Apprehension, anxiety, and discord are epidemic in our society. We are living in a chaotic, dangerous world that is torn by division and strife over a myriad of matters. There is a concerted and coordinated effort to excite aggression, and provoke division in our communities, churches, schools, and families. Government bureaucrats, politicians, media personalities, institutions, and corporate entities are diminishing our Constitutional liberties.
Unlawful mandates attack our individual right to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” and are eroding the most fundamental and sacred rights of man. What our nation’s founders declared to be self-evident truths, “endowed by [our] Creator,” are being battered by an unrelenting socialist ideology that attacks “individual soul liberty.”
A Bible Challenge for 2022
More than ever, we need to “think biblically,” and exercise godly wisdom and discernment. In a world that questions and challenges the most basic, fundamental facts, we need a sure foundation, and that foundation is the LORD, and His immutable Word!
Heart of A Shepherd 2-Year Scripture Reading ScheduleAfter listing an inventory of sins and wickedness that would characterize “the last days” (2 Timothy 3:1-7), Paul challenged Timothy: “Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of…16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:14-17).
I challenge you to follow the Daily Bible Reading schedule for 2022, and subscribe to this pastor’s daily devotional posts at www.HeartofAShepehrd.com.
I remind you that 2 Chronicles was penned after the Babylonian captivity, and was a historical record of the time of the kings in Israel, whose history was recorded prior to the Babylonian captivity in the Book of 1 Kings.
The events recorded in today’s Scripture reading were the subject of an earlier devotional in 1 Kings 12, and follows the northern ten Tribes’ succession from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin who were loyal to the king. Rehoboam had raised up an army to put down the insurrection, however, God had forbidden him to go to war against his brethren (2 Chronicles 11:1-4; 1 Kings 12:21-24). Rehoboam then set out to improve the defenses of the cities in Judah, and built walls to fortify his strong holds (11:5-12).
Remaining loyal to Rehoboam, and rejecting the idolatry of northern Israel, “the priests and the Levites that were in all Israel resorted to him out of all their coasts,” leaving their lands and houses (11:14a). Adding to his wickedness, Jeroboam not only established his golden calves as objects of worship in Israel, he also rejected the priests of the LORD, and “ordained him priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made” (11:15).
Jeroboam’s disobedience, and his rejection of God launched an exodus out of the northern tribes of those who had “set their hearts to seek the Lord God of Israel [and] came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice unto the Lord God of their fathers” (11:16). The departure of those faithful to the LORD left Israel weakened, for “they strengthened the kingdom of Judah, and made Rehoboam the son of Solomon strong, three years: for three years they walked in the way of David and Solomon.”
A record is given in the closing verses of 2 Chronicles 11 regarding king Rehoboam’s personal life (his wives, concubines, and children). Most notably are the names found in 2 Chronicles 11:20: “20And after her he took Maachah the daughter of Absalom; which bare him Abijah, and Attai, and Ziza, and Shelomith.”
A point of explanation is necessary regarding Maachah (11:20). The Hebrew word for “daughter” described a female offspring, albeit daughter, granddaughter, or even a great granddaughter. Because we know Absalom [the rebel son of king David], had only one daughter and she was named Tamar (2 Samuel 14:27), we must conclude that Maachah was in fact an offspring of Absalom, but was most likely his granddaughter. So, we learn that Rehoboam’s favorite wife was Maachah, who was his second cousin, and the mother of Abijah who would suceed him as king (11:22; 12:16, 13:1).
2 Chronicles 12 is a review of the tragic events we have considered in an earlier study of 1 Kings 14. This final chapter in Rehoboam’s life serves as a reminder to all, and especially those who are leaders, of what becomes of a man, family, or organization when its leader(s) forsake the LORD, by forsaking His law and commandments. Strong, and confident in his early years as king, Rehoboam failed the most important step to success in spiritual leadership: “He did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the LORD” (12:14).
