale and then put goods on the other side of the scale, but depending on who they saw coming to their business, they would use a different stone. Ironically, if they saw somebody rich coming, they would use the lighter weight so they could give a better deal if you were buying. WHY? Why would you do that? Because you can. Because the poor people didn’t have a voice to stand up and say hey look, can we remeasure? What about that rock behind your table? All throughout the Scriptures, God talks about his scales; the people who use scales and represent Him and carry His name use equal scales. They don’t have one measure for some people and a different one for others. They operate with tzadeqah, righteousness, rightness. They operate with integrity instead of exploitation.

Exploitation is simply taking advantage of somebody because you can. Because you’re in a position of power or authority where the person underneath you doesn’t have a voice. You can rip them off because they don’t have a place to raise their hand and go, “Hey, are you sure that’s how much I should get for working in this factory all day?” The implications for us as people that value right scales are huge, are they not? I’ll admit it…..ALMOST so big that we don’t know where to start. Here’s the thing, if you start being a person that cares about scales, as it were, you’re going to pay more. It’s going to cost you financially…..because you’re going to go, “I might not be able to shop there anymore, because they don’t pay their workers right.” I might not be able to go there….it’s going to cost you financially. Make no mistake about it, it will! You can find out where your clothes are made, and whether or not the farmers who grew the food that goes onto your table got paid a fair wage. You can find out. One of the changes we’ve made at Solid Grounds is that now we’re working with a direct trade source for our coffee. It’s better than fair trade because fair trade gives a fair wage, but direct trade means that the buyers are in direct contact with the farmers and we KNOW that they are helping women who are downtrodden and in need (especially in Uganda). Are we going to pay a little bit more? Yep. Is it worth it? It is to me. It’ll cost you financially. It’ll cost you relationally because you’re going to have people who stand up and say, “I don’t see it that way. I’m not sure I agree with you.” That has to be between them and the Lord. It’s integrity versus exploitation. [00:37:03]

And finally we’ll land the plane here. The book of Proverbs (21:3) says — To do righteousness and justice (mishpat and tzadeqah) is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. Here’s what’s going on. What the author of Proverbs just did is attacked and, in some ways, supplanted an entire religious system that was based around when we offer these sacrifices for sin, when we offer these sacrifices for thanksgiving, when we offer THESE sacrifices we are then in right relationship with God. What the book of Proverbs says is whoa, whoa, whoa, hold it there! If you’re not a type of person who does what’s right (righteousness) to the people around you, and you’re not a person who cares about what’s fair and you don’t advocate for people who don’t have a voice, and you use your power to get up one more rung on the ladder, but you sacrifice……..He goes are you kidding me?!! The prophet Amos (5:21-24) says it more strongly, recording God’s words —- I hate, {and just in case you think I stuttered..} I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. {You get this picture of God up in heaven and as his church gathers to worship and doesn’t care about justice he’s going, “La-la-la-la!” But, but, but……} But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. He’s going listen, if you’re not going to be people who care about the foreigner, the fatherless, the widow, and the poor then don’t come into my house and sing songs about how great I am. I care about those people and I’ve commissioned my body to be a body who cares about those people. As we look at justice, what we find out is that what God is looking for is surrender not singing. He’s not just looking for people that would go through the motions of ritual, but ignore the people that he says I care about.

Matthew 22:37-39Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is and he responds by saying — You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. {But he goes, I can’t just leave it at one, lest you think you could come to worship and that that would be the end of the game. Jesus says, no, no, no, no, no, the second is like it. It’s from the same place. It carries the same DNA. It’s of the same origin.} ….You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Look up at me for a moment. God never, never divides, in the Scriptures, loving Him and loving others. It’s always vertical and it’s always horizontal, throughout all of the Scriptures. This is God’s call for God’s people. If you’re going, “Hey, Paulson, sounds like a social gospel to me,” I would say to you if the gospel doesn’t have social implications, it doesn’t sound like the gospel. It doesn’t sound like the gospel Jesus preached and lived. It certainly doesn’t sound like the gospel the apostles preached and lived. It doesn’t sound like the gospel that I read about in our Scriptures where God says absolutely do I care about your soul so much that I’m going to give my own Son that you might be redeemed, that you might be made whole, that you might be forgiven, that you might be made right with God, that you would then therefore be like a city on a hill whose light shines. That you would be a people who do justice, who love mercy, and who walk humbly with your God. The mantra of the church from the very beginning is there is no difference between Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, but we are all one in Christ. Anybody who comes to Christ comes saying, “I am broken and I am in need!”

The beauty of this all is—-as we see these scales in our bulletin—-the beautiful picture of what the gospel does. It doesn’t extinguish or wipe out the scales; what we see is that the cross overshadows the scales. Here’s what we remember in the cross — that we were in slavery and he’s brought us out. That’s our story too. He’s moved us from darkness into light. In the cross we remember that we are better than absolutely no one. The only way we get in is being broken and destitute and receiving the grace of God that’s ours because of the work of Christ. In the cross we remember that we were loved when we were God’s enemies and we’re given the ability by his Spirit to love ours (enemies). In the cross, what we see is that God’s mercy and his justice kiss. Friends, we are people of that cross. Not in a way that extinguishes the scales of justice, but in a way that empowers us to be people loved deeply by God, knowing that we got more than we deserved, that we’ve been freed, and therefore, we say we’re going to be people who use our voice for the oppressed. We’re going to be people who open our eyes and do our best {please, Lord} not to just walk by. We’re going to say integrity’s important to us. It’s hard in a global economy, but integrity is important to us because it’s important to God. And by no means do we want our worship to end with our singing, but we want it to be demonstrated through our lives.

