What you’ve gone through, what you’ve experience, how you were treated, who you were, where you’ve been – those are behind you. Yes they shaped you, but they don’t have to define you and your future! Those things people have said about you aren’t what you have to be or become! We all get to choose! We all have choice! The main reason is God’s plans for us is good! God is good and God is love! So we have to choose who we will be be. If we were good or thought we were and then had an encounter with Jesus that transformed us just like Paul. If we weren’t so good and got into trouble and then had an encounter with Jesus that transformed us. Where are you at right now? How will you choose to finish this race called life? Will you choose good? Will you choose faith? Will you choose obedience? Will you choose to finish strong? Your past doesn’t have to define your future!
Today’s reading gets us started in the book of Judges…
Jephthah’s Valor and Vow
1Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valor, but he was son of a prostitute, while Gilead was Jephthah’s father. 2But Gilead’s wife bore him sons, and when the wife’s sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, “You won’t inherit in our father’s house, for you are a son of another woman.” 3Then Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob. Some worthless fellows joined with Jephthah and went out with him. 4Now it came about after a while that the children of Ammon fought with Israel. 5When the children of Ammon made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah from the land of Tob. 6They said to Jephthah, “Come and be our chief, so we may fight the children of Ammon.” 7Jephthah then said to the elders of Gilead, “Didn’t you hate me and drive me out of my father’s house? So why are you coming to me now that you’re in trouble?” 8“Here is why we’re now turning to you,” the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah. “Come with us, fight the children of Ammon, and then you will become head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.” 9So Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “If you take me back home to fight the children of Ammon, and Adonai gives them over to me, I should become your head!” 10The elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “Let Adonai be witness between us if we don’t do as you say.” 11Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and chief over them, after Jephthah repeated all his terms before Adonai at Mizpah. 12Then Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the children of Ammon saying, “What have you to do with me, that you have come to me to make war on my land?” 13The king of the children of Ammon answered the messengers of Jephthah, “Because Israel took away my land, when they came up from Egypt, from the Arnon to the Jabbok as far as the Jordan. Now therefore, return them peaceably.” 14But Jephthah sent messengers again to the king of the children of Ammon, 15and said to him, “Thus says Jephthah, ‘Israel did not take away the land of Moab or the land of the children of Ammon. 16For upon departing from Egypt, Israel traveled through the wilderness to the Sea of Reeds and came to Kadesh, 17then Israel sent messengers to the king of Edom saying, “Please, let me pass through your land,” but the king of Edom would not consent. Similarly he sent word to the king of Moab, but he would not consent. So Israel, after staying at Kadesh, 18traveled through the wilderness, around the land of Edom and the land of Moab, came to the east side of the land of Moab and they camped on the other side of the Arnon. But they did not enter the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was the border of Moab. 19Then Israel sent messengers to King Sihon of the Amorites, the king of Heshbon, and Israel said to him, “Please, let us pass through your land to my place.” 20But Sihon did not trust Israel to pass through his territory. So Sihon gathered all his troops, camped in Jahaz and fought against Israel. 21But Adonai God of Israel gave Sihon and all his troops into the hand of Israel, and they defeated them. So Israel took possession of all the land of the Amorites, the inhabitants of that country. 22Thus they possessed all the territory of the Amorites, from the Arnon as far as the Jabbok, and from the wilderness as far as the Jordan. 23So now Adonai God of Israel dispossessed the Amorites from before His people Israel. So should you possess their land? 24Don’t you possess what Chemosh your god gives you to possess? Likewise, whatever Adonai our God has dispossessed from before us, this we will possess. 25Besides, are you any better than Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever strive against Israel, or did he ever fight against them? 26While Israel was living in Heshbon and its villages, in Aroer and its villages, and in all the cities on both sides of the Arnon for 300 years, why didn’t you try to recover them all that time? 27So I myself have not transgressed against you, yet you are doing me harm by waging war against me. May Adonai, the Judge, judge today between Bnei-Yisrael and the children of Ammon.’” 28However, the king of the children of Ammon paid no attention to the words of Jephthah that he sent him. 29Then the Ruach Adonai came upon Jephthah, so he marched through Gilead and Manasseh, and passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he crossed over to the children of Ammon. 30Then Jephthah vowed a vow to Adonai and said, “If You will indeed give the children of Ammon into my hand, 31then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return safely from the children of Ammon, it will be Adonai’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.” 32So Jephthah crossed over to the children of Ammon to fight against them, and Adonai gave them into his hand. 33So he utterly defeated them from Aroer until you come to Minnith—20 towns—and as far as Abel-cheramim. So the children of Ammon were subdued before Bnei-Yisrael. 34Now when Jephthah arrived at his home in Mizpah, behold, his daughter was coming out to meet him with tambourines and with dances. Now she was his only child. Besides her he had no son or daughter. 35Upon seeing her, he tore his clothes and said, “Alas, my daughter! You made me bow down in grief—you’ve made me miserable! For I have opened my mouth to Adonai, and I cannot take it back.” 36“My father, you have opened your mouth to Adonai,” she said to him. “Do to me what proceeded from your mouth—since Adonai brought vengeance on your enemies, the children of Ammon.” 37She said further to her father, “Let this thing be done for me. Let me be alone two months, so that I may go on the mountains and mourn my virginity, I and my companions.” 38“Go!” he said. So he sent her away for two months. So she left, she and her companions, and mourned on the mountains because of her virginity. 39Then at the end of two months she returned to her father, who did with her according to his vow he had made—so she was never intimate with a man. So it became a custom in Israel, 40that the daughters of Israel would go annually to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.
