Our God Reigns

“Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, both you and your son, and your grandson also; for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian.”
But Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the 
Lord shall rule over you.” Judges 8:22-23 NKJV

“The Lord shall rule over you.”
This was the plan and desire of the Lord, albeit, it was not the original plan. The original plan was for man to partner and work with God – this is still the goal and we should desire it too. We should strive to be close to Him. But since the fall of man – humans keep making choices that drive them further away from Him. First they asked for only Moses and the Prophets to see, hear, and communicate with God. And now they ask for a king to rule them – another barrier between them and God.

Dear Heavenly Father – As always, please open eye to see and our ears to hear what you are saying! Lord – open our understanding that we may know you. Please do not let us miss out on what you want and need from us today. And please keep us and bless us and shine your face upon us and pour out grace over us and give us peace! Thank you! – In Jesus name we pray, Amen

Today’s reading is in the book of Judges, chapters 8-9 (embedded below for your convenience).

Judges has 12 judges.  We have already read about the first 4: Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, & Deborah.  Today we continue to read about Gideon. And over the next 6 or 7 days or so we will cover Tola, Jair, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, and Samson.

Today we finish Gideon and see his victory and his compromise which makes him a more corrupted judge than the last.  As we read the book, you will see each one gets more human and flawed. 

Today we see the people growing worse in sin as well… and the beginning of their desire for a king to rule them.  Look how far away humanity keeps making itself from our Creator – even today with our different global governments. I think, if we mediate on this while reading we can get all we need to from it.

I wanted to take some time today to point out another image, or visual theme, happening in this book: Trees. In Hebrew the word for tree is sometimes also translated as vine and other bush or tree like plants. Apparently our God reigns over them as well!

Othniel is believed to be buried in Hebron, in a traditional burial cave, next to a vineyard – a vineyard often believed to have belonged to Othniel’s family. So He is visually associated with old tree like vines.

Ehud’s story begins with the fat king, Eglon, defeating Israel and taking possession of the City of Palms (Judges 3:13). So he is visually associated with palm trees.

Although not much is said about Shamgar, in Judges 3:31 we are told he saved the Israelites, using a big branch – like 8 foot long branch – like this might as well have been a tree! Yes, an ox goad is a wooden tool with an iron spike at one end used to spur the oxen as they pulled a plow. So he is visually associated with carrying a tree.

Deborah lived in a palm tree grove. The word “to sit” in Judges 4:5 can also be translated to dwell. So she is visually associated with palm trees.
Verse 4:11 also speaks of Moses’s father-in-law finding a tree to camp under – the terebinth tree at Zaanaim.

Then in Judges 6:11 the angel of the Lord was under the terebinth tree when he appeared to Gideon! And Gideon brought out a sacrifice and worshiped under the same tree. Gideon was tasked with cutting down the wooden image to Baal and use the wood to burn a sacrifice to God.

After Gideon dies and his evil son raises himself up a warning comes in the form of The Parable of the Trees. This parable shows that each tree has a task to perform to glorify the Lord so no tree should raise up above the others.  If foretells, with imagery of burning trees, the death of Abimelech (the evil son). Abimelech’s demise happens when he was burning a stronghold full of people, including women and children – having cut down multiple branches of trees… and a woman drops a millstone on his head.
(Side note: a stone was dropped on his head – earlier he had killed all of his brothers on one stone – fitting he also fell because of a stone.)

As we continue to read the book and the whole Bible – look for the relationships of trees, wood, branches, etc., although it stops being as obvious in the rest of the chapters. Many scholars have traced this symbol back to the tree(s) in the Garden of Eden.  Whatever the reason, the beautifully written image patterns in this book do help soften the blow of the hard message of the book: which is that people are bent towards evil and sin – and without Jesus things progressively get worse and worse.

If it wasn’t for the grace that transformed me – I cannot even fathom how bad it would have been. I was very bad when Christ found me.  It is easy therefore to want a relationship with our Creator, when the salvation is tangible and the grace so obvious. I pray that you all have a tangible experience – an experience real enough that you know with all confidence that Our God lives and is Almighty and is the One True God.

