JUDGES — Dipping Our Toes into the Book of Judges

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JUDGES - Dip your toes into the book of Judes. A Super-Short Summary and Less-Than-Super-Short Summary (Welcome to the Bible series) via www.JeanWilund.com

JUDGES ~ Book #7

“In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” ~ Judges 21:25

Super-Short Summary:

In Judges, God reveals the stark reality that there’s no depth of evil to which mankind won’t sink unless God’s hand restrains us. It’s only because of His inexplicable love, grace, and mercy that we can receive salvation through Jesus.


Less-Than-Super-Short Summary: 

The book of Judges is exactly that: a book about the 12 judges of Israel and several despicable guys.

Judges opens with a dash of fleeting hope as Israel looked to God for guidance.

“Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?” (Judges 1:1).

God chose Judah – the tribe through which Jesus would come – to lead them into battle.

Charge!

Like Jesus conquering sin and death, Israel defeated their enemy. But not all of them.

They failed to complete the conquest. (Jesus didn’t fail His conquest.)

They failed because they refused to obey God.

“But you have not obeyed MeTherefore I also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; but they will become as thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you” (Judges 2:2-3).

Israel’s unfaithfulness thrust them into a vicious cycle that ramped up to a horrifying crescendo of pure evil.

There’s a reason most of the stories from the book of Judges doesn’t show up in children’s books. Not even Samson’s full story makes it past the cutting room.

Thankfully, God’s promises and power stand strong regardless of mankind’s worst moral failures and outright rebellion.

The Gospel in Judges

God used 12 judges to save Israel and give us a picture of Jesus as our Deliverer.

Unlike Christ, however, these judges weren’t perfect.

Judges shows Israel’s desperate need for a godly king to rule them and points to the perfect King, Jesus Christ.

Ring Around the Rosie, We All Fall Down

Early in Judges, Israel displays the vicious cycle they repeated – their ring around the wretched rosie until they all fell down:

        1. Israel chooses evil (Judges 3:7).

2. God lets them fall into the hands of their enemy (Judges 3:8).

3. Israel cries out to God (Judges 3:9).

4. God raises up a deliverer – a judge (Judges 3:9-10).

5. Israel enjoys peace (Judges 3:11).

What God reveals about the nature of man through Judges is downright depressing:

We are so much worse than we imagine, and we can’t save ourselves.

What He reveals about Himself and Jesus is straight up encouraging:

God is more forgiving than we can imagine. He sent His Son Jesus to be our perfect Rescuer and our Salvation.

A Glimpse of the 12 Judges:


(Click on the red names below to jump to a more detailed summary of each judge.)

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Judge #1 ~ Othniel

(Judges 3:7-11)

Israel ran after other gods. After life turned hard at the hands of their enemy, they cried out to God.

Enter Othniel, the first judge God appointed to rescue Israel.

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Judge #2 ~ Ehud 

(Judges 3:12-30)

The left-handed judge Ehud delivered Israel from the rotund king of Moab using a sleight-of-hand trick with a dagger, a sneaky escape, and some embarrassed guards.

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Judge #3 ~ Shamgar 

(Judges 3:31)

Shamgar saved Israel and killed 600 Philistines with an ox goad (a long stick with a metal tip used to control oxen).

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Judge #4 ~ Deborah 

(Judges 4 – 5)

Deborah (and a brave woman named Jael with a tent peg – yikes) saved Israel when Barak refused to fight the Canaanites without her.

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Judge #5 ~ Gideon 

(Judges 6 – 8)

God used the meek fleece-laying Gideon to save Israel from Midian (after whittling his army of 32,000 men down to 300) and give us a picture of the humanity of Jesus.

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Three Years of Trouble

(Judges 9)

Between Gideon and the next judge came three years of trouble that included the death of 70 of his sons. (I’m still trying to wrap my brain around having 70 sons.)

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Judges #6 & #7 ~ Tola & Jair 

(Judges 10)

Tola judged Israel for 23 years. And then he died.

Jair was a wealthy man who judged Israel 22 years. And then he died.

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Judges #8 ~ Jephthah 

(Judges 11-12)

Foolish Jephthah. He freed Israel from the Ammonites but made a vow that broke his father-heart.

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Judges #9, #10, and #11 ~ Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon 

(Judges 12:8-15)

Ibzan judged Israel seven years. And then he died.

Elon judged Israel ten years. And then he died.

Abdon judged Israel eight years. And then – surprise, surprise – he died.

