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Today's Readings: Judges 17-18 | Isaiah 40 | 1 John 1-2

Reading 1 - Jdg 17-21

"The story of Samson is the proper end of the Book of Judges. With that the reader is brought almost, if not quite, to the time of Samuel. There are, actually, three appendices to the book: (a) the story of Micah and the Danite apostasy (Jdg 17; 18); (b) the frank account of the great crime of the Gibeathites and its consequences (Jdg 19-21); and (c) in sharp contrast with these, the charming idyll of Ruth the Moabitess.

"The indications are that all these three appendices belong to the early days of the judges, but in none is there any mention of a 'judge'. From that point of view they are not part of the original purpose and plan of the book at all.

" 'In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.' This expression, which comes four times altogether (Jdg 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25), implies that the Judges narrative was compiled during the reign of one of the kings. It might be read, also, as indicating a state of anarchy in Israel, when the national organization had gone to pieces. But this was far from being the case, for there are various allusions to a system of ordered government (eg Jdg 18:2,8; 20:1,2,12,13,18; 21:10,16).

"It is often overlooked that identical words are applied to Israel in the wilderness: '(When ye are come into the Land) ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes' (Deu 12:8). When those words were spoken Israel did not lack cohesion or orderly government, but there are indications enough that at that time men served God or disregarded His law as they chose. It is in this sense that the words must be read concerning the period of the judges" (Harry Whittaker, "Judges and Ruth").

Reading 2 - Isa 40:3,4

"A voice of one calling: 'In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God' " (Isa 40:3).

The voice crying in the wilderness demanded a way for the Lord, a road prepared in the wilderness. We should be attentive to the Master's proclamation, and give him a highway into our hearts, built up by gracious operations, through the "desert" of our nature.

"We have an interesting word picture of a highway being built through a wilderness. John the Baptist is the 'heavy equipment' used to level uneven ground. He will raise the depressions and lower the hills. He will prepare the ground for the road to be laid down... The importance of John's 'bulldozing' message is not lost through the passage of time as we are in need of this truth as much today as the men of Israel in yesteryear. Man is mortal and sinful. We are in need of a redeemer. Humility is not an option. There is no such thing as a proud believer. Anyone who truly understands the Gospel message must realize who they are and what their place is in the universe. It is humbling and uplifting all at once. Humbling in that we know how insignificant we are; uplifting in knowing what we can become in Christ. Let us pray that there is a path cleared through our 'deceitful' and 'desperately wicked' hearts for Christ to build his road" (Kyle Tucker).

EVERY VALLEY SHALL BE RAISED UP (v 4): Low and groveling thoughts of God must be given up; doubting and despairing must be removed; and self-seeking and carnal delights must be forsaken. Across these deep valleys a glorious causeway of grace must be raised.

EVERY MOUNTAIN AND HILL MADE LOW: Proud creature-sufficiency, and boastful self-righteousness, must be leveled, to make a highway for the King of kings. Divine fellowship is never offered to haughty, high-minded sinners. The Lord has respect to the lowly, and visits the contrite in heart, but the lofty are an abomination unto Him.

THE ROUGH GROUND SHALL BECOME LEVEL: The crooked shall be made straight. The wavering heart must have a straight path of decision for God and holiness marked out for it. Double-minded men are strangers to the God of truth. Take care that you be in all things honest and true, as in the sight of the heart-searching God.

THE RUGGED PLACES A PLAIN: Stumbling-blocks of sin must be removed, and thorns and briers of rebellion must be uprooted. So great a visitor must not find miry ways and stony places when He comes to honor His favored ones with His company.

Reading 3 - 1Jo 1:7

"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all [or every] sin" (1Jo 1:7).

"The blood of Christ never cleansed an excuse."

A woman said to her brother, "I'm deeply troubled about a problem I have: I exaggerate. I always seem to enlarge a story until it's all distorted. People know they can't trust me. Can you help me?"

The brother said, "Let's pray about it." So she began to pray, "Dear Heavenly Father, Thou knowest I have a tendency to exaggerate." At this point the brother interrupted, "Call it lying, sister, and you may get over it!" The woman began to weep, because she knew he was right. She had been trying to make "lying" acceptable, and her excuse-making had made praying about it nearly impossible.

All of us are prone to cover up our sins by giving them polite names. Bad temper is said to be "nerves" or "righteous indignation", meanness to be "zeal for the Truth", lying is labeled "harmless exaggeration", and dishonesty is dignified by calling it "good business practice". To grow in grace, we must put aside all rationalizing and get to the heart of the problem. The blood of Christ does not apply to excuses, but it has the power to cleanse any sin.


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