JUDGES 10:1 – 12:15 and LUKE 9:1–27
Israel once again turns against God and served Balaam and the gods of the various lands such as Moab, Ammon and the Philistines. The Lord’s anger kindles against Israel resulting in their being sold again into the hands of the Philistines as well as the Ammonites. The bondage lasted for a period of about 18 years and it affected the territories on both sides of the Jordan. They again cry out unto the Lord. Think for a moment of the long-suffering nature of the Lord. This is one of the revelations of God that Moses had when he was up upon Mt. Sinai (Exo 34:6). It is easy for us to look at Israel in these accounts and criticize their inability to learn lessons but what about us? Are there times where we test the long-suffering qualities of God? It is a quality we need to have developed into our lives as well.
We also see this fruit of long-suffering as one of the garments that the Apostle Paul exhorts us to put on (Col 3:12-15). Moses had to have this revelation of God in order to suffer long with the rebellion and complaints of the people. Seeing that we are beneficiaries of the long-suffering of God it may be prudent to not be too quick in judging Israel. At the same time we must understand that there is a limit with God. We do not want to develop a false sense of security in thinking that we can tap into this attribute of God when it suits us. The Lord responds again to Israel’s cry by rehearsing how He had delivered them in times past however we see that God is beginning to run out of patience. The Lord states that He will deliver them no more and then goes on to say that they should just cry out to their gods and see if they will deliver (vs 14).
The children of Israel expressed remorse in their confession to God. “We have sinned” is an expression seen on different occasions in the Word of God. David acknowledged his transgression with Bathsheba. He repented, paid a price but was able to find restoration. David had a heart that enabled him to find forgiveness and employ the steps of restoration. Here, we see that Israel put away the strange gods and again served the Lord. Still, we see that the heart of God was grieved.
The children of Ammon now gathered themselves against Israel at Gilead. The question goes out as to who will rise up, who will be the man that can lead in the fight against this foe? How will Israel respond? The Lord, in spite of Israel’s recurring disobedience brings them through a period of judgment. They acknowledge their sin, again begin to serve God and are now in need of a new leader. God has a unique and prepared man who can take up the charge in their going forth to battle.
We are introduced to a man by the Jephtah who had a reputation as a mighty man of valour. He was a son of a harlot. His father married and had sons and these sons after some time thrust him out of the house. This must have been after his father’s death due to the other sons statement about not partaking of their father’s inheritance. There is a similarity to the account of Joseph where he too was abandoned by his brothers only to be their future deliverer and provider. Israel once again came under the threat of the enemy. On this occasion it was the children of Ammon who came up against them. Israel is now in a crisis and there is no recognized leader who could take up the fight.
Jephtah, a man who was abandoned and thrust out of his house is now in demand. The elders of Israel must have known of his reputation seeing that they tried to convince him to return. One can understand Jephtah’s response when he said “did you hate me and expel me from my father’s house”? We do not know how long it was that he was separated from his home but it surely had to be a testing time. We see this often in the purposes of God. We may be isolated or removed from a situation wondering and trying to make sense of it all. Israel for a season was at rest so it was easy for his brother’s to expel Jephtah seeing that he was born of a harlot.
When things are going well we need to be especially careful in being able to hear from God. We can be emboldened to make judgments about people, situations or even ourselves, thinking that we have God’s sanction. Jephtah held steady though this period; he aligned himself with vain and unimportant men. Hardly the kind of company one would keep being a called upon mighty man of valour. But then everything changed. This is what we have to watch out for today. The world events are changing by the day and somehow it is easy to become immune or desensitized to what is happening around us. Our churches are flourishing and all seems well. It is absolutely critical that we seek the mind of the Lord during such times. It is easy to make assumptions based on the here and now. Like in the days of Jephtah so it is today; things can change overnight. When this happens, priorities suddenly change and people who may have been hidden or placed in obscurity are suddenly sought for. This was the case with Jephtah. The leaders were now after the man who had been expelled.
