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May 12, Day #133 – Vanquished by His Own Weaknesses

In Judges 12-13 now, we observe Israel’s continuing national sin together with its weak, ineffective judges. Judges 12 continues the account of Jephthah – here in his struggle with the men of Ephraim – and later, in Judges 13, we will see the story of Samson. We have already seen in our previous readings the reoccurring, contentious nature of the Ephraimites. They have continued to demonstrate a spirit of disunity within the nation of Israel; we recall their sarcasm and trouble with Gideon earlier (cf., Judges 8:1). Jephthah was not as polite with the Ephraimites as was Gideon, for we note Jephthah’s self-centered tone in dealing with them – ten times he makes reference to himself about his Ammonite campaign (verses 2-3). He calls forth the men of Gilead to fight “against the Ephraimites” and struck them down (verses 4-5). Here we see God’s detailed attention to His own creation – the Ephraimite dialect could not distinguish the “sh” sound from the “ss” sound, thus, survivors could be easily identified (verse 6). This incident reminds us of Peter’s accent “giving him away” (cf., Matthew 26:73). God has so ordered and distinguished His universe all the way down to the very tongues in our mouths and our speech. In the case of Jephthah, we see that “forty-two thousand Ephraimites were killed at that time” (verse 6). Then, three minor judges – Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon – followed Jephthah over a span of the next twenty-five years. In Judges 13, we see the account of Samson’s birth – preceded by the old familiar preamble, “Again, the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD” (verse 1). Now, they will begin a long period of servitude to the Philistines – a strong, deeply religious, and wildly idolatrous people – who represent a mix of ritualistic paganism, fanatical nationalism, and antagonistic militarism. Against this mix, God is going to send a Danite and a Nazarite – a strongman – one who is supposed to be pure, separate, and dependent upon the power of God. However, instead of relying on “the weakness of God, which is stronger than man’s strength" (cf., 1 Corinthians 1:25), we will see the formidable strongman who is vanquished by his own weaknesses.

Today we also see in Psalm 59:9-17 that “God is our strength and our fortress,” on Whom we can “rely.” Too bad that Samson didn’t understand this. In verse 9, we are told to “watch” for Him, but in verse 17, we are told to “praise” Him. Between these two verses, God “goes before” David to consume his enemies so that the world will know that it is God Who rules. We also should follow this same pattern in our lives – our “watching” for God should eventually lead to our “praising” Him. He – not we – is our strength, so our responsibility is to rely on Him.

In John 6:60-7:13, Jesus says that the “flesh counts for nothing,” but “the Spirit gives life” (verse 63). Too bad that Samson didn’t know this either. In this section, Jesus is clarifying that the values of our temporal, physical realm – which is subject to all kinds of corruption – cannot compare to those of the eternal, spiritual realm, which is totally immune, removed, and separated from corruption. To understand the importance of this teaching, we must submit ourselves to it by faith (i.e., trust; belief) - it cannot be received any other way. Many people miss this because they are unwilling to exchange by faith the visibly corruptible for the invisibly incorruptible, and the end result is the forfeiture and loss of eternal life. Only Jesus has the “words of eternal life” (verse 68). In John 7:1-13, we see that Jesus traveled around Galilee, “staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take His life” (verse 1). His brothers, “who did not believe in Him,” urged Him to “show Himself and his miracles to the world, that He might become a public figure, but the right time had not yet come” (verses 4-9). Jesus was not interested in their commercialistic motivations nor in their selfish timetable. He came to serve His Father’s interests, which delayed Him. Later, “halfway through the Feast” (cf., 7:14), He went up “in secret” to the Feast in Jerusalem (verse 10). This shows us that God is patient, and He will not alter His calendar from His plan even by so much as a day.

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