Having a rough time with your mother-in-law? Well, whether you like her or not, all of us could learn a thing or two from Ruth, the main character of the book we start today. She’s pretty incredible and unbelievably loyal to her mother-in-law, Naomi. This is a fascinating story of how God works our small decisions into good for us and others.
Judges 21:1-Ruth 1:22:
- 1 – Giving someone in marriage seemed to be the ultimate way to mix cultures and to influence. God seems to see this as the ultimate threat. Thus the rest of Israel refuses to intermarry with the tribe of Benjamin.
- 13-24 – Because of the devastation of the tribe of Benjamin, they were on the brink of extinction because no other tribe would allow their daughters to marry Benjamites. This was their plan for providing wives without compromising their own daughters.
- 3-5 – A woman’s only source of wealth and protection were her male relatives. With Naomi’s husband and sons having died, she was extremely vulnerable.
- 16-17 – Though it was normally a bad thing for Israelites to intermarry, Ruth seems to be the exception to the rule. Instead of influencing her husband and his family to her Moabite gods, she becomes to loyal to Naomi and Naomi’s God.
- 7 – Procuring water was a woman’s job. It was unheard of for a man to speak to a woman he was not married or related to in public, but even more unusual because he was a Jew and she was a Samaritan. Jews hated Samaritans because they considered them half-breeds.
- 7-15 – Though Jesus is trying to offer the woman something much more important and life-giving than regular water, she cannot understand what he is offering.
- 16-18 – Jesus calls out the woman’s sins to prove that he is not an ordinary person.
- 25-26 – Jesus rarely reveals his true identity so explicitly and when he does, he tends to reveal it to the most unlikely characters.
- 35-38 – Jesus wanted his disciples to begin bringing people to salvation based on the work he and the prophets before him had already done. They didn’t have to do the initial work, but could push the message home.
- 39-42 – Jesus originally came to bring salvation to the Jews, but throughout his ministry he extended it to others as well.
- The Israelites shared the faithfulness of God with younger generations who had not seen it by telling the stories of his great works. This psalm is an example of that.
- Like one of the Ten Commandments, this Proverb encourages its readers not to bear false witness because it only leads to destruction.
John 3:30 is John the Baptist speaking. He says, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” What if that was our goal for the way we lived our lives? What if everything we did and every decision we made was with the goal of becoming more like Christ? What if we were more concerned with God being glorified than with our own recognition and success? Let’s take a verse from John the Baptist on this one.
- 1 – Stories continue to be started with the phrase, “when there was no king in Israel”. This should not be read as a negative. God did not intend for Israel to have a human king, but to be their king himself.
- 22-26 – This is almost identical to the story in Genesis 19 about Sodom and Gomorrah and the townsmen trying to have sex with the visiting angels. Clearly sexually assaulting a woman was seen as a far lesser crime than sexually assaulting a man.
- 27-30 – Obviously a very disturbing story, the Levite dismembers his dead concubine and sends pieces to every tribe. It seems his intention is to remind them of their sin and encourage them to speak out against one another when they commit such egregious sins.
- 23 – The first time in the whole ordeal when someone calls on God for direction.
- 43 – “Nohah” has a superscript 2 attached. When you look at the footnote it mentions the “Septuagint.” The Septuagint was a translation of the Old Testament, which was originally written in Hebrew, into Koine Greek, which is what the majority of the New Testament was originally written in.
- 25-30 – While John’s disciples viewed Jesus as competition, John recognized that he had simply paved the way for Jesus. His explanation in verse 30 of his relationship with Jesus is one that we should all model after.
- 34 – When God sends people they have his words because he fills them with the Spirit. Often we worry about “what to say”, but we need not worry because if we’re sent by God he will give us the words.
- The works and control of God are amazing. This Psalm chronicles some of the specifics.
- 22- 23 – The book of James tells us not simply to hear the word but also to do what it says. These verses are similar. We are not simply to talk, but also to do.
Can you say that again please?!? Actually, in the Bible, you never have to ask. If something needs to be emphasized or if the speaker or writer wants to make sure you notice something, they repeat it. For instance, in today’s John reading, Jesus says, “truly, truly”. This means, “Listen up!” At other times, like in Luke 15, there are three parables in a row with a similar message. When you see things repeated, pay attention!
