Ah, the joys of teaching the Old Testament!

I am not the Old Testament scholar by a long shot, but I thoroughly enjoy teaching the Old Testament to college freshmen. In my setting I teach to students in a Christian college, many of whom probably grew up in church. Yet… they don’t know the Old Testament.

Where I have the most fun (besides Song of Songs) is Judges. It’s perverse, I know. But for me it beats any Quentin Tarantino movie by a long shot.

Judges 19 is the kicker. If I haven’t seen them freak out over Ehud stabbing the Jabba the Hutt character, or get a little queasy over Jephthah and his weird vow that cost him the life of his own daughter, the story of the Levite carving up the concubine usually does the trick.

The biggest question I get: “Why is this in the Bible?”

My biggest question back: “Why do we IGNORE this stuff?”

My answer is this: “We like our Jesus meek and mild. When Jesus mean and wild shows up, we get turned off.”

There are other answers to explore, and I know I’ll get them on Facebook as soon as I hit “post” on this blog. No problem.

I just want to register my absolute pleasure at teaching the Old Testament.

Gideon — Lost vision

Gideon is a great example of what happens when the people of God lose the vision of who they are in God.

They were called to take out the inhabitants of the land. That was the command from God. They simply did not obey.

Oppressed, we find Gideon hiding out. To grind grain, he was using a winepress to fool the Midianites into thinking he didn’t have enough grain for them to steal (Judges 6:11).

When God came calling, he just flat out blamed GOD for their troubles (Judges 6:13).

When called by God to lead the people, he simply gave excuse after excuse (Judges 6:15), and then wanted a “sign” (Judges 6:17).

Given a task, he did it at night out of fear (Judges 6:25-27).

When he finally obtained victory over the Midianites, he led Israel right back into idolatry (Judges 6:22ff).

Gideon is a picture of what happens when the people of God lose sight of just who they are. 

The CHURCH needs to learn from Gideon. Not from what he did, but from what he shows in how NOT to live in the Kingdom.

We hide from an enemy we preach doesn’t even exist. We blame God (or his church) for all our troubles. When God calls us to Kingdom business, we give excuse after excuse, then ask for signs to “confirm,” and often STILL don’t move. Every once in awhile we get “lucky” with a victory, but then go back to our default programming.

Don’t be Gideon.

Ruth — Beauty Among the Ashes

The Book of Ruth should be read when you read the Book of Judges. The biggest advantage is realizing that among the blood lust of Judges there is a beautiful story of redemption.

Reading Judges will be a tough read. Realize it’s not about the book telling us what is “right.” It is giving us a story of what is desperately wrong.

But read Ruth and be refreshed in the story of redemption among the rubbish heap of degradation.

 

Scariest verse in the Old Testament

Then she called, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!”

He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him. (Judges 16:20, NIV)
 
 
To live in such compromise, playing around with the gifts of God so much, that there is a point where you think it’s all still there and God has actually left… and you don’t know it. 
 
This verse and this story are always haunting to me. 

 

 

It’s War

One of the key paragraphs of Judges is interesting:

These are the nations the Lord left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan2 (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience):3 the five rulers of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites living in the Lebanon mountains from Mount Baal Hermon to Lebo Hamath. 4 They were left to test the Israelites to see whether they would obey theLord’s commands, which he had given their ancestors through Moses. (Judges 3:1-4, NIV)
The nations were left to test the Israelites. They needed to learn war.
We can talk about “motif” and “preference” all we want, there is still a spiritual lesson here. We must still learn war.
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Eph. 6:10-12, NIV)
One of my favorite church history professors started a lecture on the devil by saying something really interesting. In a day when we don’t want to acknowledge an enemy, and we think “evil is just the absence of good,” he began his lecture this way:
“Some say there is a devil. Some say there isn’t a devil. Either way, he doesn’t care.”
We still need to be trained in war. We need to realize spiritual struggle is part of the process. We need to stay aware.