Bible reading for Aug 3.
"In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes." (Judges 17:6)
STRANGE RELIGION. The people seem religious, but their faith has become a mash-up of outward forms and superstitions. They use the covenant name of God (YHWH, usually translated "LORD" in modern versions), seek God's blessing, and honor a Levite as priestly. But look how bizarre all this has become: making metal images and household gods, building a shrine, hiring the Levite to be a paid holy man, and trusting all of this to gain prosperity. The sad irony of this, as would be seen by later Jewish readers, is that this young Levite comes from Bethlehem in Judea, the future home of King David and the prophesied birthplace of the Messiah (Micah 5:2). Verse 6 sums it up: "Everyone did what was right in his own eyes." It is not that these people were planning to be idolaters, it is that, given all their compromise, this seemed so right and normal to them. Not only did they have no king (18:1; 19:1; 21:15), they were ignorant of God's law, and thus, had no higher authority than what seemed good or comfortable to themselves. The nation is in moral chaos and is sinking into perversion. Violence and brutality will soon follow, as we will see in the concluding chapters.
REFLECT. Much of the unrest we see in our own world is due to rejection of God's moral absolutes, and people "doing what is right in their own eyes." Think about this quote from Carl F. H. Henry in 1979: "Beyond all doubt, biblical religion is authoritarian in nature. The sovereign God, creator of the universe, Lord of history, dispenser of destiny, determines and rewards the true and the good. God commands and has the right to be obeyed, and the power also to punish the disobedient and reward the faithful. Behind God's will stands omnipotent power. The notion that the individual subjectively determines what is ultimately good and evil, true and false, not only results in an encroaching nihilism, but also presupposes the illusion of a godless world. God can be ignored only if we assume the autonomy of the world... For mankind today nothing is of greater importance than a right criterion whereby man may identify the truth and the good over against mere human assertion." (God, Revelation and Authority, IV:15-16)
"Then Paul answered, 'What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.'" (Acts 21:13)
WELCOME HOME? Paul and his associates are traveling back to Jerusalem in time to celebrate Pentecost. Luke is a careful historian and notes the details of their travel route. Along the way they learn by the Holy Spirit that Paul will be arrested and turned over to the Roman authorities. When Paul visits the temple, a riot ensues because the Jews assume he has desecrated the courtyard with his Gentile friends. Roman soldiers rescue Paul from the beating he is receiving from the crowd, and begin to carry him off, but he asks permission to speak to the crowd. The steps to the Roman garrison will provide the podium for Paul's message to the crowd (next chapter).
REFLECT. The Apostle Paul did not shy away from his mission to proclaim Christ. He loved the Jewish people: "... I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises" (Rom 9:2-4). Paul had boldness to speak to that angry crowd about the Lord Jesus. How can we have a deeper love for Christ, more courage to speak out, and greater concern for the eternal welfare of the people who live in our communities?
Image credits. Photo of a model of the Second Temple (aka Herod's Temple). Paul was likely taken to the Antonia Fortress on the northwest corner of the courtyard (upper right of the photo above). From Wikimedia Commons.
We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson.
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