- 1-6 – Clearly the Israelites are running amuck. Stealing, making idols, having household gods.
- 12-13 – It seems odd that Micah, though he clearly wasn’t living for God, would be able to ordain and would see great value in a connection with God through a priest.
- 14-20 – What would initially be expected is that the Danites would discover the household gods and carved images and destroy them, but instead, they take them and take Micah’s priest as well.
- 5 – Anytime you see, “truly truly” it signifies that you should listen to that. This is placing emphasis on what is about to be said.
- 2-8 – Being born of water and the spirit references when John the Baptist said he baptized with water, but Christ would come to baptize with the Holy Spirit. When we receive Christ as our Savior, we receive the Holy Spirit as our guide. This is necessary for salvation and faithful living.
- 16-17 – Some of the most crucial words that our faith revolves around. Through belief in Christ, we receive salvation and eternal life because Christ came to save, not condemn.
- 18-20 – It is easy to love the darkness because it is easy and we can hide in it, but the light exposes us.
- One of the ways we can pray is through adoration. This is the process of telling God how great he is. This can be done through listing attributes, describing your connection with those attributes, and/or recounting God’s greatness through the great things he has done. This Psalm is a great example of the last option.
- These two verses work together to juxtapose how the poor are often treated versus how we are intended to treat them.
This morning, as I finished reading about Samson in the One Year Bible, I was struck once again by a thought that first came to me when I read the Book of Judges as an adult: Samson was an idiot.
It is important that we teach the Bible to our children in ways they can understand: children don’t generally understand nuance and the Bible is a nuanced story, so I understand why we play up the heroic qualities of the Bible characters and gloss over their many faults. But, I think we make a mistake when we teach the Bible stories in such a way that leave children with the impression that the Bible is a series of stories about moral exemplars that they should emulate. In fact, almost no one in the Bible is a moral exemplar and the primary point of the Bible is not to inspire us to live better (though it contains much wisdom about living), but rather the primary point of the Bible is to tell us about God and the lengths to which he will go to save his people.
Samson is not a hero; Samson is an idiot. Samson’s story occurs at the end of Judges as yet one more example of Israelite society spiraling out of control. The point of Samson is not Samson himself; the point of the Samson story is to clearly show the effects of sin and pride and to show that, despite all their idolatry and idiocy, God has not abandoned his people.
In other words, the point of the Samson story is the same as the entire Scripture: it is about the grace of God.
Though, at the end of today’s reading in John, Jesus is referring to himself as the temple, the actual temple really was destroyed, twice, in fact. In 586 B.C. the temple was destroyed when the Babylonians defeated and deported the Israelites. The Israelites then spent decades in exile. It was rebuilt but then destroyed in 70 A.D., after Jesus’ death, by the Romans. It has yet to be rebuilt. Currently a mosque is on that site and all that remains of the temple is the Western Wall also known as “The Wailing Wall”.
- 11-16 – Samson was known for his incredible strength.
- 18-20 – It is a common theme that Biblical characters have some sort of extreme, miraculous experience with God and then panic and cry out to God for something that seems like an easy fix. God always comes through in both the easy and the hard.
- 4-17 – Clearly Samson is smitten by Delilah because she continually betrays him and tries to trap him into being overtaken by the Philistines even though she acts like he is in the wrong for lying to her about his source of strength.
- 25-30 – Samson’s strength is restored and he’s able to use it to take down thousands of Philistines. His death is seen as honorable and as retribution for how the Philistines treated him.
- 1-11 – This is considered Jesus’ first miracle. It seems clear that Jesus does not feel ready to begin his ministry of miracles.
- 13-17 – In Matthew this story occurs in the last week of Jesus’ ministry, but also during Passover. This story is often referenced when confirming that Jesus felt true human emotions.
- 18-23 – The temple was in fact destroyed after Jesus’ death, in 70 AD, but here, Jesus is referring to himself as the temple.
- A beautiful Psalm. One to focus on in a variety of situations, but particularly as a reminder of God’s abundant grace and great love for us.
- 9-10 – Even though Jesus had not come yet, God still offered grace. Though people received some punishments, the punishment for sin is death, so most Israelites were given the opportunity to repent and receive a second chance.
- 11-12 – A beautiful image of how God does not hold our past sins against us.
- 17 – There are several references in the Proverbs that equate quick decisions with foolishness. This would suggest that steadiness and quality of thought is considered more prudent in almost all cases.
