SOAP Journal – 31 July 2017 (Judges 10:6-12:7)

Gilead’s wife bore him sons; and when his wife’s sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, “You shall not have an inheritance in our father’s house, for you are the son of another woman.” So Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob; and worthless fellows gathered themselves about Jephthah, and they went out with him.

Judges 11:2-3

The book of Judges takes a moment to highlight the cyclical nature of the Israelites’ rebellion (Judges 10:6-16) and how that rebellion results in hardness of heart — the Israelites cry out in verse 10 but do not repent until verse 16 and we are not told how much time lapsed between recognition of the problem and repentance.

After the Israelites repent of their idolatry, the Gileadites have a little thing that they need to repent of, as well. There was a man named Jephthah whom the Gileadites had run out of town because his mother was a prostitute. Jephthah is described as a mighty man of valor and the Gileadites had plenty of reason to wish they had not run him out of town. The Gileadites make Jephthah their leader and Jephthah proceeds to send a message to the king of the Ammonites and speaks truth to power. The king of the Ammonites demanded that the Israelites “give back” land that they had “stolen” from the Ammonites. The land in question had previously belonged to the Amorites and Jephthah points this out. The Ammonite king refuses to listen and is soundly trounced (Judges 11:12-33).

Jephthah has some parallels with plenty of other people in The Bible. The fact that worthless fellows gathered themselves about Jephthah is a parallel to King David, who also had the dregs of society gather around him (1 Samuel 22:2) and those people who gathered together with David were the ones who would go on to become David’s Mighty Men and accomplish amazing victories. Jesus’ disciples were not the cream of the crop either. Among the people who followed Jesus around were insurrectionists and tax collectors, prostitutes and people who had been demonized, thieves and fishermen. As Jesus Himself put it, I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners (Matthew 9:13; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:32).

Like Jesus, Jephthah was rejected by those he would eventually deliver. Jephthah was hated and scorned because of his parentage (Judges 11:2). Jesus was also scorned for His apparent parentage — people thinking that Mary and Joseph just could not keep their hands off of one another until after the vows (Mark 6:1-6) — and hated for His actual parentage — the Son of God (Matthew 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-18).

Any parallels beyond these feel like I am trying to force things and I do not want to try to shape The Bible to fit my ideas, but the other way around.

The application for me is that I need together together with Jesus. I am one of those worthless fellows who should be gathering to Christ. Society sees no value in some people, but Jesus saw enough value in each and every one to hang on the cross to save us. I may be worth nothing in some peoples’ eyes, but in God’s eyes I am worth any price — and He proved that at the cross.

Father, thank You that You see a worth to every person that is not always perceived by society. Thank You for caring enough to demonstrate that worth by purchasing us back from our bondage to sin by dying on the cross. Please keep me gathered to You; following You closely.

SOAP Journal – 28 July 2017 (Judges 10:3-5)

After him, Jair the Gileadite arose and judged Israel twenty-two years. He had thirty sons who rode on thirty donkeys, and they had thirty cities in the land of Gilead that are called Havvoth-jair to this day. And Jair died and was buried in Kamon.

Judges 10:3-5

As with Tola, Jair does not at first glance offer much to work with in regard to parallels with Jesus. There is no mention of specific things he did. What it does tell me is that he had a bunch of sons who each had a donkey and a city of their own.

Jair means “he enlightens.” And this is the first connection with Jesus. John 1:4-5 says, In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. and John 1:9 adds, There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. All of those verses in John are in reference to Jesus. Jesus, my Judge, enlightens me. He shines light into the darkness of my life and shows me the things that are otherwise invisible to me because of spiritual darkness.

In Luke 19:11-27, Jesus tells a parable of a nobleman going away to receive a kingdom and entrusting his slaves with resources to do business until his return. When he comes back and finds faithfulness, the wording is interesting, because the nobleman says to the slave who earned the most (ten times what he was entrusted with), Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be in authority over ten cities (Luke 19:17). Luke also tells his reader that the parable was in response to the people thought that He was going to establish His Earthly kingdom right then and there (Luke 19:11).