RELATIONSHIP:
Do you already have a relationship with a powerful God who cares about your every need because He loves you? Did you know my God can communicate with you and protect you – He has a plan for you to prosper if you just submit to His will and let His plan play out in your life!!! God wants a relationship with you and has already made a plan for your life. He loves you so much He sent His son to this world, to die as a sacrifice for your sins and rise from death with victory over sin and the ability to have a personal relationship with you.
9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10 NIV
Here is a prayer for you to pray:
Jesus, I believe you are the way, the truth, the life, and the only way to the Father. I believe you are the son of God, you came to Earth and lived. That you died on the cross as a sacrifice for my sins, and rose again so that I may be saved from my sins and be able to get to know you. I declare: Jesus, you are Lord!
Therefore, I confess that I am a sinner and I ask that you forgive me of my sins and come into my life. Help me to turn away from my sins and transform me into what you have lovingly created me to be. Help me through a real personal relationship grow and accept your will for my life – that I may live in your blessings. Please walk with me, and talk with me – I accept a relationship with you and with our Father God, through you. In the name of Jesus I pray ~ Amen

MEMORY WORK: Hebrews 2:14 – Jesus defeated the devil!
NKJV – “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,”
NAS – “Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, so that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,”
ESV – “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,”
NLT – “Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death.”
NIV – “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil”

Thank you for reading.
May the God of peace keep you and bless you. May you stay focused on Christ and covered in grace.
Maranatha ~ Come Lord Jesus!

BIBLE READING: Judges 8-9 NKJV

Gideon Subdues the Midianites

Now the men of Ephraim said to him, “Why have you done this to us by not calling us when you went to fight with the Midianites?” And they reprimanded him sharply.

So he said to them, “What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the [a]gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than [b]the vintage of Abiezer? God has delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. And what was I able to do in comparison with you?” Then their anger toward him subsided when he said that.

When Gideon came to the Jordan, he and the three hundred men who were with him crossed over, exhausted but still in pursuit. Then he said to the men of Succoth, “Please give loaves of bread to the people who follow me, for they are exhausted, and I am pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian.”

And the leaders of Succoth said, “Are[c] the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in your hand, that we should give bread to your army?”

So Gideon said, “For this cause, when the Lord has delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, then I will tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers!” Then he went up from there to Penuel and spoke to them in the same way. And the men of Penuel answered him as the men of Succoth had answered. So he also spoke to the men of Penuel, saying, “When I come back in peace, I will tear down this tower!”

10 Now Zebah and Zalmunna were at Karkor, and their armies with them, about fifteen thousand, all who were left of all the army of the people of the East; for one hundred and twenty thousand men who drew the sword had fallen. 11 Then Gideon went up by the road of those who dwell in tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah; and he [d]attacked the army while the camp felt secure. 12 When Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued them; and he took the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and routed the whole army.

13 Then Gideon the son of Joash returned from battle, from the Ascent of Heres. 14 And he caught a young man of the men of Succoth and interrogated him; and he wrote down for him the leaders of Succoth and its elders, seventy-seven men. 15 Then he came to the men of Succoth and said, “Here are Zebah and Zalmunna, about whom you ridiculed me, saying, ‘Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in your hand, that we should give bread to your weary men?’ ” 16 And he took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he [e]taught the men of Succoth. 17 Then he tore down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city.

18 And he said to Zebah and Zalmunna, “What kind of men were they whom you killed at Tabor?”

So they answered, “As you are, so were they; each one resembled the son of a king.”

19 Then he said, “They were my brothers, the sons of my mother. As the Lord lives, if you had let them live, I would not kill you.” 20 And he said to Jether his firstborn, “Rise, kill them!” But the youth would not draw his sword; for he was afraid, because he was still a youth.

21 So Zebah and Zalmunna said, “Rise yourself, and kill us; for as a man is, so is his strength.” So Gideon arose and killed Zebah and Zalmunna, and took the crescent ornaments that were on their camels’ necks.

Gideon’s Ephod

22 Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, both you and your son, and your grandson also; for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian.”

23 But Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the Lord shall rule over you.” 24 Then Gideon said to them, “I would like to [f]make a request of you, that each of you would give me the earrings from his plunder.” For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.

25 So they answered, “We will gladly give them.” And they spread out a garment, and each man threw into it the earrings from his plunder. 26 Now the weight of the gold earrings that he requested was one thousand seven hundred shekels of gold, besides the crescent ornaments, pendants, and purple robes which were on the kings of Midian, and besides the chains that were around their camels’ necks. 27 Then Gideon made it into an ephod and set it up in his city, Ophrah. And all Israel played the harlot with it there. It became a snare to Gideon and to his house.

28 Thus Midian was subdued before the children of Israel, so that they lifted their heads no more. And the country was quiet for forty years in the days of Gideon.

