Joshua 20:4 "When someone flees to one of these cities, stands at the entrance of the city gate, and states his case before the elders of that city, they are to bring him into the city and give him a place to live among them."
The issue of capital punishment and the death penalty is one that produces a lot of heat in our society today. We have many who say that putting murderers to death is wrong and should not be done. It seems at every execution there are protestors outside the jail carrying signs declaring “Thou shalt not kill,” quoting the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20). The ironic point is that these signs are meant to accuse the authorities and not remind the criminals why they are about to be put to death.
We do not have the time or space to go into what the Bible says about capital punishment. However, in Joshua 20, God sets up six so-called “cities of refuge” for those that were accused of manslaughter.
What is a refuge? A refuge is a place of hope to which the one may flee for safety and security. When the high priest died, the guilty man went free. So long as the high priest was living, no harm could befall the guilty criminal who dwelled in the city of refuge.
These six cities of refuge symbolize or picture God our Savior, the LORD Jesus Christ, who is the refuge for guilty sinners. When Christ our High Priest died at Calvary, he obtained eternal redemption for God’s elect. Now he lives forever at God’s right hand, as the High Priest over the house of God.
You see, a true believer according to the Bible is someone who, as a guilty sinner, has fled to Christ, the true Refuge. The truth is—as we have learned in our studies and the Bible makes abundantly clear—you are a guilty, wicked sinner. God's holy justice demands vengeance. The only refuge for you is in Christ. Flee to Christ by faith and you shall be saved from the avenger of blood. Believe on the LORD Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.
Christ Himself has removed all obstacles for each child for whom He died to draw near to God. He has fulfilled the Law, satisfied the Father’s just judgments and justice, put away sin, and conquered satan.
The cities of refuge were only for those guilty of manslaughter. However, Christ is the refuge for those guilty of all sin. Christ is our Refuge to preserve us in temptation, to comfort us in trouble (John 14:1-3), and to protect us from every danger (Ps. 56:3; 112:7).
Someday, all those that are in Christ will be made known. When we are found in Christ in that day, perfected in him, then we shall enter into new Jerusalem, which is our heavenly city with Christ.
Father, help us to taste and see that you are God. Blessed is the one who takes refuge in you. In you, Lord, we take refuge. We trust in you at all times and we pour out our heart before you. You are the only refuge for us - especially and eternally in Jesus Christ for salvation. Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is you in your holy place, Lord. Remind us of these truths today. Thank you for the Gospel of Christ. We are saved by faith alone in your Son alone--all by grace. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Judges 3:20 "Then Ehud approached him while he was sitting alone in his room upstairs where it was cool. Ehud said, "I have a word from God for you," and the king stood up from his throne."
Israel's roller coaster ride of faith and repentance had just begun. Eglon, the king of Moab who ruled over Israel eighteen years, continued to oppress the people of Israel. So God brought out of the masses, Ehud, the second judge of Israel.
Ehud, though, was different for his day; he was left-handed. But Ehud used this for his advantage. You see, unlike other right-handed warriors, he would have to reach over on his right side to pull out the dagger he had made (Judges 3:15-16). Almost everybody of the day was right-handed, resulting in pat-down search on the left side to see if they carried a weapon. The king’s servants, however, searched Ehud on the wrong side.
What was Ehud's duty before God? His job was to assassinate in the king. After asking for a moment in private with the very fat king, Ehud declared he had a message from God (Judges 3:17-20). As the king rose, Ehud stabbed the king in the stomach, watching as the entire weapon was engulfed in fat.
What do you think God wanted the Israelites to learn from these records like Ehud’s recorded and preserved for them? They read their Old Testament Scriptures, you know. He wanted them to understand that unbelief brings sin and bondage.
Second, God wanted them to know that faith in Him brings freedom from sin and bondage. When you turn to God and trust Him and His provision on your behalf, you find freedom from sin and its bondage. Under the leadership of Ehud, the Israelites believed and trusted God and He gave them victory and they found relief and freedom from sin and bondage.
Finally, God also wanted Israel to know that when He makes a promise, He keeps His promises. He wanted to remind them of the promise that He had made to Abraham that they would become a strong and mighty nation. God wanted them to remember the promise of the land. It belonged to them, not the Moabites, not the Ammonites, not the Amalekites, not the Canaanites, but to the children of Israel, the descendants of Abraham.
