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.