The Judge’s Decision

Scripture Focus: Judges 11.27
27 “I have not wronged you, but you are doing me wrong by waging war against me. Let the Lord, the Judge, decide the dispute this day between the Israelites and the Ammonites.”

Student Writers Month:

This month, The Park Forum welcomes college and seminary student writers pursuing ministry careers. For more info about our yearly Student Writer program, see our website.

Reflection: The Judge’s Decision

By Dennis Nicholson

If I’m being honest, I find it hard to read stories like Jephthah’s in the Bible. My first instinct isn’t to contemplate what I’ve read but to condemn it altogether. The cruelty of Jephthah’s brothers, his godless companions, his rash vow, and his daughter’s resulting sacrifice—these aren’t pleasant things to read about. And in a sense, that’s the point of the book of Judges. When everyone does what is right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6), in ignorance of God’s law, injustice and cruelty result.

But it’s easy to turn this one lesson in the book of Judges into a blanket condemnation. It’s easy to shake my head at Jephthah’s unfaithfulness and the Israelites’ obvious failings. It’s hard to point out my own unfaithfulness, my own insidious failings. 

It’s easy to play favorites. But God doesn’t show favoritism (Romans 2:11).

“Let the Lord, the Judge, decide the dispute this day between the Israelites and the Ammonites” (Judges 11:27). If it were me who were judging, perhaps I would have decided against Israel. But in the eyes of God, the perfect judge, there is no distinction. “All who sin under the law will be judged by the law” (Romans 2:12). Israelite and Ammonite alike, Jew and Gentile alike, ancient and modern alike—all people deserve judgment for sin.

Why, then, did the Lord judge for Israel? How can a just God favor an unjust people? Because, despite their unfaithfulness, God was working through the Israelites to bring about his perfect justice. Israel’s final judge, Samuel, would anoint Israel’s greatest king, David. And one thousand years later, a son of David would bear the just punishment for Israel upon his shoulders. 

The perfect judge would send his own son to die a criminal’s death on a cross so that the sons of Israel could be set free.

The day is coming when that same perfect judge will preside over a grander trial: the final judgment. That day, we will have to give an account of all we have done (Romans 14:10-12).

But—thanks be to God!—our pardon is secure. Our sins have been covered. We will stand before the judge’s seat as innocents, not because of our own faithfulness, but because God was working through us to bring about his perfect justice.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons

For as the heavens are high above the earth, so is his mercy great upon those who fear him. — Psalm 103.11

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Judges 11:12-40 (Listen – 5:53)
Acts 15 (Listen – 5:43)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021
It is time to hear from you about the posts from the past eleven months (September 2020 – July 2021) that have challenged, comforted, and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

Read more about The Righteous Judge :: A Guided Prayer
And this is your justice on earth—to be a refuge and stronghold for the weak and troubled.

Paul’s First Sermon

Acts 13.15
“Brothers, if you have a word of exhortation for the people, please speak.”

Reflection: Paul’s First Sermon
By John Tillman

Scripture takes many forms. Poems, songs, dialogue, histories, genealogies, visions, and even sermons are recorded in God’s Word. Responding to each as it is intended is a valuable spiritual practice. Whenever you encounter a sermon in Scripture, one way to approach it is to take notes as if you were hearing it along with the listeners.

Today, we encounter Paul’s first recorded sermon and take some notes to reflect on.

Paul’s sermon is in response to a call for exhortation. The word Luke uses, paráklēsis, can imply an entreaty for help and is often translated as “comfort” (Luke 2.25; 6.24; Acts 4.36).

Paul’s message is one of comfort but also a call to action; encouragement but also an energizing challenge.
Paul’s message is for Jews and Gentiles—for all who worship God.

God chose the Jews from among the nations.

  • He showed his goodness in blessing them.
  • He showed his power in saving them.
  • He showed his mercy in bearing with and forgiving their sins and weaknesses.
  • He showed his faithfulness in fulfilling his promises to them.

David was chosen from among them.

  • He was a man God chose to bless.
  • He was a man God used to display his power.
  • He was a man to whom God showed mercy for his sins and weaknesses.
  • He was a man through whom God chose to fulfill a greater promise.

Jesus came from David.

  • As promised by God.
  • As prophesied by prophets throughout Israel’s history.
  • As proclaimed publically by the prophet, John the Baptist.

Jesus completed God’s promised salvation.

  • Through his fulfillment of Scripture.
  • Through his submission to death.
  • Through his physical resurrection.

Through his fulfillment of Scripture, his submission to death, and his physical resurrection, Jesus has made manifest God’s promises of forgiveness and salvation.

The offer of salvation is real.

  • Salvation is a work done by God.
  • Salvation can be ignored.
  • Salvation can be accepted.

The implications of Paul’s sermon:

  • We are chosen by God like Israel, like David, like Paul.
  • God has demonstrated his power in us through Christ’s resurrection and our salvation.
  • God bears with our weakness and sin, forgiving us.
  • God carries his appeal to the world through us.

We, like Paul, are responsible to respond to the world’s need for paráklēsis— for encouragement, comfort, and exhortation.  
We must say as Paul did, “Therefore, my friends…the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.”

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Know this, the Lord himself is God; he himself has made us, and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture. — Psalm 100.2

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Judges 9 (Listen – 8:22)
Acts 13 (Listen – 7:36)

Today’s Readings
Judges 10-11.11 (Listen – 2:18) Acts 14 (Listen – 3:54)
Judges 11.12-40 (Listen – 5:53) Acts 15 (Listen – 5:43)

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Read more about Setting Aside the Scriptures
Considering all of Scripture together without breaking it apart requires patience and a deep familiarity with Scripture.

Read more about When We Fast From The Feast
Our culture has steadily, for decades, been encouraging us to abstain from spiritual disciplines in favor of activities that we are led to believe are more profitable.

Readers’ Choice Submissions

It has been so good to hear from many of you about posts for Readers’ Choice, but we still have some room in August for your input.

Share with our community about the post or posts from the past eleven months that have challenged and comforted you.

Follow the link to fill out the form. Please limit your submissions to posts published this calendar year, between September of 2018 and today.

For any questions contact John Tillman at