Body and blood sacrifice….

22 05 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY : Judges 10 v. 1 – 11 v. 40; John 6 v. 25 – 59; Psalm 59 v. 1 – 8

JUDGES
Tola – after Abimelech comes Tola, Dodo’s grandson, who is another raised up to save Israel. He leads for twenty-three years then dies. Wish we knew a little more about Tola.

Jair – next comes Jair, who leads for twenty-two years. His claim to fame – thirty sons, riding thirty donkeys (oh, the recurring donkeys !), controlling thirty towns in Gilead.

Jephthah – after Jair, Israel again ‘does evil in the eyes of the Lord’, worshipping and serving the Baals and Ashtoreth gods (gods of Aram, Sidon, Moah, of the Ammonites and of the Philistines. God is angry, and the Philistines and Ammonites prosper, crushing the Israelites, and oppressing them for eighteen years. As they spread their attacks across the Jordan into Judah and Benjamin territory, the Israelites cry out to God for help.
God’s reply is that, as they have turned to the other gods, they can go back to them for help – God will no longer save them :
‘Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them save you…’
 The Israelites, however, plead for God to punish their sin and restore them. They get rid of the foreign gods and pledge once again to serve the Lord. ‘He could bear Israel’s misery no longer.’
Jephthah from Gilead (his father was Gilead, his mother a prostitute) is driven away by his brothers who want to prevent Jephthah from inheriting from the family. He settles in Tob,
‘where a group of adventurers gathered around him and followed him’ – love that detail about the adventurers. Jephthah was an exciting guy to be around !!

So, when the Israelites need some help, and strong leader, to fight against the Ammonites, they call for Jephthah. He reminds them how cruelly the Gileadites had treated him, (‘why do you come to me now, when you’re in trouble…’) and gets their assurance that he will truly be their leader when the campaign is successful.
There is some diplomacy between Jephthah and the king of the Ammonites, who asks for the land the Israelites took from them to be handed back peacefully. Jephthah sends back a message which says, in effect,
‘Israel didn’t take the land of Moab or of the Ammonites; because these people would not allow the Israelites peaceful passage through their land, ‘the Lord, the God of Israel, gave Sihon and all his men into Israel’s hands….‘; because it is God who has given them the land, the Ammonites have no right to take it over…‘Will you not take what your god Chemosh gives you?’
Jephthah’s reply has no effect. The king of Ammon readies the troops to attack.
‘The Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah’, and he is equipped to lead the Israelites into battle. Jephthah makes a very rash pledge to God, that if He hands the Ammonites over to them, ‘whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph…will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering’….

what was he thinking !! If you do not already know what’s coming next, you dread the outcome. If you do, you’re horrified.

When Jephthah leads the Israelites to a famous victory over the Ammonites, he returns home and who should be first out of the house to welcome him, but his only child, his daughter. He tears his clothes in anguish, because of the vow he has made to God. She encourages her father to keep his word (this is so hard to read !!!), but is granted two months to spend time with her friends, shedding many tears over her untimely death, but then ‘after the two months…her father did to her as he had vowed’
So shocking is this story, that an annual ‘pilgrimage’ for four days is established for young Israelite women to commemorate Jephthah’s daughter.

First century Josephus writes that this human sacrifice was ‘ neither conformable to the law, nor acceptable to God’, and reflected the practices which made the Canaanites an abomination to God…other scholars have tried to interpret this passage differently to suggest that Jephthah didn’t sacrifice his daughter as a burnt-offering, but dedicated her to the Lord, un-married, a virgin forever…however, I think the meaning is pretty clear in the passage. 
This is just a horrific pain-filled story..

JOHN
Jesus, the Bread of Life – when they find Jesus, He has some pearls of wisdom to teach the crowds :
‘Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you….
The work of God is this : to believe in the one He has sent.’
When they ask for a sign, like the manna Moses provided in the desert, Jesus points out it was not Moses but the Father who provided the ‘bread from heaven’.
‘The bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’

Just as the Samaritan woman asks for ‘this water’ which Jesus alone gives, so, too the crowd ask for ‘this bread’ which Jesus is talking about.

‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty….
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away…..
My Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day….’

Then the Jews start grumbling, pointing out that this is just Jesus, the carpenter’s son. How can He claim to have come down from heaven ?
Jesus’ reply is suitably stark
‘No-one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day…
he who believes has everlasting life…
I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE….the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever. This bread is my flesh which I give for the life of the world.’

The new grumble is how, on earth, Jesus can give His flesh to be eaten….

‘unless you can eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you…’
‘whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life…’
‘Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.’

PSALM – this psalm (59) is credited to David when Saul had sent men to watch over David’s house to kill him, and is set to the tune ‘Do Not Destroy’.
‘Deliver me from my enemies…protect me from those who rise up against me…
deliver me from evildoers…from bloodthirsty men.
I have done no wrong, yet they are ready to attack me…
Show no mercy to wicked traitors…You, O Lord, laugh at them’.

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