Modern readers wrestle with the violence in the Old Testament. In the wake of events like the holocaust, when the Jews were slaughtered by the millions, many do not see God as a protecting God or as a God of might.
But in Judges we learn about a God who fights for His chosen people or empowers champions to protect them. This was certainly the way the people of God in the time of Judges thought about God, as defender and protector, and the way people in the ancient Middle East understood faith, worship, and divinity. But the Lord is different from all the other gods. He is jealous, so when His people abandon Him, all that power is turned against them in the form of invading armies. The Israelites have need of judges who can lead them in their military exploits and who can keep them faithful to the mighty God of Israel.
1 After Joshua died, the people of Israel asked a question of the Eternal One.
Israelites: So now who will lead us in our wars against the armies of Canaan?
Eternal One (to the leaders of Judah): 2 Judah will go and fight. See, I am giving the land into their hands.
3 The tribe of Judah enlisted support from the tribe of Simeon.
Tribe of Judah: If you will help us fight for the land we were given in Canaan, we will do the same for you.
The tribe of Simeon agreed to help them. 4-5 So Judah and her ally went up to fight against Adoni-bezek at the town of Bezek, and the Eternal gave them victory over the Canaanites and the Perizzites. They killed 10,000 of them at Bezek; 6 and although Adoni-bezek tried to escape, they caught him and cut off his thumbs and big toes, which rendered him useless for basically anything.
Adoni-bezek: 7 In my time, I cut the thumbs and toes off 70 kings and left them to scramble for scraps under my table. And now God has done the same to me.
They carried him away to Jerusalem, where he died.
8 Then the people of Judah attacked Jerusalem; and when they had captured it, they killed many, burned the city, and destroyed it. 9 After that the people of Judah swept down upon the Canaanites remaining in the highlands and in the lowlands and in the southern desert. 10 Judah campaigned against the Canaanites of Hebron (formerly Kiriath-arba), where they defeated Sheshai, Ahiman, and Talmai, 11 and then they went out in battle against the people of Debir (formerly Kiriath-sepher). 12 It was about this battle that Caleb had made a vow.
Caleb: Whoever attacks and captures Kiriath-sepher will receive my daughter Achsah as his wife.
13 Othniel, the son of Caleb’s younger brother, Kenaz, captured the city, so Caleb gave Othniel his daughter Achsah to marry. 14 When she came to Othniel, she persuaded him to ask her father for a field. As she dismounted from her donkey, Caleb approached her.
Caleb: What do you wish?
Achsah: 15 Here is what I would like as a wedding gift: since you have given me a place in the southern desert, also give me some springs of water.
And so Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.
16 The people who descended from Moses’ father-in-law, Hobab the Kenite, went with the people of Judah from the city of palm trees into the wilderness of Judah, and they settled there with the people, the Amalekites, in the southern desert near Arad.
17 Then Judah and Simeon defeated the Canaanites who lived in Zephath and destroyed them completely, so their city was renamed Hormah, which means “destruction.” 18 Judah went on to take the cities of Gaza, Ashkelon, and Ekron and all the land surrounding them. 19 The Eternal was with Judah, and the tribe conquered all of the highlands. But those living in the plains had iron chariots, so Judah could not drive them out. 20 Caleb received the land of Hebron, as Moses had promised many years earlier, and he drove out the three sons of Anak. 21 The people of the tribe of Benjamin, however, did not drive the Jebusites out of Jerusalem, and the Jebusites live alongside the Benjaminites in Jerusalem to this very day.
22-23 The tribe of Joseph went up against Bethel (which was formerly known as Luz), and the Eternal supported them. They sent out spies 24 who intercepted a man leaving the city.
Spies: Show us the way into the city, and we’ll spare you.
25 He showed them the way, and they destroyed the city with swords; but as they had promised, they let the man and his family go. 26 This man went into the land of the Hittites, and there he established a city; he called it Luz, and that is still its name.
27-28 The tribe of Manasseh failed to drive out the people who lived in the cities and surrounding villages of Beth-shean, Taanach, Dor, Ibleam, and Megiddo. The Canaanites continued to live in those regions for they were determined to live there; but when the people of Israel grew strong, they made the Canaanites their slaves and did not completely drive them out.
29 So it was with the tribe of Ephraim, who did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer but lived among them.
30 Zebulun also did not drive out the people of Kitron or Nahalol, so these Canaanites lived among them and became their slaves.
