Bible reading for Aug 7.
"In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes." (Judges 21:25)
AND SO IT ENDS. The tribes who attacked the cities of Benjamin grieve over the loss of their kinsmen and over the uncertain future of that tribe. Their solution to finding wives fits with the tenor of the period of the Judges. At least the Israelites felt compassion for their fellow countrymen (vv 3, 6, 15). So ends the chapter, and book, and in fact the tragic history of any nation where "everyone does what is right in his own eyes." Written also during the period of Judges, the next book, Ruth, will be a bright ray of grace, and faithfulness, and hope for the people of Israel.
TAKEAWAY. One side note to this ending is that a remnant of the tribe of Benjamin survived. The theme of "remnant" runs throughout the Bible (Rom 11:1-6). Amazingly, by God's grace, the Apostle Paul was a descendant of this tribe of Benjamin (Phil 3:5). And that, as they say, is the rest of the story (well, at least, part of the rest of the story...)
"If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar." (Acts 25:11)
MORE HEARINGS. Governor Felix is replaced by Porcius Festus. Another plot against Paul is discovered, and rather than go to Jerusalem (where an ambush is waiting) Paul appeals to Caesar. As a Roman citizen he has the right to have his case tried in the emperor's court in Rome. Herod Agrippa* arrives back at his palace with his sister Bernice, and Festus arranges for another hearing. Now the Apostle Paul will have another opportunity to tell his story. Paul, though imprisoned, seems at peace with sharing the gospel and his testimony before these people. This, of course, is the theme of the book of Acts: "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (1:8).
*THE HEROD DIRECTORY. You need a score card here. "Herod" was a family name, and the grand patriarch of that family was a powerful figure, Herod the Great, who was half-Jewish and half-Edomite, and was favored by Rome with a client reign (as a local monarch) over Palestine. Herod the Great is the one who renovated and expanded the Jewish temple in Jerusalem and who killed the children in Bethlehem in an attempt to snuff out any contenders for the throne (Matt 2). He died in 4 B.C. One of his sons was Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee, who imprisoned John the Baptist and sought to question Jesus (Mark 6; Luke 23). Herod the Great's grandson (through Mariamne) was Herod Agrippa I (d. A.D 44) who put the Apostle James to death (Acts 12). And the ruler examining Paul in this chapter is Agrippa II, his son, who died around A.D. 100. This was a powerful and brutal family, and today we would say they were very, very dysfunctional.
TAKEAWAY. Sometimes we feel that just talking about Jesus isn't enough. And yet the gospel advances through people hearing, being convicted, and believing that word (Rom 1:16; Phil 1:12-13). Toward the end of his life Paul would say, "...I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!" (2 Tim 2:9) Do you view the gospel as Paul did, that it is "the power of God for salvation"? Do you believe that, even though you and I may be limited physically, or imprisoned, the words of the gospel are never limited or imprisoned?
Image credits. Painting of the Apostle Paul explaining the faith before Festus, Agrippa, and Bernice, by Vasily Surikov (1875), St Petersburg. Public domain.
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.
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