June 30-July 6

 This week’s memory verses:

Exodus 20:12-17
Honor your father and your mother, that you days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
You should not murder
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.

This week’s Scripture Readings:

Judges 2:6-3:6 – Israel’s Disobedience
Judges 4:1-5:31 – Deborah Leads Israel
Judges 6:1-7:25 – Gideon Defeats the Midianites
Judges 13:1-16:31 – Samson Defeats the Philistines
Ruth 1:1-4-22 – The Story of Ruth

Day 1

Israel’s Disobedience – Judges 2-3 

Israel’s Disobedience – Judges 2 and 3 – There are two very distinct parts in this chapter. First, the Angel of the Lord appears to the Israelite people and confronts them. The Angel tells them that their failure to obey God completely (to completely rid the land of the Canaanite people) will mean that those leftover inhabitants will be a “thorn in their side.” Upon hearing this, the Israelite people begin weeping. It seems that the Israelites people may be repentant. However, the second part of this chapter makes one think otherwise. The second portion of this scripture details what will take place during the Judges cycle. The Israelite people would fall into sin and bondage, be delivered by the appointed judge, experience blessing, and eventually fall back into sin and repeat the cycle. So, what does all of this mean? First, the Israelite disobedience and choice to settle for less than what God had led to a generation and a people who were not in relationship with God, but instead honoring idols. When this happened, the cycle of the judges began. God gave them over to their sinful desires, and the consequences that came with it, to let them see their need for Him. Then, he would raise up a deliverer to save the people. Sadly, the Israelite people would eventually turn away again. Now, we do not have to fear falling away repeatedly. Our deliverer, Jesus Christ, died once and for all to provide complete victory over sin and death. The Holy Spirit enables us to live into that love and sacrifice in a way that pleases God. We have a power and assurance the Israelite people did not have. We have no excuse to not guard our hearts and resist the pain and bondage that can come from our sinful desires.

In this chapter, the first three judges are described. Othniel, Ehud, and Shamgar are all introduced to us. They may have funny names but the way in which the Lord used these three men is remarkable. Othniel defeated the Mesopotamian king that had Israel in slavery for 8 years. Ehud assassinates a king and leads the Israelites in a war against Moab, who had enslaved Israel for nearly twenty years. Shamgar killed 600 Philistines with an ox goad. At every turn, the Israelite people found themselves in bondage because of their sin, and one of these deliverers would save them. Then, the cycle would continue. The Israelite people only sought God when the consequences of their actions were felt. Otherwise, they were happy to do as they pleased. God did not have to raise up a deliverer, much less three. It is in mercy and grace that God gave Israel these Judges. However, these judges were not a permanent solution to the sin and corruption that plagued the Israelite heart. They will eventually cry for a king. They need a heavenly king, they need the Messiah to deliver them from sin.


Day 2

Deborah Leads Israel – Judges 4-5 

This chapter introduces the fourth judge, Deborah. Once Ehud and the other judges had passed away, the cycle of sin and disobedience began again for the Israelite people. This time, Jabin, king of Canaan, was the oppressor that God used to get the attention of the people of Israel. Jabin’s army, full of technologically advanced chariots and a ruthless commander named Sisera, threatened to destroy the much smaller group of Israelite people. Under the leadership of Deborah, and through her encouragement of Barak, the Israelite people rally to fight their oppressor. God gave the people victory over the stronger army of Sisera, and, eventually, against Jabin. Deborah played a big role in this victory. She acted as an encourager who built up the faith of Barak and the other warriors. She continually showed all the people of Israel that God, as the true King, will go before his people into battle, defend his people, and be victorious. This account of the fourth judge has some application for us as well. First, we too can encourage others in their faith by exercising our own God-given gifts and personalities. However, we can only encourage as we believe ourselves. If Deborah had doubted, or not been so close with the Lord, she never would have been able to help Barak or the Israelite people. We need each other in our joint pursuit of the Lord. If we as individuals are not daily pursuing the Lord, we may miss a chance to minister to someone in a way that might encourage them to grow closer with God.