In 1959, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave the commencement speech at Morehouse College. In that speech, he began with the story of Rip Van Winkle. Rip Van Winkle had climbed up to the top of a mountain and he’d fallen asleep for twenty years. {Sounds sorta good some days, doesn’t it?!} Here’s what Dr. King says — “And this reveals to us that the most striking thing about the story of Rip Van Winkle is not merely that Rip slept twenty years, but that he slept through a revolution. {He woke up and a different person was in charge.} And one of the great liabilities of life is that all too many people find themselves living amid a great period of social change, and yet they fail to develop the new attitudes, the new mental responses, that the new situation demands. They end up sleeping through a revolution.” Friends, I believe that we’re at a significant point for us as a country. The question for this church, for our church, for God’s Church is are we going to sleep through this revolution or will we join in? Let’s pray.

Good God, we know, we trust, based on your character and based on Scriptures, that justice matters to you because people matter to you. We’re here to say we don’t just want to sing worship songs to you, we want to live lives of worship along with you. That you would empower us to be a voice. That you would empower us to carry your name. That you would empower us to demonstrate your love. That even if we benefit from systems that are wrong, that we would have enough integrity to stand up and say so. That we’d have eyes to see people that maybe we walk pass. That we would have a voice to raise on behalf of people that don’t have a voice for themselves. May we be people who remember our story, and may that story shape the lives that we live. That we’ve been rescued and we want to live it. It’s in your name, Jesus, that we pray. Amen.

This is a reprint from Pastor Ryan Paulson of South Fellowship in Littleton, CO.

Queen Victoria’s Testimony

Queen Victoria once attended a service in St. Paul’s Cathedral and listened to a sermon that interested her greatly. Afterwards she asked her chaplain, “Can one be absolutely sure in this life of eternal safety?” His answer was that he knew no way that one could be absolutely sure.

This incident was published in the Court News and came to the notice of a humble minister of the Gospel, John Townsend. After reading of Queen Victoria’s question and the answer she received, he prayed much about the matter and then sent the following note to the Queen.

“To her gracious Majesty our beloved Queen Victoria from one of her most humble subjects: “With trembling hands, but heart filled love, and because I know that we can be absolutely sure now for our eternal life in the Home that Jesus went to prepare, may I ask your Most Gracious Majesty to read the
following passages of Scripture: John 3:16; Romans 10:9-10.

“I sign myself, your servant for Jesus’ sake,” John Townsend
John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Romans 10:9-10. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

John Townsend was not alone in praying about his letter to the Queen. He took others into his confidence and much prayer was offered up to God in Her Majesty’s behalf. About two weeks later he received a modest-looking envelope in which was enclosed the following letter.

“To John Townsend:

“Your letter of recent date received and in reply, would state that I have carefully and prayerfully read the portions of Scripture referred to. I believe in the finished work of Christ for me, and trust by God’s grace to meet you in that Home of which He said, `I go to prepare a place for you’.”

(Signed) Victoria Guelph.

Queen Victoria . . . . ascribed Britain’s greatness to the Word of God. Yet, so exalted a person was not ashamed to make this humble confession of her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. She knew Him to be the great Saviour and Healer of men, the Redeemer of Israel, and the Architect of this nation’s history, but she confessed Him also as her own personal Saviour.

Gentle as a DOVE

Matthew 10:16
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

When the Shepherd spoke in parables, the people often heard the story. They understood His words, as if he’d spoken them directly. Today, as we watch events happening around the world, Christians foresee eternity with a different scope.

I remember the night I realized my mother was not going to survive cancer. I’d been working and rushing through my work to spend time with her, and she’d begged me to just stop working and come sit with her.  That moment, the one where I sat down and heard her voice, the glimpse of the future that had washed over me as I sat there holding her hand, reminded me that I am not in control.

There’s a greater being, bigger than me, who controls the universe and as much as I wanted that night to last forever… I knew it was in His hands.

I heard parables that night, about so many things… Many of them I’d heard throughout my lifetime.  But this one, keeps coming back to me.

Like sheep

Psalm 78:52
But made his own people to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.

53 And he led them on safely, so that they feared not: but the sea overwhelmed their enemies.

54 And he brought them to the border of his sanctuary, even to this mountain, which his right hand had purchased.

55 He cast out the heathen also before them, and divided them an inheritance by line, and made the tribes of Israel to dwell in their tents.

The story that kept weighing on my heart, and needed desperately to be told, was found in Psalm 78, where God shared parables of dark days to come, and allowed the light to shine through those stories of darkness. His light. Shown forth. Brought glory. In our darkest hour, we’re brought forth to the light, by God’s guiding hand. And God protects us.

That’s what the parable said to me. That’s what God’s word revealed.

I’d hung back, waiting for a message. And it was there all along. I struggled through seven years of not knowing, wishing there was something more that I could cling to… Until there wasn’t. There was nothing I could cling to, and mourning wasn’t my thing. I knew, if I’d known anything at all, that I wasn’t to mourn, but to celebrate the life. I was to celebrate the joy of knowing that Mom’s passing had been directly into the arms of God.

And there it was, in the parable she’d mentioned that night.

I have to share that I don’t believe she shared the parable meaning to tell me anything. She was sharing a story she’d shared with me a million times before, and each time something in the story changed. She’d raised a lamb from birth, because the mother rejected the lamb. Her uncle had given her the lamb, she named Lambie, and she bottle fed that lamb and cared for it until it was old enough to butcher.

Gentle as a DOVE

Doves on my window sill have been a symbol of rightness to me. In every home I’ve lived, a pair of doves lived nearby. I remember moving from the apartment when mom passed away, into a house where my family lived for several years.

It didn’t feel right.

We’d moved in December, and there were no doves. In fact, there were no birds. I remember the first picture I took in the house had an image I couldn’t explain, and for days I felt something was missing. I’d never experienced such a vacancy in my heart before that. I felt as if we’d moved into the wrong house.

In early February, before the snow had stopped falling I’d opened my window for some air, and I heard them… A pair of doves had taken up residence in a tree in front of our home.

He led them on safely…

In the parable mom had shared, she kept talking about safety, and reminding me that we would be cared for. The reason she’d shared the story to begin with had been to reassure me, that her passing wouldn’t be a warning, but rather a reveal of future blessings that would rain down. The parable had many phrases that talked of safety and assurance.