After Jephtah is brought back into his home he sends off a letter via messengers to the king of the children of Ammon. He asks as to why he was coming to fight a battle in his land? This dialogue is most instructive because it gives insight to the modern day Palestinian challenge of the land that Israel occupies. The king answered Jephtah by saying that you have taken our land. Jephtah then responds with a history lesson that puts this discussion into context. Israel while in the midst of their early journey enquired about passing through the land of the Amorites under King Sihon (Num 21:21). He refused passage to Israel and then took up war against them. As a result Israel smote Sihon and the Amorites and possessed their land. It was God who allowed that land to be dispossessed so that Israel could occupy.
Jephtah then says how is it that you seek to make a claim and call it your land? Why is it now that you are making a claim when you could have done so long before Israel sojourned through that area. If we understand this truth we can better understand the case regarding Israel. The land Israel reclaimed in 1948 was a land inhabited by people’s that no nation cared much about. It was only after Israel established the nation when the contention began. The same principal applies in the 6 day 1967 war. Israel’s territories expanded as a result of the aggressive tactics of Egypt. Israel did not start the war but because of it ended up gaining ground. So why should they have to give it up? Why should Jephtah have to give in to the claims of the king of the children of Ammon? Israel occupied that land due to a war started by Sihon of the Amorites. Israel won the war, staked claim to the land and now Ammon demands it be given to them. It is a picture of events as seen in modern day Israel.
We now see the Spirit of the Lord coming upon Jephtah resulting in his taking the battle to the enemy. Before doing this he makes a vow to the Lord that if he wins the battle he will sacrifice the first person who comes forth from his house to meet him (vs 30-31). The fact that he made a vow indicated that he may not have been sure of total success. This is a very strong vow as we shall later see. This is a vow that intended to involve a human sacrifice. The fulfilment of this vow would later be in the form of his daughter. She was an only child and one who was very precious to Jephtah. There are controversies amongst commentators as to whether it actually involved a sacrifice seeing this was abhorrent and not allowed by God. It is clear that Jephtah did indeed make a vow and there is a verse in Leviticus to consider:
Lev 27:28 Notwithstanding no devoted thing, that a man shall devote unto the LORD of all that he hath, both of man and beast, and of the field of his possession, shall be sold or redeemed: every devoted thing is most holy unto the LORD.
I think we can only conclude that it was a sacrifice that did involve his daughter. What needs to be cited before closing this chapter is the beautiful response of the daughter. Jephtah was tormented in what he vowed seeing that it would cost his daughter her life. She helps to assuage him by saying to follow through in whatever you have established and vowed to God (vs 36-37). Is this not a picture of Isaac when he allowed himself to be a willing sacrifice (Gen 22)? Is this not a picture of Christ in seeing that the price for a victory won would be the cost of his life? What a beautiful spirit we see in the life of Jephtah’s daughter. She willingly committed herself to her father’s vow even though she herself did nothing wrong. She has a wonderful eternal testimony.
Jephtah is confronted by the men of Ephraim after his battle against Ammon. They register a complaint against him due to not being called to the battle and go on to say that they will burn down his house with fire. This is a similar complaint the Ephraimites made to Gideon earlier (8:1). What is the issue here with the Ephraimites? One would think that they would be grateful and happy in not being called to battle. It seems there was strong pride and envy at work, especially since this is the 2nd time it has happened. They are fine in allowing others to take on the battles but then quick in their failure to give due credit, rather feeling as if they have been upstaged. This is absolute childish behaviour on their part. Instead of celebrating a victory by their brethren against a common foe they criticize and prepare for war against them. Gideon was able to assuage them earlier but it appears this fruit of envy has now so consumed Ephraim that they will fight against Jephtah. Here is a verse that may help put this matter into context.
Psa 78:9 The children of Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle.
