I finished my recent study on the Book of Judges yesterday and I treated myself to some chapters of the Gospel of Luke. Having again, only recently, gone through the five books of the Pentateuch that Moses authored, followed by Job and then Joshua and now Judges, Judges was not an easy study. And when I treated myself to a couple of chapters in Luke the contrast between the two narratives was so obvious and different. Yet even when Jesus demonstrated that He was the Son of God and the long awaited Messiah, just like in Judges, they didn’t get it. Just like in Judges, everyone was still doing what they thought was right (Judges 21:25). And just like in Judges, so many are still doing the same thing today.
After Joshua died, God did not designate a new replacement leader for Joshua. God was their leader, and we all know what happened next and it’s not pretty. Judges 2:11-12 tells us that Israel turns from the Lord and worships Baal.
The Tabernacle was setup at Shiloh (Joshua 22:10-12) and ministered to by the priests. Additional alters were NOT authorized. This is attested to by the fact that when the sons of Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh built an alter by the Jordan, the sons of Israel took great offence and gathered at Shiloh, were the Tabernacle was, to make war against the sons of Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh.
Yet, later on when Gideon was called by the Angel of the Lord, Gideon is directed to build an alter in Judges 6:26 on the top of the mountain and offer a burnt sacrifice. In Lev 17:8-9 Israel was commanded not to offer burn offerings or sacrifices at any location other than the Tabernacle. The punishment for violating this command was death. Obviously when the Angel of the Lord tells you to build an alter, you build an alter. Not to mention that Gideon was not a priest (he was from the tribe of Manasseh) so even here, we see that things were not as they were supposed to be. God accommodates.
The words and actions of “the Angel of the Lord” are noteworthy in Judges. The precise identity of the “Angel of the Lord” is not given in the Bible. However, there are many important “clues” to his identity. There are Old and New Testament references to “angels of the Lord,” “an angel of the Lord,” and “the angel of the Lord.” It seems when the definite article “the” is used, it is specifying a unique being, separate from the other angels. The angel of the Lord speaks as God, identifies Himself with God, and exercises the responsibilities of God (Genesis 16:7-12; 21:17-18; 22:11-18; Exodus 3:2; Judges 2:1-4; 5:23; 6:11-24; 13:3-22; 2 Samuel 24:16; Zechariah 1:12; 3:1; 12:8). In several of these appearances, those who saw the Angel of the Lord feared for their lives because they had “seen the Lord.” Therefore, it is clear that in at least some instances, the Angel of the Lord is a theophany, an appearance of God in physical form.
It is possible that appearances of the Angel of the Lord were manifestations of Jesus before His incarnation. Jesus declared Himself to be existent “before Abraham” (John 8:58), so it is logical that He would be active and manifest in the world. Whatever the case, whether the angel of the Lord was a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ (Christophany) or an appearance of God the Father (theophany), it is highly likely that the phrase “the Angel of the Lord” usually identifies a physical appearance of God.
It’s also interesting to note that the appearances of the Angel of the Lord cease after the incarnation of Christ. Angels are mentioned numerous times in the New Testament, but “the Angel of the Lord” is never mentioned in the New Testament after the birth of Christ. There is some confusion regarding Matthew 28:2, where the KJV says “the angel of the Lord” descended from heaven and rolled the stone away from Jesus’ tomb. It is important to note that the original Greek has no article in front of angel; it could be “the angel” or “an angel,” but the article must be supplied by the translators. Other translations besides the KJV say it was “an angel,” which, I am made to understand, is the better wording.
When you get into the final chapters of Judges, where the incidents with regard to the Levite’s concubine are recounted and what transpired with regard to the tribe of Benjamin almost being wiped out, albeit these accounts are not presented in precise chronological order (Phinehas being the high priest at the time of this incident), one begins to comprehend the extent to which and the consequences of, Israel’s departure from the Lord.
Between the failings of Israel in the wilderness and their collective failing to walk with God as a nation after they had entered into the promised land, after the death of Joshua, I couldn’t help but see some similarities with Israel’s history and my own. Considering my own shortfalls after initially becoming a Christian, which have a number of correlations between the wilderness and the promised land experiences, I obviously didn’t respond much better. There but for the grace of God go I. What I do find encouraging and can attest to, is that even when we fall short, which in Israel’s case and my own, is probably an understatement, we see God not forsaking us but continually seeking to re-establish and secure His connection with us and us with Him.
And that’s where my studying of Luke yesterday comes into play. I was reading from chapter 5 and verses 17-26. In particular verse 24 NASB which reads: “But, so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,”—He said to the paralytic—“I say to you, get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home.”
Jesus was talking to the Pharisees and the scribes, He was letting them know exactly who He was and where His authority originated from. And they still missed it.
My failings with regard to taking to heart the testimony of Jesus primarily had to do with not understanding the extent to which Jesus personified our heavenly Father and the source from which everything else is derived. My failings had to do with never actually walking through that door, never taking it seriously and it is only when I did walk through that door of realization that my faith and trust in Christ started to change. Key word there is “started”, the area on the other side of that door is a lot bigger than I ever imagined.
The words that Jesus spoke, the things that Jesus did, all originated from the Father. Jesus actually said that He did nothing on His own (John 5:19 NIV) And Jesus also said that we could do nothing without Him (John 15:5 NIV). NO THING as in nothing. Conversely, all things are possible with God (Matthew 19:26 NIV). That’s always been the reality, that’s always been the difference. Israel didn’t get that in the wilderness, nor did they get it when taking possession and holding their God given territory in the promised land and they didn’t get it during the time of the Judges. It took me a long time to come to the place where that reality finally sank in. That reality has to penetrate every fibre of our being, our heart, our mind and our spirit.
2 Corinthians 4:6 NIV “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.“
I don’t presume to give the impression that I have walked far into that area, where I began to comprehend the reality of this truth, that Jesus Christ is God the Father’s glory, but once that reality is realized, it starts to change everything.
Some of my notes from Judges, I pray that they lift you to praise our Lord.
Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!