Reading the word “priest” means a number of different things in Scripture. It is most commonly referring to Levitical priests. These are the descendants of Levi who were in charge of the liturgy of the temple. They had various jobs including playing music, tending to the temple vestments, etc. But there were other types of priests, such as Nazirites who had different jobs and regulations and didn’t require you to be born into a particular family. Today we’ll read about Samson, a Nazirite.
- 5 – Nazirites were set apart for God’s service and had special rules including never cutting their hair, drinking alcohol, or coming into contact with a dead body.
- 8 – A prayer we should all pray for our children.
- 12-19 – Though the riddle is a little odd, it was obvious that Samson’s wife had betrayed him and cared more for his people than for him by telling the men the answer. Only Sampson had had the experience with the lion and bees and no one else could have known the answer.
- 31-34 – The other gospels give accounts of John baptizing Jesus and the Holy Spirit descending and landing on him.
- 45-46 – This is the greatest evangelism tool ever – simply inviting someone to come and witness for themselves the goodness of God that you’ve witnessed. The context is that Nazareth was a small town not known for anything great.
- 51 – Jesus referring to the angel’s ascending and descending harkens back to Jacob’s dream of angels going up and down a ladder in Genesis 28. Jesus is intended to be the connection between heaven and earth, that’s why the angels are able to ascend and descend on him.
- The description just before the Psalm is helpful. This is a prayer that would be good for those who are afflicted and weary and need to offer their complaints to God.
- 16 – This is similar to the familiar phrase, “look before you leap.” The foolish tend to jump into things without weighing the consequences while the cautious are able to turn away from evil because they seek God’s wisdom first.
Welcome to John! He starts his gospel off with a bang. Clearly referring to the beginning of Genesis, he starts off with, “In the beginning…”. John’s gospel, from the beginning, and throughout the entire book, is very different from the other three gospels. While each gospel has a specific purpose, John’s is stated at the end. He explains that this gospel was written so that we would believe that Jesus was the Messiah. So…read carefully.
- 1 – Being the son of a prostitute was shameful in their culture, but it’s clear that God is willing to use him anyway since he was a mighty warrior. You may also notice that people’s tribes are mentioned quite a bit in this book. Because the Israelites had mixed with other people groups so heavily, it was important to differentiate who were actual Israelites by mentioning their tribe.
- 24 – Ancient cultures believed that the side with the mightier god would win a battle. This is why Jephthah calls out the Amorites god, Chemosh.
- 30-40 – Note that God does not ask for this sacrifice from Jephthah, he foolishly offers it up and it costs him the life of his daughter. This is why we are to give and do what God asks of us, not decide for ourselves what God wants.
- John’s gospel is different from the other 3, which are known as the Synoptic Gospels. They all draw from each other, while John’s gospel does not as much. John’s gospel is where we find the “I am” statements. These are statements where Jesus says, “I am…” and reveals something about himself.
- 1 – “The Word” is Christ. This explains to us that Christ has been present from the beginning. He did not enter into existence at birth, but always been just as God the Father has always been.
- 6-8 – This refers to John the Baptist. Many wondered if he was the one they had waited for, but he was not, he simply came to prepare the way for Christ.
- 9-13 – Christ came first to save the Jews, his own people, but many did not recognize him or believe that he was the Messiah. All who did were made children of God.
- 14 – “The Word became flesh” explains the coming of Christ as a human. Instead of the birth narrative we read in Matthew and Luke, this explains the coming of Christ.
- 17 – Moses gave the law. Grace and truth came through Jesus. The law did not make room for grace, but God offered that through Christ.
- 20-23 – John does not claim to be anything he’s not, but quotes Isaiah, a verse the religious leaders would have certainly known, and explains that he’s preparing the way for the Messiah to come.
- This Psalm of David would be an excellent one to read or recite when faced with temptation or to start your day with the intent of living righteously. “I will ponder the way that is blameless.” “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless.”
- 14 – There are a number of references in the New Testament to bad sources only producing bad fruit and good sources only producing good fruit. We cannot expect to produce great things if our hearts are not great as well.
If you need a reason to jump back into our daily readings, this week will give it to you. We’re starting 2 new books! One today, and one on Friday!
