What God did for His people, Israel, was very great. There is a striking contrast between their slavery in Egypt and their abundance in the promised land. God had multiplied His blessing upon them, just as Jesus did when He turned water into wine (John 2:1-11). If the blessing is to be maintained and increased, we must honour the Lord. We must cry to Him for blessing: “Hear my prayer, O God, listen to the words of my mouth.” We must call upon Him with faith: “Surely God is my help; the Lord is the One who sustains me” (Psalm 54:2,4).
In all the social details of the division of the land, we must not lose sight of its spiritual basis (Joshua 21:43-45). The important thing is that God, and not man, receives the glory: “Do not rebel against the Lord or against us by building an altar for yourselves, other than the altar of the Lord your God” (Joshua 22:19). If God, and not man, is to be exalted, there must be new birth (John 3:3,5-7). To the man who is obsessed with his own problems – “My heart is in anguish within me …” (Psalm 55:4-5), God gives us “the wings of a dove” (Psalm 55:6) – to rise to higher things.
The concluding message, preached by Joshua, is a call for the people to exalt the Lord. They make a definite and public commitment to the Lord. The Christ-centredness of real commitment to the Lord is summed up in the words of John the Baptist: “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30). We must confess Christ and honour Him – “The One who comes from heaven is above all” (John 3:31). We must listen to what He says to us – “The One whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit” (John 3:34). It will not be easy to live a life of true commitment to Christ. Nevertheless, we have God’s promise: “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22).
In John 4, we read about the overcoming of our enemies through the Gospel. “Jews do not associate with the Samaritans” (John 4:9). Jesus did associate with the Samaritan woman. The woman believed in Jesus. Many others believed in Him. By breaking down the barrier between Jews and Samaritans, Jesus was not minimizing the difference between the godly and the ungodly. He was emphasizing that “he who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward” (Proverbs 11:18). As He spoke the Word of God’s love, many were brought to faith in Him (John 4:39). When the Gospel of God’s love reaches our hearts, we do not continue in sin, going our own way rather than the Lord’s way. We come in our sin to the Saviour. We receive His forgiveness. We begin a new life – “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
“The Lord raised up judges who saved them out of the hands of these raiders” (Judges 2:16). “This man really is the Saviour of the world” (John 4:42). God sends His servants to revive His people. God sent His Son to redeem His people. Revival comes “by the Spirit of the Lord” (Judges 3:10). Redemption comes through the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. As we look to God for both redemption and revival, we say, “In God, I trust, I will not be afraid” (Psalm 56:4,11).
Judges 4:1-5:31; John 4:43-5:15; Psalm 57:1-6
“God sends His love and faithfulness” (Psalm 57:3).
When we’re reading a book like Judges, we must remember the faithful love of God. When we remember God’s faithful love, we will look beyond the events recorded in Judges. We will catch a glimpse of God’s presence and purpose. Whatever may be happening in our lives, let’s remember this: God is there, and He is fulfilling His purpose of “love and faithfulness.” In Jesus Christ, the love and faithfulness of God are seen more clearly than anywhere else. In His healing, we see Him declaring the “love and faithfulness” of God. Rejoicing in God’s faithful love, let us say, from our hearts, “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth” (Psalm 57:5).
Judges 6:1-7:8a; John 5:16-30; Psalm 57:7-11
The source of Gideon’s spiritual strength lay in the Lord – “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior” (Judges 6:12). The source of Jesus’ strength lay in God the Father – “the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can only do what He sees the Father doing” (John 5:19). When we realize the source of our spiritual strength, we are able to say, “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast” (Psalm 57:7).
Judges 7:8b-8:35; John 5:31-47; Proverbs 11:19-28
“No sooner had Gideon died than the Israelites again prostituted themselves to the Baals” (Judges 8:33). “John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light” (John 5:35) – “For a time”, but note their response to Jesus -”I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not accept Me” (John 5:43). “The Lord detests those whose hearts are perverse, but He delights in those whose ways are blameless” (Proverbs 11:20). How important it is not to settle for a superficial religion, which can be easily overthrown when Satan comes in with an unbelieving alternative which does not honour the Lord Jesus Christ. True faith honours Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.
Judges 9:1-57; John 6:1-24; Psalm 58:1-11
“Surely there is a God who judges the earth” (Psalm 58:11). “God repaid the wickedness … ” (Judges 9:54). The Holy God speaks to us of His judgment upon sinners. He speaks to us His Word of warning, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). In love, He is calling us to return to Him. He pleads with us, “See to it that you do not refuse Him who speaks” (Hebrews 12:25). God’s Word of warning comes to us as part of His call to receive His gift of salvation through faith in Christ – “How shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3).
Two ways are set before us – the way of “those who shrink back and are destroyed” and the way of “those who have faith and are saved” (Hebrews 10:39). What does it mean to have faith in Christ and be saved by Him? To gain a clearer understanding of what faith in Christ as Saviour is, it may be helpful to note what it is not.
