Judges ~ Chapter One
Read: Judges 1:1-36
"Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass that the children of Israel asked the LORD, saying, "Who shall be first to go up for us against the Canaanites to fight against them?" And the LORD said, "Judah shall go up. Indeed I have delivered the land into his hand." (vv. 1, 2)
Happy New Year! Dear praying friends, as we partake of our first feast of the new year, may these first 21 days of 2021 be offered up as a firstfruits offering to the Lord, acknowledging the Lord's gracious provision, protection, and presence in our lives as we look ahead with hopeful anticipation of the greater harvest to come. "Honor the LORD with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine" (Proverbs 3:9, 10). While many people spend these first weeks of the New Year planning their calendars, re-organizing their homes, and resolving to focus more on their physical health and fitness, as Christians, our life is, first and foremost, spiritual; therefore, our attention should be given to the more important spiritual matters of the health, wholeness, and holiness of the Body of Christ and the advancement of His Kingdom in the earth. In Matthew 6, we are instructed by the Lord Jesus not to worry as non-believers do, for our "heavenly Father knows that we need all these things" (v. 32). Instead, we are told, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you"(v. 33). The Lord's highest priority for our lives is our intimacy with Him. He purposes that we cultivate a life of deep, abiding intimacy with Him as we feast daily upon the rich sustenance He has provided for us in His Word and enjoy intimate communion with Him in prayer (Isaiah 55). "For without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). We honor God most by what we receive from Him, not by what we bring to Him. Oh, how He longs for us to experience the fullness of life He has promised us (John 10:10); but sadly, we rob ourselves of His abundant life when we neglect spending time with God in His Word and prayer. Last year, we received a divine cessation of human activity and industry in order that we might draw nearer to the Lord and find "rest for our (burdened and weary) souls" (Matthew 11:29). May we not miss the Lord's gracious invitation to come to the lavish banquet table He has prepared for us at the start of this new year, so we may be spiritually healthy, strengthened, and prepared to stand against those enemies that war daily within us, robbing us of our peace, stealing our joy, and causing us to doubt and drift away from a life of faith and trust in God. "Listen to Me, and eat what is good and let your soul delight itself in abundance" (Isaiah 55:2). May we allow His soul-satisfying Word to nourish and awaken those dormant areas of our inner life as we feast upon divine love and discipline and exercise of our weakened spiritual muscles by feeding our faith with the only food that matters (Matthew 4:4!), so that we will be strong in the Lord to conquer the world and mighty in prayer to call down blessings from heaven. "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:9, 10).
From the opening verses of the Book of Judges we find the children of Israel still facing battles even though they were settled in the land of promise. Under the leadership of Joshua, Israel was a faithful and obedient people who conquered the land through trust in the power of God. However, by the era of the Judges, the people were suffering defeat time and time again because of their neglect of spiritual matters and their disobedient, idolatrous pursuits. Israel failed to obey God's direction for military conquest; rather than take possession of the land and cleanse it of its paganism, the people's hearts were taken captive by the morals, beliefs, and social practices of the Canaanites. The people, who had once faithfully declared, "The LORD our God we will serve, and His voice we will obey!" (Joshua 24:24), were looking for someone to lead them into battle. As Israel's true King, the Lord commissioned no new leader after the death of Joshua. The focus from that point on would be towards the monarchy, which would come out of the tribe of Judah. "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people" (Genesis 49:10). The royal line would rise from Judah's descendants and they would always have a lawgiver until the One to whom all royal authority belongs comes - the Messiah, Jesus Christ! The nation of Israel would have been spared much grief if they had exercised their faith rather than abandoning the Lord. However, despite His people's unfaithfulness and idolatry, the Lord's kingdom purposes continued to unfold during the government of the Judges. During our time of devotion and prayer these first 21 days of 2021, may our hearts remain open and pliable to learn the lessons of obedience the Lord has for us in our day as we traverse the trenches of Israel's cycle of apostasy and moral decline (for it is a picture of the days we are living in!). May we give our attention to those "first" things that please the heart of our gracious and merciful heavenly Father, and that will lead to the restoration of pure worship in His people and bring heaven's blessings upon the earth. "Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals" (Revelation 5:5).