This chapter contains what is most often referred to as the “Song of Deborah.” There are several aspects to this song. The song discusses God’s preservation of Israel, the oppression experienced under Canaanite rulers, the victory experienced over Sisera and Jabin, and the tribes who took part in the victory (as well as the tribes that did not). We also learn from this song the exact way that God provided victory over the technologically advanced Canaanites: rain. God caused it to rain, which created mud, and caused the chariots to get stuck. Along with this descriptive information, we should also note the theme of the song. The song constantly references what a joy and blessing it is to be a willing instrument of the Lord. We see very clearly how much different it is to be a submitted follower of the Lord (like Deborah and Barak) instead of his enemy (like Sisera and Jabin). Are we willing to be his instrument, to be used how he sees fit? Are we willing to fight the things that he wants fought (like sin) or do we make concessions and excuses? Jesus made no excuses or concessions in his fight against sin, death, and hell. Instead, his complete obedience led to a total victory. Let us look to his example and leadership as we strive to fight our battles in the same way.

Day 3

Gideon Defeats the Midianites – Judges 6-7

In this chapter concerning Gideon, the next judge, many things take place which are worth noting. First, as we have seen time and time again, the judges cycle continues. After 40 years of peace (following the victory over Sisera and Jabin), the Israelites people fall into sin and complacency. They are placed into bondage and Midianite rule. It is at this point, when all other efforts seem to fail, that the Israelite people cry out. God sends an unnamed prophet who informs the Israelite people that God is still the God who brought them out of Egypt even if they haven’t listened to him or obeyed him. Let me take a moment to apply these points to us. Too often we turn to God only after all of our efforts have failed instead of turning to him first. Also, we tend to blame other things for our disobedience. It was not the midianites that were the problem, it was Israel’s disobedience. Following the prophet’s declaration, God raises up Gideon to be the next judge. Gideon knows God past character, knows the Israelite people have been disobedient, and knows his own personal limitations. This knowledge and humility make Gideon a perfect candidate for judge. However, one quickly recognizes that Gideon requires a lot of signs from God to prompt him to do what he has been called to do. Gideon’s faith is certainly imperfect, but it is better than no faith. Before we judge Gideon to harshly, how often do we look for signs? How many times have you asked for something to happen or not happen in order to know what you should do? There is only one sign we need to look for and that is the cross of Jesus Christ. All power, all assurance, all strength, and all direction can be found in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. When we wonder if we should do something, or if we should say something, let us not ask for a sign but instead look to the cross. Is what we think we should do or say strengthening our faith and dependence on him, or leading someone else to him? Is what we think we should do being done because he has called us to it and will empower us, or is it done out of our own power and decision-making?


Here we have a description of God preparing the army of Gideon to go against the Midianites. The preparation in this chapter is not what you would expect. There are 32,000 in Gideon’s army who are going to go up against 135,000 Midianites. God reveals that Gideon’s army is too big. God does not want the Israelite people to think this victory is associated with the number of men in their army. Thus, he instructs Gideon how to begin removing men. First, Gideon tells all of those who are afraid to leave. This takes the number of the army down to 10,000. God tells Gideon that there are still too many men and that Gideon should take the remaining men to the river for another test. This time all the men who used their hand to lap up the water were chosen for the army and all of those who got on their knees were dismissed. Thus, the number of men went from 10,000 to 300. Essentially, God has removed two groups from the army: those who had no faith in what the Lord could do and those who were worried about their own convenience more than anything else. With the 300 faithful soldiers, Gideon executes a strange battle plan. The men snuck up on the enemy camp at night, broke lanterns, blew horns, and shouted. The enemies woke up confused and began attacking one another. They thought they were being attacked by an army larger than themselves. Gideon and his 300 were victorious. The question is this: do you trust the Lord? Are you one of the soldiers that does not trust that God will really do what he says? Are you one of those soldiers who is more concerned about his or her convenience than anything else? Or, are you one of his soldiers that will trust him, obey him, and follow him – even when the plan or the call seems outrageous? If you are in one of the first two camps (doubting or worried about your convenience), know that Jesus stands ready to offer you a chance to repent and the strength to do what God has called you to do. Everything you need is in him. If you find yourself in camp with the 300, know that God stills holds you and keeps you. He will continue to strengthen you as you fight the fight he has called you to, in the way he has called you to fight.


