In our last story we thought about Joshua taking the people into The Promised Land and defeating the city of Jericho. Joshua has an entire book in the Bible telling his story with the people of Israel. The Promised Land was all that God had said, flowing with milk and honey. This description is not literal! It just means good farming land, so with bees and cows which produce milk and honey, and crops and livestock with potential to provide for a good life.
However, the land had been lived in by people who were pretty evil and morally corrupt. They didn’t worship God, but many gods and part of their worship was to sacrifice children to keep their gods happy, or so they believed. Remember God’s purpose for his people, the Israelites was to be a Light…to show other nations how to live God’s way. So Israel had to fight many battles to take back what had been their land and stamp out this behaviour. And they did. Then Joshua divides the land and gives a portion to the 12 tribes. Joshua is getting pretty old now so he speaks to his people and reminds them to be faithful to the one true God and the commands God has given to them. Then Joshua dies.
Then we have a period of time in the story of the Israelites that is not a good one! They have no king to rule them because their one true king is God and they know how he wants them to live. So Judges are appointed. Not judges as we think of them ( see illustration) but leaders who settled disputes in times of crisis (there were many!), warriors, overseeing battles and any political type decisions. Some Judges were good, some okay, some terrible.
You may have heard of some of them. Deborah was good, highly gifted and skilled in battle and someone who made wise decisions. Great for us girls as well…a woman as a good judge! You may have heard of Gideon who is, lets face it a bit of a wimp! When God calls him to do a job for him Gideon is hiding away and makes lots of excuses as to why he can’t serve God. But God can see strength in Gideon others can’t see. You may have heard of Samson an exceptionally strong man who had never had his hair cut! No never… and all his strength was in his hair. He is pretty useless though and just likes pleasing himself. One of his girlfriends cut all of his hair off whilst he was asleep and the Philistines take him prisoner. They gouge out his eyes! Whilst in prison his hair grows. One day the Philistines were gathered for a big celebration in the temple of their god Dagon, and they thought it would be good to have blind Samson out to entertain them. The temple was packed with people. Samson comes out, and with all his strength pushes the pillars of the temple apart, killing all of those there. The Bible says that as a soldier, “he killed many more people when he died than when he lived.”
There are many judges of Israel and their stories are all recorded in the book of Judges in the Old Testament part of the Bible.
This was a bad time in Israel’s history and the book of Judges ends summarising how things were:
“In those days, Israel had no king, and everyone did what was right in their own eyes.”
I have been thinking about these stories as I have been out walking. Difficult stories to understand walking on peaceful Ashtead Common. But maybe I have understood two things from reading them:
1. God can and will choose anybody whatever their strengths and weaknesses to do his work in the world. We have to be willing.
2. God requires us to be faithful in being a ‘light’….showing others what God wants for his world….which can be summed up in loving everybody and all creation, as much as you love yourself.