Judges is a tough read. It is supposed to be. It speaks of the season between Joshua and Samuel and shows the consequences of an apostate people determined to adopt the cruel gods of the surrounding nations. It is a bloody and difficult book. How then do we study books like this for our own personal edification? Well, there are many excellent hermeneutical tools out there which fall way beyond the scope of a small devotion, but here are some of the principles I adopt when I cannot make sense of a difficult text.
I can't help but think that we would see significantly more of God's hand moving in our life if we regularly prayed the types of prayers that Abraham's servant prayed. In a world where we are suddenly aware of the unpredictability of our days, the people of God would do well to regularly stop and pray... "Oh Lord, please come through for me today. I don't stand a chance without you. Show me what to do, and what not to do. Remind me of your steadfast love, please Lord. I need your guidance and your presence today."
In this season where we are forced into relative states of isolation, and we don't get the benefit of the crumbs falling off the faith tables of our friends, it is a great time to lean in, in faith, and to taste and see that the Lord is good, for yourself.
The Corinthians were obsessed with their spiritual leaders, while not being aware of how the Spirit could lead them!
Part of what I love about Christianity, and part of what separates it out from every other worldview is its view of the incarnation, the fact that God became flesh and lived among us. What is perhaps most astonishing about that doctrine is the historic teaching of just how God lived among us. He didn't live a celebrity life of ease and comfort, nor did He live a separated life of abstract philosophical pontification, but rather took the form of a suffering servant and entered into the thick and thistles of human suffering to experience it fully with His people.
God invited them to a season of repentance and returning that was marked by quiet and trust. Sound at all familiar? Perhaps, what we are experiencing now is an invitation to a quieting of our hearts and a returning to God in repentance and trust. What is tragic, is that Isaiah tells us that many of the people of Jerusalem missed it. Instead of quiet submission, they returned to the very sources of supposed strength that they had placed their hope in and which had kept them from God in the first place. Let us not waste this season of returning in the same way.
Job's search for wisdom leads him to the end of his own rope, which he finds in the dirt at the feet of his Lord. Wisdom is seeing God as more, not as less. Wisdom is worship of a big God, not manipulation of a small one. Wisdom is more obedience, more awe, more wonder, more faith, more trust, more worship, more of God, and altogether less of us. That's true wisdom.
Gideon was the same weak man, the people were still in their same immediate difficult plight, but the reality of God's presence changed the prospects of God's people. The promise of God's power, changed the potential of God's chosen servant. Gideon stepped into the reality of being a mighty man of valor not by changing who he was, but by remembering who he was with, and more significantly, who was with him.
Sarah is such a lesson to us. She had waited and waited and waited for her son, and then he arrived. You would think that the story would tell us that she lived content as a result for the rest of her days, but the Bible is too honest for that sort of Disney story telling. The boy was still young when Sarah's eye caught the flourishing laughter of Ishmael, the son of Hagar, her slave, and the woman that Sarah had used and abused as a sordid surrogate when she couldn't wait on the promises of the Lord. Her contentment was lost in the gaze of comparison. This is such a typical human response, finding ourselves unable to be satisfied with the blessings that God has given us, because our eyes are fixed on the blessings that He has given to another.