The fields are ripe for harvest….

14 05 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY FIVE : Judges 2 v. 6 – 3 v. 31; John 4 v. 27 – 42; Psalm 56 v. 1 – 13

JUDGES
Disobedience and Defeat – oh dear. While Joshua had been with them, the Israelites had remained faithful, but after Joshua’s death, and with the passing of that generation, the new generation ‘knew neither the Lord nor what He had done for Israel’. Sounds unbelievable, but they so quickly forget God, and turn to Baal and Ashtoreth, and the other gods of the Canaanites, Hittites etc..
God’s hand is no longer with them, but rather against them when they have turned away from Him. Israel’s enemies, who had remained in the land, have done so to be a ‘test’ for Israel, and they gain their success in plundering and enslaving the Israelites in places.
God punishes Israel when it prostitutes itself in turning away from Him and turning to other gods.
God raises up judges who for a time save the Israelites from the raiders; but the people continue to turn away from God, and when the judge dies, the corruption of Israel worsens. God, in His anger says,
‘Because this nation has violated the covenant….I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the Lord and walk in it….’
But Israel continues to assimilate the other pagan deities, and mix with their neighbours in marriage etc..

This passage suggests to me that while Joshua was around, obedience to God came naturally, while the judges were in charge Israel avoided further routing, and that the nation was dependent upon some key charismatic, gifted, anointed leaders, but without them they quickly failed. The people are so fickle that the covenant (on the people’s side) is too dependent upon who the human leader is, raised up by God….oh for the new covenant, written deeply in people’s hearts, lived out gloriously, fully through Christ, in the Spirit.
 

Othniel – here’s a first example. Israel have turned to Baal and Asherah, so have been ‘sold into the hands of Cushan Rishathaim’ (great name for the king of Aram Naharaim). For eight years, Israel is subjected in this way, until God raises up Caleb’s younger brother, Othniel.
‘The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, so that he became Israel’s judge and went to war.’ He gains success, defeats the king and the land has peace for 40 years (good number that – 40 !).
But….then Othniel dies.

Ehud – so, then Israel goes down the slippery slope of disobedience and ‘evil’ in God’s eyes, and Eglon, king of Moab, gains power over Israel (along with the Ammonites and Amalekites). They conquer the City of Palms, and rule over Israel for eighteen years. Again, Israel cries out to God for help and He raises up Ehud, ‘a deliverer’, (a left-handed man at that !) from the tribe of Benjamin.
Ehud goes to see Eglon, complete with 1 1/2 foot double-edged sword at his side; Ehud gives Eglon (a very fat man) a ‘tribute’ and leaves.
When Ehud has sent his attendants away, he tells Eglon he’s got a secret message for him. Eglon sends his attendants away, also. Ehud approaches Eglon in the upper room of his summer palace claiming he has a message from God, and promptly stabs Eglon in his very fat stomach. ‘Even the handle sank in after the blade, which came out of his back….and the fat closed in over it’.
Ehud escapes, locking the door behind him. When Eglon’s servants come looking for him, initially they think he’s in the loo (‘relieving himself in the inner room of the house’). Eventually, they unlock the door and find him dead.
Meanwhile Ehud is far away, blowing his victory trumpet, gathering the Israelites from the hills. The Israelites follow him to take possession of the land (fords of Jordan leading to Moab).
10,000 Moabites are killed, and Israel gains a victory over them….‘and the land had peace for eighty years’.

Reads like a comedy moment, where the left-handed Benjaminite thrusts his double-edged sword into the belly of the very fat king, such that the whole sword is swalled up the fat rolls of his stomach….but it is an act of bravery, all the same.

Shamgar – following Ehud comes Shamgar, whose claim to fame is striking down 600 Philistines (and some of them can be pretty big, apparently), with his ox-goad….all as an act of saving Israel.

JOHN
The Disciples Rejoin Jesus – the disciples are ‘surprised’ to see Jesus talking with a woman, when they return, but they know to hold their tongue !! When the woman goes, ‘leaving her water jar’ (she’ll have to come back for it – she’s forgotten (?) what she’d gone there for), she tells all her townsfolk that this man she’s never met before knows everything about her and could be the Messiah-Christ. So, there’s quite a crowd on their way to see Jesus.
The disciples are anxious for Jesus to get something to eat, but He talks of a ‘food you know nothing about….my food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish the work’.
He says that just as they might see that the harvest is nearing, by looking at the fields, so too, spiritually, ‘open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest….’
It sounds like Jesus refers to God as the sower, and maybe Himself (and then any who follow as His disciples) as the reaper of the harvest (of the crop for eternal life), and then ‘the sower and the reaper will be glad together’
He is clear in saying that the disciples will be reaping what others have sown. Others may have done the ‘hard work’ before them, but they still have the vital job of reaping / harvesting what has grown.
‘Look.’ Jesus is saying, ‘exciting stuff is beginning to happen !!’

Many Samaritans Believe – and, bang on cue, the Samaritan townsfolk arrive, ‘because of the woman’s testimony’ about Jesus knowing everything. Jesus is persuaded to give them a couple of days of His time, so He goes to their town, and during His stay (in the ripe harvest fields in Samaria), many become believers through His words.
Now they have a direct faith in Jesus, as ‘the Saviour of the world’, not merely one passed on through all this woman had said to them.

It is important for us all to seek that direct, one-to-one encounter / relationship with God, through Jesus, and to move beyond a faith which has been ‘passed on’ from others…..‘ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened for you’

PSALM – a psalm credited to David, when the Philistines had seized him in Gath; sung to a tune called ‘A Dove on Distant Oaks’ (how I wish those original tunes had survived – we’ll just have to imagine)
‘I am pursued mercilessly by slanderous people – people who twist my words, plotting harm, conspiring, lurking, plotting;
Truthful, trustworthy God – be my cover of mercy.
When I am afraid, I will trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise – in whom I trust – who makes me unafraid.
In God, I know that people cannot really harm me.
For You have delivered me from death and from falling –  and I will offer my thanks-giving –
AS I WALK BEFORE GOD
IN THE LIGHT OF LIFE.’

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