Reading for Meditation

For those of you who have been reading with us so far, congratulations for already making it through what some would call the hardest part of the Bible to cover. However, I also console you that in April you will not yet have to read Ezekiel and Isaiah, so all is well. This month we will be reading through Luke and into Acts in the New Testament, and in the Old Testament we will read about Israel after Joshua in the time of the Judges  and into the beginning of Israel not merely as a network of tribes but as a Kingdom. As we read these passages, there are two hallmark phrases in the OT books which are critical to consider, and one Gospel-centered condition or circumstance which is contrasted as we read.
The first phrase is this: "Everyone did what was right in his own eyes." This phrase in Judges is an echo from Deuteronomy 12:
"You shall not do according to all that we are doing here today, everyone doing whatever is right in his own eyes, for you have not as yet come to the rest and  to the inheritance that the Lord your God is giving you. But when you go over the Jordan and live in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, and when he gives you rest from all your enemies around, so that you live in safety, then to the  place that the Lord your God will choose, to make his name dwell there, there you shall bring all that I command you." (vv. 8-11)
Moses (and YHVH) are warning the people of Israel that they have everything they need in God, His fulfillment of His promises to them, and in the Law which is being re-presented  to them.  These people are warned that while they may have been a family with no place in the past, God is making them something new. He has demonstrated to them that His ways are better, and that safety lies in Him. But when the writer of Judges calls back  to the phrase, he makes it clear that the people of Israel are not seeking safety in God. They are simply walking away from Him and trusting something as fleeting in comparison as what seems right at the moment, what seems right without thinking about who  God is and what He has done.
The second phrase is paired with the first, and in some ways it is introducing the next phase of the life of the nation to us: “In those days there was no king in Israel.” It’s not a coincidence that the Law of Moses speaks of a king in Israel even though, under Moses and under Joshua, God does not establish a king. But consider it: given the warning in Deuteronomy, and the greatness of God to give Israel His protection and his law,  who should they have seen as the king in Israel? It’s obvious that God ought to have been seen as king in Israel. Yet before Samuel, the tribes of Israel do not see it that way at all.  In fact, when they come to Samuel and ask for a king, God himself makes  it plain to the prophet that they have (again) turned their backs on him and seek something which overturns His place in their lives and their way of life.
In a very real sense, God was making Israel His Kingdom. Unfortunately, in return, Israel was beginning a pattern of turning away from that King and that Kingdom for something else.   That’s why we should consider the Gospel condition which Luke is spelling out for us in his Gospel and then again in Acts: the coming of the Kingdom of God. Consider, for example, in Luke 4 that Jesus announces his ministry by reading from Isaiah that he has  come to bring liberty, clear sight, and grace to those who are down-trodden. Compare and contrast the small and fragile victories of the Judges who were also imperfect men to the great and unbreakable victory of Christ as described by Luke. Contrast the inward-turning  of Israel as it fails to seek out God and seek out his kingdom through the reign of Saul against the outpouring of the spirit of God at Pentecost and the out-reaching of the good news of the Savior as it is carried across the ancient world in the book of Acts.

In our reading this month, let’s think hard about the kind of people who are given the kingdom of God and turn away from it for what seems right to them, the kind of people who are  saved by God and then are thankful and generous because of it, and the character of the God who saves in a way which cannot be taken away from those whom he loves.

Frank Turk - Elder
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