  • The sea overwhelmed their enemies…
  • He brought them to the border of His sanctuary…
  • He’d bought them a mountain…
  • He’d cast out the heathen before them…
  • And He divided them an inheritance…

There was much more in the Psalm, and over the seven years, I’ve experienced much that had little to do with God’s provision, and everything to do with lessons God allows us to learn. But there’s so much more…

Because in the end of the Psalm, the parable reveals that David is chosen, and God feeds them, and provides an inheritance.

In the depths of our pain, in our deepest sorrow, God reveals His promises.

I’m not a preacher. I’m not even really a Bible Scholar. I read the Bible and study it, and I often find wisdom and power in the Word. More often, I find sanctity, sanity, and simple instruction for my Faith in Him. I’m led to His promises.

As I studied today in Matthew 10, I was reminded of the parable, and mom’s gentle as a dove warning to “stay alert” in the days to come. I don’t believe she had any idea what was coming politically in our country. But I do believe the parable she shared is relevant in these times as God’s promises are given for moment such as these.

And I was reminded to be wise as serpents and harmless as a dove.

Listen for the doves, my friends. Listen for the dove.

#DOVE #wisdom #warning

Mourning & Death in Ecclesiastes.

One of my favorite scriptures is Ecclesiastes 7:1, where we are told that “… the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.”

Each minute, 107 people die. Each day, 150,000 people die. No one could argue that DEATH is the one thing in life that we ALL have in common.

Life is simply a journey toward death. We are all dying, some soon, some later, some old, some young, but we all are on the same journey. We all have had some personal experience with death, whether it be the death of immediate family, distant relatives, or friends.

The age-old question remains the same…….“What happens, when a Christian dies?” I have written a lot of information on my take on this event and, lately, the subject has crossed my mind on numerous occasions. Many of my high school classmates have posted on Facebook about illnesses, deaths of friends, and regular requests for prayer appear, almost daily.

I thought it appropriate that I post a few of my notes related to this subject, in hope that the truth of what scripture reveals about the subject might set a few minds at ease, or even create an eagerness in the spirits of those that are hurting or fearful toward what is to come.

So, let’s begin with the truth that causes this to be a necessary understanding for all Christians. DEATH IS A CERTAIN EVENT. We are all destined to die. So, it is vital that we accept the truth of the scripture I quoted earlier…….“the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.”

In the Bible, we know that Enoch escaped death (Genesis 5:24), and that Elijah was taken up to Heaven in a fiery chariot (II Kings 2:11). Elijah is commonly believed (by most Bible scholars) to be one of the two witnesses, who are on the earth in the Tribulation (Malachi 4:5), but the identity of the other witness is a continuing discussion. Names such as Moses and John are commonly discussed, but my personal belief is that it will be Enoch. He and Elijah are the only two, from the Bible, who were taken to Heaven without tasting death. We will just have to wait and see. The witnesses are mentioned in Revelation 11:3 and 7, for those of you who enjoy the studies.

Anyway, unless we are blessed enough to be taken in the Rapture, the chances are pretty solid that we are going to die. At my age, the obvious question is “What happens, when you die?” Let me try to shed a little light on that subject, using the insight provide in scripture.

In Luke 16, we read a story, which contains a lot of useful information about the afterlife. This is a story, not a parable, told by Jesus, Himself. In the parables, Jesus never used actual names but, in this story, He does. Because of this, I believe that it was an actual event, which occurred, prior to the completion of the salvation delivered by Jesus.

In summary of the story, the Book of Luke records this actual event about two people dying, prior to the cross. One man dies and goes to Paradise, which was the place where Believers, who died waiting for the Messiah to pay for their sins, went to wait until they were delivered by Jesus and taken to heaven.

The other man went to Hades. We are told, in the story, that he had a body, was fully conscious, could think, reason, speak, remember, and he felt pain. What he says is frightening, to say the least.

In verses 23-24, we read, “In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.'”

We, as Christians, trust and believe in the Gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection, so our sins are not counted against us, and we will (upon death or rapture) go directly to heaven.

Colossians 2:13 tells us “… having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”

In II Timothy, 1:10, we read that “Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,”

Heaven is going to be a spectacular place, one that holds wonders that none of us could imagine.

1 Corinthians 2:9 states “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.”

No matter how great an imagination, the realities we shall find in heaven will be better.

II Corinthians 4:4 calls Satan “the god of this world”, so we, effectively, are living our lives as aliens on a planet, which was hijacked by Satan. Because Satan is hostile to believers, we should all be living our lives looking forward to the next.

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;” Philippians 3:20

Our brief time on this alien planet is referred to, in scripture, as nothing but a “vapor.”

“You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” James 4:14

You know, the Lord allows many blessings, while we are on this earth, and no one is blessed with all good or cursed with all bad. Things can go from extremely painful to absolute perfection in a short period of time. Our job is to keep our eyes on the prize of eternity, while being thankful for the blessings and enduring the bad.

Colossians 3:2 tells us to “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”

We also need to be aware that the good times on this earth come as a result of God’s grace. Satan would have our entire lives being miserable.

We tend to describe periods of our lives based on bad things that happened during that period, like sicknesses, times we were in the hospital, earthquakes, tornadoes, divorces, deaths, etc. This is because of the evil influence under which we occupy this earth.

We need to describe our lifetimes based on our blessings, like the day we were born, the day we accepted the Lord, the day our children were saved, the day God delivered us from temptation. The final event should be a joyous blessing, so our death would be the icing on the cake.

You see, even though most of us don’t think of death as a blessing, if you seriously consider it, death is (for Christians) God’s way of helping us to escape all sickness and evil. Those bad things are immediately removed from our lives.

The human race could have ended up living in a horrible sinful condition FOREVER, had not God prevented them from access to the tree of life, after the fall.

“Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever” Genesis 3:22

“So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.” Genesis 3:24

Had God not allowed death, we could not have received redemption. Another one of my favorite scriptures is a truth of the transition to the next life for a Christian. In 1 Corinthians 15:55, we read “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?”

God actually looks at our death as a POSITIVE event.

Psalm 116:15 tells us “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His godly ones.”

At some point in the life of Paul, probably when he was stoned, he had either a near-death or an actual death experience. In II Corinthians, he talks about being taken to heaven to briefly see the next life. He was never the same, after that experience. He yearned to return to heaven, but his life served as an example for us to live our lives, knowing that God is in control and has a plan for us. This information can be found in II Corinthians 12:2-10, for those of you in study.

In his letter to the Christians in Rome (Romans 7:24), Paul says “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?”

Later in his life, Paul wrote to the Christians in Philippi, and relates that he was really torn between staying on earth and a deep desire to die.

“But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.” Philippians 1:22-24

He relates a similar feeling to the Christians in Corinth. He said he would rather be dead, because he knew he would immediately be with the Lord.

“Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. …I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” II Corinthians 5:6 & 8

Paul refers to death as a victory in 1 Corinthians 15:53-54.

“For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory.”

There is no reason to have a fear of death. Jesus told us that His death rendered the devil powerless. We can live in confidence, without fear.

Hebrews 2:14-15 says “through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.”

Death is, effectively, the end of the race, when we cross the finish line and win the prize. Death is literally an upgrade for Christians. In one instant, at the second of our death, we go from this earth to the glory of heaven. We win!

“I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Psalm 23:6

We need not fear death. Instead, we need to be grateful. We will excape the temptations of the flesh and the pride of this life.

When we die, we get a new house, a new home, a new and perfected body in which to dwell for eternity. Paul described it like this: “For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven,” II Corinthians 5:1-2

We will have a new body, conforming to that of the Lord Jesus in His glory, after His resurrection.

“…the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory…” Philippians 3:21

Jesus walked around, ate and drank after His resurrection. So, our new body will be flesh and bone.

Luke 24:39 tells us “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

Our new body will have arms, legs, eyes, ears, and we will be recognizable to other. The beauty of it is that we will not be subject to the effects of sin. Additionally, and I really look forward to this, we will be able to move at the speed of thought. Jesus appeared and disappeared at will, and He was able to walk through walls. We will be able to do all these things, and we will be able to eat and drink. I like that!

“Truly I say to you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” Mark 14:25

Any Christian, who has a handicap in this life, will have no such restriction in the new body. There will be no pain, no restrictions, no handicaps. The blind will see, the deaf will hear, there will be no heartache.

“and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

Death will be an immediate healing for all. In fact, it is not really death, at all. We will immediately go to be with the Lord…….IMMEDIATELY! We will not have a trial, we will not be evaluated, we will not be judged. Jesus paid the price, so that we can go to be with Him IMMEDIATELY, when we die.

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

In the Gospel of John, we see his position that we attain “no condemnation”, the moment we first believe the Gospel.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” John 5:24

It is important to understand that our time on this planet is pre-determined by God PRIOR to our being born.

“Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” Psalm 139:16

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven – A time to give birth and a time to die;” Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

God has told us, in scripture that there is no need, in fact it is fruitless, to worry about death.

“And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span?” Luke 12:25

God does determine how long we each will live, but that is not an open invitation to jump off a building. We should never put the Lord to a foolish test. We need to live for Him, knowing that the rewards will come, after death. Death is gain.

“For to me, to live in Christ and to die is gain.” Philipians 1:21

Knowing that death is gain, shouldn’t we all (Christians) look forward to this transition? God says to wait eagerly for our body to be redeemed!

“…waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.” Romans 8:23

Death for Christians is security. We have heaven waiting for our entry.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,” 1 Peter 1:3-4

You see, our “spot” is “reserved.” We are simply waiting on God’s timing for our transition.

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.'” John 11:25-26

We can all live boldly in this life. We can have confidence in knowing that God is in control of our death and our destiny. Even if we see death approaching, we can take full comfort in what God promises will follow.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

There is a possibility, and a good possibility for those of us living in this generation, that we will be part of the great Exodus. The two main verses (although there is much more to this subject), which describe the Rapture are:

“Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.” 1 Corinthians 15:51-53

“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17

The Rapture is a necessity because Believers are not appointed to God’s wrath.

“For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:9

“… Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.” 1 Thessalonians 1:10

“Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.” Romans 5:9

So, we Christians, who are alive at the end of the Church Age, will be translated in a split second to meet Jesus. This removal of Believers from the earth will open the way for the 7 Year Tribulation, and the anti-christ, when God’s wrath will be poured out on those who are left on earth.

Things to come, include:

“…the wrath of God…” Revelation 15:1
“…seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God,” Revelation 15:7
“…seven bowls of the wrath of God.” Revelation 16:1
“…the wine of His fierce wrath.” Revelation 16:19

If you are a Christian, who is alive the moment God ends the Church Age, you WILL participate in the Rapture! You will not die a natural death, although the result will be the same. You will be one of millions, who immediately disappear from the earth and go to be with the Lord Jesus, forever. You will also be part of the group, which returns with Him at the end of the 7 years, to assist in setting up and overseeing the 1000 years of peace and love on this planet earth.

We truly live in the most exciting times. That is why I post so many pieces of information on this Facebook page. I pray that as many as God wishes will read these words and prepare themselves for what is to come. I pray that as many as God wishes to comfort because of sickness or loss will read these words and take comfort in what God has taught us by His word.

Knowing all this, how then should we live. We need to look up, and await our blessed future. In Romans 14, verses 7 and 8, we are told:

“For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”

Let me leave you with these wise words from 2 Peter, Chapter 3. I pray that you read them, pray on them, and live by them.

2 Peter 3 New King James Version (NKJV)

God’s Promise Is Not Slack

3 Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), 2 that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, 3 knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, 6 by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
8 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us,[b] not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

The Day of the Lord

10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.[c] 11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Be Steadfast

14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; 15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.
17 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.

