The Word Became Flesh And Dwelt Among Us

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JUDGES 11:1-12:15 | JOHN 1:1-28 | PSALM 101:1-8 | PROVERBS 14:13-14

The land disputes between the Israelites and the natives are as old as the hills, and we see here the beginnings of these disputes between the Ammonites and the Israelites.  The story of Jephthah from Gilead is a most curious and strange one. 

Coming up on the heels of Abimelek, an illegitimate son, Jephthath’s story makes you wonder about the ways of the Almighty.  While the former had been rebellious to his father and his half-brothers and had usurped power by force, the latter had quietly faded out of the picture when he knew he was unwanted because of his illegitimate status. 

But perhaps it is this humility that makes him a worthy candidate for God’s greater plans.  Jephthah is courted by his half-brothers to lead armies against the neighboring enemies, which he does and triumphs over them all.  But the strange vow that he makes to God and the way that it all turns out is seemingly quite pointless. 

Again, one wonders about the ways of the Almighty.  While a human sacrifice is not the norm, it is strange indeed how God allows this to happen despite the vow that Jephthah has made.  While God stayed Abraham’s hand in the slaying of his son Isaac, there is no such deterrent when Jephthah carries out a similar act of slaying his one and only daughter.  Yet another mystery to ponder over…

Later, we learn of infighting amongst the various tribes of Israel during Jephthah’s time.  Gileadites against the Ephramites and the Manassehistes, and so on it went.  Poking fun at the regional differences in accent and using that as an identifier of the tribe that each belonged to shows how widely populated the children of Israel had become in their adopted land.  Following Jephthah, there were three that succeeded him as leader of Israel:  Ibzan, Elon and Abdon.

Changing gears now, today, we begin the fourth of the gospels, the book of John.  I am thrilled to embark on this new book as it has always held a special place as a personal favorite of mine!  John, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, starts out his record like this, which in these five sentences encapsulates the entire meaning of life and the universe. 

John says:  1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John realizes the great privilege he has had of having God incarnate dwell among mankind, and that he, in particular, has witnessed this.  He goes on to say:  14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

And for all those in his day and in the days to come who would wonder about the how this man Jesus really fit in with the law of old, John points to this novel concept of grace.  He says this:  16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

John starts out his account by telling about another John—John, the Baptist, who was carrying out these baptisms in the river Jordan and speaking in such vague tones, that the Pharisees and elders of the temple wanted to know who exactly he was and if he wasn’t Elijah or one of the prophets returned, why was he conducting these baptisms. 

And so he says to them:  26 “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

Our Psalm for the day is 101 in which David states the most high and lofty ideals for conducting himself and the affairs of his house.  It is with great humility that I too wish to echo his words:

1 I will sing of your love and justice;
   to you, LORD, I will sing praise.
2 I will be careful to lead a blameless life—
   when will you come to me?

I will conduct the affairs of my house
   with a blameless heart.
3 I will not look with approval
   on anything that is vile.

Finally, two verses from the book of Proverbs that are worthy of record and rumination:

13 Even in laughter the heart may ache, and rejoicing may end in grief.

14 The faithless will be fully repaid for their ways, and the good rewarded for theirs.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.  Amen.

Serve The Lord With Gladness; Come Before His Presence With Singing

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JUDGES 9:22-10:18 | LUKE 24:13-53 | PSALM 100:1-5 | PROVERBS 14:11-12

Abimelek’s reign is short-lived.  He came to power in a most deceitful way, and did away with his half-brothers, all seventy of the legitimate sons of Gideon.  Abimelek, you will recall, was Gideon’s son from his concubine who decided he’d go down to Schehem to his mother’s side of the people and campaign to have himself appointed as king.  He succeeds in doing just that, and then proceeds to kill his seventy brothers. 

But Jotham, one of his brothers, heaps curses upon him, and it is in this chapter that we find those curses come to pass.  In a most shameful way, Abimelek meets his end:  a millstone is thrown down from a tower by a woman and almost crushes him to death, but even in his last hour, Abimelek’s cunning does not desert him.  He asks one of his men to slay him with a sword so it will not be said that he was killed by a woman!

After Abimelek’s death, Israel sees peace and properity for a mere 45 years under the leadership of two kings:  Tola and Jair.  But it is not long before they turn their back to Yahweh yet again.  For eighteen years, the text tells us, Israel was again under the oppression of the native rulers and their gods. 

But this time Yahweh is quite fed up with them and asks:  “When the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, 12 the Sidonians, the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you and you cried to me for help, did I not save you from their hands? 13 But you have forsaken me and served other gods, so I will no longer save you. 14 Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them save you when you are in trouble!”  But they cry out to him, and plead for mercy.  So God complies.  It is to be seen how they are rescued this time around.

In the meantime, turning to our reading from the book of Luke, we have studied the crucifixion story in great detail, and have even learned of the resurrection, but this is the first account of Jesus making contact with another human being in his new resurrected body.  It is quite fascinating to learn of how Jesus walks with two strangers on their way to Emmaus, and without revealing his identity at first, he talks to them about the Scriptures in that how the recent happenings in Jerusalem were but the prophecies of old being fulfilled. 

The two men are quite taken by this young man and persuade him to stay the night with them in Emmaus.  When Jesus complies and has dinner with them that evening, their eyes are opened and they realize that they have in their midst Jesus himself.  But Jesus’ work there is done; he disappears just as suddenly as he first appeared to them.  Doors and walls do not keep him; he will come and go as he pleases.

Soon afterwards, he reveals himself also to his eleven disciples.  They see him in the flesh yet again, and one can only imagine their joy and wonder as they watch him and perhaps touch him, and also watch him eat.  Jesus speaks to them again about the fulfillment of the Scriptures having taken place in his death and resurrection, and just as he had patiently told those two other men in Emmaus, he explains all this to his disciples again. 

It all made sense now!  Of course, they understood now! 

Jesus tells them the prophecies as they have been recorded in the Scriptures.  He says: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

Jesus then leads them out to the city of Bethany, and blesses each one of them, and this is now a final farewell.  After this, Jesus ascends into the heavens even as his disciples look on.  There is nothing fantastical about this; this was nothing to marvel at any more, or doubt even for a shadow of a moment that is could be true. 

It was true, and they were watching it all happen!  Of course, Jesus would go up to Heaven as he had said all along!  They had witnessed his death, his resurrection, and now his ascension.  How blessed was this group of eleven!

The Psalm for the day is another one that I have had committed to memory in my childhood, thanks to my mother.  I reproduce it in the King James Version in which I have memorized it.  Psalm 100, for your reading pleasure:

1Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.

 2Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.

 3Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

 4Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

5For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

And finally, our verse from the book of Proverbs, also another famous one, reproduced here in the KJV as well:

12There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.  Amen.