Judges 15

Vs. 3, “Samson said to them, “This time I have a right to get even with the Philistines; I will really harm them.”  Suspense ensues as Samson returns to Timnah to begin his new marriage with his Philistine wife (vs. 1-3).  However, her father assumed that Samson’s anger upon leaving the wedding feast was an obvious indicator he wanted nothing with this marriage.  Though chosen as a judge/deliverer, Samson takes upon personal revenge (vs. 4-8).  The results were devastation to the crops, Samson’s wife and father-in-law burned to death, and many Philistines slaughtered.  But the story of conflict does not end as the Philistines send an entourage of men to bring revenge upon Samson (vs. 9-14).  Samson is hiding in cave in Judah, so the men of Judah try to prevent any more carnage by succumbing to the Philistines in handing Samson over to them.  Samson has no intention of surrender as he takes an unclean jawbone of a donkey (against Nazirite vow) and slaughters a thousand men (vs. 15).  Though reminiscent of Shamgar defeating six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad to help save Israel (Judges 3:31), Samson is not saving God’s people, but taking revenge.  Even Samson’s victory chant (vs. 16) has no mention of brining glory to God.  The LORD graciously hears Samson’s cry for mercy and provides water (vs. 18-19) as he did for the Israelites in the desert (Exodus 17, Numbers 20).  The ending (vs. 20) has an interestingly negative tone as Samson led, but in the days of the Philistines.

Regarding application…God’s Will.  Vs. 14, “As he approached Lehi, the Philistines came toward him shouting. The Spirit of the LORD came upon him in power. The ropes on his arms became like charred flax, and the bindings dropped from his hands.”  Other than the first judge Othniel, God has been faithful to Israel despite the flaws of the judges/deliverers.  If the LORD was not working behind the scenes, Israel would not even be in a situation of hope.  God’s will cannot be deterred.  In our present age, the church has had many enemies.  In many ways, it’s a miracle that it has continued to last two millennia.  But God’s faithfulness has endured even in the flaws of others.  We are more like Samson than we would like to admit.  There are times of selfishness and ulterior motives that govern our actions.  Let us soberly consider the path we are headed and redirect our lives if necessary.  May the Lord’s will be done in our life!

Judges 1

Vs. 1, “After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the LORD, “Who will be the first to go up and fight for us against the Canaanites?”  The Lord worked mightily through Joshua, but there was still work to be done.  Early on, the Israelites do the right thing and inquire guidance from the LORD.  The LORD instructs Judah to be the first tribe to continue dislodging the remaining Canaanites out of the land (vs. 2-21).  Some scholars point out that there is an ominous tone set as Judah turns to the tribe of Simeon to assist them.  Question: Why is this not a good sign?  Because, God gave Judah specific instructions, but already they were not completely obeying.  But because Judah and Simeon were taking the full measure of fighting and not diplomacy, things are looking good.  In this conquest, we are given a beautiful example of faith in Acsah the daughter of Caleb and the wife of Othniel who was the first of the Judges (vs. 12-15).  Acsah asked with great faith and received!  We now begin to see a declining faith as we move on to the other tribes (vs. 21-36) as Benjamin, Ephraim, Manasseh, Zebulun, Asher, Naphtali, and Dan could not dislodge the enemies out of the land.  God has explicitly instructed His people (Deuteronomy 7) not to spare the foreign enemy.

Regarding application…Neglecting God’s Word.  Vs. 21, “The Benjamites, however, failed to dislodge the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the Benjamites.”  Question: Why did Israel and the individual tribes not obey the LORD?  Because they looked upon these people and did what they thought was right in their own eyes.  God had already judged the Canaanites, Jebusites, etc.  The Lord had given these nations over four hundred years to repent and change.  These were an inherently wicked people, who if spared, would only lead to Israel’s downfall.  One thing I do want to point out is the hand of God’s justice was very clear for Israel.  But the bigger application for us is that we do have God’s instruction for our lives in the Bible.  We are only repeating the same sin as the Israelites did if we neglect God’s Word in our life!

Hebrews 8

Vs. 1, “Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven.”  Like any good presentation, we see the author of Hebrews give us a summary of the main point and central focus of the letter.  Jesus is the high priest that continues to serve in our lives today!  Jesus is not in some man-made tabernacle, but Jesus is at the right hand of the Father.   Jesus is ministering in the heavenly tabernacle not the copy of it that was on earth (vs. 3-6).  It served a temporal purpose, but Jesus serves eternally.  The old covenant was fulfilled and made perfect (due to man’s sinfulness) through the new covenant (vs. 7-13).  Moses was the old covenant mediator, but Jesus is the perfect mediator.  The fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy (Jeremiah 31:31-34) came to pass.