Just my thoughts!
Don D. Stephens

JUDGES – Chapter 9

The last few verses of Chapter 8 give a short introduction to Chapter 9.

“And it came to pass, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim, and they made Baalberith their god. And the children of Israel remembered not Jehovah their God, who had delivered them out of the hands of all of their enemies on every side: and neither shewed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all of the goodness to which he had showed to Israel.”

Gideon was a good man. He had a lot of admirable characteristics, but he also had a flaw, just as most good men have their places of weakness. With Gideon we read that he had seventy sons. This was definitely a weakness. These sons were not all from one wife, they were from many different women. He had many wives, and he also had concubines.

One of his concubines was a woman from Shechem who was a Canaanite. She was not really of the tribes of Israel, she was a Canaanitish woman living in Shechem. From her, he had a son whose name was Abimelech. And after the death of Gideon, Abimelech, the son of Gideon…….

Came to Shechem unto his mother’s brothers,

Although this woman in Shechem was a concubine to Gideon, she also had children by other men.

And so he came to his mother’s family, the brethren, and communed with them, and with all of the family of the house of his mother’s father, he said, I want you to speak to all of the men of Shechem, Whether it is better for you, either that all of the sons of Jerubbaal, which are seventy persons, reign over you, or that one reigns over you? and remember this: I am your bone and I’m your flesh.

So, he made a proposal to them, and reminded them that they were the same blood. They were related. He was proposing that they not be ruled by 70 brothers, but that they agree on one leader, and that one should be a member of the bloodline of his family.

And so his mother’s brothers spoke of him in the ears of all of the men of Shechem these words: and their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech; for they said, Well, after all, he is our brother.

Now, he is really half Canaanite, half Israelite.

And so they gave him seventy pieces of silver out of the house of Baalberith, wherewith Abimelech hired vain and light persons, which followed him.

He went out and hired a group of robbers, bandits.

And they went to his father’s house at Ophrah, and they killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, being seventy persons, upon one stone: with the exception of the youngest son of Gideon whose name was Jotham; who escaped and hid himself. And all of the men of Shechem gathered together, and all of the house of Milo, and they went, and made Abimelech the king, by the plain of the pillar that was in Shechem.

This is somewhat of a creation of a kingship, which is more of a Canaanite practice. Israel, at this time in history had never had a king, for they were ruled by these judges. We now see this group of people in Shechem, with Canaanite origin, yet they are a part of the whole territory encompassed by Israel. They kill the sons of Gideon with the exception of Jotham, the youngest son, and they set up Abimelech as king.

Now when it was told to Jotham, he went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim, and he lifted up his voice, and he cried, and he said unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you.

So, the one son of Gideon, who was left, went to Mount Gerizim. Mount Gerizim rises directly above the city of Shechem. The valley below Mount Gerizim, with Mount Ebal on the backside, forms a type of natural amphitheater. So, from the top of Mount Gerizim a person can yell down, and the people can hear you in the valley. This is the place where when they came into the land, where the men of certain tribes stood and pronounced the blessings, if they would keep the law of God, to the congregation that was assembled in the valley below.

Here, we see the youngest son of Gideon upon on this mount, calling down to the men of Shechem, who had conspired against his family, to his other brothers who had slain them. Then, he gives them a parable, which actually becomes a prophecy, or a curse, on them. The parable is this:

The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them;

The people of Shechem are represented by the trees in the parable, and Gideon is represented as the olive tree.

…….and they said to the olive tree, Reign over us. But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honor God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees? So the trees said to the fig tree, Come thou, and reign over us. But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, to go and be promoted over the trees? Then they said to the vine, Come, and reign over us. And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, to go and be promoted over the trees?

This is referring to the drink offerings that they offered to the Lord from the fruit of the vine. They would pour out the drink offering to God. ‘Should I leave this ministry, to be promoted over the trees?’

Now, bramble is a thorny bush, like a tumbleweed, Abimelech is represented as the tumbleweed.

Then said all of the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us. And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.

Now, I have never seen much of a shadow come from a tumbleweed, have you? The bramble bush was used mainly for kindling, because it ignites in a hurry and flames up fast. This is why we see the reference here ‘let fire come out of the bramble, but let it consume the cedars of Lebanon.’

Now therefore, if you have done truly and sincerely, in that you have made Abimelech the king, and you have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, and have done unto him according to the deserving of his hands;

Quite an “IF” here, isn’t it? ‘If what you have done is really right, if it’s honorable.’ He is speaking of the dastardly deed upon the family of Gideon.

(For my father fought for you, and put his own life in jeopardy for you, and delivered you out of the hand of Midian:

Pretty difficult to find that what he had done to the sons of Gideon is right, at this point, isn’t it?

……. you have risen up against my father’s house this day, you have slain his sons, seventy persons, upon one stone, you’ve made Abimelech, the son of his maidservant, the king over the men of Shechem, because he is your brother;) If you have dealt truly and sincerely with Jerubbaal and with his house this day, then rejoice in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you: but if not, let fire come out from Abimelech, and devour the men of Shechem, and the house of Milo; and let fire come out from the men of Shechem, and from the house of Milo, and devour Abimelech.
And then Jotham took off running,

So, he tells them, if what they have done is right, then have at it. But, if not, let there be a problem that arises, and let that problem cause you to burn each other.

If you ran at top speed, it would take you about 20 minutes to get from the valley to the top of the hill where Jotham was preaching his sermon. It is probable that the men of the city started to pursue him, but he had a 20 minute head start. It’s a flat, plain area on top of the mount, so you can really move. By the time they got to the top of the hill, he had disappeared. He fled to a city called Beer, which means ‘well.’

So Jotham ran away, and fled, went to Beer, and he dwelt there, for the fear of Abimelech his brother. Now when Abimelech had reigned for three years over Israel, then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech: that the cruelty done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal might come, and their blood be laid upon Abimelech their brother, who slew them; and upon the men of Shechem, which aided him in killing of his brothers. And the men of Shechem set liars in wait for him in the top of the mountains, and they robbed all that came along that way by them: and it was told Abimelech.