Day 4

Samson Defeats the Philistines – Judges 13-16
Chapters 13 and 14 describe the birth of Samson, the next judge, and the early years of his life. The way in which Samson is born is quite miraculous. Manoah, Samson’s father, and his barren wife never thought they would have a son. Once the Angel of the Lord appears to them, it becomes clear that they will conceive. Samson is soon born and the Holy Spirit comes upon. However, as promising as Samson’s birth was, his early years are characterized by selfishness and immaturity. He demands a Philistine wife because he likes the way she looks, he breaks his Nazirite vow by touching a dead lion and by drinking wine, and he become angry and bitter when he is deceived by his new wife. Eventually, this section ends with Samson killing 30 Philistines and his wife leaving him. How could someone who had such a miraculous birth and was given the power of the Holy Spirit have had things go so wrong? First, we must say that the Holy Spirit gives you the resources to live a life focused on the will of God, it does not automatically do it for you. Samson made all of his choices based off of what he wanted, with no consideration for what God wanted. God will go on to use Samson despite his sin (by causing him to war against the Philistines and ultimately delivering the Israelites). However, even if God will bring good out of the situation, it is always worth wondering how might God have used Samson if he had not acted in sin. How much greater could Samson’s ministry have been? God could have certainly brought far more good out of obedience than Samson’s disobedience. Let us never ask how much more could God have done with me if I had done things differently/been obedient. Instead, let us resolve ourselves to be obedient and make all of our choices in a way that is focused on what God wants, not what we want.
Here, in chapter 15, we are given some more details of the interesting events surrounding Samson’s life. Still upset over his wife’s deception and the fact that she was given to someone else, Samson burns the crops of the Philistines. They of course retaliate and kill Samson’s wife and family. This causes Samson to strike back in further retaliation and he kills over 1,000 Philistine people. All of these events have occurred because of Samson’s sin and poor choices. Now, the events have escalated because both sides have chosen to repay hate with hate. Despite all of this sin, hatred, and bitterness, God is using the different events for his ultimate purpose: Israel’s deliverance. As we discussed previously, it is disappointing to see such flashes of greatness in Samson, followed by such selfishness. However, the end of this chapter has a truth for us. After Samson defeats all of these Philistines, he cries out in thirst. He is weak. He has a new need. Without God’s provision, he will die. Despite our victories, fresh challenges always come. We must remember God, through his Holy Spirit, is the source of strength in our past victory and the provision we need for future deliverance.
This chapter describes Samson’s downfall and death. It all begins when Samson meets a harlot named Delilah. Samson wanted to be used by God but he also yielded to the deceitfulness of sin. On the outside he kept up his Nazirite vow (his hair), but on the inside he was given over to his own desires. Samson did what we all do when it comes to sin: he put his life into categories. He supposed there were areas of his life that God cared about and could use, while there were other areas that didn’t. That isn’t the case. God cares, wants to use, and has authority over all areas of our lives. Samson did not realize this until his strength had left him and the consequences of his sin were upon him. However, when he was chained, broken, blind, and no longer looking to himself, God allowed him to be used one more time. Let us be clear, Samson is not one to imitate. Samson has many flaws and failings and in the end he trusts in God and gives himself over to God. We should not play with sin, disregard God’s will for our life, and turn back to him at the end of our lives. We should submit ourselves to God today and everyday.

Day 5

The Fall of Jericho – Joshua 5 and 6

As we come to the book of Ruth, we see that, in this first chapter, there is a description of a family leaving Israel to head toward the pagan city of Moab during the final days of the judges cycle. The family left Israel because there was a great famine in the land. While in the foreign land of Moab, the two sons of the family are married to Moabite women. However, tragedy soon strikes and the father and two sons die. The woman decides to head back to the lands of Judah. The woman, Naomi, after all the tragedy that had taken place, decides to head back to her home and her God. Naomi, gives her daughters-in-law a blessing and a release. They no longer have to follow Naomi and are free to stay and remarry in their homeland. One takes the offer extended by Naomi, while the other, Ruth, decides to follow. Ruth makes a great proclamation of her intention to stay with Naomi and follow the God of Naomi. It is at this time, when Naomi has seen hard times but still seeks her God, that Ruth makes her proclamation. Thus, the two, Naomi and Ruth, journey to Bethlehem. Naomi’s relationship and pursuit of God, even in the hard times, drew Ruth to a relationship with God. Naomi could have let her bitterness get the best of her, but instead she was honest with God in her feelings and her actions. The same can be true for us. We can be honest with God, pursuing him in obedience in faith, even in the hard times. He can use us when we take a stand, as an example to others, just like Naomi with Ruth.