Regarding application…Is the Old Covenant Bad?  Vs. 13, “By calling this covenant new, he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.”  Question: Who gave us the Old Covenant?  God had His purpose for His promises given to His people at that time.  Both the old and new covenants were given for the good of God’s people.  Both covenants offered blessings.  Jesus did not come to abolish God’s law (Matthew 5:17), but He came to fulfill God’s ultimate promise to love His people and be a blessing to His nations.  God has written His law in our hearts and our minds, we are without excuse!  Let us therefore make every effort to honor Him in all that we do!  Question: What can you honor him with today?

Genesis 49

Vs. 1, “Then Jacob called for his sons and said: “Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come.”  After 147 years, it was time for Jacob/Israel to have the opportunity to share some lasting words (vs. 2-28) about the future for his sons and their descendants.  There was good news and some bad news as each son pondered their future.  Reuben, should have been the chosen, but his lustful ways hurt his future.  Levi and Simeon’s violence would be noted, yet God would be gracious to both of them as Simeon’s tribe would join Judah and Levi’s tribe would become the priestly tribe.  Out of Judah’s tribe would come Jesus (vs. 8-12) the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5).  The listing of the rest of the brothers ensues and through this, we see Jacob’s words of prophecy fulfilled.  In the latter half of our chapter, Jacob would die peacefully (vs. 29-33).

Regarding application…Consequences to Follow.  Vs. 4, “Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel, for you went up onto your father’s bed, onto my couch and defiled it.”  For Rueben, Simeon, Levi and Dan, they would have bad consequences.  For the others, their actions would have good consequences.  Brothers and sisters, we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7).  I think there is a tendency for us to believe that it is our actions (works) that determine what consequences we have.  Yet, most importantly, it is our faith or lack thereof.  There are two consequences that transpire after this life: Heaven or Hell.  We are called to live a life that is holy and pleasing to God (Romans 12:1).   We live in a time where we are so blessed to see the outcome of consequences of the history of God’s people in both the Old and New Testaments.  We have the gift of the church to grow and guide us.  We are without excuse!  Let us live a life that realizes our faith and action can determine not only our own consequences, but can also help point others to going down the right road!

Genesis 44

Vs. 2, “Then put my cup, the silver one, in the mouth of the youngest one’s sack, along with the silver for his grain.” And he did as Joseph said.”  Joseph continued to test his brothers to see what their response would be by this ploy of putting his own silver cup into Benjamin’s sack.  It’s important to note that while the cup was used by Egyptians for divination (the use of foretelling signs through demonic means), Joseph did not have to endorse such a belief system.   The test worked and the brothers of Joseph came back, only this time with true repentance in their heart.  Judah steps up and delivers a stirring speech full of heartfelt contrition (vs. 18-34).   Quite a change in the life and attitude of  Judah from (Genesis 38) where he lived very worldly.

Regarding application…Sacrifice.  Vs. 33, “Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers.”  God would have Jesus come from the line of Judah.  Judah was willing to give his life as a ransom for Benjamin because he loved his father Israel.  I’m reminded of Jesus’ words to us, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13).  What an amazing reminder of what sacrifice should look like in our lives.  While many of us will probably not ever be put in situations where we will have to offer our lives in place of another, God still has His ways of asking us to sacrifice.  When we put the interest of others above our own (Phil 2:4), we follow the example that Jesus set for us.  Question: What areas of life are you still not willing to sacrifice: Career, family, school, relationships?

Genesis 43

Vs. 9, “I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him here before you, I will bear the blame before you all my life.”  Time passed and the grain that had been brought back is now gone (vs. 2).  Yet, Israel still did not want to succumb to the request that Benjamin must come the second time.  Where Reuben had failed (Genesis 42:37), Judah had succeeded in convincing Israel to allow them to take Benjamin.  Our heart goes out to Israel as he struggles with letting his sons go back to Egypt (vs. 11-14).  Wisely, they take double the silver and come bearing gifts to try to make up for the possibility of retribution having unknowingly left with the first silver payment.  Realizing their dire circumstances (vs. 17-18), they go to Joseph’s steward to plead their case (vs. 19-22).  He comforts them, brings out Simeon and leads them to Joseph’s house.  And here is where Joseph’s dream as a teenager would be fulfilled (vs. 28).  And then one last event that would startle the brothers (vs. 33), they were seated according to their age (oldest to youngest).  They had never told the Egyptians their ages, so this was quite a shock to them!

