Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Apr 13 2019 - Judges 21 – No king in Israel

The last few chapters of the book of Judges make disturbing reading. In chapter 19 we read (though thankfully, you have not read) of a Levite from Ephraim who took a concubine (a woman who would be his partner but whom he did not marry) from Bethlehem. His concubine ends up being gang-raped by men from the tribe of Benjamin and dies on the threshold of the house where he is staying. In response, the Levite cuts the body of his concubine into twelve pieces sending them off to the twelve tribes of Israel. All Israel is so shocked by all this that the other tribes assembled in war against the tribe of Benjamin, slaughtered their fighting men and destroyed their cities, along with their women and cattle. Only six hundred men from Benjamin survived by fleeing from the battle into the wilderness. This is the background to Judges 21.

In chapter 21 we read of how the Israelites went about trying to ensure that the tribe of Benjamin did not die out. They needed to provide wives for the fighting men who had fled and now returned but were faced with the problem that the tribes had taken an oath that none of them would allow their daughters to marry men from the tribe of Benjamin. Their perverse solution was to tell the remaining men from Benjamin to snatch women for themselves when young girls from Shiloh came out to dance in the vineyards. The entire story is horrific and revolting. It speaks of the depravity into which the Israelites had fallen. It could hardly be argued that they were acting as a light to the nations.

The author of the Book of Judges adds his own verdict when he concludes his book by saying, "In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit" or, "did what was right in their own eyes" (21:25, see also 17:6; 18:1; 19;1). The reason for such anarchy and wickedness in Israel is put down to the fact that they had no king to lead them. They need a king to enforce law and order and put an end to this tribal feuding. So the Book of Judges prepares the way for the Book of Samuel with its narrative of Israel's first kings.

But, as we shall soon see, Israel's kings are by no means the solution to their problems. All too often, Israel's kings failed, either because of their own lack of obedience to God or because they lacked the ability to exercise a gracious rule over all of his people. The answer to anarchy is not any old king; it requires God's people to be governed by the right kind of king.

We recognise that the world in which we live, for all its claims to civilisation and its complex levels of government and control, is not really so very different from the world of the time of the Judges – too many still do what is right in their own eyes. What is the answer to the disorder that marks our world?. King Jesus alone can bring an end to the anarchy and disorder that mark a sinful world. He is the only hope for a disordered world; the one of whom it is written,

The government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and for ever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Father in heaven, we pray that the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ may be established in power and that your will may be done on earth as it is in heaven. Help us to tell others about him whose government alone will bring in that kingdom of peace, justice and righteousness. Enable us by your Spirit to live day-by-day under his gracious rule that others may see something of the glory of your coming kingdom.

Apr 13 2013 - Luke 16:1-18 – Worldly wealth

The parable Jesus told concerning a manager who squandered his master's money presents the interpreter with a series of difficult issues. Why would the master commend his servant for giving away the master’s money?

There are two main interpretations of the steward's action. The traditional interpretation is that the manager acted corruptly at every point in the story. Having wasted his master's goods while acting as steward, he finally proceeded to falsify the accounts of his master's debtors by reducing the amounts owed in order to obtain their goodwill. A second interpretation suggests that, in accordance with the master’s command and custom, the steward had included in the original accounts the interest due on the deferred payments. But God's law forbade the charging of interest – a point we have often forgotten! What the steward did was to reduce the debtor's accounts by the amount of the interest due. In this way he pleased the debtors, acted legally himself and put his master in a good light. Not only could the master not condemn his servant, he had to acknowledge that he had done what is right. More than that, the steward had gained friends for himself in the process.

Whatever the interpretation of the parable, we have to acknowledge that it's easy to be generous with someone else's possessions. The manager in the parable wrote off part of the debt that was owed to his master to win friends for himself. He had no resources of his own but, in effect, gave away the resources of his master. Jesus says that we should do the same; "I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings" (Luke 16:9).

We should recognise that we have nothing of our own; all that we have has been entrusted to us by our heavenly Father. This recognition will help us to be generous with all that has been entrusted to our care. It’s given to us not that we might accumulate more for ourselves but that we might be generous to others. Be open-handed rather than tight-fisted. Such generosity is a reflection of the character of our God displayed in the Lord Jesus:

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)

In this passage, in which Paul encourages the Christians in Corinth to be generous in their giving, Paul goes on to quote from Psalm 112:9:

They have scattered abroad their gifts to the poor;
their righteousness endures forever. (2 Corinthians 9:9)

Those whose character has been reshaped to reflect that of the living God will be owned by him as his children and will "be welcomed into eternal dwellings."

It’s interesting to note that Luke follows this parable with a comment that the Pharisees were lovers of money and scoffed at the things Jesus said (Luke 16:14). Legalism destroys generosity for it breeds a spirit of self-sufficiency rather than dependency.

Be open-handed today. After all, you're not giving away what is your own; it all belongs to God and is to be used as he would wish.

Father God, forgive me when I think that what I possess is what I have earned and that it is mine and mine alone. Transform my understanding that I may see that I am a steward of all that you have placed in my hands. May my single-minded love for you keep me from the love of money. Help me to be open-handed and generous. As you have richly blessed me in the Lord Jesus, may I bring blessing to those around me.

Peter Misselbrook