Psa 78:10 They kept not the covenant of God, and refused to walk in his law;
This reminds me of a scene in the movie the 10 commandments when the children of Israel were about to cross the Red Sea under Moses. Dathan, who was played by Edwin G Robinson was a constant criticizer of Moses and the ways of God. When the Red Sea opened up Dathan changes his tune and goes with the flow of what God is doing. Soon after they settle in Midian he again rises up and criticizes Moses and his leadership. We know that it was soon thereafter when Korah and Abiram joined Dathan in revolt against the leadership of Moses. It was at this time when they took their criticism too far. Why did they rise up? They could not accept or live by the standard of holiness that Moses was lifting up (Num 16:1-3). Moses was requiring a commitment and manner of life that challenged and exposed the hypocrisy in these three men. They said to Moses “who do you think you are”? There seems to be a similar sentiment in these men of Ephraim. Jephtah was leading by a standard that Ephraim was not willing to live up to. His leadership exposed them and so they sought to destroy him as a result.
We see another example of this when Jesus was about to go to the cross. His so called friends (the priests) delivered him to Pilate due to envy. Pilate was able to see through these false charges. It is sad to say but this is something that still exists today. The people who seek to live whole heartedly for God will come under attack and scrutiny by their so called brethren. A people of principle and conviction will shine a light on the Ephraim and “Korah” like groups. They cannot rest in the achievements of others due to their lack of similar resolve and conviction. When we lift up a standard by the grace of God it reveals the condition of heart. There will be those who will seek for grace and strength to live by that standard and there will be those who will seek to undermine and come against the Jephtah and Moses type leaders. This also happened with Christ as the messenger of the New Covenant and will certainly take place in these last days. The balance of chapter 12 is an assortment of other judges that reigned for short periods after the death of Jephtah. The total reign of the next 3 Judges was for 25 years. Jephtah was a might man in many ways. We see many qualities in him that help present an aspect of the qualities of Christ.
This portion of scripture (Luke 9:1-5) resembles what took place in Math 10 after the Lord demonstrated several profound miracles in succession. It also took place after the Lord challenged His followers in becoming new wineskins (Math 9:14-17). I am including an extract from the commentary from Math 10:1-15.
[We saw in the previous chapter how the Lord had to first change the mind-set of His disciples. The familiar verse about putting new wine into new wineskins (Mat 9:17) was needed for the next phase of ministry that the disciples were about to enter into. We noted as to how easy it is in holding on to tradition or to methods and means that worked in the past such as the disciples of John the Baptist. We then saw the Lord demonstrate 5 profound miracles (Math 9:18-35) as an example of what the disciples were being called to do. Jesus then spoke on the need of having compassion as a motivating force in going forth into the harvest. This needs to be emphasized since we can often get it backwards. We want to immediately be about the harvest (which is a good thing) without first being instructed in kingdom values; the values that address the issues of the inner man. The Sermon on the Mount with its subsequent Beatitudes cuts to the heart of who we really are. If this message first gets within us it will enable us to be far more effective in our respective ministry and harvest field. Remember the verses from 2 Pet 1:5-7 where the steps take us from Faith to Agape Love This is the application of the Beatitudes into our life. Then in Philemon 1:5 we see ministry released in coming from a position of Love and having the Faith of God released. The motivation and compassion that results from such a heart is unlimited. This understanding is helpful as we now approach Math 10. In verses 1-4 Jesus commissions the 12 to go forth in the casting out of demons, heal sicknesses and diseases, and even raise the dead (Vs 1, 8). He also instructs them at this time to limit their territory by not going into the regions of the Gentiles but to focus their work to the lost sheep of Israel (vs 5-6). This would change at the birthing of the early church where the disciples would again have to become new wine for a new wineskin.]
The reputation of the Lord is gaining ground so much so that Herod is troubled to the point of whether this might be John the Baptist, whom he ordered to be beheaded (vs 6-9). The apostles after being commissioned to go out come back to the Lord and reported on all the things that they had done. The crowds continue to increase and Jesus continued to preach the Words of the kingdom. This account will be later examined in more detail in John 6.
