Thoughts on Judges and Ruth, Day 9 Lent 2013

The crazy amount of Bible reading continues, half of Judges and half of 1st Samuel. Like yesterday, I read the first half and listened to the 2nd half on my mp3 player. I'll write about Samuel tomorrow and focus on Judges and Ruth today. My feelings on Judges shifts to a better place than it has been in the Pentateuch. Previously, God was portrayed differently than I see Jesus portrayed in the gospels. Rightly or wrongly, I've pushed back pretty hard on the Pentateuch. I've wrestled with God, and like Jacob, the best I can hope for is a limp. The stories in Judges are very human, and God shows up as a savior, over and over again. The book seems to be organized by a pro-monarchy editor, because of a repeated phrase, which also concludes the book. Judges 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. The funny thing is the woe and dread Samuel chastises the people with when he anoints them a king.

When I say the book is very human, I mean it in the way comic books are. The characters are larger than life, legendary, but their foibles are so normal. They are in agreement with the apostle John's summary of all life's sins, For all that is in the world--the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world. 1 Jn 2:16. These flawed heroes, who help rescue God's people from the consequences of their idolatry, fall just as easily to their own lusts. They are almost all anti-heroes. But even among the judges whose flaws are not exposed, like Deborah, the real hero is ultimately God. He is the one, despite the flaws of those in his service, who builds his nation. It's not unlike Jesus' declaration in Matt. 16:18 where he says, "...I will build my church."

As much as I'm horrified by the things church leaders get away with, until they are caught, Judges reassures me that it's nothing new to him. People wander from God. God raises up a leader. People return to God and show gratitude to leader. Leader turns from God and collects for himself wealth, wives, and hubris. This is when I so much appreciate the end of the Lord's Prayer, Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one. Matt. 6:13. (The links are to a series I wrote on the Lord's Prayer in 2007). The pronouns are plural. We pray for each other, even the ones we don't like.

The story of Ruth is a great picture of Jesus in her husband Boaz. She is in need, but faithful and diligent. He has not found his bride, and is late to the game. She is damaged goods; not a virgin but a widower. not an Israelite, but a Moabite, a sometime enemy of Israel, not wealthy but desperately poor. There is nothing in her that is attractive. Reminds me of the Song of Solomon. Nevertheless, he redeems her. The successful insider marries the downtrodden outsider. Maybe on this couple Solomon bases the Song of Songs. From their union comes a royal dynasty. This is a romance story even this guy can enjoy. This is a picture of God I really cling to, because I know what a mess I am and how desperate I am.

From these two books in the Old Testament, I learn faithful leaders of God are the exception, and God still employs wicked humans in his plan for redemption, even the ugly outsiders. Snark on > I get a kick out of how many judges have 30 sons or 30 grandsons or 70 kids. It's like a literary (not literal) default for success.< snark off. I'm Tony Snark. Two points to whoever gets that pun.
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