Judging Our Community

Scripture Focus: Judges 3.9-10, 15
9 But when they cried out to the Lord, he raised up for them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, who saved them. 10 The Spirit of the Lord came on him, so that he became Israel’s judge and went to war. The Lord gave Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram into the hands of Othniel, who overpowered him.

15 Again the Israelites cried out to the Lord, and he gave them a deliverer—Ehud, a left-handed man, the son of Gera the Benjamite.

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Reflection: Judging Our Community
By Allison Tinsley

Have you ever been part of a group or team? Were you successful and popular? Or were you in a group of outcasts who stuck together as each other’s only source of support? Did you feel proud and at home in your group?

The story of Israel is consistently communal. The Israelites were God’s chosen people. This identity held them to different, higher standards than the rest of the world. They were to live faithfully and obediently to God in relationship with Him. If they failed to do so, they had to fear His wrath and punishment. In Judges, we routinely see the communal, systemic failure of the Israelites. Verse 7 of chapter 3 tells us that they did “evil” in God’s sight. They married ungodly people and worshipped false gods, allowing themselves to be negatively influenced by the world. They “forgot” the One true God (verse 8), seeking temporary pleasures.

Israel’s sin came back to haunt them when they were taken into captivity by other groups. This was where the judges came in. God raised up faithful individuals to work against the sinful actions of the Israelites and those who oppress them. These judges were charged with protecting Israel and leading them back to a relationship with God. Othniel fought against their oppressors (verses 10-11). After the Israelites once again found themselves in captivity, Ehud slew an oppressive king (in a humorously gruesome way) to deliver them to freedom. Deborah prophesied and settled disputes within her community. Gideon tore down false idols in the community. Thus, when the community failed, God raised up individuals as protectors, preservers, and leaders who worked to restore the Israelites back to God.

How is your community? Have you seen pain in your community? Have you detected a wrong direction?

God’s calling, both communally and individually, is the same. We are to live in obedience and faithfulness to God, like the judges God raised up, striving to lead others in this pursuit as well. We are to be faithful to one another as God’s people, but we must also swim against the tide when the community fails. We must hold our community responsible for its sin and require that it make changes when necessary. Above all, we must remember that our ultimate purpose transcends both ourselves and our community; our purpose is a right relationship with God.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
My mouth shall recount your mighty acts and saving deeds all day long; though I cannot know the number of them. — Psalm 71.15

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

Today’s Readings
Judges 3 (Listen – 4:30)
Acts 7 (Listen – 8:49)

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.

https://forms.gle/ozM13qvW9ouSWhJS7

Read more about The Necessity of The Spirit
Israel suffered and Othniel could not save them. Until God’s Spirit came on him.

The Necessity of The Spirit

Acts 7.55
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

Reflection: The Necessity of The Spirit 
By John Tillman

We look ahead today reflecting on our readings for tomorrow and two extraordinarily different outcomes for two men led by the same Spirit…

Many times in Judges, the Israelites rebelled over the course of one generation and from the next generation a Judge would rise up to save them. But not the first Judge, Othniel. He had been there the whole time.

Othniel was already a great hero of Israel. He had every advantage and privilege available to him at that time. He was wealthy from his military conquests. He was part of an influential family. He was a seasoned military leader. He had a strong spiritual heritage, being from the family of Caleb, a mighty hero of faith. But despite this, Israel suffered and Othniel could not save them. Until God’s Spirit came on him.

Othniel was a great leader and a great warrior. But it was the Spirit of God, not Othniel or his skills that saved Israel. In Othniel’s day, the Spirit of The Lord coming on a leader was a rare, miraculous event. But in our case the miracle has already occurred. The main thing keeping us from accessing the Holy Spirit is…us.

Jesus promised the Holy Spirit and told the disciples that it is to our benefit that he leave and the Spirit come. But the benefit may not be something that looks like victory to the world. In Acts, we read of Stephen, who was filled with the Spirit and spoke with power. We like that part. Then he was stoned to death.

Othniel and Stephen are two men touched and led by the Spirit of God to very different outcomes. From the world’s point of view, one was a victor and one a victim. In many ways, the Kingdom perspective of their situations is the reverse.

Othniel seems to have won a great victory and Stephen seem to have lost everything, until you keep reading. 40 years later, Israel is back in the same predicament, tragically repeating the same mistakes over and over. But 40 years after Stephen’s death, the church he died for was spread across the known world by one of the very men who helped put him to death.

We need the Spirit in our lives not because our skills, our wealth, and our influence cannot accomplish things of significance, but because what is truly significant is often hidden, like a treasure buried in a field, and we must follow the Spirit, forsaking all else to find it.

Prayer: The Greeting
O Lord, I cry to you for help; in the morning my prayer comes before you. — Psalm 88.14

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

Today’s Readings
Judges 2 (Listen – 3:19)
Acts 6 (Listen – 2:35)

Today’s Readings
Judges 3 (Listen – 4:30), Acts 7 (Listen – 8:49)
Judges 4 (Listen – 3:57), Acts 8 (Listen – 5:10)

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Readers’ Choice Submissions

It is once again time for us to seek out the voices of our readers and hear from you about posts from the past eleven months that have challenged and comforted you and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

Readers’ Choice posts will be republished during the month of August and periodically throughout the Fall.

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

For any questions about The Park Forum, or to make suggestions of posts via email, contact John Tillman at john@theparkforum.org

Why Do We Need the Leading of the Spirit?
The leading of the Spirit—O, how highly necessary is it! Who can be without it?

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The daily practices of prayer, reading the scriptures, meditation are tools that can connect us powerfully to the Holy Spirit, help us define who and whose we are, and allow us to walk with the confidence of our secure identity in Christ.

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