Surprised by Power

Scripture Focus: Judges 9.1-6
1 Now Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem to his mother’s relatives and said to them and to the whole clan of his mother’s family, 2 “Say in the ears of all the leaders of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you, that all seventy of the sons of Jerubbaal rule over you, or that one rule over you?’ Remember also that I am your bone and your flesh.”

3 And his mother’s relatives spoke all these words on his behalf in the ears of all the leaders of Shechem, and their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, “He is our brother.” 4 And they gave him seventy pieces of silver out of the house of Baal-berith with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless fellows, who followed him. 5 And he went to his father’s house at Ophrah and killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, on one stone. But Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left, for he hid himself. 6 And all the leaders of Shechem came together, and all Beth-millo, and they went and made Abimelech king, by the oak of the pillar at Shechem.

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: Surprised by Power
By Susan Powell

It is something we all share in common. It spans cultures, time, and every dividing line. It draws us to stories, to prayer, to courageous actions, and tireless pursuits.

It is the satisfaction of seeing villains defeated and evil overcome.

The book of Judges holds no shortage of evil. But Abimelech stands out as one whose pursuit of power leaves us craving justice. Unlike the judges that God had raised up for his people, Abimelech raised himself to power. His hunger to rule proved costly.

Abimelech was Gideon’s son, born of a concubine. After the death of Gideon, Abimelech beseeches his mother’s relatives to appoint him their leader. He then executes his seventy brothers to consolidate his power.

Justice is served when an unnamed woman throws a millstone on Abimelech’s head. To cover up this disgrace, Abimelech instructs his armor-bearer to kill him with the sword. Like the resolution to every great conflict, we find pleasure in Abimelech’s defeat.

Such a rendering of justice is befitting of one one who would sacrifice his brothers’ lives for his own succession. We shudder at such horror. But do we cringe so quickly at our own hunger to rule? Do we grieve the ways we exalt ourselves at the cost of others?

Our workplaces, homes, and communities can serve as altars where we seek our own gain at the expense of another. People, pursuits, and possessions become the foundation of our thrones. Today let us ponder where we too have sought power by our own means. Then let us be surprised by the mercy of a gracious King. 

Jesus doesn’t shudder at our grievous ways. Instead, he redeems us from their bondage. He beckons us from our power-hungry pursuits and invites us to walk humbly with him.

Abimelech and every other Old Testament ruler leave us longing for one who rules with perfect righteousness and justice. They leave us looking for one who will ultimately defeat evil.

This is Jesus. He is the King who made himself nothing for our salvation. The Ruler who offered himself for our liberation. The Lord who lowered himself that we might be raised to life.

Rather than rely on faulty thrones, let us find satisfaction in the one who humbled himself (Philippians 2.5-11) and overcame death. When confronted with our own hunger to rule, may we run boldly to Jesus and ask for the humility to bow.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Be joyful in the Lord, all you lands; serve the Lord with gladness and come before his presence with a song. — Psalm 110.1

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

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

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 Lament the Fall of Leaders (Even Bad Ones)
May we lament fallen leaders, confessing their sins and ours, as we await and serve our true King.

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 john@theparkforum.org

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