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.

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