A Meditation on Judges 11: 1-3

Kevin J Youngblood
 

Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior, but he was the son of a prostitute. Gilead was the father of Jephthah. And Gilead’s wife also bore him sons. And when his wife’s sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, “You shall not have an inheritance in our father’s house, for you are the son of another woman.” Then Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob, and worthless fellows collected around Jephthah and went out with him.

The first three verses of Judges 11 sum up succinctly yet thoroughly the tragic beginning of Jepthah’s life and establish the tragic trajectory of his story – a story that is all too familiar and that is shared by far too many. We first learn that he was a mighty warrior, full of strength, passion, and potential if only it could be harnessed. Unfortunately, his scandalous origins haunt him and are thrown back in his face by his half brothers as their excuse for excluding him from the family and the inheritance. Even though the text refuses to psychologize Jephthah and says nothing explicitly about his emotional response, I cannot help but feel the pain of rejection that shot through him. What the text does reveal is his physical response – he flees the painful parentage and brutal brotherhood of home in search of an alternative community, one that will accept him as he is, one that will not shame him for a parentage that he did not choose and has no choice but to live with.


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A Meditation on Judges 6: 12-14

Kevin J Youngblood
 

Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” 13 And Gideon said to him, “Please, my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” 14 And the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?”  (Judges 6:12-14)

God sees in us what we cannot see in ourselves, and he sees in our situations possibilities and purposes to which we are completely blind. I was reminded of this encouraging truth as I read the beginning of Gideon’s story in the book of Judges. It is striking to me how casually heaven intersects with earth at crucial moments in redemptive history. The text states that the angel of YHWH came and sat under a tree next to Gideon’s winepress as if this were an everyday occurrence. Maybe it is! Maybe heaven is intersecting with earth all around us everyday and we just don’t have eyes to see it, at least not until we are desperate enough to have eyes to see it.


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A Meditation on Psalm 71

Kevin J Youngblood
 

Do not cast me off in the time of old age;

forsake me not when my strength is spent.

10 For my enemies speak concerning me;

those who watch for my life consult together

11 and say, “God has forsaken him;

pursue and seize him,

for there is none to deliver him.” (Psalm 71:9-11)

So even to old age and gray hairs,

O God, do not forsake me,

until I proclaim your might to another generation,

your power to all those to come. (Psalm 71:18)

I’ve been getting a lot of mail from AARP lately. What a lovely reminder of how old I am! As I reflect on my own aging and the future prospect of retirement, I am tempted to get depressed. Our cultural myths about aging have already sunk deep into my psyche. Fears of being sidelined, becoming outdated and passe, replaced with a younger model, “sent out to pasture” as it were fill my head. This is when I realized that, along with the rest of my culture, I have been bowing down before the idol of youth.

Psalm 71 is a helpful corrective to my misgivings about aging.


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A Meditation on Judges 2: 1-3

Kevin J Youngblood
 

Now the angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done? So now I say, I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.” (Judges 2:1-3)

The opening paragraph of Judges 2 fascinates for several reasons. Who is this “angel of YHWH”? What was he doing in Gilgal to begin with? Why is he delivering a prophetic oracle? Shouldn’t a prophet be doing that instead of this “angel of YHWH”? Let’s start with the curious detail that “the angel of YHWH went up from Gilgal to Bochim.”


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A Meditation on Matthew 10: 16

Kevin J Youngblood
 

I am sending you out sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be as prudent as serpents and as incorruptible as doves.

(Matt 10:16)

Sheep, wolves, serpents, and doves. Seldom in one brief verse of Scripture has such an odd menagerie of animals come together. Jesus’ saying employs two opposing pairs of animals to convey vividly and memorably the dangers and difficulties that await disciples who take his mission seriously. Christians live in a world of wolves and yet we are told to be sheep. We are told to go unarmed as we make our way in this world bearing witness to the work of Christ (Matt 10:9, note that they are to carry no defensive staff that shepherds used to ward off predators).


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A Meditation on Psalm 58

Kevin J Youngblood
 

To the choirmaster: according to Do Not Destroy. A Miktam of David.

Do you indeed decree what is right, you gods?

Do you judge the children of man uprightly?

No, in your hearts you devise wrongs;

your hands deal out violence on earth.

The wicked are estranged from the womb;

they go astray from birth, speaking lies.

They have venom like the venom of a serpent,

like the deaf adder that stops its ear,

so that it does not hear the voice of charmers

or of the cunning enchanter.

O God, break the teeth in their mouths;

tear out the fangs of the young lions, O Lord!

Let them vanish like water that runs away;

when he aims his arrows, let them be blunted.

Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime,

like the stillborn child who never sees the sun.

Sooner than your pots can feel the heat of thorns,

whether green or ablaze, may he sweep them away!

10 The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance;

he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked.

11 Mankind will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous;

surely there is a God who judges on earth.”

I was struck this morning by the irony of the heading of this psalm in the light of its content. This is one of those psalms I’ve commented on before that begins with the strange heading “Do not destroy.” The psalmist, however, goes on to beg God to destroy the wicked and to do so immediately and decisively! In the English translation I have cited above, the phrase “Do not destroy” is interpreted as a tune to which the psalm is sung. Nothing in the Hebrew text suggests this, however, as is usually the case with this heading when it precedes a psalm (Pss 57, 59, & 75 are the other occurrences of this strange heading).
 
Why would a psalm with the heading “Do not destroy” be filled with requests for destruction?

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