In the first chapter of Judges, we read about Othniel. He had won the privilege of marrying Caleb’s daughter by conquering some land. Othniel was now both a nephew and son-in-law to Caleb. Had God been preparing Othniel for such a time as this? We hear “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him.” With the Lord’s help, Othniel was able to have victory over the King of Aram followed by 40 years of peace.
There doesn’t appear to be much to the story of Othniel reported beyond this. We do see the first instance of the 4-part pattern playing out here. God was listening for the cries of his people despite being angry with them. I think of a parent being on the alert to rescue their children at any age if there is a cry for help.
Today we learn the rinse and repeat cycle God will use to get the Israelite’s attention. There are four parts to this cycle. #1 – People go astray. #2 God turns them over to their enemies. #3 The people cry out to God. #4 God sends his rescue. God didn’t intend to leave his people abandoned. He will continue to send helpers to get them on track. From the sounds of it, his plan worked temporarily but didn’t sustain itself very well.
It’s interesting to note how the Israelites would always revert back to the other gods when left without a leader. It’s easy for us to make judgments on their behavior. Think of what a toddler can accomplish in just minutes when a parent is looking the other way. Or, the chaos of a classroom when the students are left to fend for themselves if the teacher leaves the room. We are curious by nature, always testing the limit. Does this help explain what is happening here and why the Israelites can’t keep their focus on God?
For those who have never felt persecution for their faith, the first part of today’s reading must seem a little foreign. Certainly, if we have encountered such it’s still hard to imagine what it was like for those early Christians. Most of Paul’s audience here would be non-Jews who hadn’t known God for long at all. It must feel like they had just jumped into a burning fire.
So many early Christians lost their lives for their faith. Around the world today, we see those same things happening at an alarming rate. While many years have passed, the truth still remains. “God will provide rest for you who are being persecuted and also for us when the Lord Jesus appears from heaven.” We are included in this promise of rest even if we haven’t ever been persecuted personally.
In the words of Paul, “May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace” as you read through and reflect on the book of Second Corinthians. These opening verses are so comforting. We can be assured that God is working on our behalf to bring comfort and rescue when we need his protection. What are we called here to do in response?
Be on guard to help others. That’s our mission. Have you seen the movie “Pay It Forward” that was released in 2000? It was a quirky American film where a 7th grade boy’s Social Studies teacher made an assignment to make the world a better place. They way the kids would accomplish this is by a series of good deeds. If you were the recipient of a good deed, it was then your responsibility to pass along a good deed to someone else. I see a little of that here in these verses.
The psalmist, David, is in fear of the evil around him. He cries out to God for rescue and protection. He knows God is there for him. He recalls the protection on the “day of battle”. There were, in fact, many days of battle in which God protected David.
This psalm reminds us that evil and enemies are not new to our time. We may want to try and qualify that our evil is worse, but evil is evil. Nothing good can come from the “hands of the wicked.”
I wonder here if the psalmist is a bit paranoid. I think we have all had those moments when we think people are talking badly of us, or plotting something against us. Or am I the only one? One might think so with David here, but there were times chronicled in David’s life where he was on the run, hiding for safety, and fearful.
I think our take-away could be something like – God will protect us from those who slander and abuse us. We need to call upon him and trust for his deliverance, as did David. Our troubles and brushes with evil are not too much for God. He is on the ready to be our knight in shining armor.
Are you calling on God for help?
Let’s pray. Father, you are the great rescuer and redeemer. Why is it so hard to remember that when I forge out on my own? Thank you for your forgiveness and great love for me. You forgive my shortcomings, and they are forgotten. You know the cries of my heart. I long for the day I see them revealed. In your time, Lord, I know. Give me patience to wait. Today I ask for you to bless all the children in our village and particularly our church. They need a special word from you to let them know you are near. Bring our sweet dog home and keep her safe while we’re apart. In Jesus’ name. Amen.