Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Relationships Do Matter! Othniel and Samson

And she said unto him, Give me a blessing: for thou hast given me a south land; give me also springs of water. And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the nether springs.
Judges 1:15

The post "Gideon--Israel's Turning Point" revealed two points.  First, the book of Judges is written in a chiastic pattern when the main judges of Israel are considered and Gideon is the center point of the pattern's revelation.  Second, it is not how you start the race that counts but how you finish.  If Gideon is the center point, who comprise the beginning and the end of the pattern?  As the title suggests, it is Othniel and Samson.  There is a direct correlation between their life actions and attitudes.  Furthermore, they add to the concept of ending well while also revealing that relationships do matter.  Relationships can bless or mar our work and witness for Christ.  What is salvation in the first place?  Is it not a fellowship or relationship with Christ and His atoning suffering?  Furthermore, one dynamic of our relationship with Christ is personal relationship with others.  Do you remember the two greatest commandments that Jesus gave?  Love God--Love others; so relationships do matter!
Chastic Structure
The chart above shows that the major life highlights of these two judges match equally.  Othniel was not unequally yoked to an unbeliever, so his wife was a major blessing to him.  It was his wife, Achsah, who procured the blessing of the upper and lower springs in the desert region that they inherited from her father, Caleb.  She completed Othniel by extending his territory and blessing.  Surely Achsah stood firmly with her husband in prayerful support while he served as Israel's Judge for 40 years.  The keeping of their vows is further proof of their deeper vow of relationship to God.  Their rule was a time of blessing and prosperity for that land and its people, Israel.
In direct contrast we have Samson.  Continually he is seen in bad relationships with unbelieving pagan women that adversely affect his work and ministry.  His mistress, Delilah, robs him of his strength and covenant blessing.  His former father-in-law, unlike Caleb to Othniel, is a source of anguish for him. Samson is seen constantly marring every vow he took including his marriage vows and vows to God.  With no prayer partner, his ministry is one of compromise that is clearly half that of Othniel's--he rules 20 years as sin cut his reign short.  His story does not end well and his rule was one of chaos, confusion, and disorder.  With such a lax view of and concession on marriage, I wonder if that is why Israel is soon dealing with the issue of homosexuality in the Book of Judges?
Woman on a donkey
Marriage in America is in trouble.  Yet, every study ever conducted shows that couples who regularly attend worship together publicly and pray together privately have lasting, healthy marriage relationships.  Furthermore, our "fear of the LORD", a sincere relationship with Christ, begs us to serve each other greater than self as we seek harmony in the home. In turn, these two relationships affect every other inter-personal relationship we have either for blessing or curse.  With National Marriage Week running from February 7th-14th, why not seek God and His word about your current relationships with Him and others.  At home, take time to fall in love with your spouse and rededicate your home to Christ as a sanctuary for biblical values.
Blessed is every one that feareth the LORD; that walketh in his ways.  For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee.  Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table.  Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the LORD.  The LORD shall bless thee out of Zion: and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life.  Yea, thou shalt see thy children's children, and peace upon Israel.
Psalm 128

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Gideon: Israel's Turning Point

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
2 Timothy 4:7-8
The structure of the Book of Judges is amazing.  A careful study will reveal that the judges, in the order of their appearance, are getting further from the truths taught them in the Law of Moses.  An even closer study will reveal that this book is written in a chiastic structure as was revealed in the book The Literary Structure of the Old Testament* by David Dorsey.  When the main judges are charted and compared, the pattern becomes obvious and the true message of the entire book becomes clear.  It is not how you start the race that counts, but how well you finish it!
Briefly, a chiasm is an ancient literary device that placed a symmetric pattern into the text.  The purpose was to highlight a specific theme.  This device is very common, and it is found in the New Testament as well.  Patterns revolve around a center point, a point of reflection, and the life of Gideon is the point of reflection in Judges.  Every judge before Gideon has predominately positive characteristics while those following him are mostly negative.  In future posts, these comparisons will be shown.
Chiastic pattern of Gideon
It was a grand day as recorded in Judges 6!  The LORD in pre-incarnate form visits Gideon and calls him to be a judge.  Furthermore, as He calls Gideon to battle the enemies of God, Jesus reveals himself as the LORD our Peace (a book could be written here but let's stick to the pattern).  Gideon then arises, builds an altar Orphah of the Abiezrites and offers a sacrifice.  He is on the mountain and ready to take on the enemies of the LORD.  Rising from the altar of worship he then casts down the nearby altar to the idol Baal.  Now go to Judges 8:27.  It is there we read these terrible words, "And Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, even in Ophrah: and all Israel went thither a whoring after it..." Did you catch it?  The very place he arose in victory was the very place he fell in defeat.
After meeting the LORD, Gideon defeats the Midianites and assures his position as a judge of Israel.  Again, it was a glorious day for Israel.  Things were looking up, well almost.  Gideon forgot to call the tribe of Manasseh to battle.  They were not given a chance to be a part of the valiant 300.  It was at this point that the flesh and the adversary take over.  Petty jealousy rises and before you know it the valiant judge of Israel is seen fighting with Israelites.  His judgeship went down hill from there to Orphah where he made the ephod that led many astray.
So many start well but the flesh gets in the way and mars a great testimony.  They rise from the altar only to fall on it continually while woefully sobbing over their latest episode of outright rebellion.  Bitterness, jealousy, gossip and a whole host of nasty, fleshy sins seem to continually plague them and they never fully allow the image of Christ to be perfected in them.  Rather than being a witness to the world, they spend their time attacking their brothers and sisters in Christ. They constantly find themselves praying the repentant Psalm of David, Psalm 51.  God has better for us and pleads with us to live a life of surrender to Him.
What is the lesson for us?  Strive!  Thank God for the great gift of salvation!  Gideon was given a small mention in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11.  Yet, it is only a mention of his name among others whose antics often caused a duplicitous witness.  Again, thank God for grace.  Paul, however, had a much different idea.  He would follow the master in a relationship of total surrender.  His life would be devoted to Christ in ways that maybe even made others think he was a fanatic.  Paul revealed to his son in the faith, Timothy, it is not how you start but how you finish that counts.  What will you cast at the feet of Christ?  Will there be many trophies of victories fought and won in and through His presence and power, or will you stand at his throne, glad to be there, but empty handed?  Will you have a crown to toss at his feet in worship with all of the saints?
*Dorsey, David A.  The Literary Structure of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academics 2004Gideon--Israel's Turning Point