Death of Gideon

29 Then Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and dwelt in his own house. 30 Gideon had seventy sons who were his own offspring, for he had many wives. 31 And his concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, whose name he called Abimelech. 32 Now Gideon the son of Joash died at a good old age, and was buried in the tomb of Joash his father, in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

33 So it was, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel again played the harlot with the Baals, and made Baal-Berith their god. 34 Thus the children of Israel did not remember the Lord their God, who had delivered them from the hands of all their enemies on every side; 35 nor did they show kindness to the house of Jerubbaal (Gideon) in accordance with the good he had done for Israel.

Abimelech’s Conspiracy

Then Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem, to his mother’s brothers, and spoke with them and with all the family of the house of his mother’s father, saying, “Please speak in the hearing of all the men of Shechem: ‘Which is better for you, that all seventy of the sons of Jerubbaal reign over you, or that one reign over you?’ Remember that I am your own flesh and bone.”

And his mother’s brothers spoke all these words concerning him in the hearing of all the men of Shechem; and their heart was inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, “He is our brother.” So they gave him seventy shekels of silver from the temple of Baal-Berith, with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless men; and they followed him. Then he went to his father’s house at Ophrah and killed his brothers, the seventy sons of Jerubbaal, on one stone. But Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left, because he hid himself. And all the men of Shechem gathered together, all of Beth Millo, and they went and made Abimelech king beside the terebinth tree at the pillar that was in Shechem.

The Parable of the Trees

Now when they told Jotham, he went and stood on top of Mount Gerizim, and lifted his voice and cried out. And he said to them:

“Listen to me, you men of Shechem,
That God may listen to you!

“The trees once went forth to anoint a king over them.
And they said to the olive tree,
‘Reign over us!’
But the olive tree said to them,
‘Should I cease giving my oil,
With which they honor God and men,
And go to sway over trees?’

10 “Then the trees said to the fig tree,
‘You come and reign over us!’
11 But the fig tree said to them,
‘Should I cease my sweetness and my good fruit,
And go to sway over trees?’

12 “Then the trees said to the vine,
‘You come and reign over us!’
13 But the vine said to them,
‘Should I cease my new wine,
Which cheers both God and men,
And go to sway over trees?’

14 “Then all the trees said to the bramble,
‘You come and reign over us!’
15 And the bramble said to the trees,
‘If in truth you anoint me as king over you,
Then come and take shelter in my shade;
But if not, let fire come out of the bramble
And devour the cedars of Lebanon!’

16 “Now therefore, if you have acted in truth and sincerity in making Abimelech king, and if you have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, and have done to him as[g] he deserves— 17 for my father fought for you, risked his life, and delivered you out of the hand of Midian; 18 but you have risen up against my father’s house this day, and killed his seventy sons on one stone, and made Abimelech, the son of his female servant, king over the men of Shechem, because he is your brother— 19 if then you have acted in truth and sincerity with Jerubbaal and with his house this day, then rejoice in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you. 20 But if not, let fire come from Abimelech and devour the men of Shechem and Beth Millo; and let fire come from the men of Shechem and from Beth Millo and devour Abimelech!” 21 And Jotham ran away and fled; and he went to Beer and dwelt there, for fear of Abimelech his brother.

Downfall of Abimelech

22 After Abimelech had reigned over Israel three years, 23 God sent a spirit of ill will between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech, 24 that the crime done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal might be settled and their blood be laid on Abimelech their brother, who killed them, and on the men of Shechem, who aided him in the killing of his brothers. 25 And the men of Shechem set [h]men in ambush against him on the tops of the mountains, and they robbed all who passed by them along that way; and it was told Abimelech.

26 Now Gaal the son of Ebed came with his brothers and went over to Shechem; and the men of Shechem put their confidence in him. 27 So they went out into the fields, and gathered grapes from their vineyards and trod them, and [i]made merry. And they went into the house of their god, and ate and drank, and cursed Abimelech. 28 Then Gaal the son of Ebed said, “Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should serve him? Is he not the son of Jerubbaal, and is not Zebul his officer? Serve the men of Hamor the father of Shechem; but why should we serve him? 29 If only this people were under my [j]authority! Then I would remove Abimelech.” So [k]he said to Abimelech, “Increase your army and come out!”

