It Hurts So Good

Over the last two years or so, the world economy has been shaken, in large part due to American excess. Personal debt had increased dramatically while certain Wall Street CEOs were literally stealing from their companies.

Around the time the economy was beginning to disintegrate, I struck up a conversation with a local venture capitalist at a wedding reception. As he explained the excessive dishonesty and fraud taking place in the financial markets, I became increasingly incensed. What newspapers were reporting was just the tip of the iceberg.

Interestingly enough, though, the economic downtown has proven to somewhat cleanse our economy of its impurities. It isn’t perfect by any means, but downturns do tend to weed out the crooks and hangers-on. Even recently, reports of improprieties at Goldman Sachs have prompted new calls for reform.

What does this have to do with you and me?

EVERYTHING!

Read and find out.

TODAY’S READING

Remember that today’s readings cover Saturday and Sunday.

Judges 2:10-5:31
Luke 22:14-53
Psalm 92:1-94:1-23
Proverbs 14:1-4

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Judges 2:10-5:31. Shortly after Joshua’s death we read that “another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals” (Judges 2:10).

In an age of relativism, the idea of passing along our faith to our children seems politically incorrect. “Everyone should decide on their own what faith they will follow,” people say. The fact is, if we don’t pass our faith to the next generation, they likely won’t find it on their own. The gravity of our sinful nature pulls us away from God.

So, as Israel began deteriorating, God raised up judges to restore their relationship with God and mobilize them against their enemies. The Bible Background Commentary explains the role of the Old Testament judge:

In English the term judge is used to describe an official who maintains justice within the established court system. The Hebrew term used in the context of this book describes an individual who maintains justice for the tribes of Israel. This justice comes in bringing protection from foreign oppressors. Maintaining international justice was often the role of the king. What made these judges unlike kings was that there was no formal process for assuming the office, nor could it be passed on to one’s heirs. There was no supporting administration, no standing army and no taxation to underwrite expenses. So while the actual function of the judge may have had much in common with the king, the judge did not enjoy most of the royal prerogatives.

Chapter 2 also shows a pattern that Israel will follow not only with their judges, but with their kings as well:

  1. Israel provokes the Lord by worshipping other gods (verses 11–13).
  2. The Lord punishes them by handing them over to their enemies (14–15).
  3. When they are in dire straits the Lord raises up judges who save them (16–18).
  4. After the judge dies the people return to their old ways (19).

Chapter 3, then, begins a succession of judges. One of the early judges was a man named Shamgar (3:31), whom scholars believe was likely a Gentile, because he didn’t have a Hebrew name and the city he came from was clearly pagan (Anath was the name of a Canaanite goddess). When a Hebrew person wasn’t up to the task, God raised up a god-fearing Gentile!

Next, when a Hebrew or Gentile man wasn’t available, God raised up someone even more unlikely in that culture: a woman. Incidentally, the NIV does all of us a disservice in 4:4 by using the word “leading” to describe Deborah’s role instead of the more accurate word, “judging.” Their mis-translation seems to minimize her role.

Luke 22:14-53. Immediately following Jesus’ explanation of the Lord’s Supper, the disciples break into a debate about how is the greatest in the kingdom. Then Jesus says, “The greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves” (verse 26). The youngest person in the family—especially if the person were a child—held the least amount of rights in the family.

This time, while reading through the Passion narrative, I was struck by Jesus’ advice in 22:40 to “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” In fact, Jesus repeats these words again in 22:46. This not only echoes the Lord’s prayer (“lead us not into temptation”), but it also provides us with a way of escape. Granted, prayer isn’t a formula, but through prayer God changes our perspective, which often guides us away from temptation. Preceding Jesus’ words, we also read that he “went out as usual to the Mount of Olives.” Jesus was a man of prayer.

Finally, reading about Judas’ betrayal of Jesus with a kiss brought me to an abrupt halt. Whenever I tell Jesus that I love him and then live for myself, I do the very same thing.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

The last few days have been sheer delight for one of my daughters. After being grounded the last six weeks (the result of poor choices) and losing cell phone privileges for the last four months (the result of problems at school), she’s finally free.

Actually, I’ve been fairly pleased with the results. Although my daughter hated the inconvenience that came from her discipline, I’m hopeful it will bring positive change.

In today’s reading, the subject of discipline shows up quite often:

  • In Deuteronomy, we learned that God allowed other nations to terrorize Israel, in order used to restore them back to faithfulness.
  • In Luke, we read how Jesus rebuked the disciples for arguing who was the greatest in the kingdom.
  • Then in Psalm 94:12, we read “Blessed is the man you discipline, O Lord.”
  • Finally, we learned that “A fool’s talk brings a rod to his back” (Proverbs 14:3).

None of us likes discipline—from Wall Street financiers to my daughter to me. In fact, I usually interpret discipline as downright evil. Of course, I’m looking at things from my perspective. But from God’s perspective? Perhaps a little pain can bring a little life.

Picking up on yesterday’s post, where do you go with your pain? I refuse to believe that all pain is discipline from God, but if I choose to make him my dwelling place whenever it hits, than all pain can be instructive and redemptive.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What does it mean for you to be “the youngest” and “the one who serves”?
  3. Describe a time when God disciplined you? What were you like “before” and”after”? Was it worth it?

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www.bibleconversation.com

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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