–from Judges 11
Be careful what you say! Be careful what you promise! Make sure you are good to your word! Don’t lie! Don’t make promises you can’t keep! Don’t make promises you won’t keep! Consider your words carefully before you say them for you need to consider what could and would be rather than just jumping into it and getting put into a situation or position you may regret. We all get to choose if we will be faithful or not! We all get to choose if we will be obedient or not! So let’s choose life and life to the full! Let’s choose integrity and honesty! Let’s choose faith and obedience!
1Then the men of Ephraim were summoned and crossed over to Zaphon. They said to Jephthah, “Why did you cross over to fight against the children of Ammon without calling us to go with you? We will burn your house over you with fire.” 2So Jephthah responded to them, “I and my people were in a bitter conflict with the children of Ammon, yet when I called you, you didn’t deliver me from their hand. 3So when I saw that you weren’t going to deliver, I put my life in my hand and crossed over against the children of Ammon, and Adonai gave them into my hand. So why have you come up to me today, to fight me?” 4Then Jephthah gathered all the men of Gilead and fought Ephraim. The men of Gilead defeated Ephraim, because they said, “You Gileadites are just fugitives of Ephraim in the midst of Ephraim and in the midst of Manasseh.” 5The Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan opposite Ephraim. So when any of the fugitives of Ephraim said, “Let me cross over,” the men of Gilead would ask him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” If he said, “No,” 6then they would say to him, “Say now, ‘Shibboleth,’” and he said “Sibboleth” since he could not pronounce it right, then they would seize him and slay him at the fords of the Jordan. At that time 42,000 of Ephraim fell. 7Jephthah judged Israel six years. Then Jephthah the Gileadite died and was buried in one of the towns of Gilead. 8After him Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel. 9Now he had 30 sons, and 30 daughters—he sent them outside and brought in 30 girls from outside for his sons. He judged Israel seven years, 10then Ibzan died and was buried in Bethlehem. 11Then after him Elon the Zebulunite judged Israel. He judged Israel ten years, 12then Elon the Zebulunite died and was buried in Aijalon in the land of Zebulun. 13After him Abdon son of Hillel the Pirathonite judged Israel. 14He had 40 sons and 30 grandsons who rode on 70 donkeys, and he judged Israel eight years. 15Then Abdon son of Hillel the Pirathonite died and was buried in Pirathon in the land of Ephraim, in the hill country of the Amalekites.
–from Judges 12
Take a look at the world around you. Consider the roller coaster of life. The ups! The Downs! The twists! The turns! The loops! The good! The bad! The pattern seems to be turning to God and turning away from God! Where are you at? Have you chosen to follow God? Have you had a divine appointment that has changed your life and started your relationship Jesus? Take a look around you. Do you see where the people around you are heading? Your neighbors? Your town or city? Your state or province? Your country? What are the politicians doing? What the people doing? What are the judges doing? What are the leaders doing? Do we need a revival? Is your place in a revival? Are you desiring a revival where you are at? Will you be called to a higher standard? Will you live to that calling? Will you be obedient to the point of setting in a motion a legacy?
