The Nations Rage
“THE WORLD IS NOT IN YOUR BOOKS AND MAPS. IT IS OUT THERE.” ~ Gandalf the Grey, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
In addition to reading and watching movies, we try to get outdoors daily, in a tree or on a trail.
During this unique past month of quarantine, our family watched The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogies, again. We are big J.R.R. Tolkien/Peter Jackson fans so we enjoyed all 18 hours of the extended versions. I also recently finished reading the eight books of the Bible that detail life after entrance to the Promised Land and Joshua’s death: Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles. All of this--film and print--has provided for quite a lot of violence and love, fiction and non-fiction, orcs and warriors.
"SORRY, I DON’T WANT ANY ADVENTURES, THANK YOU. NOT TODAY. GOOD MORNING!” ~ Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
This part of Israel’s history could aptly be labeled The Wild, Wild Mid-East (some things never change?) Wow, is there ever a lot of deceit, war and destruction! The Lord repeatedly instructed Israel to conquer the Canaanite nations, leaving no survivors.
“Though it affords little comfort to the modern mind, it must be remembered that extermination of defeated enemies is expected of victorious armies at this time [in history].” (F. LaGard, The Daily Bible, Harvest House Publishers)
A long line of Israeli judges come and go:
“Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the Lord’s commands. Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.” Judges 2:16-19
Like an antibiotic that is stopped prematurely, the land meant to be rid of pagan influence builds immunity to Israeli conquest each time, when—contrary to God’s orders—the Israelis do not completely destroy the evil inhabitants.
The basic formula persists: obedience = prosperity, and disobedience = adversity. With the passing of time and waning dedication to God and his laws came spiritual and political decline.
Great leaders—like Deborah—come and go, angels visit (Judges 4, 13). Foolish vows are made and kept: “Whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph…I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.” (Judges 11:31) Did Jephthah expect a lamb? Because his only child, a daughter, is what first came out his door.
“IF MORE PEOPLE VALUED HOME ABOVE GOLD, THIS WORLD WOULD BE A MERRIER PLACE.” ~ Thorin Oakenshield, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
In another particularly disturbing sequence of events, a man’s concubine is raped to death after he delivers her to her attackers. The man then dismembers her into 12 parts and sends body pieces “into all the areas of Israel.” (Judges 19:27-30)
This precipitates a war against the tribe of Benjamin—to which belong the perpetrators of the concubine’s heinous death—that results in 25,000 men dying.
The end of Judges is a “sad testimony to the relationship between God and man . . . which has sunk to a low ebb in which moral authority is no higher than self-will, everyone doing as they saw fit.” (The Daily Bible, Judges 21:25)
The Book of Ruth is a refreshing reprieve from the Judges narrative, showing us the beautiful love of a woman for her mother-in-law and the merciful and gracious love of the kinsman redeemer, a picture of Messiah’s love for us. This amazing gentile, Ruth, ends up in the ancestral line of King David and, ultimately, Yeshua of Nazareth the Messiah/Jesus Christ.
The era of the kings is full of twists, turns and intrigue. The Book of Samuel opens with another beautiful faithful woman, Hannah, who despite years of barrenness and ridicule, put her trust in the Lord. She was blessed with a quiver-full of children, the first being Samuel, who became one of Israel’s great leaders and prophets.
From the time he was a boy, Samuel’s refrain was, “Here I am, Lord. Speak for your servant is listening.” And he did, often. The Lord was with Samuel and he filled him with wisdom to lead Israel. But the people insisted on a king, so God allowed it. (I Sam. 10:17-25) I can’t help but wonder, is this concession similar to God’s response to the Israelites whining for meat in the wilderness. Here you go, have your quail…take your king. Hmm, this may not go so well?
And, it doesn’t. Saul, the first king of Israel, is plagued by trouble. God even regrets that he ever made Saul king. (I Sam. 15:35) He is eventually rejected and the demise of his kingship is set as a young shepherd rises to replace him. An evil spirit from the Lord (I Sam 16:6-13) torments Saul and his jealousy drives him mad.