The people were tired and hungry resulting in the Lord instructing His disciples to take inventory of available food. The scant provisions could in no wise meet the need yet the Lord orders them to sit in companies of 50. The Lord gave thanks for the few provisions in hand and distributed those few provisions which miraculously met the need. It is a picture of provision that I believe we will see more and more n the challenging days ahead. Remember, in His earlier charge to His disciples that they were to take no provisions, even bread for their journey. There is something in being about the business of the kingdom whereby God supplies the need. How many forfeit ministry opportunities due to their inability to trust God in being able to meet the need. Yes, we need to be prudent and to take stock in what we have. We are always to be thankful for that which God has given us. There will be times however when we know there is a call and the seeming inability to have the resources to meet that call. It is here where we need to appropriate verses like Luke 9:3.
Luk 9:3 And he said unto them, Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece.
Soon after this event the Lord is asked as to whom do men say that He is (vs 18-22). The following is an extract from Mathews account. (Math 16:13-19)
[Mat 16:13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
Notice that he speaks of Himself as the Son of Man. This is a title the Lord so loves. The Book of Ezekiel references the Son of Man 87 times. There is a unique dynamic that is about to be expressed in this account. The disciples responded by naming people like John the Baptist, Jeremiah, Elijah or some other prophets. As the Son of Man we truly can find similarities with these great men of God. But Jesus now directs his question to them. “But whom say ye that I am” (vs 15)? It seems the Lord is looking for a confession or public declaration that He is not only the Son of Man but also the Son of God. It is here where Peter steps up to the plate.
Mat 16:16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
It is hard to put into words but there seems to be something so powerful about this moment. While Jesus was upon the earth, even as a babe He never ceased being the Son of God. He chose to lay aside His Divine privileges but never ceased being God the Son. At this moment of time, with the declared proclamation that Jesus is the Son of the Living God ,through Peter, a whole new thrust in His ministry takes shape. We also know that it was the Holy Spirit that revealed this through Peter. (We will see later that Peter had a very strong relationship with the Holy Spirit throughout his ministry) After this declaration is made, Jesus begins to reveal to His disciples the future events that will lead up to the Cross (vs 21).]
The Lord now makes a statement that will challenge and shake up many of HIs followers. Remember, His fame is at an all time high, there are multitudes who are following after Him and there seems to be no slowing down of His popularity among the masses. The following statement is about to change the current dynamic:
Luk 9:23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
As we will see in John 6 this statement and subsequent disclosure of the Lord being the broken bread of life will cause many to turn away and go back. It will further narrow down the number of His closest followers. It is a message that is shaking up the church of the last days as well. There will be those who embrace the Cross and by the grace of God pay the price as opposed to those who will be enemies of the cross (Phil 3:18). The resultant fruits will be teachings and doctrines that will circumvent the true message. In Paul’s words it will be another gospel (2 Cor 11:4, Gal 1:6).
The account of the glorious transfiguration of Jesus is covered in verses 28-36. The extract of our commentary in Mathew’s gospel is shown below:
[We see Peter James and John on the Mt. of transfiguration with Jesus. Suddenly, there was a glorious light that shone about the Lord. In addition, we see that Moses and Elijah were with him. What thoughts must have been going through the minds of these three men. Peter understood the awesome privilege they had in witnessing this phenomenon and thought to build three tabernacles. Can you imagine the reaction of then hearing the voice of God as He affirms His Son before them? What was happening here? Why were these three men privy to such an experience? Clearly they were overwhelmed. The Lord in verse 7 touches them and speaks that they should not be afraid. What was this all about? Here are a few interesting points to ponder. Moses and Elijah’s bodies were never found. God buried Moses (Deu 34:6) and Elijah was taken up to heaven before Elisha (2 King 2:1). We also know that the Lord was about to go the Cross, that he would die and resurrect after 3 days. The Book of Revelation speaks of two witnesses (Moses and Elijah) who will come on the scene during the time of the tribulation and have a ministry up to the middle of the tribulation period. They will be killed and after three days they will resurrect and ascend into heaven as a type and or with the man-child company (Rev 12:3-5). This moment at Transfiguration seems to have a preparatory element to it. The commonality that is seen in Jesus, Moses and Elijah is clearly seen. All three will face death in Jerusalem followed by a resurrection after 3 days. All three will soon thereafter ascend into heaven. You have Jesus, the Son of God, master teacher, great high priest and prophet. You have Moses who was the greatest teacher in the Old Testament and you have Elijah, the mighty prophet with the primary message of Restoration. It seems that these qualities will be prominent in these last days.]