What is more, in His letter to the church in Thyatira, Jesus tells the church that He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, TO HIM I WILL GIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONSAND HE SHALL RULE THEM WITH A ROD OF IRONAS THE VESSELS OF THE POTTER ARE BROKEN TO PIECES, as I also have received [authority] from My Father; and I will give him the morning star (Revelation 2:26-28). There is this dual promise of light and rulership to the one who overcomes.

From this, I take away a twofold ministry of Jesus in my life. The first part of that ministry is to enlighten and by shining light into the dark corners of who and what I am, reveal the things in me that are not right. The second part is to rule. Not only does Jesus show me what is wrong, but, if I call Him Lord, then He is also my sovereign. He is to rule over me and, when He has rule and reign in my life, He extends rulership to me so that I might rule over myself in the here and now and over whatever else He might wish to entrust to me in future.

Father, I see, by Your light, the things that are wrong in me and I recognize them as wrong. Please bring me into submission to You that those things might be corrected and my life be made right.

SOAP Journal – 27 July 2017 (Judges 10:1-2)

Now after Abimelech died, Tola the son of Puah, the son of Dodo, a man of Issachar, arose to save Israel; and he lived in Shamir in the hill country of Ephraim. He judged Israel twenty-three years. Then he died and was buried in Shamir.

Judges 10:1-2

It might be a stretch to say that Tola has anything in common with Christ, but there seems to be a tiny bit of something when I look up meanings of names.

The name Tola means “worm.” When I saw that, I thought of Psalm 22:6, But I am a worm and not a man, / A reproach of men and despised by the people. Psalm 22 is a Messianic Psalm; a psalm that prophesies of the Messiah. In fact, Jesus quotes the first line of this psalm from the cross (My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?). Psalm 22 is about the crucifixion. So I come back to Tola and a look into my concordance tells me that the name and the word used in Psalm 22 are from the same root.

Then there is Tola’s father: Puah. Puah means “splendid.” So the worm is the son of the splendid one. The deliverer is the son of the splendid one.

It is not much, but it is interesting to be reminded in the names that the Messiah will be considered a worm, will be the Son of the Splendid One (i.e. God), and will deliver the people.

From Tola, I take away the lesson that what I do in life, even in my service to God, may be worthy of nothing more than a note in passing. The Holy Spirit did not record the acts of Tola in scripture. Only his name. And perhaps that is as it should be. Perhaps the acts of Tola would have detracted from the hint of Messiah peeking through based on his name and parentage. I will never know this side of Heaven.

Father, thank You that what men see as success is not what You see as success. Thank You that what is written is written for our instruction, not necessarily as a exhaustive record. Please work in me to build contentment with service in obscurity and potentially being nothing more than a passing note in the history of Your children this side of Heaven.

SOAP Journal – 26 July 2017 (Judges 6-8)

Then the angel of the LORD came and sat under the oak that was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press in order to save [it] from the Midianites.

Judges 6:11

The next judge in the line-up is Gideon. Gideon was not a courageous man, but a cautious one. His lack of courage did have a good side effect: he often checked in with God. And the account of his life does contain parallels with Jesus Christ.

First, Gideon did some clean-up in the Israelites’ worship. Judges 6:25-32 recounts Gideon’s tearing down of an altar to Baal and an Asherah next to it. Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-18, and John 2:13-18 all record Jesus going in an cleansing the temple in Jerusalem. John’s account includes the Jews asking Jesus by what authority He drove the money changers and such out of the temple. The Israelites got contentious with Gideon, too, and it was Gideon’s father who intervened and said  If [Baal] is a god, let him contend for himself, because someone has torn down his altar (Judges 6:31). More than once in the life of Jesus, it is recorded that the Jewish leadership of His time were ready to put Him to death, but He was not caught by them.

Second, God whittled down the number of people who were with Gideon. It is a frequently taught story in Sunday School classes that God whittled Gideon’s original 32,000 people down to only 300 in a couple rounds of tests (Judges 7:2-8). Near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, He went up on a mountain to speak with the Father and came back down the mountain and chose the twelve apostles (Luke 6:12-16).