About three years into Abimelech’s reign, the problems (fire) began to develop between the people in Shechem and Abimelech. This problem that arose, was of God. So, these guys become a sort of pirate group. They would rob anybody that would come along the road towards Shechem, and this was reported to Abimelech.

And then this fellow Gaal the son of Ebed came with his brethren, and they went over to Shechem: and the men of Shechem put their confidence in him.

Here, we see this guy, Gaal, come into the picture. He’s a Shechemite, but evidently he hasn’t been around. He comes with his brothers, and he gains the confidence of the people, who are already somewhat at odds with Abimelech.

And at the time of harvest they went out into the fields, gathered their vineyards, they tread the grapes, and made merry, and went into the house of their god, and did eat and drink, and
they cursed Abimelech.

They begin to get a little drunk, while celebrating the harvest. They are eating and drinking, and cursing Abimelech.

And then Gaal the son of Ebed said, Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should serve him? is he not the son of Jerubbaal? and Zebul (who was the governor of the city of Shechem) is just his officer? serve the men of Hamor

In other words, he was suggesting that they serve the true Shechemites. He wanted them to go back to Hamor, who was a Canaanite. He had inhabited and established the city of Shechem, about the time of Jacob.

For why should we serve him? And would to God that I was ruling over these people! then I would remove Abimelech.

And so begins the bragging. “Too bad I’m not in charge, because I would kick him out.”

And then he sent a message to Abimelech, and it said, Gather your army, and come out and let’s fight.

Now, he is stating all this, within this circle of men. “Where’s Abimelech? Let him come out and fight me. Get his men, and come out and fight me.” His bragging is influence by the wine, I am sure.

Now when Zebul who was the governor of the city [appointed by Abimelech] heard the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, his anger was kindled.

He wasn’t strong enough to put down the rebellion himself.

So he sent messengers unto Abimelech privately, saying, Behold, Gaal the son of Ebed and his brothers are come to Shechem; and, behold, they have fortified the city against you. Therefore come by night, you and the people that are with you, and lie and wait in the field: and it shall be, that in the morning, as soon as the sun is up, you shall rise early, and set upon the city: and, behold, when he and the people that is with him come out against you, then you may do to them as you shall find occasion. So Abimelech rose up, and all the people that were with him, by night, and they laid in wait against Shechem in four companies. And Gaal the son of Ebed went out, and stood in the entering of the gate of the city: and Abimelech rose up, and the people that were with him, from lying in wait. And when Gaal saw the people, he said to Zebul, Behold, there are people coming down from the top of the mountains. And Zebul said to him, You’re just seeing the shadow of the mountains.

He was suggesting that he might be seeing things, perhaps shadows, as the sun is rising, looking like me. Zebul, of course, knew what was going on, but he was trying to hold Gaal back as long as possible.

And then Gaal spoke again and said, Look there are people coming down from the middle of the land, and another company is along the plain there. Then said Zebul unto him, Where is your mouth now, where you said, Who is Abimelech, that we should serve him? is not this the people that you have despised? go out now, I pray you, and fight with them.

He is now being called a big mouth. “Where is all your bragging at this point? If you’re such a man, have at it. Go out and fight with them.”

And Gaal went out before the men of Shechem, fought with Abimelech. Abimelech chased him, and they fled before him, and many were overthrown and wounded, even as he pursued him back to the gate of the city. And Abimelech dwelt in Arumah: and Zebul thrust out Gaal and his brethren, so that they should not dwell at Shechem.

With his forces now decimated by the battle, Zebul was powerful enough to expel Gaal out of the city.

And it came to pass on the morrow, that the people went out into the field; and they told Abimelech. And he took the people, and divided them into three companies, and he laid in wait in the field, and looked, and, behold, the people were come forth out of the city; and he rose up against them, and smote them.

Evidently, the folks who were still in Shechem figured that Abimelech had taken care of Gaal, so the danger had passed. There was no more problem. So, the next morning, as the gates were open, they went out into their fields to work. At night, the folks would come into the security of the city, most of them having small farms outside the city walls. At daylight, they would leave the protection of the wall of the city and go out to work their fields. This day, as they went out of the city, Abimelech attacked them, because there is still the bad blood between them.

And Abimelech, and the company that was with him, rushed forward, stood at the entering of the gate of the city: and two other companies ran upon all the people that were in the fields, and killed them. And Abimelech fought against the city all that day; and he took the city, and killed the people that were in it, and he beat down the city, and sowed it with salt.

He conquered the city of Shechem. The sowing of the salt was to destroy it, so that they could not plant. It was really just to lay waste the city.

And when the men of the tower of Shechem heard that, they entered into the fortress of the house of the god Berith. And it was told Abimelech, that the men of the tower of Shechem were gathered together. So Abimelech got to mount Zalmon, he and the people that were with him; and he took an ax in his hand, and he cut down a bough from the trees, and he took it, and laid it on his shoulder, and he said to the people, Do what you have seen me do. And so the people also cut down every man his bough, and they followed Abimelech, and put them against the fortress, and they set the fortress on fire upon them; so that all of the men in the tower of Shechem were cremated, about a thousand men and women that were in the tower. Then Abimelech decided to attack Thebez,

Thebez was about 6 miles away. He most likely believed that they were evolved in the conspiracy against him.

…….and he encamped against Thebez, and he took it. But there was a strong tower within that city, and all of the men and women of that city, fled to that strong tower, and they shut it up, and got in to the top of the tower. And so Abimelech came to that tower, fought against it, and he went hard against the door of the tower to burn it with fire.

He attempted to use the same strategy that worked in the tower of Shechem.

But there was a certain woman who cast a piece of a millstone upon Abimelech’s head, and crushed his skull.

