Judges, chapters 15-18

After that the Danites set up the carved image for themselves, and Jonathan the son of Gershom, the son of Moses, and his sons became priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day that the inhabitants of the land went into exile.
~Judges 18:30

Moses’s grandson, Jonathan, descended from the most famous Levite, but Jehovah had installed Aaron’s descendants as those primarily responsible for carrying out the priesthood (Nu. 3:3,6,9,10).

On top of this, Jehovah had forbidden the use of idols in connection with his worship time and again (Ex. 20:4; De. 4:16; 5:8).

It was selfish of Jonathan to allow the man from Ephraim to install him as priest, leading his family in idol worship in exchange for money (Jud. 17:10).

His selfishness is magnified by his later betrayal of that family to go serve as priest before the tribe of Dan, collaborating with the Danites in their theft of various expensive idols (Jud. 18:18-20).

What can I learn from Jonathan’s attitude?
Even if I were to come from a family with a rich spiritual heritage or certain level of prominence, I should not assume my family’s reputation automatically makes me a spiritual person.
No one is exempt from following God’s explicit laws or practicing his principles, regardless of what their last name may be.
Each person is ultimately responsible for upholding strong Biblical values wholeheartedly on an individual basis (Ez. 18:30).

Judges, chapters 11-14

“Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and no razor should touch his head, because the child will be a Nazirite of God from birth, and he will take the lead in saving Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.”
~Judges 13:5

When reading about Samson and how he scraped honey out of a lion carcass and how he killed 30 Philistines and then took their garments, I wondered if this was not in direct conflict with his being a Nazirite (Jud. 14:8,9,19; Nu. 6:1-7).

Nazirites were individuals who vowed special dedication to Jehovah during certain periods of their lives, and they had a set of restrictions governing their conduct .

One such restriction was that they were not to come in contact with a dead body (Nu. 6:6,7).

In Samson’s case, however, those restrictions did not apply.

Because he was divinely appointed a Nazirite since before his birth, his conduct was only governed by the restrictions the angelic harbinger had indicated to his parents (Jud. 13:3-5,13,14).

 

Judges, chapters 8-10

 Gideon made it into an ephod and exhibited it in his city Ophrah; and all Israel committed spiritual prostitution with it there, and it served as a snare to Gideon and to his household.
~Judges 8:27

When Gideon liberated the Israelites from the oppression of Midian, they tried to make him king (Jg. 8:22).

However, Gideon was not about to usurp on God’s sole right to rule, so he instead asked for material donations (Jg. 8:23,24).

He proceeded to use these donations to create an Ephod, which was an apron-like garment made of gold and precious stones, worn by the high priest on special occasions (Ex. 28:6-14).

Gideon, being a man of Faith, was apparently motivated by the desire to commemorate the unlikely victory Jehovah had granted Israel over its enemies (Jg. 7:20-22; Heb. 11:32,33).

How did this piece of commemorative art become a snare?

It detracted attention from the center of pure worship which was God’s tabernacle.

The Israelites commited “spiritual prostitution” in the sense that they bowed down to the ephod as if it were God, much to Gideon’s dismay.

What can we learn from this?
Good intentions do no always justify the means or the project.
We should be careful with our actions so that we never become a “stumbling block” to members of our community and our spiritual endeavors end up having an opposite effect (Rom. 14:13; 1 Cor. 10:23,24).

 

Judges, chapters 1-4

“They would take their daughters as wives, and their own daughters they gave to their sons, and they began serving their gods.”

~Judges 3:6

Strict as God’s commandment on inter-religious marrying may seem, the truth is the person who can most influence our worship and spirituality is our spouse, whether for good or bad.

A person who has an unbelieving spouse lives divided, always trying to find the balance between two sacred priorities.

If both partners hold strong values, this can lead to countless unnecessary arguments that can leave emotional scars on either of them or their children.

Growing up, my father was agnostic and my mother, a zealous evangelizer of God’s word.

In recent years, my father has changed his opinion of the Bible and now participates in bi-weekly Christian meetings alongside my mother.

In effect, they get along a lot better now and are overall more happy than when they each held separate belief systems.

It is as easy now as it was in ancient Israel to underestimate the degree of influence a potential spouse will play in one’s relationship with God, especially because we tend to think of spirituality as an individual soul-searching process.

Sadly, throughout my adult life I have had the experience of witnessing the exact opposite of my parents’ experience.