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Judge #12 ~ Samson 

(Judges 13-16)

Samson, the most famous of the 12 judges, was also Israel’s final judge.

He delivered Israel from their enemies and suffered great personal loss because of his ungodly choices.

Nevertheless, he gave us some poignant pictures of Jesus.

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Israel Descended into Unspeakable Evil

The book of Judges ends with two stories that exposed how mankind can sink to the lowest of lows when we turn our backs on God, and He leaves us to ourselves.

Micah, the Levite, and Some Evil Men from Dan 

(Judges 17-18)

This first of the final two stories reveals that, apart from Christ, every man has a price. That price can be brutal because people can be.

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A Levite, His Concubine, and the Horror in Gibeah 

(Judges 19-21)

The final and most barbaric story reveals there’s no depth of evil to which man will not sink unless the Lord intervenes and restrains. (Warning: This story includes rape and body parts in the mail.)

Final Words For Today

The book of Judges closes with somber words and a final reminder of Israel’s (and our) deep need a godly king. (You’d almost think Judge’s final sentence was written about us today.)

“In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” Judges 21:25.

By your grace, Lord, open our eyes to see our need for You. Give us faith to believe and to follow you as our perfect King.

Amen.

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More Detailed Summaries of The Judges:

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Judge #1 ~ Othniel 

(Judges 3:7-11)

Israel ran after false gods so God showed His righteous anger over sin and got their attention by letting the king of Mesopotamia defeat them.

It worked.

Israel cried out to God, and He raised up Othniel to set them free and to serve as their judge.

They enjoyed rest for 40 years.

And then Othniel died.

Return to Short Summary of Othniel


 

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Judge #2 ~ Ehud

(Judges 3:12-30)

Israel ran back to evil, so God allowed the King Moab to defeat Israel.

God then raised up the left-handed judge Ehud to deliver Israel from the rotund king of Moab.

Ehud used a sleight-of-hand trick with a dagger and a sneaky escape.

When the king’s guards checked on him and found his door locked, they assumed he was unavailable because he was attending to “nature’s call.”

They were wrong. He was dead.

Ehud then led Israel against Moab and defeated them.

They enjoyed peace for 80 years. And then he died.

Return to Short Summary of Ehud


 

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Judge #3 ~ Shamgar

(Judges 3:31)

Shamgar saved Israel and killed 600 Philistines with an ox goad (a long stick with a metal tip used to control oxen).

That’s all I have on Shamgar. God only gave us one sentence on him.

Return to Short Summary of Shamgar


 

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Judge #4 ~ Deborah

(Judges 4 & 5)

Israel leaped back into evil so God sold them into the hand of the king of Canaan.

Then God raised up Deborah, who led Barak (and Israel) in battle because he refused to go without her. Perhaps he wasn’t willing to take the calling for himself since she was God’s chosen judge.

Whatever compelled him to follow Deborah rather than take the lead, we know he did it by faith since he made it into the Hebrews Hall of Faith: Hebrews 11:32-34.

After Israel routed Canaan’s army, their commander hopped off his iron chariot and ran away. But he got stuck in a tent (yes, literally) by Jael, a brave Israelite woman holding a tent peg and a hammer.

Israel enjoyed rest for 40 years under this godliest of judges. She continually pointed Israel to God.

But then she died.

Return to Short Summary of Deborah


 

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Judge #5 ~ Gideon

(Judges 6 – 8)

Israel nosedived back into evil and worshipped idols, so God let them fall into the king of Midian’s hands.

The angel of the Lord visited fearful Gideon – the least of the least of Israel – and called him to lead Israel in battle. Through God’s power, Gideon was to deliver Israel.

Gideon gives us a beautiful picture of Jesus’s humanity. He came in the meek form of man. In weakness, Jesus delivered us through the cross. In divine power, He gives life (2 Corinthians 13:4).

Jesus was meek, but He wasn’t timid like Gideon. Analogies are rarely, if ever, perfect.

Gideon faced obstacles bigger than himself as an array of armies converged on Israel.

Gideon called Israelites to battle, but then he ran to talk to God. He wanted to confirm that God really was going to give them into Israel’s hands.

Gideon used a wool fleece to determine God’s will. Twice. (Judges 6:36-40)

God confirmed His promise to give Israel’s enemies into Gideon’s hands.

God whittled Gideon’s army of 32,00 men down to a meager 300 to ensure Israel understood that they couldn’t save themselves. He was giving them the victory.

Likewise, we can’t earn our salvation or make our own way to heaven. Christ alone is our salvation and the one way to the Father.