Failing to follow in the spiritual footsteps of his father, “it came to pass, when Rehoboam had established the kingdom, and had strengthened himself, he forsook the law of the Lord, and all Israel with him” (12:1). The tragic consequences of his failure to humble himself before the LORD and obey His law, led Israel away from the LORD, and invited God’s judgment.
The tool of God’s judgment was Shishak, king of Egypt, who came against Jerusalem with a coalition of peoples: “Lubims (i.e., Libyans), the Sukkiims (possibly a tribe of Arabia), and the Ethiopians of Africa (12:2). With 1200 chariots, and 60,000 cavalrymen, Shishak “took the fenced cities which pertained to Judah, and came to Jerusalem” (12:4; 1 Kings 14:25-26).
The LORD sent Shemaiah who prophesied to Rehoboam and the leaders of Judah that it was their sins that had given cause for the LORD to bring Shishak against Jerusalem (12:5). However, because Rehoboam and his leaders humbled themselves before Him, the LORD was merciful, and spared Jerusalem from destruction (12:6-7). Yet, He did not spare Rehoboam and Judah the humiliation of becoming servants to the king of Egypt (12:8).
“Shishak king of Egypt…took away the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king’s house…[and] he carried away also the shields of gold [used in pageantry] which Solomon had made” (12:9; 1 Kings 14:26). Masking his humiliation, Rehoboam commanded “shields of brass” be fashioned to replace his father’s golden shields (12:10-11).
Closing thoughts – Rehoboam reigned 17 years in Jerusalem, nevertheless, his reign was scarred by his failure to prepare “his heart to seek the LORD” (12:14). The peace Israel had enjoyed during the reign of his father Solomon was lost, and “there were wars between Rehoboam and Jeroboam continually” (12:15). Rehoboam the son of Solomon died, and “Abijah his son reigned in his stead” (12:16) over a nation that was now divided, and no longer sheltered by the LORD’S blessing.
A leader, institution, and nation that rejects the LORD, His law and commandments will surely be judged.
Nearing the conclusion of our study in the Book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon’s observations, though penned nearly 3,000 years ago, are applicable to our day. In spite of our 21st century sophistications, there continues to be, as Solomon so aptly penned, “no new thing under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
Seeing life from a human, earthly vantage, Solomon observes that good men and evil men come to the same fate. Solomon wrote, “all things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked.” What one thing do good and evil men have in common? Death (9:1-3).
Better to be living than dead (9:4-6), appears to be a statement of the obvious, but it is stated poetically by the king in Ecclesiastes 9:4-6. One proverb of that truth was, “a living dog is better than a dead lion” (9:4b). From two different spectrums, the lion was considered king, while the dog was looked upon with disgust (unlike our society that pampers dogs as pets). Solomon wisely used these two comparatives to help us visualize the great value of life (9:4).
1) Seize the day, and be happy. Live life, and enjoy the life that you live. God accepts your work, when your work is judged acceptable in His sight (9:7).
2)Set your heart to be joyful (9:8). Solomon draws a reference to the priesthood and to kings. The priests wore unstained, white garments, that represented walking in righteousness. Like the priests in Solomon’s day, we should also walk in righteousness.
3)Make your marriage a priority, and “live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life” (9:9). A happy marriage is the foundation of one’s companionship, friendship, pleasure, and joy.
4)Make the most of your labor: “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might” (9:10a). Whether in the work place, the home, or any area of life, give your best! Paul, in his letter to believers in Colosse, wrote the same sentiment: “Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Colossians 3:23).
Ecclesiastes 10:1 draws upon an analogy that is foreign to our day; however, by keeping the verse in context we can understand its truth. Recalling the original manuscript of the Scriptures would not have had verses, and chapter breaks, let us consider Ecclesiastes 10:1 by drawing upon the previous verse. We read, “Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good” (9:18). Knowing the immediate context was a reference to “one sinner” who is able to destroy “much good” we read:
“Dead flies cause the ointment[oil; perfume]of the apothecary[a clay vessel containing ointment]to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly[silliness; foolishness] him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour” (10:1).
