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Wednesday, July 24, 2019

2019.07.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Judges 8:33-9:57

Questions for Littles: What did the children of Israel do as soon as Gideon was dead (Judges 8:33)? Whom did they forget (Judges 8:34)? Whom else (Judges 8:35)? Whom did Abimelech, son of the concubine, rally to his side in Judges 9:1-3? Whom did they hire (Judges 9:4)? To do what (Judges 9:5)? Who escaped? Unto what end (Judges 9:6)? In Jotham’s poem-song, what trees would have made good rulers (Judges 9:7-13)? But what did those trees desire to keep doing instead? What tree do they end up getting as king (Judges 9:14-15)? With what does that tree threaten them if they do NOT make him king? Whom does Jotham say this bramble is, and what does Jotham declare upon them for that (Judges 9:19-21)? Why (Judges 9:16-18)? How long did it take for things to go south between Abimelech and the men of Shechem (Judges 9:22-23)? Why did this happen (Judges 9:24)? What did they do (Judges 9:25)? Who became the new leader for the men of Shechem (Judges 9:26-29)? What did he say? Who decided to take Abimelech’s side (Judges 9:30)? What did he do (Judges 9:31-33)? What does Abimelech do with Zebul’s advice (Judges 9:34)? How does Zebul taunt Gaal (Judges 9:35-38)? What happens in the fighting, and how does Shechem end up (Judges 9:39-45)? Where do about a thousand take refuge, and what happens to them (Judges 9:46-49)? Where does this begin to be repeated (Judges 9:51-52)? But how does Abimelech meet his end (Judges 9:53-54)? What sudden resolution occurs (Judges 9:55)? Why such a strange and abrupt end—what had all this accomplished (Judges 9:56-57)?
Oh, what a dangerous thing it is to forget the Lord our God. The bulk of our passage today is about how God repaid the treachery of the men of Shechem, but let us take note of how that treachery began. The people forgot Yahweh. And, since Yahweh had used a man (Gideon, and his family) to save them, this involved also forgetting and despising the man that Yahweh had appointed to use. It is often this way with God’s people—the Lord uses imperfect men, and if we are forgetting the Lord who uses them, how easily we begin to despise them. As this passage shows, that’s no safe condition to be in!

The people’s forgetfulness makes them ripe to be led by Abimelech. It’s instructive to see that he styles himself as a people’s liberator. Those who reject God’s appointed servants often do. And masses of people often follow them. But, God causes things to break down between Abimelech and those he leads, until they end up attacking one another, and he wipes them out. The bramble starts the fire (literally!) that burns up the cedars.

It then looks like it’s going to get worse—is the bramble going to destroy all of Israel?! Nope, a woman drops a stone on his head, and suddenly it’s all over.

A couple of takeaways. First, we are learning in the book of Judges that the threats from within Israel can be just as deadly (and more deadly) than the threats from outside. All it takes is a little forgetting of the Lord, and a little forgetting of the ones through whom (imperfect as they may be) the Lord has intended to lead them. God intended to them much good through the children of Gideon (as symbolized by all the useful trees and their benefits). Oh what devastation may come by means of grumbling, complaining, and refusing to be led through those by whom God intends to do us much good! But we don’t even realize that when we do this, it is the Lord Himself whom we are forgetting (cf. Ephesians 4:8-16).

Second, we are learning that God sees and God responds. This is still true for churches today. There’s the Lord Jesus in the letters to the churches in Revelation saying, “I know this, and this, and this about you… and if you don’t shape up, there will be sad and devastating consequences.”

The summary statement in Judges 9:56-57 won’t let us “forget” that this is really what’s going on in all the interesting twists and turns in this passage. Divine judgment upon His people’s forgetfulness! This judgment itself has a comfort in it for those who continue to cling to God: yes, destroyers arise from among God’s people, but God ultimately destroys the destroyers.
How do we work not to be forgetful of the Lord? In what specific activities?
Suggested songs: ARP119W “Lord, Let My Cry before Your Come” or TPH1A “That Man Is Blest”

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