30 When Zebul, the ruler of the city, heard the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, his anger was aroused. 31 And he sent messengers to Abimelech secretly, saying, “Take note! Gaal the son of Ebed and his brothers have come to Shechem; and here they are, fortifying the city against you. 32 Now therefore, get up by night, you and the people who are with you, and [l]lie in wait in the field. 33 And it shall be, as soon as the sun is up in the morning, that you shall rise early and rush upon the city; and when he and the people who are with him come out against you, you may then do to them [m]as you find opportunity.”

34 So Abimelech and all the people who were with him rose by night, and [n]lay in wait against Shechem in four companies. 35 When Gaal the son of Ebed went out and stood in the entrance to the city gate, Abimelech and the people who were with him rose from lying in wait. 36 And when Gaal saw the people, he said to Zebul, “Look, people are coming down from the tops of the mountains!”

But Zebul said to him, “You see the shadows of the mountains as if they were men.”

37 So Gaal spoke again and said, “See, people are coming down from the center of the land, and another company is coming from the [o]Diviners’ Terebinth Tree.”

38 Then Zebul said to him, “Where indeed is your mouth now, with which you said, ‘Who is Abimelech, that we should serve him?’ Are not these the people whom you despised? Go out, if you will, and fight with them now.”

39 So Gaal went out, leading the men of Shechem, and fought with Abimelech. 40 And Abimelech chased him, and he fled from him; and many fell wounded, to the very entrance of the gate. 41 Then Abimelech dwelt at Arumah, and Zebul [p]drove out Gaal and his brothers, so that they would not dwell in Shechem.

42 And it came about on the next day that the people went out into the field, and they told Abimelech. 43 So he took his people, divided them into three companies, and lay in wait in the field. And he looked, and there were the people, coming out of the city; and he rose against them and [q]attacked them. 44 Then Abimelech and the company that was with him rushed forward and stood at the entrance of the gate of the city; and the other two companies rushed upon all who were in the fields and killed them. 45 So Abimelech fought against the city all that day; he took the city and killed the people who were in it; and he demolished the city and sowed it with salt.

46 Now when all the men of the tower of Shechem had heard that, they entered the [r]stronghold of the temple of the god Berith. 47 And it was told Abimelech that all the men of the tower of Shechem were gathered together. 48 Then Abimelech went up to Mount Zalmon, he and all the people who were with him. And Abimelech took an ax in his hand and cut down a bough from the trees, and took it and laid it on his shoulder; then he said to the people who were with him, “What you have seen me do, make haste and do as I have done.” 49 So each of the people likewise cut down his own bough and followed Abimelech, put them against the [s]stronghold, and set the stronghold on fire above them, so that all the people of the tower of Shechem died, about a thousand men and women.

50 Then Abimelech went to Thebez, and he [t]encamped against Thebez and took it. 51 But there was a strong tower in the city, and all the men and women—all the people of the city—fled there and shut themselves in; then they went up to the top of the tower. 52 So Abimelech came as far as the tower and fought against it; and he drew near the door of the tower to burn it with fire. 53 But a certain woman dropped an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head and crushed his skull. 54 Then he called quickly to the young man, his armorbearer, and said to him, “Draw your sword and kill me, lest men say of me, ‘A woman killed him.’ ” So his young man thrust him through, and he died. 55 And when the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, they departed, every man to his [u]place.

56 Thus God repaid the wickedness of Abimelech, which he had done to his father by killing his seventy brothers. 57 And all the evil of the men of Shechem God returned on their own heads, and on them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal.

Footnotes

  1. Judges 8:2 Few grapes left after the harvest
  2. Judges 8:2 The whole harvest
  3. Judges 8:6 Lit. Is the palm
  4. Judges 8:11 Lit. struck
  5. Judges 8:16 disciplined
  6. Judges 8:24 Lit. request a request
  7. Judges 9:16 Lit. according to the doing of his hands
  8. Judges 9:25 Lit. liers-in-wait for
  9. Judges 9:27 rejoiced
  10. Judges 9:29 Lit. hand
  11. Judges 9:29 So with MT, Tg.; DSS they; LXX I
  12. Judges 9:32 Set up an ambush
  13. Judges 9:33 Lit. as your hand can find
  14. Judges 9:34 Set up an ambush
  15. Judges 9:37 Heb. Meonenim
  16. Judges 9:41 exiled
  17. Judges 9:43 Lit. struck
  18. Judges 9:46 fortified room
  19. Judges 9:49 fortified room
  20. Judges 9:50 besieged
  21. Judges 9:55 home

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