In the Old Testament, we’re finishing out Judges and beginning Ruth. In Judges, you will read about a very famous judge named Samson. Samson was known for his strength, but it’s also noteworthy that he’s a Nazirite. This is a special form of priest – John the Baptist was one too – who holds strictly to certain standards. Nazirites didn’t drink alcohol, cut their hair, come in contact with dead things, and much more.
And Ruth is a fascinating book! If you want to learn what it means to be loyal or see how God can use anyone, even if they seemingly have nothing to offer, this is the right book for you. Ruth is also one of only two books with a female lead character, so pump up “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and get to reading.
And today we get to start the final gospel, John. John is very different from the other three gospels, which tend to share stories and sound somewhat similar. John uses more poetic language. It even begins with a brief poem. Here are a few things to notice in John:
- A “beloved disciple” is mentioned frequently. It’s assumed this “beloved disciple” is John, but no one knows for sure
- There is no narrative of Jesus’ birth, but he is introduced as “the Word”
- Jesus makes a number of statements attempting to define himself that start with the words, “I am…”
Note also in your Proverbs readings this week the continued emphasis on acting and speaking slowly and avoiding rash decisions. This isn’t always natural for us, but it is wise.
Keep up the good reading! We’re already at Week 18! Before we know it, we’ll be half way finished!!
It’s infuriating how the Israelites, throughout the Old Testament so far, seem to be stuck in a sin cycle (see what I did there?). God tells them what to do, they choose not to (aka – sin), things get bad, and then they repent. You just want to yell at them, “don’t you get what’s happening here!?!” But then, if we look at our own lives, we tend to fall into the same cycle. Maybe we could learn from their mistakes.
- 30-41 – Gaal spoke ill of Abimelech who, though he had not fully honored God, was still one of God’s people.
- 53-57 – Interesting that a woman with such a significant story doesn’t have her name mentioned. Though Abimelech experienced some success in war, ultimately, his evil was repaid in kind. Like a stone was dropped on his brothers, a millstone was dropped on his head.
- 1-5 – Presumably, both Tola, and Jair served God and Israel faithfully because no evil is mentioned.
- 10-16 – The Israelites continue the cycle of sinning against God and serving other gods and running into trouble. Each time, when the Israelites reach their threshold, they cry out to God and repent. This passage begs the question if God’s forgiveness is ever limited.
- 13-27 – Though the prophets had foretold what would happen to Jesus and Jesus tried to explain it himself before his death, many Jews thought he could not possibly be the Messiah because he died. They had had such hope before and now had lost it.
- 28-35 – Though quickly, the resurrected Jesus revealed himself to Cleopas and his friend.
- 36-44 – Obviously a resurrection is hard to believe because it doesn’t happen often. The disciples convinced themselves that Jesus was just a spirit, so he not only showed his scars, but also ate food, which a spirit wouldn’t do.
- 49 – The disciples were instructed to keep their work contained to Jerusalem until they received power from on high, which was the Holy Spirit, which they received on Pentecost.
- This Psalm encourages us to give thanks and speaks specifically of doing it first thing – when we come into his presence and when we enter his gates.
- 12 – We should seek what is right to God instead of leaning on what we think or understand.
Dr. Seuss is often credited with the quotation, “Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” Though not the same words, Proverbs had a similar sentiment long before Seuss. Today’s Proverb reminds us not to give any merit to those who scoff at our attempts to be faithful.
- 22-23 – God had purposefully not given the Israelites a ruler or king. God was their king. Gideon and the other judges were intended to act as guides, but not rulers.
- 29 – Remember, Jerubbaal was Gideon’s other name.
- 6 – Clearly Abimelech wasn’t intended to be king, but the people wanted one and appointed him king anyway.
- 46 – The temple curtain was designed to separate the holiness of God from the sin of the people. Jesus’ death both symbolically and literally removed this barrier.
- 50-51 – The council had approved Jesus’ death, but Joseph of Arimathea dissented.
- 1-11 – It is significant that it was women who first witnessed Jesus’ resurrection because the testimony of women did not count.
- 12 – Once again, it is Peter who is first to seek out Christ.
- 6 – Moses, Aaron, and Samuel were all Jewish heroes of the faith. The fact that they worshipped and were avenged by God gave even more clout to God.
- Foolish people mock us when we choose to do what is right and choose to obey God and repent. We should give their mocks no merit.