In the next chapter, it is revealed that Naomi is related to a man named Boaz, a kinsman of her deceased husband. In this time period, a kinsman is more than simply a relative. A kinsman is almost like the head of a family or a special family representative. We also discover that Boaz did not leave Bethlehem when the famine hit (like Naomi everyone else). Instead, Boaz stayed in Bethlehem, God provided for him, and even blessed him with great wealth. Boaz extends kindness to Ruth by allowing her to glean in his fields, literally picking up the wheat scraps left behind when the crop was harvested (think back to the provisions for the poor commanded in Lev. 19:9-10). Ruth cannot understand why Boaz would be so kind, and she even asks him why he would help a stranger who could not ever possibly repay him. Boaz tells her that he knows what she has done in leaving her former life in order to pursue God in a new land. He encourages her and is used by God to protect her and Naomi. He goes beyond that and even lets her share in the privilege of eating with he and others at his mealtime. Through all of this, Ruth is able to gather enough food to support herself and Naomi. When Ruth reports this great kindness to Naomi, we see Naomi rejoice in God’s goodness and provision. We see in this passage, much like the first, two women who have determined to seek their God no matter what. In doing so, no matter the difficulties that arise, he provides for them and blesses them. Just as Ruth is satisfied by the sacrifice and kindness extended to her by Boaz, we too can be satisfied in the sacrifice and kindness extended to us in Jesus Christ. This is a theme that will continue to develop over the next few chapters of Ruth.


In chapter 3, we see Naomi giving instructions to Ruth about how to interact with Boaz. We spoke briefly about the fact that Boaz was a kinsman redeemer. As a kinsman redeemer Boaz would have had such responsibilities as buying Israelite slaves out of bondage, avenging family murders, buying back family land that had been lost, and marrying a childless widow to secure a future for the family name. Thus, a kinsman redeemer was responsible for the people in the family, the property of the family, and the future of the family. However, Naomi makes it clear that Ruth should approach Boaz in a humble and submissive way. She instructs Ruth to make herself presentable, to approach Boaz after his meal, and to lay down at his feet. There are many time period and cultural barriers that may keep us from understanding these actions fully. Essentially, Ruth came to claim a right from her kinsman redeemer. To do so, she humbled herself in front of him to show she respected and trusted him. We see Boaz’s positive reaction, but we find there is a closer redeemer in line. Therefore, Boaz must check and see if this other kinsman will claim his right. If not, Boaz promises Ruth to give her what she asks for (the chapter ends on a bit of a cliffhanger). However, do not miss the larger point here by getting caught up in these cultural traditions we may not understand. The point is this: we are just like Ruth and God is our kinsman redeemer. We come to God to claim a right that has been purchased by the blood of Jesus. We come to get protection, security, and rest. We come so that we may have a future, and one that is abundantly filled with hope. How do we come before him? By falling at his feet as a sign of our need for him, our respect of him, and our trust in him. He is our kinsman redeemer and he has taken us in because we have seen our need of him.


After chapter 3, we were left with a bit of a cliffhanger: would Ruth and Boaz be married or would the other kinsman operate his rights? We find in this chapter that Boaz approaches the other kinsman and tells him of his right to buy their brother’s land back. The other kinsman is more than eager to add to his own land holdings and agrees to operate in his authority as kinsman. However, when the other kinsman learns that buying back the land also means supporting Naomi and taking Ruth as his wife, he hesitates. The other kinsman decides to let Boaz buy the land, support Naomi, and marry Ruth. Boaz does just that. Soon after their marriage, Ruth and Boaz conceive a son. We find that this son, Obed, would become the grandfather of the great King David and, therefore, a relative of Jesus. We have already seen how Boaz in his role as kinsman is a picture of God/Jesus, but now this child provides a tangible link to the coming Messiah. What a happy ending to a narrative that started so hopelessly. When all of this began, we saw Naomi changing her name to “bitter.” She had no family, she had no hope, she had no future. Yet, she turned back to her God, gained a daughter-in-law who was pursuing God as well, and eventually got the joy of a grandson. Naomi had no way of seeing how greatly God would change her life when she put her faith and trust in him. The same may be true for you today. You may be changing your name to “bitter.” You may think there is no hope or future. Yet, the story is not over yet. You still have the choice to turn back to God, or continue seeking him, in faith and obedience. Do not give up yet. Let him lead you into the life and future he has prepared for you. You will not be disappointed.