In context with the verse prior to Ecclesiastes 10:1, I suggest we consider the “dead flies” to be “little sins” (at least from a human perspective). In the same way “dead flies” pollute the perfume and cause it to become rotten and putrid, “little sins” (i.e., “a little folly”) can discredit a wise man, and ruin his reputation (10:1).
The Influence and Character of One’s Counselors (10:12-15)
Ecclesiastes 10:12-15 states a contrast between the words and counsel of wise men, and the counsel of fools. The counsel of a wise man is described as “gracious” (10:12), meaning his words are to be looked upon with favor. However, “the lips of a fool will swallow up himself,” and anyone foolish enough to heed his counsel (10:12).
Solomon continued his admonitions regarding a fool’s counsel, stating: “The beginning of the words [counsel] of his [the fool’s] mouth is foolishness [folly]: and the end of his talk is mischievous madness.” From the outset, the words of a fool express what is in his heart—foolishness. And, where does the counsel of a fool lead? In the words of Solomon, “mischievous madness,” or sheer insanity! (10:13).
While wise men tend to be men of few words, the fool “is full of words” (10:14a), and is wise in his own eyes. And what can you teach a fool? Nothing, absolutely nothing! (10:14b) Another sad trait of a fool is he not only refuses wise counsel, but he lacks the competence to find his way “to go to the city” (10:14). In other words, he is incapable of following simple directions.
Defining the moral character of a leader (king) as “a child” (10:16), Solomon observed:
Ecclesiastes 10:16 – 16Woe to thee, O land, when thy king [leader] is a child [unwise, inexperienced, lacks discernment], and thy princes [leadership] eat in the morning!
Closing thoughts – Today’s society is often guilty of promoting incompetency over qualification. Rather than promote persons based upon their skill or moral character and merit, governments, corporations, educational institutions, and yes, churches often fail to choose leaders whose lives are a testimony to wisdom, self-disciplines, and hard work.
Failing to seek the candidates with moral character, self-discipline, and proven success, leads to the downfall of any institution, government or nations (10:16). Woe to the nation, corporation, or ministry that prefers failure, immaturity, inexperience, and self-indulgence, over godly wisdom and unwavering convictions (10:16).
We continue our study in the Book of Proverbs, and today’s Scripture reading is Proverbs 28 and 29. We will consider a proverb from each of those chapters, and this is the first of two devotional commentaries for the day.
Proverbs 28:2 – 2For the transgression of a land many are the princes thereof: but by a man of understanding and knowledge the state thereof shall be prolonged.
The truths conveyed in Proverbs 28:2 are both political and spiritual in nature. Solomon, the king of Israel, was burdened that his son be prepared to rule the nation. Understanding the powerful influence a nation’s leaders has upon its people, the king stated a couplet of wisdom that we should all understand and heed. Consider Proverbs 28:2 with this author’s amplification of the Scripture in italics and brackets:
Proverbs 28:2–“For the transgression[sin; guilt]of a land[nation; country]manyare the princes[chiefs; commanders; rulers]thereof: but by a man of understanding[discernment]and knowledge[gained by observation and experience]the state[rightness and well-being]thereofshall be prolonged[i.e., the nation shall continue to exist].”
Ponder two lessons we might take from Proverbs 28:2. The first: A rebellious, sinful nation becomes afflicted with many leaders! When a nation turns its back on God, and rejects His Laws and Commandments, its people turn to a bloated bureaucracy for its leadership (“many are the princes thereof”). Such a nation becomes weak and divided.
That truth is seen in nearly every nation of our day. Almost without exception, there is a void in principled leaders, and the world has become a more dangerous place for all. When a nation lacks timeless, unassailable principles, that nation inevitably will be ruled by government agencies, and led by corrupt, immoral politicians.