Birth of Samson
1Bnei-Yisrael again did what was evil in Adonai’s eyes, and Adonai gave them into the hand of the Philistines for 40 years. 2Now there was a certain man from Zorah, from a Danite clan, whose name was Manoah. His wife was barren and bore no children. 3Then the angel of Adonai appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold now, you are barren and have not borne children, but you will conceive and bear a son. 4Now therefore be careful not to drink wine or strong drink, or eat any unclean thing. 5For behold, you will conceive and bear a son. Let no razor come upon his head, for the boy will be a Nazirite to God from the womb. He will begin to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines.” 6Then the woman came and told her husband saying, “A man of God came to me and his appearance was like the appearance of the angel of God, very awesome! But I did not ask him where he was from, nor did he tell me his name. 7He said to me, ‘Behold, you will conceive and bear a son. So, drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for the child will be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death.” 8Then Manoah entreated Adonai and said, “My Lord, please let the man of God whom You have sent come to us again and teach us what we will do for the boy to be born.” 9God listened to the voice of Manoah, and the angel of God came again to the woman as she was sitting in the field, but her husband Manoah was not with her. 10So the woman ran quickly and told her husband, and said to him, “Look, the man that came to me the other day has appeared to me!” 11So Manoah got up and followed his wife. When he came to the man, he asked him, “Are you the one who spoke to the woman?” “I am,” he said. 12Then Manoah said, “Now may your words come about! What will be the child’s rule and his mission?” 13The angel of Adonai said to Manoah, “Let the woman abstain from all that I mentioned to her. 14She should not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, or drink wine or strong drink, or eat any unclean thing. She must observe all that I commanded her.” 15Then Manoah said to the angel of Adonai, “Please, let us detain you so that we may prepare a young goat for you.” 16But the angel of Adonai said to Manoah, “If you could detain me, I would not eat your food. But if you present a burnt offering, then offer it to Adonai.” For Manoah did not realize that he was the angel of Adonai. 17Then Manoah asked the angel of Adonai, “What is your name, so that when your words come to pass we may honor you?” 18But the angel of Adonai said to him, “Why do you ask for my name? It is wonderful.” 19Manoah took the young goat with the meal offering and offered them on the rock to Adonai, and He did something wonderful as Manoah and his wife were watching. 20For it came about when the flame went up from off the altar toward heaven that the angel of Adonai ascended in the flame of the altar. Manoah and his wife were looking on, then they fell on their faces to the ground. 21But the angel of Adonai appeared no more to Manoah or to his wife. Then Manoah realized that he was the angel of Adonai. 22Manoah said to his wife, “We will surely die, because we have seen God.” 23But his wife said to him, “If Adonai had desired to kill us, He would not have accepted a burnt offering and a meal offering from our hand, nor would He have shown us all these things or let us hear such things as these at this time.” 24Then the woman bore a son, and called his name Samson. So the boy grew up and Adonai blessed him. 25The Ruach Adonai began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.
–from Judges 13
Oh how will you make a difference. What will it take for you to listen and obey? Is today your day? As we move forward today, let’s walk trusting in God! As we move forward today, let’s walk in obedience to God’s calling! As we move forward today, let’s use our words wisely! As we move forward today, let’s be encouragers! As we move forward today, let’s correct those who need discipline! As we move forward today, let’s comfort the fainthearted! As we move forward today, let’s help the weak! As we move forward today, let’s be patient with everyone! As we move forward today, let’s pursue what is good for one another and for all! Rejoice always, pray constantly, in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Jesus! Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophetic messages, but test all things, hold fast to what is good, keep away from every kind of evil.
Keep Watch for the Day of the Lord
1Now concerning the times and seasons, brothers and sisters, you have no need for anything to be written to you. 2For you yourselves know very well that the Day of the Lord comes like a thief in the night. 3When they are saying, “Shalom and safety,” sudden destruction comes upon them like a woman having birth pains in the womb—there is no way they will escape. 4But you, brothers and sisters, are not in the dark, so that the Day might overtake you like a thief. 5For you all are sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night or of darkness— 6so then, let us not sleep as the others do, but let us remain on the alert and sober-minded. 7For those who sleep, sleep at night; and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8But since we are of the day, let us be sober-minded—putting on the breastplate of faithfulness and love, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9For God did not destine us for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Yeshua the Messiah. 10He died for us so that, whether we may be awake or asleep, we may live together with Him. 11Therefore encourage one another and build each other up—just as you in fact are doing.
Instructions for Community Life
12Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to recognize those who work hard among you and are over you in the Lord and correct you, 13and to esteem them beyond all measure in love because of their work. Keep shalom among yourselves. 14We urge you, brothers and sisters, correct the unruly, comfort the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15See that no one repays evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all. 16Rejoice always, 17pray constantly, 18in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Messiah Yeshua. 19Do not quench the Spirit, 20do not despise prophetic messages, 21but test all things, hold fast to what is good, 22keep away from every kind of evil. 23Now may the God of shalom Himself make you completely holy; and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept complete, blameless at the coming of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah. 24Faithful is the One who calls you—and He will make it happen!
25Brothers and sisters, pray for us. 26Greet all the brothers and sisters with a holy kiss. 27I charge you under oath, by the Lord, that this letter be read to all the brothers and sisters. 28The grace of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah be with you.
–from 1 Thessalonians 5