This morning we move to Chapter Eight of the Story. This is the Judges. Throughout this year the challenge is to read the 20-minute, or so, section of The Story before each Sunday. We are studying these chapters in all of our Bible School classes and then I preach something from that section during this time.
One of the purposes for our study of the Story this year is to get the big picture of the Bible. Here is what helps me...
--Abraham, at the beginning of history, is around 2,000 BC...ballpark. His son Isaac and then Jacob and then Joseph... are all in the same ballpark.
--The Story skips 500+ years down to Moses at 1,500 BC. So, place the Exodus, 40 years in the Wilderness all in the 1,500 BC ballpark.
--Then there are 500 years of Judges... Beginning with Joshua, then through the Judges, Samuel, Saul and then King David ends up in the 1,000 BC ballpark.
--500 years of kings and prophets brings the end of the period of Kings down to the Exile at 500 BC. (you are picking up a 500-year pattern)
--At zero we have the birth of Jesus, - 4 BC – and then most of the action of the New Testament in the zero ballpark.
Wow, do we need to think in 500-year chunks? All of the Story can quickly be placed in or around one of these 500 chunk ballparks.
This morning, I want to share an amazing idea, at the end of the sermon. But, I have to build up to it. We need to understand 6 concepts before I can share my amazing idea. 6 concepts... leading to an amazing idea... ready?
Concept #1... Judges
A biblical judge is not what we think of when we hear the word “judge”. With exception of Deborah, the judges were primarily military leaders. Mostly, we would call them freedom fighters. They would be like George Washington. They raise armies, lead revolutions, attack cruel overlords, establish freedom. They are in biblical terms... messiahs; those who deliver their people.
Concept #2... Tribes
During this period, the nation of Israel wasn’t. They were not much of a nation. They were more of a loose confederation of tribes. Most of the stories of the judges involved a few tribes, not the whole of all the nation. There was not much cohesion as a people of God. There is not much national thinking. This is a self-focused time for Israel.
Concept #3... The Cycle
In the biblical book of the Judges we find a repeated cycle. This cycle repeats itself many times through the book of Judges.
--The Israelites turned to worship some of the horrible pagan gods of the land.
--Which results in God letting them. “Go see how that works out for you.”
--These consequences resulted in them being persecuted by the brutal non-YHWH people who lived around them.
--When they had enough, they would return to YHWH.
--YHWH would raise up a judge, a messiah, a rescuer, a deliverer. The judge would defeat the oppressors and bring freedom back to the tribes.
--There would be peace and prosperity for them for, usually, 40 years as the stayed loyal to YHWH.
--But then they would drift back to the pagan gods. The cycle would start over... again.
Here is an example...
Judges 3:7-11 The sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth. Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, so that He sold them into the hands of Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia; and the sons of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim eight years. When the sons of Israel cried to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer for the sons of Israel to deliver them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother. The Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel. When he went out to war, the LORD gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand, so that he prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim. Then the land had rest forty years. And Othniel the son of Kenaz died.
This is what happened repeatedly for 500 years. The Story Bible follows four of these cycles... Othniel (which I just read), Deborah, Gideon and Samson. Groups of people follow cycles with transition periods in each cycle.
The next concept shows a change in how YHWH worked with these judges.
Concept #4...The Spirit of the LORD.
For the first time in the Bible we find a phrase... The Spirit of the LORD. Notice the capital LORD.... YHWH. The Spirit of YHWH!
Judges 6:34 So the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon; and he blew a trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called together to follow him.
Judges 14:6 Then the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon Samson, and although he had nothing in his hand, he tore the lion in pieces as one tears a young goat.
Judges 15:14-17 When Samson came to Lehi, the Philistines shouted as they met him. And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him mightily so that the ropes that were on his arms were as flax that is burned with fire, and his bonds dropped from his hands. He found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, so he reached out and took it and killed a thousand men with it. Then Samson said, "With the jawbone of a donkey, Heaps upon heaps, With the jawbone of a donkey I have killed a thousand men." When he had finished speaking, he threw the jawbone from his hand.
In the progress of God’s relationship with his people, God changes how he works with his people. There is a transition here. There is no speaking to the judges like YHWH did with Moses and Joshua. There appears to be this sudden rush of power upon the judges that allow them to do miraculous feats. This phrase continues on through the Old Testament. The Spirit of YHWH comes upon a person and they do the remarkable. But the relationship is different... He delivers his people from the pagans with mighty acts of power done through the Spirit of YHWH!
The Spirit of YHWH continues through the kings and prophets, and beyond.
Concept #5... An analogy
This is more than a metaphor... this concept approaches analogy. It is the analogy of raising kids.
The relationship between parents and children changes over time as kids grow up. How a parent cares for an infant is very different than how a parent cares for an elementary kid; which is way different than an adult child. It differs all along the way from birth to maturity. The concept is God has been growing up his people over the course of history. What may appear as a change in God, may just be a change in parenting.
Let’s press this analogy too far...
1) Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph... is the conception of a baby. It is the forming of a people. It is all about the pregnancy of a nation. The pregnancy lasts for close to 500 years. It is a long gestation period.