A second lesson found in our proverb is one that gives hope: “by a man of understanding and knowledge the state thereof shall be prolonged” (28:2b).
A nation is blessed when it is ruled by godly leaders who have wisdom, insight, and discernment. Whether a king, queen, president or senator–integrity and dependence on God impart a stability and sense of security that prolongs a nation’s life and prosperity.
Lesson – It is the character of a leader, not the office he holds, that defines his leadership.
That principle is true of a nation, state, city, school, church congregation, and yes, our own families. Men and women of godly character make wise decisions that pave the way to health and happiness.
Closing thoughts – The decline of a nation runs parallel to the decay in the moral fiber of its people. If you are an American, and you question why the United States has lost its role as the world’s leader and force for good—you need look no further than the character of the men and women in power. Sadly, the moral character of a nation’s leaders is indicative of its people—they are who we are!
I do not want to leave you feeling hopeless, and wrestling with despair. There is something you and I can, and must do—Pray for your nation and its leaders.
1 Timothy 2:1-2 – “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”
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The occasion of Psalm 57 is identified in its title: “To the chief Musician, Al-taschith [meaning, “do not destroy”], Michtam [a type of poem] of David, when he fled from Saul in the cave (1 Samuel 22:1; 24:1-3).
Perhaps penned in the latter years of his reign, Psalm 57 was a record of God’s mercies through the years. David, remembered he had been a fugitive from King Saul who had sought to kill him out of jealousy. Hiding in the wilderness, and finding shelter in caves, David cried to the LORD, “Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee” (57:1). He recalled his enemies, like savage lions, that had ravaged him with their words (57:4). They had schemed to entrap him, only to perish in their own wicked devices (57:6).
In spite of the sorrows and humiliations he had suffered, David’s foremost desire in those years of exile was that God would be exalted and glorified “above all the earth” (57:5). The closing verses of Psalm 57 are the king’s affirmation of his faith in God. David testified, “My heart is fixed [set; ready], O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise” (57:7). The king’s heart was full of praise, and thanksgiving. He not only wanted his people to know the mercies of the Lord, he promised, “I will sing unto thee among the nations” (57:9).
2 Samuel 23 – The Last Words and Testament of King David
Our study of David’s life is in its finale, as we turn in the Scriptures to 2 Samuel 23. The first sentence of chapter 23 moves me emotionally when I read, “Now these be the last words of David” (23:1a).
We have been privileged to examine the soul of the man whom God declared, “a man after [His] own heart” (Acts 13:22; 1 Samuel 13:14). David was far from being a perfect man; however, his tenderness toward the LORD, and his love for God’s Word and Law, are an inspiration to all sincere believers.
Ministering as a pastor, I have been an honored guest at the bedside of many dying saints. I have observed how the proximity of death stirs in a soul a reflection on things that genuinely matter in the light of eternity. The presence of the shadow of death will tend to cut away those things that once held our affections. Accomplishments, honors, and plaques on the wall, have no value when death is near.
For all his achievements, David’s life was not summed up as the giant slayer or victor over the Philistines, but as “the son of Jesse…the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel” (23:1). Though honored to have served as the king of Israel, David drew his joy from being the man to whom the “Spirit of the Lord spake…[and whose] word was in [his] tongue” (23:2)
As with many of the psalms, 2 Samuel 23:3-4, imparted words of wisdom and adoration. Identifying the LORD as, “The Rock of Israel,” David recalled God’s exhortation, “He that ruleth over men must be just, Ruling in the fear of God” (23:3). Simple, but profound! Imagine how different our world would be if men desired to have ruling over them, those who were “just” (righteous in their rulings according to God’s Law), and ruled “in the fear of God.” Such a leader would “be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth” (23:4a).
