Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Prayers of the Bible, Part 7--The Judges (cont.)

In continuing a look at a few of Israel's judges, a third one that is definitely interesting is Jephthah. He was a Gileadite who was driven away from his family and his home because he was not the son of his father’s wife, but of another woman. However, when the Ammonites were oppressing them, the Gileadites asked him to lead the fight against them. Before doing so, Jephthah made a vow to the Lord, saying, “If You will indeed give the sons of Ammon into my hand, then it shall be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the sons of Ammon, it shall be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.”

This is intriguing for a couple of reasons. First of all, there’s once again an implication of bargaining with the Lord, as Jephthah’s vow begins with the word, “If”; IF the Lord will give, then Jephthah will offer. Also, there is the matter of the offering itself, and I’m not entirely sure what to make of his story. You’ll have to look into it yourself; look it up, Judges 11.

Finally, besides looking at the prayers of some of the individual judges, there is a situation that occurs in Israel, and afterwards, all of Israel petitions the Lord for guidance.  After some Benjamites rape a concubine, Israel is planning to go up in battle against the Benjamites.  Not once, but twice, they consult the Lord, asking Him, "Who of us shall go first to fight against the Benjamites?"  and "Shall we go up again to battle with Benjamin, our brother, or not?"  Each time, the Lord gives them positive confirmation, and they seem to follow His instruction.  And yet...

Each time, Israel is defeated by Benjamin.  When the Israelites again inquire of the Lord, He finally tells them, "Go, for tomorrow I will give them into your hands."  And it is on the third day that the Lord does, in fact, defeat Benjamin.  The only observation I have from this is not one that gives me any comfort, as I see that even when someone is following the Lord's instruction, he/she may still be defeated in battle.  I guess the idea there is to not quit...to keep doing what He commands.  I try to remember that success does not depend upon me, obedience does.  If I do what He asks, He is the One that can make me successful.

The last judge I want to take a quick look at is Samson. Oh, Samson. I have no words to describe him...he's quite a character. One of my favorite stories about Samson, though, is actually when the Lord appears to his parents, foretelling his birth and giving his parents instructions on raising him as a Nazirite, set apart for service to the Lord. When Manoah, Samson's father, hears that the Lord has appeared to his wife, he prays, "Let the man of God you sent to us come again to teach us how to bring up the boy who is to be born." Wow. What a wise prayer, asking the Lord for guidance in raising children...one that I'm sure has been prayed by countless parents. Also, with Samson's parents, we again see a desire to know the Lord and to honor him, as they ask, "What is your name, so that we may honor you when your word comes true?"

Throughout Samson's life, we see some familiar things that he prays for. He sounds kind-of accusatory (which we've heard from others before) when he asks, "You have given your servant this great victory. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?" Also, though, is the redeeming prayer at the end of Samson's life. After he has been captured by the Philistines and blinded and is being mocked in the temple of their god Dagon, Samson prayed, "Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes." It seems to me that in this passage, and with this prayer, God's mercy is evident. Although Samson seems to have led a somewhat less-than-faithful life--in my opinion, he doesn't seem to have lived up to his calling, and in fact, he's really not all that likeable of a character in scripture--the Lord hears his prayer and honors his request, and in his death, he is able to defeat some enemies of Israel and of the Most High God.

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