Regarding application…Don’t be Afraid.  Vs. 23, “It’s all right,” he said. “Don’t be afraid. Your God, the God of your father, has given you treasure in your sacks; I received your silver.” Then he brought Simeon out to them.”  Isn’t this wonderful?  In the midst of their overarching fear, God would bring someone in their life to encourage them.  Certainly, Joseph had quite a plan to reveal the truth.  But, I like how the steward helped in calming them.  There are going to be times in our lives when we are afraid.  Yet, in that fear, God has wonderful plans for us.  Our God is greater than the enemy!  This reminds me of when I have participated in a few “Ropes” programs.  The end goal is to help everyone see that God can help us triumph over our fears and get us safely across.  But, we don’t expect the participant to do it alone.  People cheer them on the obstacle course to help them realize they can overcome their fears.  We have been recipients of encouragement along the way.  And now we must remember that we too are encouragers to others.

Genesis 42

Vs. 3, “Then ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt.”  Famine was in the land and Israel had no choice but to send his sons, except for Benjamin to see if they could acquire food in Egypt.  Joseph’s dream nearly comes true as ten of the eleven brothers come bow down to him (vs. 6-9).  It is quite understandable that they would not recognize Joseph.  It’s been around twenty years and Joseph would have dressed and shaved like an Egyptian.  With some wisdom and insight, Joseph keeps Simeon and sends the rest of the brothers to retrieve Benjamin.  But he puts their silver back in their sacks (vs. 25).  Question: Why?  The brothers would have enough money for another purchase, but also they might have been accused of stealing it.  If they never returned back to Egypt they were thieves and would leave Simeon behind, but if they returned they ran the risk of risking Benjamin and all of their lives for the silver.  It’s also interesting to see that Joseph would not keep the first-born Reuben behind, but would keep Simeon the next oldest behind.  Remember, it was Reuben who had never agreed to have Joseph sold into slavery and his brothers conspired behind his back.

Regarding application…Hurtful Past.  Vs. 24, “He turned away from them and began to weep, but then came back and spoke to them again. He had Simeon taken from them and bound before their eyes.”  Twenty years would not erase the hurt that stirred in Joseph’s heart.  The brothers unknowingly were speaking amongst themselves in Joseph’s presence not realizing that He understood every word (vs. 21-23).  God began to work in their hearts to realize the horrific thing they had done.  While it is very sad that it took twenty years to realize it, this is a glimpse of God’s grace to stubborn complacent hearts.  Yesterday’s message at Roots ministry was about dealing with disputes.  We can’t avoid living in a hurtful world, but we can learn how to deal with it in a gracious way.  Question: What are some hurtful things in your life?  Let the Great Physician start your healing process!

Genesis 38

Vs. 1, “At that time, Judah left his brothers and went down to stay with a man of Adullam named Hirah.”  Juxtaposed in the story of Joseph, we take a break and get a glimpse of Israel’s son, Judah.  Question: Why?   Let’s do a quick review.  The first three oldest sons of Israel had all done things that take them out of the kingly line.  Reuben had slept with his father’s wife (Genesis 35:22) – his step mom, and Simeon and Levi took revenge on Shechem for Dinah’s rape (Genesis 34).  The next son in line was Judah.  Bear in mind, the Messiah would come from the line of Judah.  Other notables were Boaz & Ruth and King David who were descendants of Judah.  Judah’s marriage to a Canaanite woman was an unwise one indeed (vs. 2).  It would set off a chain of sad events.  Judah had three sons, but the first son Er was so wicked we are told God put him to death (vs. 7).  The cultural practices of the time were to have the next brother fulfill the duty of helping the widow bear a child in his brother’s name (Levirate marriage – this was become part of the Mosaic law).  But Onan, the second oldest brother was selfish and wicked and did not fulfill his duty (vs. 8-10).  Judah had one more son who had not yet grown up.  Tamar, who had been originally married to Er, was patiently waiting for one of Judah’s son to help her conceive.  Two were now dead and only Shelah was left, but he was too young (vs. 11).  Through a chain of deception, Tamar would deceive Judah by disguising herself as a prostitute and having a night shared with Judah her father-in-law.  We see the condition and double-standard of the day as Judah who was no saint demanded she be put to death.  But it was his lack of integrity that he did not follow up on allowing Shelah to marry her (vs. 14).  Tamar would get pregnant from that night with Judah and bear him twins.  Eventually, Tamar a Canaanite woman would be a part of the kingly Messianic lineage.  In fact, Tamar would be mentioned in the genealogy of Gospel of Matthew (1:3).

