Bible reading for Aug 4.
"And the priest's heart was glad. He took the ephod and the household gods and the carved image and went along with the people." (Judges 18:20)
STRANGE RELIGION, PART 2. We have seen the general decline of the people of Israel during this time into compromise, inter-marriage, idolatry, and perversions. Such is "progress" in life without a king (v 1). Being "without a king" did not merely mean not having a monarch, but it meant being without a righteous ruler who is humbly submitted to God's law, as specified in Deut 17:14-20. This kind of king would be in a position to properly enforce law and order. In yesterday's reading we saw how corrupt popular religion had become, and here we see the Levite switching roles from a household priest (he really wasn't a priest) to a clan priest, because of the power and money involved. For the tribe of Dan, their show of force wins the day. Intimidation is an effective weapon in culture wars. Now, they have their own hired holy man, complete with an impressive collection of idols (see Jer 14:18). God ordained and called the priests (and Levites) to guard true understanding and knowledge (Neh 10:28; Mal 2:7). Despite the good that the various judges have done in this period of history, it is apparent the nation is sinking to a new low.
REFLECT. Why were these Israelites so unaware of their spiritual and societal degeneration? What is the relationship between individual religious beliefs and the behavior and values of a society? How important is it to you that God is worshiped in truth and purity?
"And he said to me, 'Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.'" (Acts 22:21)
PAUL SPEAKS TO THE CROWD. The Apostle Paul, rescued from being beaten by the crowd, now shares his testimony and calling from the Lord. They listen until he gets to the part about the Lord sending him to the Gentiles, and then the crowd goes wild again. It becomes apparent that many of Jews are not as concerned with including Gentiles in the community of God (Gen 12:3; Ps 22:27; Isa 19:23) as they are in losing their position of power and privilege as Israelites. Paul is then taken into the Roman barracks (the Antonia Fortress) but spared from further beating by the soldiers when he calls attention to his Roman citizenship. His Roman citizenship, no small thing, will open doors for his proclamation of the gospel before Gentile rulers and prepare the way for his trip to Rome to stand before the emperor.
REFLECT. How did Paul prepare for this moment, do you think? And how should we view people's hostility toward us? ...as an occasion to be avoided, or rather as a divine appointment to tell our story and share the gospel? Let's learn from Paul!
Image credits. Apostle Paul arrested in Jerusalem and taken before the Roman authorities. Woodcut of a 19th-century Bible illustration.
We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson.
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
The NET Bible is a free, online resource, and a ministry of bible.org.