Almost overnight, Susan Boyle became a household word around the world. A little more than a year ago, Boyle appeared on the UK television program Britain’s Got Talent and stunned the judges (and audience) with a powerful voice that belied her plain appearance.
Later, she released an album that, in only six weeks of sales, became the biggest selling album in the world for 2009, with over 8.3 million copies sold. At last count, her audition of I Dreamed A Dream has registered over 347 million hits. This month, Susan Boyle was voted by Time Magazine as the seventh most influential person in the world—fourteen places above US President Barack Obama.
Part of Boyle’s appeal was that she looked so…so…normal. Yet she proved that almost anyone can get famous.
And many of us try.
The reality television genre has taken the world by storm. In fact, the pursuit of being famous has taken the world by storm.
But is this good for us?
Please join me as we examine the topic in today’s Daily Bible Conversation.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Judges 19:1-20:48. Notice how the writer of Judges reminds the reader that Israel had no king (19:1). This tells us that the book was written during or after King Saul’s reign, because he was the first king. The phrase is usually used to preface yet another disturbing story (which is really a window into the everyday life of the surrounding nations).
Today’s disturbing story in chapter 19 focuses on a Levite who “took a concubine.” The Bible Background Commentary explains what a concubine is, especially related to this passage:
A concubine is a secondary wife who has probably come into the marriage without a dowry. Her children may only receive a portion of their father’s estate if he chooses to publicly acknowledge them as his heirs…It is possible that this sort of arrangement became necessary when the first or principal wife was infertile…however, in most cases in which a marriage contract is made with the father of a woman who will be considered a concubine, there is an assumption of a lesser status than a regular wife. Thus the Levite may have simply contracted for a sexual partner, since his social status would ordinarily have required a wife of certain attributes (see Leviticus 21:7). This may explain why he was in no hurry to bring his concubine home (Judges 19:2).
I don’t know what is more disturbing in this story: the fact that a group of men would terrorize the outsider or that the man would offer his concubine to be raped by them. The New Bible Commentary singles out one individual in the story as worse than the others:
The Levite himself, however, is the most perverted of all. After having thrust out his concubine to the mob he retired to bed and apparently gave no further thought to her until he found her dead or unconscious on the doorstep in the morning. Then, with almost unbelievable callousness, he told her to get up because he was ready to go (verses 27–28). This was the man who will summon all Israel to war in the next episode. In retrospect we can understand very well why his concubine found it impossible to live with him.
Then we read that this nameless Levite, the poor husband, callously cuts up his wife and distributes her parts around Israel to galvanize the rest of the count. Of course, the Levite fails to explain this his concubine was killed in part because he turned her over to the men.
Once the battle ensues, it becomes obvious that God intended defeat on both sides. Although far outnumbering their enemies, Israel needed three tries before defeating the Benjamites, at the cost of many lives.
So why include this story in the Bible? It demonstrates for the reader the moral depravity of Israel at that time and the need for a leader who would maintain order.
John 3:22-4:3. Perhaps the greatest model of humility in Scripture is John the Baptist. A powerful speaker who was generating a great following, he yielded everything to Jesus without hesitation.
Psalm 104:24-35. My heart resonate with the prayer of the psalmist in verses 33-34: “Oh, let me sing to God all my life long, sing hymns to my God as long as I live! Oh, let my song please him; I’m so pleased to be singing to God.”
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
First, please understand that I’m not against Susan Boyle. Re-watching her audition today brought tears to my eyes. And, I must also confess that I sent in an audition tape to the television show Survivor back in 2001.
But in today’s reading, John the Baptist exhibited a sense of humility that would definitely prevent him from auditioning for any television reality show. John the Baptist was growing in popularity—the desire of many people then and now—when his followers gave him a shock. People were now flocking to Jesus. John was losing his audience.
Yet this man, the greatest prophet of all according to Jesus, responded to the claim by saying, “He must become greater; I must become less.” Other versions of the Bible translate this verse as, “He must increase but I must decrease.” The Message paraphrases John as saying, “This is the assigned moment for him to move into the center, while I slip off to the sidelines.
All of us fight a lifelong battle with self-absorption. Periodically, God gives us opportunities to work on it.
Perhaps you have no interest in becoming a media sensation. But all of us can still get our feelings hurt when people take credit for work we’ve done or we don’t get treated as we think we deserve.
The only way we can reach the point where we can say with all sincerity that “He must increase but I must decrease” is by taking advantage of the opportunities as they arise.
Not so ironically, this was the attitude of Jesus as well. Read John 17 and you’ll see Jesus wasn’t intent on making a name for himself. He lifted up his father in heaven, who lifted him up in return.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- Describe a time when you chose to increase rather than decrease. How did it affect you? What would you do differently?
- Describe a time when you chose to decrease rather than increase. How did it affect you? Where you content with your decision?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.