Not only all of this, but remember that Ehud was willing to go on the attack first, killing the king, but then he rallied Israel to join in the battle, defeating the Moab army in the process (Judges 3:29-30). In the same way, God is looking for leaders. He will not ask you to murder anyone, but He will call you to be the deliverer of both believers and non-believers who are in bondage to sin.
Will take that step of leadership, whether it is changing diapers in the church nursery, teaching a class, or talking to others about Jesus?
Father, you are the only one with the ability to keep your promise to be with us forever. And what you promise us is beyond romantic bliss. Help us to avoid making promises that we can't keep or agreeing to something we can't follow through on. You saved Israel in the most unusual way in this story. True as it was, we still are amazed. Father, remind me that the moments I most bitterly regret are the selfish ones. The wretched idol of Self utter fail all the time to keep its promises. Father, thank you for Jesus, who took our wrath and bore our penalty in your divine plan. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
Judges 5:3 "Hear this, you kings! Listen, you rulers! I, even I, will sing to the LORD; I will praise the LORD, the God of Israel, in song."
In the last decade, shows such as American Idol, The Voice, and America’s Got Talent have introduced us to some amazing singers. Whether it is Kelly Clarkson or Susan Boyle, it is clear that many formerly unknown people have wonderful voices.
When it comes to your relationship with the triune God, there is nothing that should stop you from singing praise to God. You don’t have to be on a television show to realize that there is something about the way God created us that responds to music. Singing praise to God is good for what ails us and it is one way we can say ""thank you"" to Him for His everlasting grace. This is what the book of Psalms is all about.
The challenge is to sincerely sing before Him and lift your voice to Him as if the words you are singing are your love song to Him.
So, there is a natural desire of those right with God to want to praise God. When God gives us any victory, the normal, natural response from a heart right with God should be to offer praise to Him. There is a natural desire to publicly worship and praise God.
When God delivered Israel across the Red Sea, Moses and Miriam broke out in an immediate praise unto God (Exodus 15). When David experienced victory, he said God put a new song of praise in his mouth (Psalm 40:1-3).
And, in Judges 5, we see Deborah praising God for the same reasons: He who was and is the true Judge and Champion of His people.
Her song is also meant to be heard not only by the people of Israel for their remembrance, but for the nations—for the kings and rulers of the earth that they, too, might fear the LORD and tremble. The song points all people everywhere to that God should be exalted among all the nations. That is the primary
purpose of this song.
This biblical song and its telling the careers of the heroes of Israel is so very different from that of the songs of the world you may hear your friends or family talk about. The songs of the world only have empty, vain, hopeless, deceptive, and deranged heroes. Their “god” is no god at all. There is no truth to them. They sing as though victory was theirs.
The fact is that God has already overcome the world. The world’s champion, as eloquently sung by Deborah, has fallen, fallen, and fallen down dead—his head crushed. Such is the end of all of the enemies of the LORD. They may sing, but it is, in truth, the song of judgment, the song of death.
In Christ you are glorious, victorious, and blessed. Your King and your Judge, Christ, has taken captivity captive through His finished work in the Gospel (1 Cor. 15). Your victory is at hand!
Father, you are clothed us with gladness that we may glory and sing your praises. You have turned our mourning into dancing that we may sing. Lord, help our hearts to be such that we will sing your praises after a beating, in prison if necessary, or a sleepless midnight like Paul and Silas. May we sing praise to you, O God, while we still have being. You alone are worthy! Who else has given us complete and total salvation outside of ourselves by giving of himself? Thank you for Jesus! Thank you for the Gospel! Thank you for salvation! Thank you it is not works that save us - but only Jesus' person and work on the cross and the resurrection. We praise you today in his name, Jesus' name - amen.
Judges 6:34 "But the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon, and he sounded the trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called out to follow him."
Our world is changing. Life is not a lot of fun right now. We have wars and rumors of wars. Terrorism is now an acceptable part of the national and world scene of nearly every country. And in the name of ""convenience,"" we are drowning ourselves in our own inventions.
Yet, in the midst of everything, a quiet voice—the Spirit of the living God—says to me, ""Will you relax? God is still on His throne. He is in charge of this world and of all the evil forces of the other world.” And God is going to accomplish, to His honor and glory, everything that He said he would. God said that everything going on will end up in His being praised forever and ever. Then my heart relaxes again (Romans 8:28!).