31-32 Asher failed to drive out the people of Acco, Sidon, Ahlab, Achzib, Helbah, Aphik, and Rehob; instead, the tribe of Asher lived among the Canaanites who lived in the land.
33 Naphtali did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh or Beth-anath but lived among these Canaanites who lived in the land. They also became the slaves of Naphtali.
34 The Amorites pushed the tribe of Dan back into the hills and did not allow them to dwell in the valley. 35 The Amorites persisted in living on Mount Heres, in Aijalon, and in Shaalbim, but the tribe of Joseph overpowered them and forced them into labor. 36 In those days, the border of the Amorites ran from the heights of Akrabbim to Sela and beyond.
2 The Eternal’s messenger traveled from Gilgal to Bochim.
Messenger (to the people of Israel): I rescued you out of the land of Egypt and brought you into this land that I had promised to your ancestors. I said, “I will never break My covenant with you. 2 As your part of this bargain, you shall not make a covenant with the inhabitants of this land. You must tear down the altars of their gods.” But you did not do as I commanded. Do you realize what you have done? 3 Now I tell you, “I will not drive them out before you. The people of the land will irritate you, and their gods will ensnare you.”
4 When the Eternal’s messenger spoke these words to Israel, the people wept bitterly. 5 So they named that place Bochim, which means “weeping,” and there they sacrificed to Him.
6 When Joshua sent the people away, each tribe of Israel went to gain possession of its territorial inheritance. 7 The people served the Eternal as long as Joshua lived and through all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua—those who had seen all the great works that the Eternal had done for Israel.
8 Joshua, son of Nun, the Eternal’s servant, died at the age of 110 years 9 and was buried within the borders of his inheritance at Timnath-heres in the hills of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.
29 (continuing with a parable) Look over there at that fig tree—and all the trees surrounding it. 30 When the leaves break out of their buds, nobody has to tell you that summer is approaching; it’s obvious to you. 31 It’s the same in the larger scheme of things. When you see all these things happening, you can be confident that the kingdom of God is approaching. 32 I’m telling you the truth: this generation will not pass from the scene before everything I’m telling you has occurred. 33 Heaven and earth will cease to exist before My words ever fail.
34 So be careful. Guard your hearts. They can be made heavy with moral laxity, with drunkenness, with the hassles of daily life. Then the day I’ve been telling you about might catch you unaware and trap you. 35 Because it’s coming—nobody on earth will escape it. 36 So you have to stay alert, praying that you’ll be able to escape the coming trials so you can stand tall in the presence of the Son of Man.
37-38 Through this whole period of time, He taught in the temple each day. People would arrive at the temple early in the morning to listen. Then, at day’s end, He would leave the city and sleep on Mount Olivet.
22 This daily pattern continued as they came closer to the holiday of Unleavened Bread, also known as the Passover.
Jesus teaches of judgment to come and the destruction of the temple. All things move toward a collision of ideas and faith at the most important feast of the year.
2 The chief priests and religious scholars continued looking for a way to kill Jesus; they hadn’t been able to act yet due to their fear of the people’s reaction. 3 At this point, Satan entered into one of the twelve, Judas (also called Iscariot). 4 Judas set up a private meeting with the chief priests and the captains of the temple police to discuss a plan for betraying Jesus and putting Him in their hands. 5 This was just the kind of break they had been waiting for, so they were thrilled and agreed to a handsome payment. 6 Everything was settled, and Judas simply waited for the right moment, when the crowds weren’t around, to betray Jesus into their custody.
7 They came to the Day of Unleavened Bread, a holy day when a special lamb (called the Passover lamb) had to be sacrificed. 8 Jesus chose Peter and John and gave them instructions.
Jesus: Go and make all the necessary preparations for the Passover meal so we can eat together.
Peter and John: 9 Where do You want us to make preparations?
Jesus: 10 When you enter the city, you’ll encounter a man carrying a jar of water. Just follow him wherever he goes, and when he enters a house, 11 tell the homeowner, “The Teacher has this question for you: ‘Where is the guest room where I can share the Passover meal with My disciples?’” 12 He’ll show you a spacious second-story room that has all the necessary furniture. That’s where you should prepare our meal.
