Psalms 119 (ESV)
1 Aleph Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD!
2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart,
3 who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways!
4 You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.
5 Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!
6 Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
7 I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules.
8 I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me!
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Students from China, India and Japan experienced a flight on a small plane at the Jungle Aviation and Radio Service public day last Saturday, where they saw how JAARS pilots use their skills to serve people’s needs in some of the most remote areas of the world. Following that, they got to attend an outdoor festival where popular bands played and the good news of God’s love in Christ was explained.
We encourage you to “adopt” an international student and invite them to join you in your everyday life, whether you are going shopping, going to a little league ball game, or just having a day of relaxation around your home with family. They deeply appreciate being included in the activities of American families, and having friends that show interest in their welfare. Of course they often don’t have a car, so joining you on a shopping run is a huge blessing to them. This is a wonderful and fulfilling way to show love and share the love we enjoy. Give it a try and don’t be scared! Most universities have an international student office, and they often have a family host or “international friendship” program that they would be happy for you to sign up for. It usually does not require any particular commitment or cost, just a desire to be a friend to an international student. Pray and give it a try!
Galatians 2:14-21 (ESV) But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” 15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. 17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
1 The Lord is my light and my salvation- whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life- of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall.
3 Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.
4 One thing I ask of the Lord , this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.
5 For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.
6 Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord .
7 Hear my voice when I call, O Lord ; be merciful to me and answer me.
8My heart says of you, "Seek his face!" Your face, Lord , I will seek.
9 Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior.
10 Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.
11 Teach me your way, O Lord ; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors.
12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence.
13 I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord ; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord .
Judges 8:22-35 (ESV) “Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” 23 Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the LORD will rule over you.” 24 And Gideon said to them, “Let me make a request of you: every one of you give me the earrings from his spoil.” (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.) 25 And they answered, “We will willingly give them.” And they spread a cloak, and every man threw in it the earrings of his spoil. 26 And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was 1,700 shekels of gold, besides the crescent ornaments and the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian, and besides the collars that were around the necks of their camels. 27 And Gideon made an ephod of it and put it in his city, in Ophrah. And all Israel whored after it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family. 28 So Midian was subdued before the people of Israel, and they raised their heads no more. And the land had rest forty years in the days of Gideon. 29 Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and lived in his own house. 30 Now Gideon had seventy sons, his own offspring, for he had many wives. 31 And his concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he called his name Abimelech. 32 And Gideon the son of Joash died in a good old age and was buried in the tomb of Joash his father, at Ophrah of the Abiezrites. 33 As soon as Gideon died, the people of Israel turned again and whored after the Baals and made Baal-berith their god. 34 And the people of Israel did not remember the LORD their God, who had delivered them from the hand of all their enemies on every side, 35 and they did not show steadfast love to the family of Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) in return for all the good that he had done to Israel.”
This is perhaps one of the saddest eras in the history of Israel. Gideon (also called Jerubbaal - which means “let Baal contend with him”) had followed the command of the LORD to destroy his father’s idol, Baal, which he did. Then men of his town were so angry at what Gideon had done that they undertook to kill Gideon for his blatant defacement of their god, the god of the people around them, named Baal (which literally means “master”, “lord”, and figuratively “owner”). This false god named Baal was the “master”, the “lord”, the “owner” of the people of Canaan, and the people of Israel had set up this false god to worship it. They were so committed to worshiping the god of the Canaanites, that when the living God, the true God of Israel commanded Gideon to destroy and cut down this idol, and the command was carried out, the Israelite leaders of that town wanted to kill Gideon. This is how far off the worship of the true God Israel had come.
But Gideon was contending with this false god, and thus he was named Jerubbaal, which means “let Baal contend with him.” Gideon’s father said to those who wanted to kill his son, effectively, “if Baal is truly a god, let Baal contend with him”, meaning, let Baal defend himself against my son Gideon. And thus the men of the city were dissuaded from killing Gideon.
Gideon went on to deliver Israel from the oppression they were suffering under the Midianites (again because Israel had turned away from the LORD and were not following the LORD and obeying his Word). There was a huge victory, and the people wanted to make Gideon their king. But Gideon rightfully said that he would not rule over them, but that the LORD would rule over them. All Gideon wanted was for them to give him some of the gold they had taken as plunder from the victory over their oppressors. The people willingly gave him what he asked for, and Gideon made a golden ephod out of it. An ephod is something like a vest, which the priests of the LORD would wear over their garments when they were ministering in the tabernacle. So it definitely had a religious connatation, and it may have been Gideon’s way of trying to honor the Lord and set up a monument or trophy to thank and honor the Lord for the victory God had given to the Israelites under Gideon’s leadership.
The problem is that somehow that meaning and that purpose seems to have been lost. It was not clear what the purpose of the golden ephod was, and it became in itself something of an idol. Gideon’s golden ephod became an object to which the nation of Israel prostituted itself, and became a snare to Gideon and his family. We don’t know exactly what form that prostitution took, or specifically how it became a snare to Gideon and his family, but we are told that it did.
It appears that Gideon did not want to rule over Israel, he rightly said that the Lord should rule over Israel, but what did Gideon do to use his influence and his position of honor to turn the people of Israel back to the Lord? It appears that he may have had some vague, unclear desire to point people to the Lord by making a golden ephod (remember, an ephod was something that was worn by the priests in their service in the tabernacle), but it seems to have been very unclear, uncertain, undefined exactly what was meant by it. Perhaps if someone had asked Gideon personally why he made the golden ephod, he may have gone into either a short or a long explanation about how he wanted to honor the Lord for the victory that God gave to Gideon and all Israel in their deliverance from the Midianites. Maybe he would have even said something about how God can work through ordinary people who make themselves available to God’s service.
But somehow none of that is clearly known or recorded, and the bottom line is that the people of Israel were not turned more to the Lord because of the golden ephod, they were turned away from the Lord and prostituted themselves to it. And even Gideon himself and his family found it to be a snare. It became a hindrance to Gideon and his family, and a snare, something that tripped and captured, ensared them, enslaved them.
As ministers of the Gospel, we must be very careful that we do not build a monument to our past victory and fool ourselves that we are honoring God by doing so. If we truly want to honor God, we must be very clear and deliberate about pointing others to His ways, living out his ways and his Word.
Please pray for Rhoda for the next two weeks as she takes a course of intensive medical training that she can use in the many places she works. She just returned from two weeks of ministry in the Bahamas where she was helping victims of the recent hurricane that devastated much of the island. She is always moving towards the neediest people on earth, soon to be returning to central Africa for work among people with AIDS, HIV+, AIDS orphans, people suffering from leprosy and the malnourished. She brings hope in the midst of trauma, and life in Jesus’ name. Please pray for her safety and effective learning and ministry.
1 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Psalm 91 (ESV)1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
5 You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place--
the Most High, who is my refuge--
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder;
the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
15 When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”