Time and space restrain an exhaustive study of the balance of 2 Samuel 23, but it is worth noting that David took time to acknowledge those men who had been his “mighty men” (23:9-39). 2 Samuel 23:13 gives the number of great warriors as “thirty,” and yet, the chapter ends stating that they were “thirty and seven in all” (23:39). How might that be? Was the number thirty, or thirty-seven an error? Also, there are a total of thirty-six men named, and not thirty-seven.
Some might disagree with my assessment of the dilemma in the number of David’s mighty men; however, I believe I have an acceptable explanation: When some of David’s mighty men perished in battle (for instance, Uriah the Hittite, 23:39), he would have chosen other men to take their place. I suggest the thirty-seventh man, and the one not named, was Joab, the brother of Abishai, whom I believe was in a league of his own.
Thirty-seven mighty men, from different backgrounds, but all had dedicated their lives to serve David, the great warrior king. David was content to be remembered as the man with whom God had established “an everlasting covenant” (23:5).
I find myself at a loss for words this morning, the 20th anniversary of the unprovoked attack by militant Muslims on the United States of America. A whirl of emotions rises up in me when I remember watching the news feed showing a passenger jet flying into the North Tower of the World Trade Center (WTC) in New York City. Seventeen minutes later, as I and millions of Americans were watching the horrific scene of fire and death in the North Tower, a second jet crashed into the South Tower of the WTC at 9:03 AM.
From all over New York City, first responders rushed to the site of the disaster, and into a scene of apocalyptic chaos. Fifty-six minutes later, at 9:59 AM, the unthinkable occurred when the South Tower collapsed into a heap of dust, debris, and fire. In spite of the terror and devastation, first responders continued their heroic efforts to save lives in the North Tower, even as those trapped in the Towers leaped to their deaths to escape the flames.
Twenty years later, and at an estimated cost of $8 trillion in the War on Terror ($2.3 trillion spent in Afghanistan), President Joe Biden announced on August 31, 2021, America’s retreat (some prefer “withdrawal”) from Afghanistan. The Biden administration abandoned an unknown number of American citizens, Afghans employed by the U.S., and Christians, knowing they would face the inevitable brutality of militant Islamic insurgents (Taliban). In addition, the U.S. left behind billions of dollars of military equipment and supplies.
The greatest toll of the War on Terror has been the loss of lives, and the physical and emotional scars of war left on soldiers, families, and our nation. Since September 11, 2001, 7,074 U.S. Military and Department of Defense civilians have given their lives in service to our nation. 20,740 U.S. military were wounded in action in Afghanistan, including 18 who were injured in the August 26, 2021 attack at the airport in Kabul. In Afghanistan alone, 2,455 U.S. soldiers were killed, including 13 who were killed at the airport on August 26, 2021.
With sorrow, I close this memorial letter with the names of the 13 service members who were killed August 26, 2021.
Navy Corpsman Maxton Soviak, 22, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David Espinoza, 20, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, 20, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, 20, Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, 23, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, 20, Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin Hoover, 31, Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosariopichardo, 25, Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole Gee, 23, Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan Page, 23, Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto Sanchez, 22, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola, 20,
Continuing our Scripture readings in the Psalms, our focus is again on one of the twelve psalms attributed to Asaph, a chief musician during David’s reign. Psalm 75 challenges us to a Biblical perspective on the sovereignty of God and His rule over the nations and people of the earth.
Psalm 75:1 summons the congregation to acknowledge God is the Supreme Ruler of His creation, and is due our thanksgiving. Twice the words of the first verse declare a spirit of thanksgiving and gratitude: “1Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks, unto thee do we give thanks: For that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare” (75:1).
Psalm 75:2-3 speaks of judgment, and some might suppose it is the rule and judgment of man that is the focus. I believe, however, that the judgment of God is the subject. Who but the LORD has the authority to receive the congregation of the saints, judge them uprightly, and weigh them in the scales of His law (75:2)?