Gideon and his army enjoyed a rousing victory.

Sadly, Gideon let it inflate his ego.

Nevertheless, Israel enjoyed peace for 40 years.

And then he died. But not before he had 70+ sons.

Return to Short Summary of Gideon


 

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Three Years of Trouble

(Judges 9)

Abimelech, one of Gideon’s sons attempted to slaughter the rest of the 70 sons to become king.

One managed to escape, which then led to Abimelech’s downfall but not before he tramped over the people with much evil and treachery.

In the midst of his last heinous crime, a woman dropped a stone on his head, and his self-proclaimed rule of three years ended.

In the meantime, Israel had deepened their bent toward evil.

Return to Short Summary of Three Years of Trouble


 

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Judges #6 & #7 ~ Tola & Jair

(Judges 10)

Unfortunately, there’s no more info on these two judges.

Return to Short Summary of Tola & Jair


 

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Judge #8 ~ Jephthah

(Judges 11-12)

Jephthah was a mighty warrior from Gilead and the son of a prostitute. His half-brothers hated him. So he ran away.

As soon as the Ammonites rose up against Israel, Gilead called their warrior back home to save them.

God gave Jephthah the victory, but Jephthah made a stupid vow to sacrifice the first thing that walked out the door of his home upon his return from victory.

His daughter walked out to congratulate him.

Jephthah judged Israel only six years, and then he died.

Return to Short Summary of Jephthah


 

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Judges #9, #10, and #11 ~ Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon

(Judges 12:8-15)

Ibzan had 30 sons and 30 daughters. He judged Israel seven years, and then he died.

Elon judged Israel ten years, and then he died.

Abdon had 40 sons and 30 grandsons who rode on 70 donkeys. Wealthy. He judged Israel eight years, and then – surprise, surprise – he died.

That’s all I have on them.

Return to Short Summary of Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon


 

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Samson ~ Judge #12

(Judges 13-16)

The most famous of the 12 judges was also Israel’s final judge.

The popular children’s story paints the picture that evil Delilah tricked God’s innocent Samson into giving her the secret to his supernatural strength, but his hair grew back and allowed him one final display of his strength.

There’s truth in the children’s account. (Delilah was evil and God did give Samson a final victory.)

But there’s also plenty of missing pieces to the story, and at times the truth appears foggy.

Samson’s Lovely Locks

For instance, Samson’s lovely locks of hair weren’t really the secret to his strength. God was.

His luscious locks never held magical power. God was always the one in control.

Before Samson was born, God told his parents Samson was to be a Nazarite, dedicated to God from the womb. (https://www.gotquestions.org/Nazirite-vow.html)

Being a Nazarite vow came with many rules. One rule was that his hair should never be cut.

Jesus Sighting: The angel of the Lord visited Samson’s parents to prepare them for Samson’s birth (Judges 13:8-25). This was an appearance of Jesus before He came down in flesh as a baby born in a manger.

After Samson’s last girlfriend, Delilah, cut his hair, God removed the super-strength He’d given Samson.

And fortunately, the young children’s books also leave out the part where the Philistines then gouged out Samson’s eyes (Judges 16:20). Yikes.

Godly Samson? Not!

Also, contrary to the godly man we see in picture books, Samson wasn’t innocent.

Not only did he let himself be seduced by Delilah so that she cut his hair, but he broke at least two other Nazarite rules: no drinking wine, and no touching the dead.

John the Baptist was also a Nazarite from birth (Luke 1:13-17). He was faithful.

While Samson did great things for Israel, he was far from godly. He broke many of God’s rules through his wild, women-chasing years. And yet God still used him.

God isn’t limited in who or what He can use for His purposes. Sometimes He chooses to use even ungodly men like Samson. (That’s good news for us far-from-perfect ones.)

Samson judged Israel 20 years. And then he died a brutal death, but not before he saved Israel by stretching out his arms and dying.

When Samson stretched out his arms, he pushed down the two pillars that held up the building and killed more of his enemy than he had in all his previous escapades.

And although Samson was by no means a perfect model of Jesus, Samson’s death gave us a picture of Christ stretching out His arms on the cross and dying to save us from our enemies – sin, Satan, and death.

Return to Short Summary of Samson


 

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Micah, the Levite, and Some Evil Men from Dan

The first of the final stories (Judges 17-18) reveals that, apart from Christ, every man has a price. The price can be brutal. It this story, brutal is an understatement.