2) The Exodus from Egypt is the birth. As the Israelites cross the Red Sea they are birthed; the water is broken. It is painful, there are plagues and Egyptians dying... Exodus is the birth of God’s people.
3) 40 years in the wilderness is like having a toddler. The consequences of all the crying are immediate. The toddler/Israelites are shown immediately what is right and wrong. God swats the toddlers immediately as they disobey. All these toddlers are interested in is eating and drinking. God works with his toddler for 40 years.
4) Then there is a bright spot... the time of Joshua. There is some progress. The children of Israel learn who their parent is... YHWH. The Father thinks it might work out after all.
5) The period of the judges is elementary school. They make progress, but then they forget. God allows them to suffer their own consequences for their mistakes. The consequences are not like toddlers, who get immediate punishments. Rather, the consequences are natural. “That is what happens if you do that.” But God the parent is still there to deliver them, rescue them, help them out when they realize they need it. Lessons are learned over the 500 years of being a kid. There is a shift in God’s dealing with his people.
This is working for me? Let’s keep pressing the analogy past where we are in the Story.
6) The 500 years of the kings is like being teenagers. They want their independence. They want to rule themselves. They go out on their own. This works for some, but not for others. The ten northern tribes go away, never to return to their Father. But others do. We have King David... his trust. But Solomon is tempted by females, like any teenage boy. 500 years of teens.
7) The Babylonian Exile brings God’s people back to themselves. It moves Israel into being young adults. No longer do they chase the foreign gods. But, they become legalistic. Is there ever a time in your life than early adulthood when you are legalistic. You have all the answers in your early adult years. They are forming the family of God. Another 500 years as young adults.
This brings us to the end of the Old Testament.
The analogy may be pressed too far. But the strength of this analogy shows the movement of God’s people toward maturity. There is a long-term plan. There are points of transition in how God works with His people. We are getting closer to my amazing idea.
One more concept...
Concept #6... Jesus changed everything
The time of Christ on earth marked a major transition in the God’s relationship with humanity. Jesus, as human, shows us what it means to be a mature adult. The compassion, the getting out of yourself to serve others. The love of others is what it means to be mature. God’s people are ready for marriage.
On Pentecost humanity’s Marriage happened...
Acts 2:16-21 “But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”
On that Day the Spirit of the Lord is poured. Those who call upon the Lord shall be given the Spirit of God. Bam, the church is formed. God’s people form a community filled with the Spirit. Now the Spirit doesn’t only come upon his people... the Spirit is poured out upon all flesh. What? It is not just the heroes, the judges, the Messiahs, the kings or prophets... ordinary sons and daughters and servants and young and even old people... get the Spirit of the LORD! This is a huge transition in humanities’ relationship with YHWH.
Pressing our analogy, a bit further, the church has been the bride of Christ for 2,000 years. Granted, it has been a bit of a rocky marriage at times. We are still learning how to be his loving bride.
The church blows and goes and spreads this community across the world. But, transitions continue to occur... perhaps every 500 years... Look at our continued timeline.
--500 AD the church has become predominate in the known world.
--1000 AD a major split in West and East churches.
--1500 AD the Protestant Reformation
Footnote... I hope at the end of our study of The Story... to explore these transitions in more detail. The Story does not end in 100 AD.
But, let me get to the amazing idea.
Amazing Idea... God is not finished with His People.
I do not believe we are just winding down to an inglorious ending. I believe God continues to grow his people. God is continuing to move his people toward maturity. I suspect we are at another transition point... it is another 500-year marker... around 2000.
What if we are in another transition? Over the course of history few expected the transition times. There were not many who knew what would happen next.
--The slaves in Egypt did not expect the Exodus.
--The judges kept repeating the cycle, oblivious to transitions.
--No one guessed what the Kings would be like.
--No one knew what Jesus would do...
I certainly don’t know when or where we are going. I don’t know what God is up to in this next transition. But, it feels like a time of transition.
I do have some advice from the big picture of history. The advice comes from Jesus during his significant transition time... Tony shared this verse with me...
Matthew 13:52 And Jesus said to them, "Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old."
During transition periods... value the old treasures, while embracing the new treasures.
--Value the lessons of your forefathers. Remember your history. Trust God. Obey God. Keep the best of the past. Learn from their mistakes. Remember where your family has come from.
--But, at the same time, along with it... be open to what God is doing. Look for God in... the winepress... In the lapping dogs... In stakes through the head... In pillars being pulled down... Watch for YHWH moving in humanity; in groups of people; in his people. Value the new treasures.
To me this is one of the more amazing things I have ever thought. God is still maturing his people. There are still transitions ahead. We can take hope in God’s continued relationship with us. God is going somewhere... we want to go too! We want to be used by YHWH as... deliverers, as Messiahs... as judges... of transition who bring out treasures, old and new! Wow, that changes everything, for me.
God is still alive.
God still moves.
God still works in His people.
For His Purpose!
Let’s be his people.
Let’s be ready to move.
Let’s be open to the guidance of the living God!
March 4, 2017
Los Alamos Church of Christ