The law and judgment of men is perpetually shaky and uncertain, but “the earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved,” will be the judgment of God’s righteous verdict. If our hope for justice was found only in the discretion of men, we would have cause for anxiety. God, however, has assured His people, “I bear up the pillars of [the earth]” (75:3). Nations rise, and nations fall, but be assured the LORD is holding up the pillars, the foundations of the world.
We find a warning to every leader who bears rule over the lives of men with a heavy, proud hand. The LORD admonished, “4I said unto the fools, Deal not foolishly: And to the wicked, Lift not up the horn [a symbol of power and strength]: 5Lift not up your horn on high [i.e. don’t abuse your office]: Speak not with a stiff [proud, stubborn] neck” (75:4-5).
How soon those in authority forget they are nothing without God! Civil government has been ordained by the LORD (Romans 13:1), and those who rule and judge have divine mandates for which they will give account. From the King or President, to the local magistrate, all in authority are commanded to be the servants of God for good, and avengers of His wrath “upon him that doeth evil” (Romans 13:4).
What of leaders who defy God’s authority, scorn His Law, and abuse their appointments?
God warned, “6For promotion cometh neither from the east, Nor from the west, nor from the south. 7But God is the judge: He putteth down one, and setteth up another” (75:6-7). God is sovereign, and He is the final Judge. He promotes and demotes, and oversees the rise and fall of nations. Like a cup of red wine that is poured out like blood, God will pour out His wrath upon wicked leaders, and “all the wicked of the earth” will drink to the full the wrath of God (75:8).
When the Foundations Shake, May the Saints Sing God’s Praises (75:9-10)
The psalmist has painted a dark picture of God’s wrath upon rulers that fail to rule righteously and lawfully. Nevertheless, the believer’s faith rests in the LORD and we should declare our faith in His holy character, and “sing praises to the God of Jacob” (75:9).
Closing thoughts – Though the foundations of a nation may be shaken, and the wicked boast and abuse their authority, be assured: “10All the horns[power and strength of their office]of the wicked also will [the LORD]cut off; But the horns of the righteous shall be exalted” (75:10).
God is just, and the wicked will face His wrath and be destroyed; however, He has promised to bless the righteous. Fools sing their own praises, and stiffen their necks against the LORD (75:5), but a wise man remembers every promotion that comes his way is an act of God’s grace (75:6).
The wise remember, “God is the judge [governor; the final dispenser of justice]: He putteth down [humbles; abases; humiliates] one, and setteth up [exalts; raises up] another” (75:7).
I invite you to return with me to Judges 7, as we continue our study in the Book of Judges. Gideon had obeyed the LORD’S command, and in return, his army was reduced to three hundred men (7:7). Humanely, the task before Gideon was an impossible one; Israel was about to face an army that numbered one hundred thirty-five thousand men (8:10).
The night before the battle, the LORD came to Gideon and “said unto him, Arise, get thee down unto the host; for I have delivered it into thine hand” (7:9). Knowing Gideon’s heart, the LORD gave him an opportunity to assuage his fear, and invited him to go with his servant, Phurah to the host of Midian, to “hear what they say; and afterward shall thine hands be strengthened to go down unto the host” (7:11).
Providentially, Gideon overheard the telling of a soldier’s dream, and the interpretation that predicted how God had “delivered Midian, and all the host” into his hand (7:14). Gideon then worshipped the LORD, and returned to his soldiers, and exhorted them, “Arise; for the Lord hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian” (7:15).
Dividing his army into three companies of one hundred men, Gideon gave each man a trumpet, a pitcher, and a lamp whose light would be concealed within the pitcher (7:16). Under the cover of darkness, Gideon commanded his men to encircle the encampment of the Midianites. He instructed his men, when they heard him blow his trumpet, they were to blow their trumpets, break the pitchers that concealed the light of their lamps, and cry with one voice, “The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon” (7:20).