"Then the children of Israel arose and went up to the house of God to inquire of God.
They said, "Which of us shall go up first to battle against the children of Benjamin?"
The LORD said, "Judah first!"
"Then Caleb said, "Whoever attacks Kirjath Sepher and takes it,
to him I will give my daughter Achsah as wife."
And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, took it;
so he gave him his daughter Achsah as wife.
Now it happened, when she came to him, that she urged him
to ask her father for a field. And she dismounted from her donkey,
and Caleb said to her, "What do you wish?"
So she said to him, "Give me a blessing; since you have given me land in the South,
give me also springs of water." And Caleb gave her the upper springs
and the lower springs." (Judges 1:12-15)
In the midst of Israel's cycle of apostasy, we find a precious treasure: the story of a bold daughter's request of her benevolent father. The account is first recorded in the Book of Joshua (Joshua 15:16-19), and then repeated in this first chapter of Judges. Caleb, like Joshua, was a man of courageous, unwavering faith, who had urged the fearful Israelites to take possession of the land of promise. "Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, "Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to over come it" (Numbers 13:30). Caleb spoke out against the negative reports, but the people refused to believe the Word of the Lord, choosing instead to believe the false and bad reports of the other spies, resulting in their suffering the tragic consequences of their rebellion (Numbers 14). Caleb was rewarded for his faith and given his inheritance in the land. His daughter, Achsah, exhibited his same boldness in her request, providing for us a model of prayer when approaching our heavenly Father. Caleb gave a parcel of land as a wedding gift to Achsah and Othniel (who would become the first judge of Israel), but Achsah knew the land was worthless without water. She knew what was necessary to make the land fruitful and profitable, and she went to her father seeking that which would make it so. She was interested in those things that would make the land flourish and that would bless and feed others. She was determined to steward the land of her father's inheritance in a manner that would bring honor to him and blessing to others. She climbed down off her high horse and humbled herself before her father and made her request boldly and expectantly, as a child earnestly seeking the help of a kind and generous father. And he responded with delight at her petition: "What do you wish?" All that he had was hers for the asking, but she had to first ask. And what was her request? "Give me a blessing...Give me also springs of water." Don't just give me the land to possess - give me everything I need make a life! Give me your best blessing! She knew of her father's wealth. She knew that he would not withhold those things that would be to her benefit. I repeat again: We honor God most by what we receive from Him, not by what we bring to Him. Our heavenly Father has given us a rich inheritance in Christ Jesus, He has unleashed an irrepressible spring of living water within us in the gift of the Holy Spirit, and He would have us to drink deeply from His river of delights and abide continually at the fountain so that we will continually be cleansed and become a clear channel for that eternal, irrepressible flow of living water to saturate the parched ground, so "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea" (Habakkuk 2:14). Let us come before the throne of grace boldly, expectantly, humbly, gratefully, continually, personally, and corporately, and ask for God' richest blessings to flow from heaven through our hearts and into the hands of the many this year. Our Father wants to bless us, but we must ask for it! That is His way! "So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be open to you" (Luke 11:9). So, what is your request in 2021? What is your petition? Your Father is waiting to hear from you! Come boldly, dear one! You are coming to a kind and good Father who loves you and desires the very best for you! Let us ask for those things that will enrich the land of our inheritance. Let us ask for those things that will honor the name of the Lord and bring glory to the Father. Let us ask for those who can't and for those who won't! Let us exercise the divine privileges we have been given as the blessed and highly-favored sons and daughters of God Most High and remain separated from the world, set apart to God, and persistent in prayer in 2021! "But seek FIRST the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:33)!
"Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace,
that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need."