13 They did as He said and found everything just as He said it would be, and they prepared the Passover meal.
There are endless reasons to praise God, and many of them are included in the Book of Psalms. Book Four (Psalms 90–106) is made up of songs that praise and celebrate God for His creation, strength, work in history, and kingship. Although these songs are written to honor God, many require something from us. Throughout these psalms is the Hebrew word hallelujah, translated “Praise the Eternal!” That’s not just a passive verb, as in, “Praise be to the Eternal”; it’s an active imperative! We are commanded to praise Him. We are commanded to join angels above, people below, and all creatures in praising Him!
A prayer of Moses, a man of God.
1 Lord, You have always been our refuge.
Our ancestors made You their home long ago.
2 Before mountains were born,
before You fashioned the earth and filled it with life,
from ages past to distant futures,
You are truly God.
3 You turn people back to dust,
saying, “Go back to the dust, children of Adam.”
4 For You a thousand years is like a day when it is over,
a watch during the night;
there is no difference to You.
5-6 You release the waters of death to sweep mankind away in his slumber.
In the morning, we are blades of grass,
Growing rapidly under the sun but withering quickly;
yet in the evening, we fade and die, soon to be cut down.
7 For Your anger has consumed us.
Your wrath has shaken us to the core
and left us deeply troubled.
8 You have written our offenses before You—
the light of Your presence shines brightly on our secret sins,
and we can’t run or hide.
9 For all our days are spent beneath Your wrath;
our youth gives way to old age, and then
one day our years come to an end with a sigh.
10 We may journey through life for 70 years;
some may live and breathe 80 years—if we are strong.
Yet our time here is only toil and trouble;
soon our days are gone, and we fly away.
11 Who can truly comprehend the power unleashed by Your anger?
Your wrath matches the fear that is due to You.
12 Teach us to number our days
so that we may truly live and achieve wisdom.
13 How long will we wait here alone?
Return, O Eternal One, with mercy.
Rescue Your servants with compassion.
14 With every sun’s rising, surprise us with Your love,
satisfy us with Your kindness.
Then we will sing with joy and celebrate every day we are alive.
15 You have spent many days afflicting us with pain and sorrow;
now match those with years of unspent joy.
16 Let Your work of love be on display for all Your servants;
let Your children see Your majesty.
17 And then let the beauty and grace of the Lord—our God—rest upon us
and bring success to all we do;
yes, bring success to all we do!
1 He who takes refuge in the shelter of the Most High
will be safe in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 He will say to the Eternal, “My shelter, my mighty fortress,
my God, I place all my trust in You.”
3 For He will rescue you from the snares set by your enemies who entrap you
and from deadly plagues.
4 Like a bird protecting its young, God will cover you with His feathers,
will protect you under His great wings;
His faithfulness will form a shield around you, a rock-solid wall to protect you.
Psalm 91 is a beautiful psalm of trust in God. But how does God take care of all His people, all at the same time? Well, keep reading because Psalm 91 is one of just a few places in Scripture that describe what we might call “guardian angels” (Exodus 23:20; Psalm 43:3). Though rare, these passages teach that God is not alone in maintaining and protecting His creation and His people. He has made a host of heavenly messengers ready to do His bidding, and His bidding is often to guard His people throughout their lives and protect them—sometimes from dangers they are not even aware of.
5 You will not dread the terrors that haunt the night
or enemy arrows that fly in the day
6 Or the plagues that lurk in darkness
or the disasters that wreak havoc at noon.
7 A thousand may fall on your left,
ten thousand may die on your right,
but these horrors won’t come near you.
8 Only your eyes will witness
the punishment that awaits the evil,
but you will not suffer because of it.
9 For you made the Eternal [your][a] refuge,
the Most High your only home.
10 No evil will come to you;
plagues will be turned away at your door.
11 He will command His heavenly messengers to guard you,
to keep you safe in every way.
12 They will hold you up in their hands
so that you will not crash, or fall, or even graze your foot on a stone.[b]
13 You will walk on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the lion and the serpent underfoot.
14 “Because he clings to Me in love,
I will rescue him from harm;
I will set him above danger.
Because he has known Me by name,
15 He will call on Me, and I will answer.
I’ll be with him through hard times;
I’ll rescue him and grant him honor.
16 I’ll reward him with many good years on this earth
and let him witness My salvation.”
24 Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children,
but those who are quick to correct them show true love.
25 Those who do right have plenty to eat,
while those who do wrong go hungry.