The sudden blaring of the trumpets, the shouts of the soldiers, and the piercing lights of their lamps made Israel’s army appear to be a great force. In the confusion, the Midianites turned “every man’s sword against his fellow” (7:22). They fled toward the waters of the Jordan, and Gideon sent messengers to the tribe of Ephraim, whose men pursued them, and slew “two princes of the Midianites, Oreb and Zeeb…and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon on the other side Jordan” (7:25).
What a glorious moment in Israel’s history; however, though the armies of Midian were routed, Gideon would not be satisfied until all the leaders of Midian were slain.
One would think all Israel would have rejoiced with Gideon, but that was not the case. The men of Ephraim came to Gideon, and complained that he should have invited them to the battle against Midian. According to Judges 6:35, he had summoned only the tribes of Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali. How shallow, and self-centered was this protest! For seven years, Ephraim had suffered the Midianite invasion, and there is no evidence that tribe had made any effort to stand against their foe. Rather than chiding Gideon out of their wounded pride, they should have shown gratitude for his leadership!
Pursuing a remnant of the Midianite army, Gideon and his men crossed the waters of the Jordan, and entered the territory of the tribe of Gad. Passing by Succoth, Gideon appealed to its men, saying, “Give, I pray you, loaves of bread unto the people that follow me; for they be faint, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian” (8:5). The men of Succoth were of the tribe of Gad, and brethren of Israel; however, they refused to give Gideon’s men bread. He vowed to return after the battle, and warned he would “tear [their] flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers” (8:7).
Gideon went next to Penuel, another city of the tribe of Gad, and they refused his request. Angered by their heartlessness, Gideon vowed he would return, and break down their strong tower (8:9).
God blessed Gideon, and he captured the “two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and discomfited [terrified] all the host” (8:12). Faithful to his oath, he returned to Succoth, and fulfilled his promise, and “took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he taught [punished, disciplined them]” (8:16). Gideon continued to Penuel, and there “he beat down the tower of Penuel, and slew the men of the city” (8:17).
Following his victory over the Midianites, there were some in Israel who would have made Gideon king, and said to him, “Rule thou over us…for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. 23And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you” (8:22-23)
I conclude today’s devotional, on a sad note. Though Gideon was used greatly by the LORD, he was a man who made foolish decisions in the later years of his life. He raised up a memorial to his victory over Midian, overlaid it with gold, and it became an idol to some in Israel, and “a snare unto Gideon, and to his house” (8:27). He took “many wives,” and had seventy sons (8:30). When he “died in a good old age…as soon as Gideon was dead…the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim” (8:32-33).
Gideon’s life serves as a warning to any who desire to build a name, or raise up a monument to themselves. In spite of his heroism, and the adulation of the people, “the children of Israel remembered not the Lord their God…35Neither shewed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all the goodness which he had shewed unto Israel” (8:34-35).
Gideon, gone, and forgotten! If you want to have a lasting legacy; remember, it is not in what you build, but whom you serve!
“The American Experiment,” as some have described the founding of our union, began with a unanimous Declaration by thirteen colonies, who identified themselves as, “the thirteen united states of America.”
Thomas Jefferson, and fifty-five other patriots who represented their home states, declared and affirmed a foundational principle of liberty for which they were willing to lay down their lives, and sacrifice their wealth:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Jefferson went on to write, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government…”
I denoted the phrase, “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,” for we have become a nation whose government is managed by self-appointed oligarchs, and that assert powers for which we, the American people, have not consented!
I have not consented that federal, state, or municipal governments have the right to limit my freedom of speech, freedom of the press, or freedom of religion. I have not consented to politicians the authority to define the sanctity of human life, or the definition of male and female. I have not consented to the right of the state to enforce laws, guidelines, and policies that restrict my “Life, Liberty, and pursuit of Happiness.”