I have had several friends leave their God-fearing spouses for unbelieving new partners.

This course of action has led these friends to spiritual ruin, and has undone the reputation of their faithful spouses.

It is just as essential, then, to heed God’s advice and seek an intimate relationship with someone of the opposite sex “only in the Lord,” (1 Cor. 7:39).

Joshua, chapters 21-24

“Today we know that Jehovah is among us, because you have not committed this act of unfaithfulness against Jehovah.  […]”
Joshua 22:31

The chieftains of the tribes that had settled to the West of the Jordan River were upset at the Reubenites, Gadites and half tribe of Manasseh on account of an altar these tribes had built on the edge of the river.

Even though they received their loyal help through the entire time Israel was fighting the Canaanites, these Western tribes were ready to go to war against their brothers as soon as they heard of about the altar.

It was never the Eastern tribes’ intention to separate in worship, however, as they patiently explained.

“If we were rebellious and unfaithful to Jehovah, do not spare us this day. […] No, it was because of another concern that we did this, for we said, ‘In the future, your sons will say to our sons: “What do you have to do with Jehovah the God of Israel?”‘” (Jos. 22:22-25).

The tribes of Western Israel heard out this reasoning and then proceeded ‘to praise God, and they said nothing more about going to war,’ (Jos. 22:33).

Thus we learn that it is always better to assume the best in others.
Even when we are thrown off by certain actions they decide to take, we cannot see what reasoning or underlying motivation they have.

Hence the wise words:
“Do not be quick to take offense, for the taking of offense lodges in the bosom of fools,”
(Ec. 7:9).

Joshua, chapters 9-11

“It was Jehovah who allowed their hearts to become stubborn so that they waged war against Israel, in order for him to devote them to destruction without any favorable consideration.”
~Joshua 11:20

Jehovah did not decide the fate of the Canaanites for them.

The previous verse clearly states: There was no city that made peace with the Israelites except the Hivites inhabiting Gibeon. They conquered all the others by war,” (Joshua 11:19).

Despite Jehovah’s instructions ‘not to make a covenant with them,’ the Israelites had unintentionally established a treaty between themselves and the people of Gibeon (Ex. 34:12; Jos. 9:6-15).

Then, when the other cities attacked Gibeon, the Israelites rightly felt a moral obligation to defend them (Jos. 10:6-8).

Gibeon was spared the peril that the rest of the country suffered because, in their own words, they were ‘plainly told that Jehovah […] commanded Moses his servant to give Israel all the land and to annihilate all its inhabitants,’ (Jos. 9:24).

Thus, instead of arrogantly waging war against God himself, they laid themselves at the mercy of Israel and were indefinitely assigned the role of temple servants (Jos. 9:25-27).

The fact that Jehovah did extend considerable mercy toward the people of Gibeon, even allowing them the privilege of performing duties directly related to sacred worship, highlights his willingness to set aside the execution of his own judgment in order to favor those who seek him out sincerely (Ps. 86:15).

It is different, though, in the case of those who ‘allow their hearts to become stubborn.’

We do not need to be Canaanites or God’s sworn enemies to fall into this trap of obstinate arrogance.

Whether or not we witness God’s saving hand does not depend on who we are or where we come from.

It depends on whether or not we individually heed his words to ‘cleanse our hearts and stop being so stubborn,’ (De. 10:16).

Deuteronomy, chapters 23-27

“You must not bring the price paid to a female prostitute or the price paid to a male prostitute into the house of Jehovah your God to fulfill a vow, for both of them are something detestable to Jehovah your God.”

~Deuteronomy 23:18

This is essentially a law against money laundering.

The principle that God doesn’t want dirty money calls to mind the story of Judas and the 30 silver coins he got from betraying Christ (Matt. 27:5).

After committing a grave sin, a person might feel compelled to right a wrong through financial methods.

But serious wrongdoing can only be erased before God if there is a turning of the heart (Eze. 18:31).

More important than the amount a person or entity donates to a charity are the spirit and means that were used to acquire that money.

Was it whole-hearted honest labor? Was it through the sale of something dear and valuable?

If we are living morally unclean lives, we cannot just buy a seat in the house of God’s true worship. Salvation would be a mere illusion (Eze. 7:19).

Religions hold a great deal of the blame, as they habitually accept considerable donations from organized crime members, a sin for which they will be held accountable (Rev. 18:4,5,8,24).