Regarding application…Grace of God.  This can be a confusing chapter and there seems to be no real hero.  However, the true emphasis isn’t Judah or Tamar, but it is God.  God is at work dispensing His will and thankfully His grace.  If our existence depended on our own righteousness, we would all be in hell.  Thankfully, God is gracious.  How interesting that we see such a contrast between Israel’s two sons: Judah and Joseph.  Question: Which son are you more like?  Let’s not take advantage of the grace of God.  This reminds me of the thought process that Paul had at address to the Roman Christians regarding the increase of sin and God’s increase of grace (Romans 5:20).  There was this wrong thinking that since God’s grace increases because of sin, than we have the right to continue to sin (Romans 6:1).  Brothers & sister, may this not be the case for us.

Genesis 37

Vs. 3, “Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him.”  The rest of the book of Genesis (1/4 of it) will be devoted to the life of Joseph, first son of Rachel.  It is quite an adventurous story full of betrayal and intrigue.  From the onset of our chapter, we see Joseph must have been a young man who demonstrated his ideal of integrity (vs. 2).  Bear in mind, his older brothers would have already resented him because his father favored Rachel and Joseph was her first-born.  It certainly didn’t help things when Israel mad him an ornate robe (vs. 3).  The dreams that come to Joseph and his subsequent sharing of them so candidly remind us why it was important to share his age (vs. 2).  Joseph, was naïve, but the Lord had a purpose to bringing such revelation to the young man.  Sadly, nine of the brothers (outside of Reuben) had conspired to kill Joseph (vs. 20).  Reuben, being the oldest, had the most to lose if Joseph’s dream came true.  Yet, it was Reuben who convinced his brothers not to kill Joseph (vs. 21-22).  His intention was to bring Joseph back to Israel.  But, for some reason, Reuben leaves and the brothers see the Ishmaelites/Midianite merchants traveling to Egypt.  Judah proposes to sell Joseph into slavery (vs. 26-27), it looks like they still intended to kill him.  The selling of Joseph for shekels of silver give us a preview of Jesus’ being sold by Judas Iscariot.

Regarding application…Dangers of Envy.  Vs. 4, “When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.”  We could point the blame to Israel for favoring Joseph.  But, ultimately, it was the envy of Joseph’s older brothers that would bring young Joseph to slavery.  Before we are quick to judge the brothers, we should take the time to look at our own hearts.  There is an illustration that goes like this: The legend is told of a godly man who lived in a cave in order to give himself to prayer, worship, and contemplation. Wanting to lure him away from his life of piety, Satan sent some demons to tempt him through lust, selfishness, and greed. But demon after demon reported back to Satan, saying, “The man doesn’t budge. He doesn’t waver. He doesn’t give in.” Finally, Satan said, “Let me show you how it’s done.” He made his way to the hermit’s cave, perched on his shoulder, and whispered, “Your brother has just been made Bishop.”  Question: Is there any envy in your heart?

Genesis 29

Vs. 1, “Then Jacob continued on his journey and came to the land of the eastern peoples.”  Little did know Jacob know, but he would spend the next twenty years in Haran.  It’s not a surprise that Jacob would come upon shepherds at a well, for wells were often places of blessing and care (vs. 2-8).  Upon inquiring about his uncle Laban, Rachel would come into the scene (vs. 9-11).  Much like Isaac & Rebekah before him, it was love at first sight!  Time would pass and Laban would offer his daughter Rachel to Jacob if he served him for seven years (vs. 14-20).  Sadly, the deception that Jacob did on Esau would now happen to him (vs. 25), the deceiver is deceived!  Jacob would bargain with Laban and after a week of marriage with Leah, he then would also marry Rachel but would have to work another 7 years (vs. 27).  Sadly, this type of marriage (polygamy) was not something that God originally intended (Genesis 2:24).  We can see the grief and tension that this created in Jacob’s two wives as he favored one over the other (vs. 30).  Leah’s hurt was not unseen, for the LORD opened her womb, while Rachel was childless (vs. 31-35).  Jacob’s sons, Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah were all born to Leah.

Regarding application…Silver Lining.  Vs. 30, “Jacob made love to Rachel also, and his love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years.”  My heart goes out to Leah.  The first daughter should have been offered to Jacob from the onset.   Question: Was Leah part of the deception or just an obedient daughter?  I don’t know what God’s original intention was, but we do see part of the outcome.  Leah would be the mother of the tribes of both priests and kings through Levi and Judah (Jesus was from the line of Judah).  While not loved by her own husband, the silver lining is that God loved her and blessed her.  There are times when we are not going to feel loved in our lives.  Sadly, our lives on earth are not always going to have Christ-like love in our relationships.  But, the Lord sees and blesses us accordingly.