I am encouraged by the stories of people like Gideon, who, despite 135,000 Midianites on camels coming to take over the land, saw the hand of God work mightily (Judges 6-8). God said to Gideon, ""How would you like to have the nation back?"" Gideon said, ""OK, LORD! How do you want to do it?"" Then God said, ""Get 300 trumpets, 300 pots, and 300 candles, and you can have it back, but you have to trust me, Gideon, because I am with you."" The Bible tells us that the Midianites made all kinds of plans, but Gideon did not make any. He just followed God’s promise, and 135,000 Midianites were defeated.
Later in his Gideon tried to do a good thing for his countrymen after this great victory. But the result was tragic. Impressed by his military might, the people of Israel asked Gideon to be their king, but, to his credit, he refused (8:22-23). However, he then asked them to donate a load of gold earrings, one from each person, which he made into an ephod.
The ironic part to this story is that an ephod was either a sacred garment worn by the high priest or some type of image, an idol. Why did he do this? We don't know for sure, but Gideon may have been trying to provide spiritual leadership. He may have thought that he was gifted in military and spiritual matters. Whatever his motive was, God hadn't told him to do this.
The result of Gideon's action was instant. When he set up the ephod in Ophrah, it immediately drew the people's attention away from worship of the LORD and led them into sin (8:27). And as soon as Gideon died, the people found it easy to go back to worshiping the Baals, because their leader had led them that way (8:33).
The point here is that God is never going to change (Psalm 33:11). When we trust Him with our lives through simple obedience, we can rest assured that He will take care of us. Only He can take bleak situations and turn them into shining examples. That is a promise that is worth holding on to!
Father, remind us that you are both our greatest problem and solution. Your presence is the worst or best news, the most fearful threat or the most cheerful comfort. Thank you for the patience you show us. Thank you for that fact, because without it we would be utterly, for now and eternity. God, you are good to us. You have great plans. May we trust your timing of those plans to the glory for your name. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Judges 13:5 "You will become pregnant and have a son whose head is never to be touched by a razor because the boy is to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God from the womb. He will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines."
Have you ever been shopping at jewelry store? Before the person waiting on you shows you the rings, he or she usually brings out a black cloth, lays it on the countertop, and then displays the rings on that black cloth. This is because the brilliance of diamond is sparkles when put against the black cloth backdrop. It is a great sales approach!
Just like a jeweler would use a black or a dark cloth to show off the brilliance of a diamond, in like manner does the dark bleak conditions in Israel show off the brilliance of God in spite of their sin and their darkness.
In the book of Judges, the author records one phrase time and again:
“And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, so the LORD gave them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years” (Judges 13:1).
Shown throughout the whole book of Judges and the people of Israel did again and they did again and they did again and they did again. They turned away from God and sinned. They doubted him. They believed a lie, which was the lie of the gods of the peoples of the land in which they lived. These were bleak, dark times, under oppression to the Philistines for 40 years. This is one of the longest times that the Israelites suffered under their enemies.
But, like the black cloth can show forth the brilliance of a precious jewel, God comes and provides in the midst of their hopelessness and despair hope. He calls out a woman and he meets with her and says, “You will have a son and he will be a Nazarite unto me from his birth.” Very simply, someone who took the vow of a Nazarite would not drink any wine or strong drink, would not cut their hair, would not touch anything that was unclean.
She quickly told her husband. Her husband prayed to God that the angel of the LORD would come to both of them and confirm to them this truth and this extraordinary event in their lives. For she have not had children up to this point in her life. And the angel of the LORD came to both of them again and confirmed the message that he had first given to the mother.
God provided for the children of Israel a champion, Samson, a savior, one who would help them experience relief from the oppression of the Philistines. Against the black backdrop of our sin, God kept His Word and he provided us a Savior. Samson’s life points to the ultimate need of the God-man, Jesus Christ, as Samson was not perfect and didn’t always follow God.
We need a real Savior, not just someone who can come in and defeat the enemy, but Someone who can come in and change our nature to His. That is only found in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; John 14:6)!
Father, we remember that Samson by his death killed many of his enemies. Jesus by his death won many of his enemies. Revenge versus reconciliation. Thank you that all of our study here and beyond goes back to what your Son has done for us. We love and praise you for that, Lord. You are good to us more than we will ever know. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Judges 15:3 Samson said to them, "This time I have a right to get even with the Philistines; I will really harm them."
A bishop of a century ago pronounced from his pulpit and in the periodical he edited that heavier-than-air flight was both impossible and contrary to the will of God. Oh, the irony that Bishop Wright had two sons, Orville and Wilbur! Wright was wrong. Sure of himself, but wrong.
Though we may have a quick laugh at this story, the truth of its contents still holds true: No one is above resisting sin, especially in the face of temptation, lust, and pride.
