Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Will The Men of God Please Stand Up! Deborah, Barak, and Abimelech

"And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedeshnaphtali, and said unto him, Hath not the LORD God of Israel commanded, saying, Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun?  ...And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go."
Judges 4:6 and 8
Sometime back I began a study of the chiastic structure found in the Book of Judges here on Active Christian Media.  As a quick reminder, 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.
The theme of the entire book of Judges is apostasy.  The further one gets from the first great Judge, Othniel, the worse things are for ancient Israel.  Negative traits in Israel's leaders began to be exposed as the time of the Judges unfolds in the text.  All judges before Gideon are positive judges who ruled a united nation while all after Gideon are mostly negative judges who allowed tribal bickering to separate the people of Israel.  The last of the judges to be considered in the study of this pattern are Deborah and Barak who are contrasted with Abimelech.  The picture below will highlight their similarities and differences.
Though the idea is not popular today nor is it "politically correct", the LORD intended for a man to stand up and be the judge of Israel  just as he meant for men to be the priest of the home and the leader of the family unit.  However, in the absence of one qualified, God will use "whosoever will" to accomplish his divine purposes.  Deborah is a great leader and a prime example of a wonderful woman of God who was divinely anointed, appointed, and used to bring greatness to the land of Israel when a man of God would not stand true and take his ordained place of leadership.  Barak would not even go to battle unless Deborah was nearby.  Even Deborah seems to understand this as she pleads with the brave (?) Barak to take his position as the head of the armies of Israel in order to repulse the enemies of the nation that were bringing severe oppression.  Thank GOD for a brave women who stand when men of God balk at their assignment!  Thank God for anyone who sees a need and heeds the call to service!  Since Barak would not heed and lead, notice that it is a woman who is credited with the victory.  Consequently, Abimelech, the tainted judge, is also humiliated in a similar fashion as Israel's enemy, Sisera, was.
So the question for today is, where are the men of God leading and guiding as the priests of the home and men of God in the church?  Study after study shows that children are greatly effected by the faith of their father.  Not to demean the place of a mother at all, but there is something to be said for a man who will stand up and take his place even as Christ took the place of leadership over His bride, the church.  It is certain that God wants men who will love their wives as Christ loved the church and giving Himself for her.  Surely, the LORD wants men who will train their children as is prescribed in scripture.  The influence of fathers on children cannot be under emphasized.  Neither can their influence in prayer and worship in the church be under emphasized as well.  Man of GOD, will you not take a place of leadership in the home?  Will you not take the time to train and guide your children in the ways of God and be a leader in church as well? Stand up for your faith in the site of all and be a leader for Christ's sake!
Please do not take this post from the context in which it was meant!  This is not an indictment against women and their overwhelmingly valuable place in the home and church.  It is not meant to be demeaning nor negative against the role of women in the body of Christ.  Take it as the admonition that it is meant to be.  In a time when the family is just as fragmented as ancient Israel was in the days of the last judges, with rampant divorce and fatherless homes, take it as a plea for the men of God to stand up in America and lead the heart of the family back to the foot of the cross.  Quit neglecting your God ordained duties and lead!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Stay Focused On The Word: Ehud and Jephthah

And Ehud came unto him; and he was sitting in a summer parlour, which he had for himself alone. And Ehud said, I have a message from God unto thee. And he arose out of his seat.
Judges 3:20
And said unto him, Thus saith Jephthah, Israel took not away the land of Moab, nor the land of the children of Ammon:
Judges 11:15
In our study of the Book of Judges and its chiastic structure we have noticed that Gideon teaches us that Christians need to end well while Othniel and Samson remind us that relationships do matter. Two other judges in the pattern, Ehud and Jephthah, reiterate the need to stay focused on GOD and His word.  Their lives are also contrasted in the pattern so that there is a positive and negative parallel to their actions and attitudes.
Look at the comparisons and contrasts of their lives.  Both delivered Israel after the nation was in bondage for 18 years.  Both battled with Transjordan kings.  Both sent messages to the kings that they were anointed to deliver Israel from.  Ehud sent a secret message while Jephthah sent two messages through couriers.  Ehud's message was sent in the name of God while Jephthah sent his messages in his own name.  Ehud captured the fords of Jordan with the assistance of the Ephraimites where he killed hundreds of the Moabite enemies trying to cross.  Jepthah, however, captured the same fords but killed hundreds of Benjamites, an Israeli tribe.  Ehud ruled over a united Israel for 80 years, but Jephthah ruled over a fragmented Isreal for only 6 years (grief over his daughter?) as it again seems that sin cut his judgeship short.

Ehud was a successful judge over Israel.  He understood clearly that God was the center of his success.  As a left handed man, he was able to conceal a dagger on the right side of his body when he entered into the chambers of King Eglon of Moab with a tribute from the people of Israel.  Judges 3:15 assures us that it was the LORD who called this man to be Israel's deliverer, so he boldly follows the direction of God.  Jephthah did not get the same call as Ehud.  It was the elders of Gilead who sought out Jephthah to be their deliverer.  Jephthah was later anointed by the LORD but only after the foolish vow he is so infamous for.  It is evident that he did not have the same acknowledgement of divine assistance that Ehud did.
The possible sacrifice of his daughter is one of the most controversial stories in the entire text of scripture.  Indeed, it is hard to say whether or not this girl was killed as a sacrifice.  Many sources say she was but many others give alternatives to her sacrifice.  One thing is for sure about God and His revelation in the Bible, he does not hide the ugliness of the deeds of men to make the story line go well.  It is very possible that this daughter was sacrificed although it was never the intention of God for such a bizarre sacrifice to take place.  That is the point.  Jephthah seemed to be directed more by his ideas than the word of God, which is a very common attitude in our day.  Leviticus 27 gives clear direction as to how to redeem people who were vowed.  God may be trying to show us that the people of Israel, through their continued apostasies, were drifting ever further from the rock solid foundation of the Word of God.
So many are modern day Jephthahs.  In a time with more Bibles printed than in any other time period in human history we seem to have a mostly biblical illiterate society.  Many who do study the word want to twist and contort it their own destruction rather than trust God for what it reveals.  Study after study show that, like Israel, the church is drifting further from the truth of the word and sound doctrine while adding to or subtracting from its message with men's teachings and traditions.  Furthermore, this was a prophetic sign of the end of days. Those teachings and traditions will pass away, my friend, but the Word of the LORD will endure forever.  Be like Ehud whose success involved delivering God's message and not his own!
One last thought!  If men are telling you how greatly anointed and blessed you are and they seem to be forcing ministry on you, seek God wholeheartedly for confirmation.  Don't be like Jephthah.  God may have used him, but he may have not have been the person God wanted. We are only successful in any endeavor if the LORD calls us to it.  Again, just a thought!