I would like to comment a bit on verse 32 where we see Peter and the others heavy with sleep. This sounds rather familiar seeing that it will happen again a bit later when Jesus is at Gethsemane. It is natural and understandable to see why they would be tired being a part of the ministry of the Lord. Still, the Bible depicts a certain heaviness of sleep at these unique moments as Jesus gets nearer to the Cross. It could speak of the heightened need for vigilance in the days that are before the last day church. It could also be an indicator as to the state of the church in the last days. Peter, James and John were close to the Lord but were unaware of the dynamics taking place before them. I get the sense that the sleep that is mentioned here and in the garden is more than just a natural tiredness but rather a sign in our need to awaken from slumber. The Lord spoke to the disciples as to the signs of His 2nd coming but to be honest it is more of a message to the last day church. We have the advantage of benefitting from the resurrection of Christ and the baptism of the Holy Spirit; something these 3 brethren were yet privy to. You do see a change however after Pentecost. There is no excuse for the church of our day. The events before us should not catch us unawares whereby not being able to reconcile last day events. The call to vigilance and being watchful has never been higher.
In verses 37-42 Jesus delivers a young son of a man from a strong demonic spirit that the other disciples were unable to help. In Mathew’s account there is an added question not seen here in Luke. The disciples ask Jesus as to why they could not do this. Jesus responded that it was due to their unbelief. He went on to add that if they had the faith the grain of a mustard seed they could speak unto a mountain and it would be uprooted to the sea. Finally, He then says that this kind of deliverance can only be done through prayer and fasting (Math 17:19-21).
Let’s reflect for a moment on the parting of the Red Sea (Exo 14) or the halting of the sun for one day (Jos 10). These are miracles that could only be done due to both Moses and Joshua being exactly where they were supposed to be at that given time. One way to be in God’s perfect will is through prayer and fasting. Daniel was able to be the “man” that no other man could do when the king had a dream to be recounted and interpreted (Dan 2:10). How did he come to that place? He was one who set himself apart to not allow his heart to be defiled by the kings table (Dan 1:8) as well as setting his face to fast and seek the Lord for 10 days (Dan 1:12-14). Daniel was given wisdom, knowledge and understanding to do what no other man could do in the matter of the king’s dream; a dream that has ramifications even up to our day. In verses 43-45 Jesus then goes ahead and mentions about letting these sayings sink deep into one’s ears or spirits. Which things is Jesus referring to? Once again we go to Mathew’s account to get our answer.
Mat 17:22 And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men:
Mat 17:23 And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry.
Remember in Luk 9:41 He is reminding the people as to how long He shall be with them. Jesus was trying to get His disciples stirred up towards a bigger picture. Jesus was just ministered too at the Mt. of Transfiguration in preparation for His soon coming date with destiny at Calvary. You begin to notice a stronger resolve and purpose as Jesus knows the time is near. In verse 51 the determination of Jesus is now pronounced as His focus is solely upon Jerusalem. He sends men ahead to prepare for his arrival in Samaria but in the end they did not receive Him. Why was this? It seems that Jesus was now fixated on His mission in going towards Jerusalem resulting in his ministry among the people to have been affected thus causing the people to be offended in Him. The response of the people must have been somewhat strong due to James and John’s desire to command the calling down of fire to consume them (vs 53-54). Jesus understood the people’s reaction while rebuking His disciples for being of a different spirit in desiring such a thing. Jesus closes this chapter by making clear that once a man starts on His journey in following Him it must be with an all-out commitment without the thought of looking back. This is now especially true for the Lord Himself as He sets His sights upon Jerusalem. May God place within us a similar resolve as we come closer to the end of the age.