With this truth in mind, I believe the story of Samson shows us the result of making all the wrong choices. You can read his entire story in four quick and brief chapters (Judges 13-16). Because of his incredible strength, Samson thought he was invincible, so he ignored God’s plan and voice. He willfully violated every vow he had taken and brought disgrace to his family. But Samson’s bad choices led him into the hands of the enemy, the Philistines. It cost him his magnificent strength (16:19), his eyes (16:21), his freedom (16:21), his dignity (16:25), and his life (16:30).
The irony behind Samson’s life is that, for all his stupidity, he is still held up as a hero of the faith who “administered justice, and gained what was promised” (Hebrews 11:32-33). That’s God’s incredible grace at work, my friend! Still, no one wants to become a tragic hero like Samson, even if mentioned in the pages of a book.
Like Samson, so many of God’s chosen leaders, like Peter, Paul, and Jonah, had to be broken of their stubbornness and strong will. Obedience often precedes engagement in the LORD’s work. This should be of great encouragement to us today as we continue to examine a man of God who was excited and delighted to be used again to help the Jews, but who was not at all interested in God showing mercy to the heathens.
That doesn’t sound like us now, does it? But, remember: The call of God extends to all people everywhere with the hope that they will turn to the Son of God in faith and repentance.
Perhaps you are struggling with an annoying pattern of bad or less than good choices in the past few days. Don’t lose heart. With the Holy Spirit's guidance, you can do the right thing, starting now. Before the temptation hits again, learn now to rely on the One who gives us perfect peace (Philippians 4:7).
Father, Samson's life reminds us how short and fleeting life is. Truly, Lord, we have so little time on this earth, yet we have all earth to praise you. Thank you that you give life, breath, and strength even unto the end of life. Father, as we all age closer to eternity, would you put this fear of you in our hearts? Not a fear to quiver over, but a fear that healthy and humble before you. Enable us today for your glory. In Jesus' name. Amen,
Judges 16:28 Then Samson prayed to the LORD, "Sovereign LORD, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes."
After losing his strength from God, Samson now loses his freedom, too.
After being blinded by temptation, he is now blinded by the removal of his eyes—literally!
After being bound by his lustful desires, Samson is now bound by chains.
After being grinded down by his illicit companion, he is now grinding grain as a slave.
The Philistines’ intent is not to kill Samson. Rather, their goal is to mock him and his God that gave him. They will celebrate the victory over Samson as a victory of their false gods over Samson’s God. It is their gods versus the one, true God of the Israelites. In that moment, the god of the Philistines appeared to be winning.
So it often is when we fall into sin. The enemy gains a reason to not just slander us, but to slander and blaspheme our God.
Yet, the writer of Hebrews in chapter eleven of the New Testament book reminds us that Samson is a hero of faith in the Old Testament. His is one whose faith we should imitate, as we look to Jesus (Heb. 12:1-2). No doubt, Samson was a man flawed in many ways, as we are. His failures are warnings to us and point us to a better Judge and Deliverer in Jesus Christ.
Though he is blinded, bound, and entertaining the idolatrous Philistines, Samson now begins to see again. “God is my strength,” he realizes. So, he prays, “Remember me, God” (Judges 16:28). The sense seems to be, “You might have forgotten me, God. I had certainly forgotten you. But, now I am remembering. So, I ask You, O LORD God, to remember me once again.”
Samson’s prayer was not made out of personal revenge or passion. No, he had a glorious intensity to bring praise to the God of Israel. The fact that God accepts his prayer teaches us that Samson, truly, died praying. In a day when everyone died what was right in their own eyes (not too different from our day, is it?), his life serves a continual warning for us, but an assurance that it is never too late to call upon the LORD or to live for Him.
Samson’s example should remind us that when God tells us to do something, the worst response we can have is to put it off another day. More than losing a physical battle, we may lose the spiritual battle of sin, if we fail to take care of business right away. Never say you will do things “tomorrow” when it comes to the things of God's kingdom. Remember, time is a gift from God. Once you lose time, you can’t recover it. For God’s glory, use your time wisely!
Heavenly Father, may your kingdom come, and your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Replace our irritation with intrigue, our busy spirit with a quiet heart, our need to be noticed with the joy of encouraging others. Holy Spirit, increase our capacity to trust our Father for what we cannot control, and intensify our affection and adoration of Jesus. Only with these prayers answered may we live to your glory, even in the midst of great sin. In Jesus' name. Amen.