Your Consolation Brought Me Joy

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JUDGES 4:1-5:31 | LUKE 22:35-53 | PSALM 94:1-23 | PROVERBS 14:3-4

Continuing in our reading of the book of Judges, we find here a most interesting phenomenon:  a female judge of Israel by the name of Deborah.  I wonder how that came about in a time and age when women were considered as good as chattel.  How it did we do not know, but what we do know is that Deborah wielded power in what she said—and when she summoned Barak, a young man from the tribe of Naphtali and ordered him to lead the Israelites against the local Caananite king that was oppressing the children of Israel at the time, Barak takes up the charge but asks that Deborah go with him.  Deborah goes with him, and the battle is won. 

There is also mention of yet another woman by the name of Jael, who albeit being a Caananite has her allegiance to the Israelites, and plays a part in bringing a complete victory to Barak.  It is said that after this battle, there was peace for forty years, viz. is approximately two generations.  It is to be seen what comes next in the history of this fascinating people called the Jews.  Deborah’s song of victory and praise is a long one, and to this end, she says this:

31 “So may all your enemies perish, LORD!
   But may all who love you be like the sun
   when it rises in its strength.”

Turning to our reading in the book of Luke, we are fast approaching the time of Jesus’ ordeal on the cross.  There is an interesting interlude prior to the time of Jesus’ arrest when Jesus instructs his disciples to arm themselves with swords, giving them the impression that he is preparing for battle or perhaps even self-defense, but Jesus is quick to explain that it is only so that the prophecies of old might be fulfilled in that Isaiah’s words “he was counted among the transgressors” is brought to pass. 

And yet, the sword is not the answer to the situation at hand.  When Judas Iscariot comes in leading a contingent of Roman soldiers to identify and arrest Jesus in the dead of night, the disciples with sword in hand are quick to use them, so much so, that a soldier’s ear is lopped off.  But Jesus will have none of this.  He immediately goes to the bleeding man, most likely screaming in pain, and touches his ear to restore it to normal.  Just like that!

Can you imagine the rest of the life of that young man—described here as a “servant of the high priest”—possibly sent on this important mission to arrest Jesus because he was possibly a strapping young man who might have exuded the authority of the high priest himself with his presence on this important occasion. 

Imagine what he must have thought and felt when he realized that he was no longer bleeding, nay, that his ear had been reattached and that he was altogether whole?  Do you think he continued in his mission to arrest Jesus?  I don’t think so!  He would have gone back to his master, the high priest and told him exactly what had happened to him.  The high priest would have listened in amazement, no doubt, but the high priest took no action to repeal the chain of events that had been set into motion as far the arrest and trial of Jesus was concerned.

Woe is unto that high priest!  Woe is unto him for turning a blind eye to so great an evidence that this man Jesus was indeed the Son of God who had performed this miracle upon a man who was technically his enemy!  Woe is unto that high priest for continuing down the path of death and destruction despite having the truth revealed to him at the last hour!  It was in his power, just as it would soon be in the power of Pontius Pilate to drop all charges laid against Jesus. 

But the die seems to have been cast, and it is to be seen what comes next in this horrific crucifixion story.  Jesus says to those who have come to take him away:“Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? 53 Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.”

Turning now to our reading of the Psalms, we find David, king of Israel, speak to the omniscience of God’s persona.  He says to his own people just as much he says to every reader of his writings, these words:

8 Take notice, you senseless ones among the people;
   you fools, when will you become wise?
9 Does he who fashioned the ear not hear?
   Does he who formed the eye not see?
10 Does he who disciplines nations not punish?
   Does he who teaches mankind lack knowledge?
11 The LORD knows all human plans;
   he knows that they are futile.

David goes on to claim the promises of the Lord Almighty, and we see how his words might apply to both his personal life and the life of his kingdom.  And viewed from the lens of our study of Jesus’ own plight and agony before his ordeal, we can see a faint similarity in the type of prayers and pleas that David employs in his hour of need.  The circumstances are different, and yet, the cry for help and strength remains the same. 

These prayers are ones that even we in our mortal and insignificant selves may claim in our own moments of need.  There is a sure confidence in David’s words even as he offers praise, pleads for help, and reaffirms God’s sense of justice.  He says:

16 Who will rise up for me against the wicked?
   Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?
17 Unless the LORD had given me help,
   I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.
18 When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
   your unfailing love, LORD, supported me.
19 When anxiety was great within me,
   your consolation brought me joy.

Finally, our one verse from the book of Proverbs for today that is worthy of our reflection:

3A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride,
   but the lips of the wise protect them.

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

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