Third, Gideon wins victory over the enemy armies without lifting a sword. There are other victories that he wins, including the death of the enemy kings, but this first decisive victory is won without a weapon. In Judges 7:19-23, it is recorded that Gideon and his 300 had torches, trumpets, and clay pots. They smashed the clay pots, held up the torches, and blew the trumpets and the enemy armies were thrown into confusion and started killing each other. Jesus also secured His victory over sin and death without lifting a weapon of any kind. In fact, when Peter tries to use a sword in Jesus’ defense, Jesus tells Peter to put the weapon away.

Fourth, Gideon is rejected by those he has delivered. In Judges 8:4-9, Gideon and his men are passing through in pursuit of the enemy kings and what remains of their armies. He stops in two towns and is rejected twice. Each time, he promises retribution of some kind for the town’s rejection of him and his men. Likewise, Jesus died to save all and the judgment to come is not so much a judgment for our sins, but a judgment for rejecting Jesus Christ and His deliverance of us from bondage to our sins.

Judges 8:33-35 says that the Israelites went right back to their idolatry almost as soon as Gideon was gone. There is a human tendency to go back to what we knew. Once the fire of the moment fades, we fall back into our old habits. And that is precisely what the Israelites did. In addition, the Israelites showed no kindness toward Gideon’s children (of whom he had many). This is the final parallel. We believers have the same tendency as the Israelites: Jesus delivers us from our sins and we slide right back into out old patterns of behavior. Then, to add insult to injury, we are not kind to one another.

There are several parallels, but what application should I take away from this story of Gideon? I think that Gideon’s instruction is good: I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the LORD shall rule over you (Judges 8:23). I should not be ruled over by anything except God, even if the thing is positive in nature. No habit, not even a good one, should rule over my life. Only the LORD should have that distinction and place.

Father, thank You for providing such a wealth of parallels with my Savior in Gideon. It is encouraging to see how a man of little courage can both do great things at Your command and also show forth the character and person of Your Son. Please teach me how to be ruled over by none but You. I know I have been ruled by many things in my life and that is wrong. You, and You alone deserve mastery of me.

SOAP Journal – 25 July 2017 (Judges 4-5)

Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time.

Judges 4:4

As the Israelites repeat their pattern — sin, find themselves in bondage, cry to God for help, get a judge, be saved, repeat — the next judge in line is Deborah. With Deborah, there are some interesting parallels between how she delivers the Israelites and how Jesus Christ obtained my salvation.

First, Deborah did not fight. In verse 6, she summons Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh-naphtali and tells him that God has delivered their oppressor into his hand. It is Barak who leads the armies of the Israelites into battle and on to victory. It is Jael who delivers the killing blow to the commander of the oppressor’s armies. Isaiah 53 is sometimes called the “Suffering Servant” passage, as it recounts how the Messiah will suffer in order to save. To obtain deliverance, neither Christ nor Deborah fought.

Second, the act that brought deliverance was committed by Israelites allied with Gentiles. Jael — the woman who delivers the killing blow to Sisera, the commander of the Canaanite armies — is the wife of a Kenite. The Kenites were the tribe of Moses’ second father-in-law (his first father-in-law was a Midianite) and the Kenites, like the priests who will later call for Jesus’ crucifixion, had made their peace with those who oppressed them.

Third, deliverance is accomplished with a hammer and a nail. Jael kills Sisera by driving a tent peg (the word “peg” could also be translated “nail”) through Sisera’s head (vv 17-22). The Romans nailed Jesus to the cross and it was on that cross that salvation was accomplished.

Fourth and finally, Jael’s method of killing Sisera sounds to me like an echo of the curse on the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Jael kills Sisera by driving the peg into his temple, and it went through into the ground (v 21). The curse handed down back in Genesis 3:15 includes this: [The seed of the woman] shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel. The serpent will cause injury, but nothing too serious. The seed of the woman will kill the serpent. In that tent, I hear an echo of the curse handed down back in Genesis.