He exhibits split personality behavior, attempting to kill David multiple times then apologizing and begging forgiveness. He even stoops to a bewitching low, seeking out a medium who conjures Samuel from the dead. He does not get the answer for which he was hoping. In fact, Samuel promises that Saul and his sons will be with Samuel in Sheol/the house of the dead the next day.
Even the great King David reigns amidst enemies and factions. He steals another man’s wife then ruthlessly has the husband killed; one of his sons despises him and attempts to usurp the throne. And yet he is known as a man after God's own heart. The Psalms are replete with praise to God and David's prayers of contrition and for deliverance.
Many besides Goliath, the Philistine giant, are beheaded—including Saul, the first king of Israel—and one of his sons (I Sam 31:1-10; I Chron 10:1-12, 2 Sam 4:7-12). David’s daughter, Tamar, is raped by her brother Amnon who eventually is killed when his brother, Absalom, orders a hit.
Absalom, who schemed for his father David’s throne is killed after he gets caught in the branches of a large oak tree and his mule keeps going. As he hangs by his hair, David’s military leader plunged three javelins into Absalom’s heart (2 Samuel 18:9-18).
“SUCH IS THE NATURE OF EVIL. IN TIME ALL FOUL THINGS COME FORTH.” ~ Elven King Thranduil, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Fiction hasn’t got anything on these sordid texts. This is reality. Darkness lies in the hearts of men. Despite our best efforts, we can’t save ourselves. And just when we’re tempted to console ourselves by comparison with, “Wow, so glad I’m not wicked like so-and-so,” King David sings:
“The Lord looks down from heaven
on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.
All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one."
The verdict: we have all sinned and fallen short of God's righteous standard (Romans 3:23). The sentence? Depends. Two roads diverge. The choice is ours, as Moses laid out millennia ago: life or death. We can persist in believing that we aren’t that bad—in fact, thinking that we’re pretty good—and all our best efforts will amount to something resembling justification. Or, we can give it up—stop fooling ourselves, imagining that we’re “good enough” on our own and that this current reality is all there is.
Yeshua, the Ultimate King of Israel and of All Reality, is THE ONLY WAY to justification. His atoning blood, death on the cross and miraculous resurrection are historical facts and the foundation of our justification. We are saved by his grace, through trusting. (Ephesians 2:8-10) Nothing we could ever do can earn our salvation.
These past two weeks have been a time of great reflection for Messiah’s holy community, remembering our Messiah’s sacrifice and its foreshadowing in Pesach/Passover. One of his most passionate disciples, Peter—the one who denied he even knew Yeshua/Jesus in the hours before his violent crucifixion—went on to become one of the most outspoken of his followers. He declared, in chains, to the religious rulers of his day:
“Jesus is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4
Bad News, Good News
PragerU is one of my go-to sources for important facts
In my last post, Perspective, I shared about a lawsuit filed by the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) challenging the constitutionality of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer's Executive Order 2020-21 (“Shelter in Place”) as applied to criminalize the free speech activity of peaceful, pro-life protestors.
I'm happy to report that a week after police issued a citation to a man praying and counseling outside a Detroit abortion clinic for violating the governor's stay-at-home order, the governor had an about-face: “persons may engage in expressive activities” so long as they adhere to social distancing measures.
I'm thankful for our First Amendment rights and people like Andrew Belanger and organizations like AFLC, helping us to maintain them.
I'm prayerful that abortion will end, that mothers' and fathers' hearts will be turned to their children. I act on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves. I have not always done so. I am thankful God has given me the courage, desire and passion to speak out and to share THE Good News with those leading their little ones to death, in hopes that they will stop, repent and be saved in order to experience life to the full.
This is MY story too
NON-PROFIT WOMEN'S CARE ORGANIZATIONS
Please consider donating material goods or money to a local pregnancy care center, like this one HERE. They are on the front lines, caring for moms, dads and babies. The video below is a couple's testimonial from Another Way Pregnancy Center's website: