Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The One Year Bible- April 26th

When I was in college I worked at Arrowhead Lutheran Camp for many summers as a counselor. Right out of college I was hired to be the program director at the camp. I was just a young kid but I had quite a bit of experience at working with children. As a counselor I always struggled with finding ways to get my campers to go to sleep. Some other counselors told ghost stories or scary tales but those freaked me out too much. Quite by accident one night I began to read stories from the book of Judges. I started with Gideon. That took about two nights then I went to Ehud, Samson, Deborah and others. My young boys really enjoyed the blood and guts stories that weren’t too scary. I liked them because they also taught that God was in control. Some people have a tough time with the book of Judges because of its violent nature and that is fine, but if you look at the stories through the eyes of a 10 year old boy you might get some understanding. The key thing to remember is that God has mercy on his people and shows his love to them by sending a judge. Not a judge that comes to condemn, but one that comes to save. Sounds kind of like Jesus doesn’t it? On to the study for this week……

Where We Have Been

The Old Testament
As I have alluded to in the opening the book of Judges is all about God’s mercy. It seems like it is about his wrath with some blood and guts thrown in for good measure but when you really look at it you see a familiar pattern emerge with all the judges. We see this same pattern when Jesus is sent as the final Judge. Why was it necessary for the Judges to come anyway? Didn’t the people promise that they would be faithful to God? What happened to the promises they made? In the first part of the book we get the answer. “The LORD was with the people of Judah and they took possession of the hill country. But they failed to drive out the people living in the plains who had iron chariots.” (Judges 1:19 NLT) The story was the same with the other tribes. Reading a bit further, “The tribe of Manasseah failed to drive out the people….” Then the tribe of Ephraim failed, then Zebulen failed, then Asher failed, then Naphtali. Then Yahweh (LORD in all caps) sent his angel (some think this may be the pre-incarnate Christ) to talk to the people. Judgment was to be upon the people. “So now I declare that I will no longer drive out the people living in your land. They will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a constant temptation to you.” (Judges 2:3 NLT) This sums up the problems that the people will encounter the rest of the Old Testament. The people living in the land and their gods will cause major problems for the people. Remember this as we read the rest of the story this year. But the LORD (Yahweh) in his infinite mercy shows love to the people and sends help. The account of each Judge has a similar pattern. It usually begins with, The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, He turned them over to their enemies for so many years. Then the LORD raised up a Judge. The people followed this Judge and were saved. The land had peace for so many years. The Judge dies and the people return to their old ways and do evil in the eyes of the LORD. Get familiar with this pattern. This is some foreshadowing of the New Testament story of Jesus. We don’t have time to discuss each Judge (we will spend more time with Gideon next week) in detail so let me give you some highlights. Ehud is my favorite. He is left-handed. Why does the writer of Judges tell us this? He was able to smuggle his dagger into the presence of the king because, being left handed he drew it from his right side. Most people carry their dagger or sword on the left side because they are right handed. Ehud was able to get close to the king and kill him because he was left handed. You see, God uses all things for his good purposes. I also think it is funny that Ehud escapes through the outhouse in the kings chambers and the attendants are so embarrassed to disturb the king when he is in the bathroom. Some commentators even suggest that the king was actually sitting on “the throne” (the one in the bathroom) when Ehud stabs him (you see why young boys like this story?). The account of Deborah is good to show that God works through women as well. God raised her up as a Judge and she led the people in battle. In the story it was another woman, Jael, who took care of the evil Sisera. Talk about girl power (both the boys and some of the girls like this story). The story of Gideon is a bit longer and has some interesting insights for us. We will talk about him next week.

The New Testament
I don’t know how many of you saw or read any of the information about the gospel of Judas that was in the news recently. I saw bits and pieces of it, but I have not studied it in great detail and I probably will not. First of all this is not something that is all together new. There are many other gospels that were written after the life of Jesus. Most of them were discussed and left out of the New Testament because they did not give the true history of the events. The gospel of Judas was written by a Gnostic group that did not believe in the humanity of Jesus (there is more to it but we don’t have time here). They were a sect of Christianity that died out hundreds of years ago. The gospel of Judas makes the claim that Judas acted on behalf of Jesus when he betrayed him and if it the story was true would change how we view not only Judas but also Jesus as well. This gospel was known at the time of the formation of the New Testament and was left out on purpose, just like the others. Why bring this up in our study? In our readings from Luke on April 23rd we have this, “Then Satan entered into Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve disciples, and he went to the leading priests and captains of the Temple guard to discuss the best way to betray Jesus to them.” (Luke 22:3-4 NLT) In my mind this shows beyond a doubt that it was Satan a.k.a. the deceiver who put the idea into Judas’ mind. The other thing that jumped out at me this week came from the scene where Jesus is before the High Priest. When Jesus is asked point blank if he is the son of God he says, “I am”. OK you say? No big deal? But, the words Jesus used are very important. When he says “I am” not only is he answering in the affirmative, he also is using the name God used when talking to Moses in the burning bush. Remember that God said his name was, “I am”. No wonder the High Priest and the others wanted Jesus dead after he had said this. Jesus goes in there and uses the name of God that the Jews to this day will not even use. Jesus was saying in no uncertian terms that he was the Christ, the promised Messiah. When we get to the Gospel of John we will see seven big “I am” statements from Jesus. Remember them when you read and pour into them the Old Testament meanings.

The Psalms
The readings from Psalm for April 26th contained Psalm 95. For those of you who remember the old 1941 Lutheran hymnal the first seven verses from this Psalm are part of the Te Daum from the service of Matins. I couldn’t help but sing that Psalm as I was reading it. You might have too.

Where We Are Going

The Old Testament
We will continue with the story of the Judges. We will spend more time with Gideon than with any other Judge. Try to see the standard form of all the accounts that we talked about above. Remember that this cycle of events will continue for the rest of the Old Testament and into the New Testament as well. Eventually the Judges will be replaced by the prophets and later Jesus.

The New Testament
We will finish the Gospel of Luke this week and we will start the Gospel of John. As a quick note, the first four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) are grouped together and are referred to as the synoptic Gospels. The basically have the same form and tell the same story. They probably leaned on one another for source material. John is its own animal all together. John is the only Gospel that mentions three different Passover celebrations which is where we get the three year ministry of Jesus. John does not have a standard birth story. John begins with creation, but more on all this next week. John also makes heavy use of metaphor. We will see Jesus referred to as the door, the lamb, the good shepherd, the gate, the way the truth the life, and others. I will give you the vital stats for the Gospel of John next week.

Key Verses
Luke 20:17-18
Psalm 89:14-15
Joshua 24:15
Psalm 90:1-2
Luke 22:42
Psalm 95:1-7


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