In John 6:14-15, we see two inadequate responses to Jesus Christ – “After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make Him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by Himself.”
* First, He’s described as “the Prophet.” A prophet is someone who brings a message from God. The prophets preach God’s Word. Is Jesus just the greatest of the prophets? – No! He’s much more than that. He doesn’t only preach God’s Word. He is God’s Word. He doesn’t only pass on God’s message to us. He is God’s Message. If Jesus was no more than the greatest prophet, He would still be leaving salvation in our own hands – “Here’s the way you should live. Do your best to follow my teaching.” That’s not Good News for sinners who need to receive forgiveness. That just reminds us of our failure to live up to the message that is preached to us. Thank God – Jesus is more than the greatest preacher who ever lived. He is God’s only Son. He’s our perfect Saviour.
* Second, He’s described as a “king.” Throughout history, there have been many kings. Some of them have been great kings. There have also been some terrible kings. Is Jesus just one of the kings – even the best king there’s ever been? If that’s all that He is, we’re again left with a problem. A king is someone we should look up to – some deserve more respect than others. We need more than someone to look up to. We need Someone who has come down to our level. An old hymn asks the question, “Who came down to earth from heaven?” It gives the Gospel answer – “Jesus Christ our Saviour.”
There have been many prophets. There have been many kings. There’s only one Saviour – “the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). There is only one Man concerning whom God’s Word says, ‘Believe in Him and you will be saved” – it’s the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31). If we want to be saved, we don’t go to the “prophets” and “kings” and say, “What can you do for me?” They can do nothing for us. Like us, they must look away from themselves to Jesus. Like us, they must pray, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). Like us, they must come in faith to Jesus and receive salvation as God’s “free gift” (Romans 3:23-24; 6:23).
Judges 10:1-11:40; John 6:25-29; Psalm 59:1-8
“Deliver me from my enemies” (Psalm 59:1).
The Psalmist had enemies. The people of Israel had enemies. Jesus had enemies. We have enemies. There will, however, be a Day of God’s judgment. There will be deliverance for the Lord’s people. No mercy will be shown to wicked traitors. The Lord will “laugh at them.” He will “scoff at all those nations” (Psalm 59:5,8).
Judges 12:1-13:25; John 6:60-7:13; Psalm 59:9-17
Judges tells us of Samson, a man of great strength. The Psalmist teaches us that true strength comes from the Lord. Samson’s true strength was God-given. Our true strength is God-given. True strength is more than physical strength. It’s spiritual strength. The Psalmist says to God, “O my Strength, I watch for You … I will sing of your strength … O my Strength, I sing praise to You” (Psalm 59:9,16-17). We receive this strength as we read the Word of the Lord. When Jesus asked His disciples if they were about to draw back from following Him, Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
Judges 14:1-15:20; John 7:14-44; Proverbs 11:29-12:7
True strength comes from the Spirit of the Lord – “the Spirit of the Lord came upon him (Samson) in power” (Judges 14:19); “Whoever believes in Me (Jesus), as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within him. By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive” (John 7:38-39). This strength is not only inner strength. It’s strength that’s to be used to benefit others – “he who wins souls is wise” (Proverbs 11:30).
Judges 161-17:13; John 7:45-8:11; Psalm 60:1-4
Samson “killed many more when he died than while he lived” (Judges 16:30). The chief priests and Pharisees were anxious to bring Jesus in – to destroy Him. Little did they realize that His death was to be His greatest victory. Even when His people are at a very low ebb, God does not abandon them. His purpose is restoration – “for those who fear You, You have raised a banner” (Psalm 60:4). Jesus was brought low. He was raised again. We may be brought low. We will be raised again.
Judges 18:1-19:30; John 8:12-30; Psalm 60:5-12
In Judges, we read of idolatry and adultery. Into this kind of situation comes the Lord’s warning – “if you do not believe that I am He, you will indeed die in your sins” (John 8:24). There is much resistance to the Gospel. There will, however, be those who believe – “Even as He spoke, many believed in Him” (John 8:30). In a situation full of many temptations, we must learn to say, with the Psalmist, “Give us aid against the enemy, for human help is worthless. With God we will gain the victory, and He will trample down our enemies” (Psalm 60:11-12). The problems are great. The Lord is greater. There are many difficulties. With the Lord on our side, we will be victorious – victors in Christ.
