“… and when I called you, you did not save me from their hand. And when I saw that you would not save me, I took my life into my hand …” Judges 12:2-3. I’ve never seen Jephthah as a bad guy, just weak in faith and easily led by bad company. Unlike Abimelech, this deliverer of Israel didn’t kill his seventy brothers and may have only had his daughter remain ever-a-virgin to fulfill his rash oath. Yes, he didn’t inquire of God but tried to reason with the Ammonite king instead. Again, weak in faith. Now, the Ephraimites are upset that they hadn’t gotten in on Jephthah’s victory when they hadn’t wanted to help him in the first place. Perhaps he lacked wisdom in answering them by pointing out that they hadn’t helped him before, but he didn’t ask for this wisdom that God would have given to him without reproach (James 1:5). And, even though he made attempts to give a gentle answer, their wrath pounced upon his weakness at the cost to them of 42,000 men. God tells us to “… as far as it depends on you, to live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18), but this means that we have to rely on God, trusting fully in Him for all things and in all circumstances, and not on ourselves in weak faith.
“By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host” Psalm 33:6. A few commentators believing that this psalm is a companion to the previous one that ends with joy for those given righteousness because they were forgiven, Psalm 33 gives us reasons for that joy. Praise should go to such a gracious God because of His character, creative power, work in the world, and care for His own! We are truly loved by a powerful God who is able to do everything. By just the breath of His mouth (inspiration) He created all. And in the creation account we indeed see Him speaking everything into existence. Of Jesus it is described “Word became flesh” just after we’re told that “all things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made (John 1). Hebrews 1:3 adds, “… and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” This is our Savior, who has “the exact imprint of [God’s] nature, who by “the breath of His mouth” created all (Colossians 1:16) and is worthy of all our praise. We are helpless newborns in His powerful hands and cry, “Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.”
“… So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God” Matthew 15:6. How great it is to partake in the Lord’s supper with our brothers and sisters in Christ on the first day of every week. We’re encouraged by them and them by us when we remember His sacrifice done for us “until He comes.” It’s a tradition that is commanded of us (1 Corinthians 11:23-26) and practiced by early Christians (Acts 20:7). This is different than traditions that are not matters of faith but are things that are practiced by us—often for a very long time. Perhaps we’ve always used a certain songbook or translation of Scriptures. Or we’ve always dressed a certain way or had a certain color on the walls. Some traditions are just expedients to get to God’s commands to sing, study God’s Word, or meet together for worship. It’s when the expedients become the commands that we can clash with those who wish to change the expedients to obey the same commands. A projector casts music or God’s Word upon a screen. Changes are proposed to the place of meeting. Each generation of God’s people must work to meet the challenges of the time and not make void the Word of God.
“And all who heard him were amazed and said, ‘Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” Acts 9:21. Our reputations stick with us. We’re introduced to Saul when the witnesses were stoning Stephen placed their garments at his feet, and not only did he approve of this disciple’s execution, but he was instrumental in the “great persecution” of the church that scattered all of Jesus’ followers throughout Judea and Samaria except for the apostles. With the same fervor that Christians went from “house to house,” not ceasing to teach and preach that Jesus is the Christ (5:42), Saul had ravaged the church, “entering house after house” to drag them off to prison. Damascus was far away, but even Christians there knew of him and were wary. Ananias was until the Lord told him to baptize their repentant enemy. But reputation is won over by actions. Saul grew in strength and “confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ”—so much so that the ravager had to be saved by those he had intended to bring bound to Jerusalem.
“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” Psalm 32:1. To those who were seeking justification by works, Paul spoke about Abraham believing God and his faith credited as righteousness. Then he said that David spoke of “the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works” (Romans 4:6-8) before quoting the first two verses of this psalm. To be forgiven is to be considered righteous. This isn’t anything that can be earned but is a free gift from the one who is forgiving. That is why forgiveness nor righteousness can be worked for, only freely given. And that is why that the one who gains that forgiveness is truly blessed. But to get to that blessing, the person has to obey the gospel. The psalmist says that he tried hard to hide his sin, but it was only when he took ownership of it that he experienced the end result of the blessing—joy! Repentance, then, is not working to be justified but merely obedience to the gospel, the same as submitting to baptism. How often we view obedience as drudgery rather than access to blessing that God alone chooses to give. And how often do we trudge through this life rather than having promised joy.