Judges 11:1-12:15; John 1:1-28;
Psalm 101:1-8; Proverbs 14:13-14
I wanted to be a nun. I saw nuns as superstars...When I was growing up I went to Catholic school, and the nuns, to me, were these superhuman, beautiful, fantastic people.
I recently saw an Oprah show where the producers were allowed to see the ceremony of marriage of the young postulate nuns to Jesus Christ. The Catholic Church has ceremonies and rituals for women who become nuns and dedicate their lives to God. Within Catholic doctrine, the nuns are considered the bride of Christ, actually married to Jesus. I have pointed out many times during our readings that the Church is the bride of Christ. Jesus uses parables and teaching to establish that He is the groom and we are all His Bride and part of the wedding feast in heaven. The nuns in the Catholic Church consider this to be something exclusively tied to a vow of celibacy and poverty. Today, we see another girl who is vowed to chastity by her father.
There is controversy surrounding Jephthah of Gilead. What is described in the book of Judges would not appear to warrant his inclusion in the Hall of the Heroes of the Faith in the book of Hebrews 11:32. Therefore, I will introduce a theory that helps to establish why God considers Jephthah a man of faith.
Jephthah is the son of a prostitute. Although a great warrior, his position in life creates great suffering for him and rejection. After the nation of Israel has again done evil and is crying out to God for deliverance, Jephthah, who was sent away by his half-brothers, is now called upon to lead Israel in the fight against the Ammonites. He becomes their ruler and military commander.
Jephthah sends a written brief to the king of the Ammonites explaining Israel's right to the land. The accuracy and logic of Jephthah's message to the king of Ammon gives us an indication of his intelligence, integrity, and love for his people, the nation of Israel. He knows their history, God's provision, and the promises God has given to them about the Promised Land. Jephthah is a man of faith.
The king of Ammon ignores Jephthah's articulate argument, and then the Spirit of the Lord comes upon Jephthah. It is at this point that Jephthah makes a vow to God. There is dispute as to the interpretation of the text. Our versions indicate that Jephthah vows to dedicate whatever walks out the door of his home to the Lord and then offer it as a burnt offering. This does not follow Old Testament practice. One did not vow a burnt offering. Therefore, it can be concluded that Jephthah was vowing to dedicate whatever came out of the door to the Lord and then to separately provide a burnt offering to the Lord. Also, the Scripture says that the Spirit of the Lord came upon him. The Spirit of the Lord would never prompt a person to burn another person as a burnt offering.
The Israelites have a victory over the Ammonites. When Jephthah returns home, his only daughter comes out of the door, dancing and singing. He cries out in anguish, remembering his vow. The daughter goes with her friends to roam the hills for a couple of months, lamenting that she will always be a virgin. To me, it appears that his vow left his daughter committed to never marrying and never having children, like a nun. This would have been a tremendous sacrifice for his family. He would have no descendants because of this vow.
The Scripture is silent as to how this daughter actually dies. My belief is that if he had used his daughter as a burnt offering (this is forbidden by God in the writings of Moses), he would never have been included in the Hall of Faith. Jephthah is an example of faith and sacrifice for God. He sacrificed his own ability to have descendants because of his desire to defeat the enemies of Israel and live peacefully in the Promised Land. He sacrificed his own family for the benefit of others. He gave a burnt offering, but it was not his daughter who was burnt. My guess is that Jephthah's faith was forged in the furnace of suffering he experienced through his rejection as the son of a prostitute.
Once again we see that God uses the weak to reveal His strength. Do you get the picture? Do you see this theme repeated over and over? I guess God means it. Are you weak? God can show His strength through you!
God can use you!
Congratulations on finishing the book of Luke! Now, we are onto one of the greatest books in the Bible. It is the Gospel of John. This book is often used to teach unbelievers about Christ. That may be a mistake. This gospel is designed for people who are already believers in Christ. It has deep doctrines that are hard to grasp. It requires us to go back into the infinity of the past, the glory of the present, and the mystery of the future. John shows us Jesus in all of His humanity and deity.
Let's get going. Today, I am going to break out the first truths that John presents:
- In the beginning (of our world), the Word (hemma) already existed. Hemma is the Hebrew word for Word. It means the force of a person or their essence. Since this is capitalized, this means the essence of God already existed when our world began. - Vs.1
- He (Jesus) was with God and he WAS GOD. (Wrap your head around that one, if you can.) -Vs. 1
- He (Jesus) was in the beginning with God. (Jesus was at creation and has always existed.) -Vs. 2
- He (Jesus) created everything there is. -Vs. 3
- Nothing exists that He didn't make. -Vs. 3
- He is the author of life and light. -Vs. 4-5
- Although the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him when he came. -Vs. 10
- Even his own people from his own country did not recognize him. -Vs. 11
- To anyone who did recognize him and believe on him, he gave the right to become children of God. This is through a rebirth, not from human sexual passion, but from God. -Vs. 12-13
- So the Word (Hemma- essence) became human and dwelt among other humans on earth. -Vs. 14
- The Law was given through Moses, grace and peace come through Jesus Christ. -Vs. 17
- John the Baptist was sent to point the way to Jesus. He was not the light, but he pointed us to the light. -Vs. 8-9
- When asked who he was, John said that he was the Voice. The Voice spoke about the Word. -Vs. 19-28
You can see why I do not think this is the book to begin teaching a non-believer. These are deep and profound teachings. This is just the first chapter of John!! You can see that a knowledge of the Old Testament makes these huge concepts more understandable. The creation story is key to grasping some of this. Knowledge of the Laws of Moses helps. The concept of God as a Spirit who becomes flesh is important. This is a great chapter for Christians to memorize. When my children were young, I had them memorize John chapter 1. We would all do well to have this truth in our hearts!
Have you become a child of God through belief in Jesus?
This is a psalm of dedication to clean living. Our sanctification is a part of the process of becoming more like Jesus, every day. Read this psalm as if Jesus is speaking the words.
"Laughter can conceal a heavy heart, when laughter ends, the grief remains." So true.
What did you see today?