This deliverance reminds me that I am not in this alone. Deborah did not effect the deliverance of Israel herself, but was commissioned to call another to fight. Jesus, my Lord and the pattern on which I am to base my faith and life, did not effect salvation by fighting, but by submitting. I, too, am often told by God that the fight is not mine, but His and that the way to victory in some area of my life is not fighting but submitting to the Father and His will.

Thank You, Father, for this reminder that the fight is not mine, but Yours. Please work in me to walk more closely after the pattern of Your Son every day.

SOAP Journal – 24 July 2017 (Judges 3:31)

After him came Shamgar the son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad; and he also saved Israel.

Judges 3:31

Shamgar feels almost like a footnote. The last verse of chapter 3 is the only mention of what he did as a judge and the only other mention of him in The Bible is in the context of Jael, the woman who drove a tent peg through the head of Sisera. Both of these people worked to judge and deliver the Israelites, but this morning’s focus is on Shamgar and whether or not there are any parallels between him and Christ.

There is another herdsman in the scriptures who delivers with the tools of his trade: King David. David, not the king at the time, takes his sling and some stones and is able to deliver the Israelites from a Philistine giant named Goliath.

Later in scripture,  Paul said that Jesus told him (Paul) that it is difficult for Paul to kick against the goads. In context, Jesus is implying that Paul is fighting hard against God poking and prodding him (Paul) to submit and become a Christian.

It may be a bit of a stretch, but it seems that Shamgar and Christ have a parallel in that both use the tools of a herdsman to save. Shamgar took the tool he would have used to prod his oxen and get them moving for work and killed 600 Philistines. Jesus takes the rod and staff of a shepherd and leads us to Himself. Jesus uses those same tools that lead us to repentance to drive off our enemies and keep us safe.

All of this brings me to the concepts contained in Psalm 23, where Jesus rod and staff are my comfort. To me, His own, those implements are safety. To those who would seek to cause me harm, they are weapons that will be used to protect what belongs to Christ. Let me rest secure in His protection.

Father, thank You for this reminder that You protect and that Your protection sometimes uses things that would otherwise be used to guide me. Please work the truth of Your protection into my heart so that I rest secure in Your protection.

SOAP Journal – 21 July 2017 (Judges 3:15-16)

But when the sons of Israel cried to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer for them, Ehud the son of Gera, the Benjamite, a left-handed man. And the sons of Israel sent tribute by him to Eglon the king of Moab. Ehud made himself a sword which had two edges, a cubit in length, and he bound it on his right thigh under his cloak.

Judges 3:15-16

Ehud is one of the more interesting judges. He is a left-handed man who makes his own sword and straps it on so it is obvious that he is either left-handed or has no intention of drawing his sword. He finds Eglon, the king of Moab, while he (Eglon) is in his “cool roof chamber” and stabs Eglon there, then lets himself out and locks up on his way out. Neither he nor his method is what anyone expects. And, in that way, he and my Lord are alike.

Ehud’s sword had two edges. The Word of God is described as sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). What is more, John sees Jesus carrying His (Jesus’) sword in an unexpected manner as well: coming from His mouth (Revelation 1:16, 19:15). While I know that the sword coming from Jesus’ mouth in John’s vision is most likely a metaphor, the idea that sticks with me is that neither Jesus nor Ehud does things in the way that the people expect. Ehud assassinates Eglon while the Moabite king is in the bathroom. Jesus came not as a political and military ruler, as the Jews of His time thought the Messiah would be, but as a servant Who was eventually executed in our place. Ehud keeps his victory quiet long enough to get things where God and he want them. While Jesus’ victory is not quiet — we Christians have much to say on the subject — there is a gap between Jesus winning the victory at Calvary and when he will gather His troops and come to claim that victory.

From this, I am reminded that Jesus is not going to do things the way I expect Him to. He might very well work in the way that I think He ought to, but He is in no way bound to that. He is my Deliverer, and, like Ehud, does things in a fashion that will not always seem normal to me.

Jesus, thank You for being my Savior. Thank You for saving me and for doing so in the way that is effective, not in the way that anyone was expecting. Please keep me mindful that You continue to work in ways that I will not always understand. Please keep my heart ready to cooperate with Your plans.