Ronald Reagan, the late 40th president of the United States, once said: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’” Unfortunately, the pandemic of 2020-2021 became a catalyst for politicians, judges, and bureaucrats to erode our freedoms, under the pretext that they are limiting our liberties in the interests of the citizenry.
Remember, whatever can be taken from you is effectively not yours. I fear we have lost many of the freedoms for which brave men and women have died in the service of our nation. I pray the membership of Hillsdale Baptist Church might remember our indebtedness to those who have lived, fought, and died, and in the words of Patrick Henry, declare: “Give me liberty, or give me death!”
Numbers 36 – Women’s Rights, and a Question of Inheritance
The Book of Numbers ended on an interesting note, as a concern regarding inheritance was raised once again. We considered in an earlier devotional the matter of a man’s inheritance, should he die without a son as heir (Numbers 27:7-11). A Hebrew man named Zelophehad had died without a son, and his five daughters had petitioned that they were their father’s heirs, and rightful heirs of his possession in the Promised Land (27:4-5). The LORD had directed Moses that Zelophehad’s daughters would be given their father’s inheritance (27:6-11).
Because the lands were assigned by tribes, and families, there was concern for what would become of tribal lands should a man’s heirs be his daughters (Numbers 36:1-4), and marry outside their tribe. It was contended that the lands would be lost to a tribe, should the daughters marry outside their tribe. The quandary was resolved, by the daughters being required to take a husband from their father’s tribe (36:5-9), thereby keeping the land within the tribe.
Numbers 36 concludes with the “daughters of Zelophehad,” submitting to the LORD’s will, and marrying men within their tribe. Thus, the land was secured for future generations of their tribal family (36:10-13).
Our chronological study of the Scriptures brings us to the Book of Deuteronomy, the fifth book, of the first five books of the Bible known as the Pentateuch. Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers chronicled Israel’s journey in the wilderness, and gave us a record of God’s Law and Commandments.
The Book of Deuteronomy begins at the conclusion of Israel’s wilderness wanderings, with that nation encamped at the threshold of the Promised Land. With the exception of Moses, Joshua, and Caleb, the generation that had departed Egypt, and were twenty years old and older at that time, was dead.
Deuteronomy 1 – The Final Words and Exhortation of Moses to Israel
Deuteronomy records the final words, and exhortations of a man that had shepherded Israel forty years. We read: “And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spake unto the children of Israel, according unto all that the LORD had given him in commandment unto them” (1:3).
It was important for Moses to rehearse with that generation who they were, from whence they came, and God’s plan for the nation. Moses challenged the people, “8Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them” (Deuteronomy 1:8).
Much as a man might research his ancestral family tree to know the history of his lineage, Moses sought to pass to the new generation a knowledge of not only their physical ancestry, but more importantly, their spiritualheritage as God’s chosen people.
The balance of the first chapter of Deuteronomy served as a recap of Israel’s forty years in the wilderness, and the previous generation’s refusal to trust the LORD. For any who might question why the generation before them had perished in the wilderness, Moses reminded them as a nation:
Deuteronomy 1:32–38 – 32Yet in this thing ye did not believe the Lord your God, 33Who went in the way before you, to search you out a place to pitch your tents in, in fire by night, to shew you by what way ye should go, and in a cloud by day. 34And the Lord heard the voice of your words, and was wroth, and sware, saying, 35Surely there shall not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land, which I sware to give unto your fathers, 36Save Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him will I give the land that he hath trodden upon, and to his children, because he hath wholly followed the Lord. 37Also the Lord was angry with me for your sakes, saying, Thou also shalt not go in thither. 38But Joshua the son of Nun, which standeth before thee, he shall go in thither: encourage him: for he shall cause Israel to inherit it.
History is important, and only a doomed society dare deny its history, and fail to learn from its past. Eradicating the history, and symbols of a nation might pacify a few, but it will invariably destine its people to repeat its failures.
In the words of the British statesman, Winston Churchill: “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”