Choosing Worldly Leaders

Scripture Focus: Judges 12.4-6
4 Jephthah then called together the men of Gilead and fought against Ephraim. The Gileadites struck them down because the Ephraimites had said, “You Gileadites are renegades from Ephraim and Manasseh.” 5 The Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan leading to Ephraim, and whenever a survivor of Ephraim said, “Let me cross over,” the men of Gilead asked him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” If he replied, “No,” 6 they said, “All right, say ‘Shibboleth.’ ” If he said, “Sibboleth,” because he could not pronounce the word correctly, they seized him and killed him at the fords of the Jordan. Forty-two thousand Ephraimites were killed at that time. 

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Reflection: Choosing Worldly Leaders

By Jolene Davidson Crouch

In Judges 11, the Gileadite leadership chose Jephthah as the man to lead them against the Ammonites. They did not call out to the Lord for a leader, instead they picked him by a committee which based their choice on Jephthah’s reputation as a mighty warrior.  

In return for Jephthah’s leadership and conquering the Ammonites, he was made the head over all Gilead. 

Men and God very rarely choose the same leaders. When God chooses a leader he chooses a shepherd boy like David. When men choose leaders they want someone with a proven record in battle, someone who can win, often someone who can command. Jephthah knew about God, but he never consulted God in chapter 11 and when he did, his vows were rash, meaningless and performative religion. None of this honors God.

And yet, God comes through for the Gileadites.  The Ammonites were conquered.  Do the ends justify the means? 

What do we have to lose?

Jephthah’s character flaws are like small cracks in chapter 11 but they grow.

In chapter 12 the war is no longer with those outside the tribe. Jephthah was rash, proud, and impatient. He held grudges against those who did not agree with him. A civil war broke out. He and those he commanded sought ways to divide. They even used regional accents as cause for execution. 42,000 souls were lost.

Chapter 12 continues in hope and restoration. Ibzan of Bethlehem gave his thirty daughters in marriage to those outside his clan while his thirty sons married women from outside his clan. Perhaps this was an attempt to heal and unify after the civil war. By coming together in one family, there was the possibility of moving forward and creating new life where there had been death.

When we seek to find leadership on our own rather than seeking the leadership of God, or when we seek to fill leadership positions without seeking God’s input, short term success may come at the expense of long term success. We simply cannot afford to exclude the wisdom and input of the one who can see past, present, and future when we make decisions concerning our leaders. The consequences of empowering the wrong person are too great. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
To you I lift up my eyes, to you enthroned in the heavens. — Psalm 123.1

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

Today’s Readings
Judges 12 (Listen – 2:21)
Acts 16 (Listen – 5:53)

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 Marks of Leadership — Selflessness
Tests of leadership are almost always connected to selflessness. Humility, compassion, empathy, and service should flow from selflessness.

Avoiding Avoidable Offense

Acts 16.15
When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.

Reflection: Avoiding Avoidable Offense
By John Tillman

Accommodating to the culture does not include compromising the gospel. The gospel is non-negotiable. Paul consistently defends the gospel, refusing to compromise with sin or affirm sinful behaviors. But he endlessly strives to accommodate to the culture of those he is reaching, adjusting his behavior and language. The gospel is offensive and counter-cultural in its nature, but Paul strives to avoid avoidable offense. 

In the rest of Paul’s ministry, he goes first to a synagogue to teach the Jews and God-fearing Gentiles. Here in Phillipi, he goes out to the river to find a “place of prayer” and speaks to a group of women. The word proseuchē, which is translated as “place of prayer” is occasionally synonymous with a synagogue, however, many commentators believe its usage means there were not enough male Jewish believers to form a synagogue. 

What is unusual about this Jewish gathering, is the prominence of Lydia—not only a woman but a non-Jew. In all the other cities they visit, Luke neglects to name the male leaders of synagogues who either welcomed or rejected Paul’s message, but here in Phillipi, Lydia is given special attention. By comparison, later in the chapter, Luke leaves nameless the Phillipian jailer who also came to faith “with his entire household” as Lydia did. 

Lydia is also the first person scripture records as being baptized in Paul’s ministry (though we know there were others before her). She is also the first baptized Christ-follower in the European continent. Scripture tells us that after Lydia’s conversion she “persuaded” Paul and the others to stay with her. The word implies entreaty or compelling someone to do something they would not ordinarily do. Jews would not normally stay in the home of a non-Jew, not even a proselyte believer such as Lydia.

What we see at work here is the continuing development of Paul’s pattern of accommodating himself to different cultures for the sake of spreading the gospel. As Paul set out on this journey, he had Timothy circumcised, so as not to be an offense to Jews as they traveled. This was an accommodation to his intended audience. Paul was opposed to requiring non-Jews to be circumcised. And here, among the most Jewish part of Phillipi’s culture, Paul abandons Jewish customs that he upholds at other times.

Too often, perhaps, we confuse “boldly” proclaiming the gospel, with “rudely” proclaiming the gospel. This is a mistake Paul works hard to avoid. May we do the same.

Prayer: A Reading
And so the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven: there at the right hand of God he took his place, while they, going out, preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs that accompanied it. — Mark 16.19-20

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

Today’s Readings
Judges 12 (Listen – 2:21) 
Acts 16 (Listen – 5:53)

Thank You!
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Read more about Cringing at Culture or at Christ?
As we attempt to manifest Christ in our world and to our culture, we must allow the Holy Spirit to bring out in us the fullest picture of who God is.

Read more about Balaam’s Success
Balaam coached Balak on a conspiracy to tempt Israel to sins that their culture was prone to.

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