I love this story. The millstone referred to here was probably one of the hand held millstones. Some millstones can weigh up to 300 or 400 pounds. No doubt, this wasn’t one of those. The woman wouldn’t be able to toss it off of the roof. They also had these smaller stones, similar to what the Indians used to grind their ears of corn. They used these pestles to pound their ear of corns, which were usually about ten inches long. These were long enough, so that they could do a lot of damage, if they were thrown off a tower and landed on the skull of someone. So, here is Abimelech, trying to beat down the door, and this woman heaves the rock over the side and hits him in the head, but it didn’t kill him. He was still alive, but he was fully aware that his time had come.

And he called hastily unto his armourbearer, and he said to his armourbearer, Take your sword, and kill me, I don’t want men to say, That I was killed by a woman.

It amazes me that pride ruled this man’s life, and now it rules his death. He keeps his pride, up to the end. It will get you every time. Amazing!

And the young man thrust him through, and he died. And the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, and they departed every one to his own place. And thus God rendered the wickedness of Abimelech, which he did to his father, in the killing of his seventy brothers: and all of the evil of the men of Shechem did God render upon their heads: and upon them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal.

The ‘fire’ came out and devoured them. It is interesting that he did cremate one thousand people or so that had found refuge in the tower. So, we see somewhat of a literal fulfillment of the curse that Jotham had pronounced against Shechem and against Abimelech for their treachery.

Teaching Notes:
Don D. Stephens

The Eagle Flies

Deuteronomy 32:11
As an eagle stirs up its nest, hovers over its young, spreading out its wings, taking them up, carrying them on its wings, so the Lord alone led him, and there was no foreign god with him.

THE EAGLE
Many of us are going through difficult situations in our lives. Many of us have friends or family who are going through difficult situations in their lives. I couldn’t number all the times, when I have had folks come to me, because they are going through difficult times, and the first statement I hear is “Why is God doing this to me?” “Why is God allowing this to happen?”

You know, I actually believe that God allows tests, and even tests us Himself, BECAUSE He wants us to mature. He wants us to develop in our walk with Him. You see, our walk with God is based on our personal commitment to God, not on some emotional high or low.

In James, Chapter 1, we are told, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

eagle

You see, if you want your endurance to grow, you need to have your faith tested. We need to let our endurance grow, and when it is fully developed, we will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

A mother eagle takes some extremely drastic steps, in order to teach the little eaglet to fly. She actually just pushes it out of the nest and lets it fall toward the ground, which can be near 100’ high. As the small bird is falling, the mother will wait until it is almost near the ground, then suddenly swoop down, snatch it out of the air, take it back to the nest, and then repeat it all again. This is repeated over and over, until the eaglet begins to use its own wings. Eventually, the eaglet begins to fly and is complete, no longer needing to be kicked out of the nest. This may seem extremely cruel to most, especially when our current system of teaching our children leans so much into the philosophy of letting them move into life at their own pace, while we, as parents, are held accountable for any errors along the way, but this is how eagles learn to fly. It works, and the young eagles grow and thrive to soar in solo flight, eventually using the same method to teach their own young.

You see, as Christians, God will sometimes kick us out of our nests. We may be in our own comfort zone, with all things happening in a safe and orderly fashion. All of a sudden, God decides it is time for us to grow up, time to stretch our faith, time to spread our wings and find that perfect flight. We are all subject to trials, it is just a matter of time, before the next one hits.

Luke 22:31-32 says, “And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”

Here is your question: When these tests come, will you pass or fail?

Just my thoughts!
Don D. Stephens

JUDGES – Chapter 8

And the men of Ephraim said unto him, Why have you treated us like this, why didn’t you call us, when you went out to fight with the Midianites? And they did chide with him sharply.
Enter the troublemakers chiding him about why he didn’t call them. Had Gideon been defeated, it would have been a different story, you can be sure of that. But, being victorious, here they come chiding with him, and they are really getting on his case. Gideon shows some real diplomacy here.

He said unto them, What have I done in comparison to what you have done? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim?

Gleaning is going in, after the harvesters are finished, and picking or gathering the grapes that remain.

Are they not better than the vintage of Abiezer?

The vintage is the first picking. Gideon is being diplomatic by praising what they had done. “Wow. You guys! Your gleanings are more than our vintage. What have we done compared to you?”

God has delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb: what was I able to do in comparison to what you did? Then their anger was abated toward him, when he said that.

birds This was a very diplomatic move, on the part of Gideon, to be sure. Gideon does show some depth of character. The men of Ephraim are going to do this again, as we move through Judges, but they’re going to be dealing with a different kind and they’re going to wish they hadn’t done it. They did it once too often. Gideon was gracious, the next guy won’t be.

And Gideon came to Jordan, and passed over, he, and the three hundred men that were with him, and they were fainting, still they were pursuing. And he said unto the men of Succoth, Give, I pray you, some loaves of bread unto the people that follow me; for they are faint, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.

These are some interesting names, aren’t they? Zebah, Zalmunna, Zeeb, and Oreb. Actually, these names a bit terrifying. My wife would say I am guilty of the same, with the naming in our family, Kiier, Kiiler, Kiiedon, Kiilan, and Kiilys.

And the princes of Succoth said, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in your hand, that we should give bread unto your army? And Gideon said, When God has delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, I’m going to tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with the briers.

Gideon and his troops came to the men of Succoth. At this point, they are tired, worn out, and they were needing supplies for the troops. These guys are now trying to play it safe, when they said, “Hey, you haven’t conquered them yet. What if they defeat you? Then they’re going to come back and get even with us.” And, so, they refused to help.

Gideon warned them of what was to come, once God had delivered Zebah and Zalmunna, and it wasn’t pleasant.