Judges 20:1-25; John 8:31-59; Psalm 61:1-8
The book of Judges ends on a very sad note: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit (or “everyone did what was right in his own eyes”)” (Judges 21:25). The sadness doesn’t come from the political situation – “no king”. It comes from the moral and spiritual situation – people doing as they pleased with respect for the authority of God and His Word. In Jesus’ day, the religious leaders refused to crown Jesus as King of their lives. When He spoke to them of the truth which could set them free, they said that they didn’t need to be set free (John 8:32-33). Persisting in their unbelief, they confronted Jesus: “Who do you think you are?” (John 8:53). Israel had times when there was “no king”. They had times when there was a king. We now have a King who is greater than all Israel’s kings. Jesus is the King of kings. He is “enthroned in God’s presence for ever” (Psalm 61:7).
Ruth 1:1-2:23; John 9:1-34; Proverbs 12:8-17
Difficult situations can be turned around to glorify God (John 9:3). The story of Ruth is the story of mourning turned to rejoicing. In John 9, we have darkness turned into light, blindness to sight. This is the story of “amazing grace” – “One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see” (John 9:25). The story of Ruth is a story of blessing – “He who works his land will have abundant food” (Proverbs 12:11). The story of the blind man is the story of “a truthful witness giving honest testimony” (Proverbs 12:17).
Ruth 3:1-4:22; John 9:35-10:21; Psalm 62:1-12
The book of Ruth ends by locating Ruth within the family tree of David, the shepherd-king. He, in his turn, forms part of the family tree of Christ, “the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11), the “King of kings” (Revelation 19:16). David, the shepherd of Israel, pointed away from himself to Christ, “the Good Shepherd” who “lays down His life for the sheep … only to take it up again” (John 10:11,17). The words of David point us to Christ – “He alone is my Rock and my Salvation” (Psalm 62:2).
1 Samuel 1:102:26; John 10:22-42; Psalm 63:1-11
“Eli’s sons were wicked men; they had no regard for the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:13). They “sinned against the Lord” – “they did not listen to their father’s rebuke” (1 Samuel 2:25). God is calling us back from this way of living. He is showing us the better way – “the boy Samuel continued to grow … in favour with the Lord” (1 Samuel 2;26). It’s the way of listening to the Lord – “Speak, for Your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10). In Proverbs 29:1, there’s a very challenging word of warning: “He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” Such words of warning are also found in the New Testament. Jesus said, “whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 2:29). Our response to such words is not to attempt to give ‘the perfect answer’ to the question, “What is the blasphemy against the Spirit”? We are to “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16). John the Baptist warned his hearers to “flee from the coming wrath” (Luke 3:7). Once again, the goal is not to gain “a perfect understanding” of “the coming wrath.” We are to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8). Hebrews 2:3 says “How shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?” Here, the emphasis is on God’s great salvation. This is what changes us – “The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message” (Acts 16:14). Are there people who have hardened their hearts so much and so often that they have committed the sin of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit? The Word of God says that this can happen to any of us. It also says that there’s a better way of living. God’s way is beautifully summed up in the words of the chorus: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face; and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” We can harden our hearts when we persist in sinning against the Lord. We cannot soften our own hearts. We can only pray, “Soften my heart, Lord.” It’s His love which changes us. In Jesus’ day, there were people who refused to listen to Him – “the Jews picked up stones to stone Him” (John 10:31). Jesus shows us a better way -”My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:27-28). In Psalm 63: 11, there’s a word of warning – “the mouths of liars will be silenced.” Once again, there’s a better way – “rejoice in God.” Romans 3:4 says, “Let God be true, and every human being a liar.” What’s God saying to us here? – Don’t believe the devil’s lie. He tells us that we can live any way we like. That’s the way of book of Judges ends – “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). How can we be delivered from a life of “ungodliness and unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18)? – Paul gives us this great answer – “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).
1 Samuel 2:27-4:22; John 11:1-44; Psalm 64:1-10
In the days of Samuel’s youth, “the word of the Lord was rare” (1 Samuel 3:1). Nevertheless, “the lamp of God had not yet gone out” (1 Samuel 3:3). God began to do a new work, with Samuel at the very heart of it. This new work was like a “resurrection”, out of the ashes came life – “Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out” (John 11:43-44). This is the kind of thing that God was doing in Samuel’s day: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle” (1 Samuel 3:11). The results of such a mighty work of God are described in Psalm 64:9-10: “All people will fear; they will proclaim the works of God and ponder what He has done. The righteous will rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in Him; all the upright in heart will glory in Him!”
1 Samuel 5:1-7:17; John 11:45-12:11; Proverbs 12:18-27
In Samuel’s day, there was conflict between the god of the Philistines (Dagon) and the God of Israel. It was no contest – “there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord!” (1 Samuel 5:3-4). In Jesus’ day, there was conflict between the religion of the Jews and the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Jewish religious leaders were concerned about their place and their nation. They didn’t see the most important thing – the glory of God. God was being glorified in the ministry of Jesus (John 11:47-48). “Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment” (Proverbs 12:19) – when the Philistines and the Pharisees have been silenced, “every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:11).
