What we are reading this week (beginning Wednesday, November 11, 2020):
• Judges 14-20
• Habakkuk 1-3 ~ Zephaniah 1-3 ~ Haggai 1
• 1 Peter 3-5 ~ 2 Peter 1-3 ~ 1 John 1
Notes on Judges
We find our friend Samson again in chapter 14. Then as now big, tough guys were chick magnets, and this led to a lot of trouble for him. Keep in mind that his story is presented because he was appointed as a judge in Israel. His story is a tragic account of wasted opportunity.
It’s hard to imagine just how fierce this man was. In a fit of anger he could just go down the street and take out 30 guys (see 14.19). Of course, the Spirit of God would come upon him to empower him to do this.
But here he was only warming up. After they killed his wife, he picked up a donkey’s jawbone and went out and killed a thousand more (see 15.15).
His tenure as a judge was 20 years (15.20).
The famous story of Samson and Delilah is given to us in chapter 16. After he gave her misleading information and she followed through trying to subdue him three times, why could he not figure out that she was seriously trying to take him down? Hormones can do that to you.
Following Samson's ordeal, beginning in chapter 17 we see Israel starting to come completely come off the rails spiritually. Idolatry became tangled upon with the worship of Yahweh. This would not end well.
The young Levite Micah is stolen away from his master by a group of Danites. They enlist him to lead them in the worship of idols.
And then we come to the absolute pinnacle of wickedness in the horrible spiritual condition of Israel in chapter 19, the Levite and his concubine. You can read it yourself. I will not spoil the terrible story for you, if you are not already familiar with it.
Because of the wickedness we found in the chapter 19 episode, the Benjamites are attacked by the all of other tribes. Even though in the first offense they fought valiantly, the second time they lost so badly that the entire tribe was nearly exterminated.
Will see the aftermath next week.
Notes on Habakkuk
Many of you know that this is one of my favorite books, certainly my favorite of the minor prophets.
The story line has to do with the justice of God. God uses ungodly people to do his work, sometimes using those more ungodly than the people that they are used to inflict judgment upon. Habakkuk complains to God about this in a set of official complaints, and God responds to each of them.
The prophet is in turmoil because God seems to be acting against his own nature: “Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?”
And, “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil. You cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Why is and you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?”
It is not possible to get an exact answer to any of these questions. But God reveals the end product: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
Habakkuk reflects on all this: “The Lord is in his holy temple. Let all the Earth be silent before him” (2.20).
And then his prayer in the final chapter begins with this: “Lord, I have heard of your fame. I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known. In wrath remember mercy.”
In the closing, verses 17-18 are great words to hold on to when all seems lost.
Notes on Zephaniah
Zephaniah is the great-great-grandson of Hezekiah. He is the only prophet given such a deep ancestry. This means he had royal blood in him.
Hezekiah had been one of the very best kings of Judah. However, his son Manasseh turned out to be one of the very worst, with long and terrible reign of 55 years. His son Amon was only seated a couple years until Josiah came to the throne.
Josiah was an excellent, godly king and strove to reform Judah. But God gave him the word early on that it was already too late, the Lord had already decreed judgment on Judah, and everything would be coming down. This is the time of Zephaniah’s prophecy.
The Day of the Lord is laid out in chapter one. There are positives about that Day and there are negatives. There will be wonderful things for the faithful to look forward to, and their terrible things for the unfaithful to anticipate. This chapter is completely about the latter.
As judgement is on the way, God reaches out to any of those that would still humble themselves at this point (2.3).
After this, the prophet goes on to prophesy against several of the surrounding nations.
In the third and final chapter, the prophet targets the city of Jerusalem. Once again, death and destruction are all he has to offer them. However as is often the case, the book is closed with a promise of the eventually restoration of the remnant.
A wonderful song of praise in found in 3.17: “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you. In his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”
Notes on Haggai
This is the only book in the entire Bible with exactly two chapters. Haggai appears after the exile in an anti-climactic time for Israel. The 70 years of exile are behind them. Jerusalem has been rebuilt. Cyrus, King of Persia, the reigning world power, has been replaced by Darius, who is amenable to the Jews.
The good king is willing to allow Haggai and his people to rebuild their temple.
Haggai serves along with Zerubbabel, the appointed governor, and Joshua, the high priest. This is a trio of godly men that Israel desperately needed during this time period.
In the first chapter, the prophet gives the people the word from the Lord that the time has come to rebuild the temple. They’ve been focused on building their own houses, now it’s time to build God’s house.
Notes on 1 Peter
At the beginning of chapter 3, Peter gives us a parallel message to the writing of Paul regarding marriage that we find in Ephesians 5.
Peter points out that being inconsiderate to wives can affect a husband’s prayer effectiveness (see 1.7).
Then he returns to the very common theme of suffering for the faith. Peter describes Jesus as having “made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits.” There are a lot of theories about where and when this happened and what it all means, but nobody knows for sure.
Chapter 4 stays with the theme of living for God while enduring persecution. This is something that Peter and the rest of the original disciples certainly knew well.
He ends this short letter with instructions for elders of the beginning of chapter 5. His well-known words, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” are directed to church leadership.
And as he draws to an end, we find words that are of the most useful and encouraging statements we find anywhere in 5.7: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
Notes on 2 Peter
After personally spending a lot of time working through a series on 2 Peter, I’ve come to appreciate this little book in an enormous way. It is significant that Peter, the one person closer to Jesus during his earthly years than anyone else, is giving his very last message to the world before he died. It’s a book thereby worthy of intense study.
He opens up in chapter one by declaring the power of God that works in us, the divine nature.
In verses five through seven he goes a list of characteristics which I believe are the pattern for discipleship growth. We start with faith and it eventually leads to love, with many important milestones along the way. All of these should be developing at one level up another as we go, but we should look to see where we are fully aligned to know what the focus of the next step in our spiritual walk should be.
These qualities, he reminds us, will make us effective and productive in our spiritual walk (1.8).
At the end of the chapter, beginning his summary in verse 20, Peter is alluding to the coming of the increase of Scripture itself. Up to that point, they only had what we know today as the Old Testament. But with the death and resurrection of Jesus, there would be more on the way as the teachings of Jesus would be written down and passed along.
All of chapter two is about false teachers and their destruction. I don’t know anywhere else in the Bible where it goes into such detail about the horrible end to those who present a false message (even though there is a lot of overlap with the Book of Jude). It would be well worth such a person’s time to read this to make sure that they really do want to present a counterfeit gospel.
The last chapter, Peter’s very last word to us, is about the Day of the Lord. Once again, he paints a very large picture with awesome and astonishing details.
Notes on 1 John
Coming on the heels of the amazing man of God, Peter, is the apostle John. He likewise was extremely close to Jesus, both spiritually and physically. His theme will be truth and love.
His opening statement shows us why the gospels are so powerful. He is talking about the things that he himself has heard, the things that he himself has seen, the things that he himself has looked at and has touched, and now proclaims concerning the Word of life.
The assurance of salvation found in verse 1.9 is as comforting as it is simple: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Of course, this is immediately followed up with a warning of the folly of anyone to claim to be without sin.