And so he came to Penuel, and they answered him the same way as the men of Succoth: and so he said unto the men of Penuel, When I come again in peace, I’m going to break down your tower. Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor, and their host were with them, there were only about fifteen thousand left, of all of the children of the east: they had already slain about one hundred and twenty thousand of them that drew the sword. And Gideon went up by the way of them that dwelt in the tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and he smote the host: for the host was secure. And when Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued after them, and he took the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and he discomfited all of their host. And Gideon the son of Joash returned from battle before the sun was up. And he caught a young man of the men of Succoth, and he inquired of him: and he said, Describe to me the princes of Succoth, and the elders of the city, even seventy seven men. And they came to the men of Succoth, and he said, Behold, Here is Zebah and Zalmunna, with whom you did upbraid me, saying, Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in your hand, that we should give you bread for your men that are weary? And he took the elders of the city, and he took the thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he taught them a lesson.

So, delivering on his threat, Gideon picked up some cacti type plants, and some thorny briers, and taught these guys a lesson. It would be pretty miserable.

And then he came to Penuel, and he beat the tower in Penuel and slew the men of the city. And then he said unto Zebah and Zalmunna, What manner of men were they whom you killed at Tabor? And they answered, They are a lot like you: each one of them resembled the child of a king. And he said unto them, They were my brothers, they are the sons of my mother: and as the LORD lives, if you had saved them alive, I would not kill you. And he said to Jether his oldest son, Kill them, son. But the youth did not draw his sword: for he was afraid, because he was still just a young boy. Then the kings Zebah and Zalmunna said, Rise up, and fall on us: for as a man is, so is his strength.

JudgesIn other words, ‘Be a man.’

And Gideon arose, and slew Zebah and Zalmunna, and took away the ornaments that were on their camels’ necks. Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule over us, and your sons, and your son’s sons: for you have delivered us from the hands of the Midians. And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, nor will my sons rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you.

Here, again, we see the depth of the character of Gideon. This guy had a tremendous character. Here, they want to elevate him and his sons to rule over them, to set up his own dynasty. Gideon tells them that is not happening, because the Lord will rule over them. Easy to see this tremendous character of Gideon.

So Gideon said, I will just have one request, I would like to have all of the earrings that you took off of those guys that you wiped out. So he laid out a blanket, and they willingly gave the earrings on the garment. And the weight of the gold in these earrings was about fifty pounds of gold; besides all the ornaments, and collars, and the purple raiment that were on the kings that he took, beside the chains that were about their camels’ necks. So Gideon made an ephod.

An ephod is sort of a divining instrument. The priest wore the ephod. And, they would often come to inquire of the ephod. It is spoken of in the Old Testament as a divining instrument, an instrument by which they could ascertain the will of God. It could be that Gideon’s purpose in making this ephod was to ascertain God’s will. He made the ephod out of the gold that was taken, but it became sort of an idol to the people of Israel.

birds
He put it in his city, in Ophrah: and all of Israel went there whoring after it: and it became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house.

It became a real problem, because it became an object of worship.

And thus was Midian subdued before the children of Israel, and they lifted up their heads no more.

That was the end of Midian’s power.

And the country was in quietness for forty years during all of the days of Gideon. And Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and dwelt in his own house. And Gideon had seventy sons begotten of his own body: for he had many wives.

This is actually the beginning of the period in Israel where there was a multiplicity of wives. Gideon had 70 sons!

He had a concubine that lived in Shechem, and she also bore him a son, whose name is called Abimelech.

This guy, Abimelech, was a very treacherous guy. In the next chapter, we will see his treachery.

Gideon the son of Joash died in a good old age, buried in the sepulchre of Joash his father, there at Ophrah of the Abiezrites. And it came to pass, as soon as Gideon was dead, the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim, and made Baalberith their god. And the children of Israel remembered not Jehovah their God, who had delivered them out of the hands of all their enemies on every side: and neither showed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all of the goodness which he had showed to Israel.

After this, we will see the treachery against the sons of Gideon, and the rise of Abimelech.

There are important lessons that we can learn from the story of Gideon, like never worrying when God thins the ranks. If God is cutting down the numbers, He’s doing it for a purpose. God had to thin the ranks of Gideon’s army to ludicrous levels: 300 men against 135,000 that ‘drew a sword.’ God made the odds so impossible that there was just no way that any man could boast.

Sometimes God lets things get so bad that only He can deliver, and I believe He does that, so that you can’t possible take any credit or glory for what happens. It’s a head-shaker. “Wow! The Lord had to do that, man! There was nothing I could do!”

It’s really a sign of our times, that we sometimes force God’s hand, and we end up in such dire straits, before He can work. God knows our hearts. He knows how we like to glory. We are always ready to bring glory to ourselves. But, God will not allow any flesh to glory in His sight.

Sometimes, we just make it so tough on ourselves, BECAUSE of our desire to glory. So, God just lets it get worse, and worse, and worse. He thins the ranks, until there is literally nothing we can do. It gets out of hand and out of our hands. When things get hopeless, that is when God works. It leaves us with nothing to say, except “God did it. I was at the end of my rope. There was nothing I could do. It had to be God.” That is when God gets the glory. That is how it works.

We need to keep our eyes on God, rather than on the problems, or the enemy. When we look at the enemy, fear sets in. When we look at God, faith will fill your heart. Whatever we let take our attention, grows. If we look at problems, they grow. If we look at the opposition, it grows. If we look at God, He grows. If we look at anything, away from God, God will get smaller in our lives and in the situation. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by our problems. We need to keep our eyes on the Lord.

We need to be on a constant alert, even when doing the necessary things of life, like drinking water. We must know that we are in a battle, we’re facing an enemy, and we must be alert! We need to live in that sense of urgency. We should have a constant urgency for prayer, for reading and studying of the Word, the urgency of getting the gospel out, the urgency of witnessing. We must live in a sense of urgency, for these are desperate days.

We must make sure we are in the will of God, open, flexible, ready to change, not set in my ways. We need to give God the glory for any and all of the victories that come. All of them are a direct result of His deliverance over the enemy. We must not take credit, but give God the glory.
Finally, pray without ceasing! These are important lessons. I pray that the Lord hide these lessons in each of our hearts.

Don D. Stephens
Teaching Notes