1 Samuel 8:1-10:8; John 12:12-36; Psalm 65:1-13
Saul was an unworthy king. Jesus is the King who is altogether worthy – “Blessed is the King of Israel” (John 12:13). We are to bring “praise” to “God our Saviour”. We are to “shout for joy and sing” (Psalm 65:1,5,13). He is worthy of all praise, glory and honour. There is no other who can compare with Jesus, the King of kings.
1 Samuel 10:9-12:25; John 12:37-13:17; Psalm 66:1-12
Jesus washed the disciples’ feet (John 13:5). Samuel prayed for the people (1 Samuel 12:23). Those who truly love will, like Jesus and Samuel, live to serve others. This life of service is to be combined with a life of worship. We are to “shout with joy to God.” We are to “sing the glory of His Name.” We are to “make His praise glorious” (Psalm 66:1-2). The two aspects of the godly life, the life which glorifies God, are summed up in the twofold commandment – love God and love your neighbour.
1 Samuel 13:1-14:23; John 13:18-38; Psalm 66:13-20
We must never be proud, taking the grace and power of God for granted. We must learn from those who fell from the Lord: (a) Saul did “a foolish thing” – he did not keep the command which had been given to him by the Lord his God (1 Samuel 13:13); (b) Judas betrayed the Lord; (c) Peter denied the Lord. We must dedicate ourselves to the Lord – “I will … fulfill my vows to you — vows my lips promised and my mouth spoke” (Psalm 66:13-14).
1 Samuel 14:24-15:35; John 14:1-31; Proverbs 12:28-13:9
“To obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22). “Whoever has My commands and keeps them is the one who loves Me … Anyone who loves Me will obey My teaching” (John 14:21,23). “In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality” (Proverbs 12:28). God is looking for an obedient people. This is the way of blessing – “The light of the righteous shines brightly” (Proverbs 13:9).
David was able to face Goliath with confidence in God – “The Lord will deliver me” (1 Samuel 17:37). Saul, then, said to him, “Go, and the Lord be with you” (1 Samuel 17:38). Jesus’ disciples were able to go forward in their mission with confidence in God, since Jesus had said to them, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last” (John 15:16). With the Psalmist, we must learn to affirm our faith in God as the One who will give the blessing both to us and through us: “God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear Him” (Psalm 67:7). However great the task may be, God is greater. There is no ‘Goliath’ too strong for the Lord, as He makes His “salvation known among all nations” (Psalm 67:2).
At the heart of David’s triumph over Goliath, there is this great testimony: “it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands” (1 Samuel 17:47). When we face ‘Goliaths’ in our own experience, Jesus says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). “May God arise, may His enemies be scattered … may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God” (Psalm 68:1,3).
In the story of David and Jonathan, we have a great picture of human friendship. In Jesus’ prayer (John 17), we learn so much about our friendship with God. When we have been with God in the place of prayer, as Jesus was, we are empowered for service: “The Lord announced the Word, and great was the company of those who proclaimed it” (Psalm 68:11).
David was delivered from his pursuer, Saul. David became the king of Israel. Jesus was delivered into the hands of His enemies. Following His resurrection, Jesus was declared to be the King of kings. “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death” (Proverbs 13:14). There is a way that leads from death to life. Jesus leads us in this way. He went to death for us. He rose to life for us.
“The Lord … has appointed David leader over Israel” (1 Samuel 25:30). Christ’s Kingship is far greater than David’s – “My Kingdom is not of this world … My Kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36). Our God reigns (Psalm 68:16). His reign is seen in His work of salvation: “Praise be to the Lord our God … Our God is a God who saves …” (Psalm 68:19-20).
To be “the King of the Jews” was a great honour. David recognized this when he said, “But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed” (1 Samuel 26:11). Pilate didn’t. He sent Jesus “to the cross” with this “notice … Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews” (John 19:19). Psalm 68:24 speaks of “the procession of our God and king into the sanctuary.” When we understand the divine Kingship in the light of the Cross, we see Jesus, “carrying His own cross, He went out to the place of the Skull …” (John 19:17). This is the inner sanctuary, the Holy of holies – Jesus Christ, “the King of the Jews”, going to the Cross for a world of lost sinners.
The contrast between the death of Saul, the first king of the Jews, and Jesus, the true King of the Jews, is striking. Saul’s death was a tragedy. Jesus’ death was a triumph. The contrast is the difference between a man who said, “it is enough” (Saul had had enough of life, and he wanted to live no longer) and the Man who said, “It is finished” (Jesus completed all that the Father had given Him to do). 1 Samuel ends with a burial (1 Samuel 31:13). John’s Gospel goes beyond a burial to a resurrection. Psalm 68:35 – “You, God, are awesome in Your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to His people.” Those who meet God at the inner sanctuary – the Cross of Jesus Christ – discover the power and strength of the Christ who is no longer dead, the Christ who has risen from the dead.