Judges 17 opens with a man named Micah, who stole silver from his mom. After he returned the silver, his mom paid a silversmith to fashion an idol out of it so they could worship it.

Meanwhile, a Levite – one of God’s chosen priests – had gone out in search of a better life. Apparently being chosen by God to serve in His tabernacle and cared for by God wasn’t enough.

Micah offered the Levite ten shekels and a shirt to become his personal priest.

But then the tribe of Dan came along and increased his pay. They stole Micah’s silver idol and his priest. But at least they left him his life and his mom, which is more than they did for the quiet town of Laish.

The men of Dan slaughtered the unsuspecting people of Laish and set their city on fire.

Afterward, they set up Micah’s silver idol, and the Levite and his sons “served God” alongside it.

In the New Testament, we see Jesus’ disciple Judas had a price, too: 30 pieces of silver for the Son of God (Matthew 26:15).

But Jesus’ apostle Paul considered his life of no value for the opportunity to testify of Christ (Acts 20:24).

Praise God that Jesus was willing to pay the price for our sins so we don’t have to. He offered up His own life to God for the salvation of all who will believe (John 3:16, Philippians 2:8).

Return to Short Summary of Micah, the Levite, and Some Evil Men from Dan


 

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A Levite, His Concubine, and the Horror in Gibeah

The most barbaric story of Judges involves a wretched Levite, his concubine, and some evil men in the city of Gibeah.

It’s so hideous I can’t bring myself to write the details. But you can read the story for yourself: Judges 19.

The horror reveals there’s no depth of evil to which man will not sink unless the Lord intervenes and restrains them.

After the men of Gibeah committed their heinous crime, which the evil Levite and his host allowed, Israel finally looked to God again.

God sent Israel out against Gibeah, but Gibeah destroyed 22,000 men of Israel.

Israel wept before God and sought His help again.

This time Gibeah destroyed 18,000 Israelites.

Israel finally understood how far they had turned away from God.

This time they wept before God, fasted and prayed, and offered burnt sacrifices to Him for their sin as well as peace offerings of thankfulness to Him.

God said, “Go up, for tomorrow I will give them into your hand” (Judges 20:28).

With Israel finally humbled before God and depending on His power alone, God gave them the victory.

Return to Short Summary of A Levite, His Concubine, and the Horror in Gibeah


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Related Posts

If you’re new to the Welcome to the Bible Series, catch up on the other posts by clicking this link:

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JOSHUA ~ Dipping Our Toes into the Book of Joshua

JOSHUA - Dip your toes into the book of Joshua. A Super-Short Summary and Less-Than-Super-Short Summary (Welcome to the Bible series) via www.JeanWilund.com

JOSHUA ~ Book #6

“Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.” ~ Joshua 21:45

SUPER-SHORT SUMMARY:

In Joshua, God gives Israel the long-awaited Promised Land through a spectacular series of battles and miracles. Joshua reveals that salvation is a gift from God by His grace, not as a result of a person’s worthiness or efforts.


LESS-THAN-SUPER-SHORT SUMMARY: 

A Little Background

Ever since Genesis 15, God’s promise of a land for His chosen people dangled in some distant future like an engagement with no wedding date. In the book of Joshua, we finally see God fulfill the promise. Israel moved into the Promised Land.

Unfortunately, the move wasn’t as simple as hiring Two Men and a Truck to transfer their belongings out of their tents and into their new homes.

Fortunately, however, God was their Mover — and their salvation.

Israel Gets a New Leader

When the book of Joshua opens, God is speaking to Joshua, Israel’s new leader.

“Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan [River], you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel” (Joshua 1:2 ESV).

With great encouragement from God to be strong and courageous because He was with Joshua and would never leave him, Joshua assumed command.

FUN FACT: It’s not hard to see how Joshua gives us a picture of our Savior Jesus since the name Joshua means Yahweh is salvation. (Yahweh is God’s Hebrew name.)

ANOTHER FUN FACT: Jesus spoke Aramaic. His Aramaic name is Yeshu’a, which comes from the Hebrew name Joshua, which means God is salvation.

Rahab’s Red Thread

Sending spies into the walled city of Jericho was Joshua’s first act as leader.

The two spies snuck into Jericho where they met Rahab, a woman of the night.

Rahab hid the spies from the king and told them, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you” (Joshua 2:9 NASB).

She begged the spies to save her and her family because she believed in the Israelites’ God.

The spies told her to hang a red cord out of her window in the city’s wall, bring all her family into her home, and stay there when they come. They escaped out her window and reported back to Joshua.

Rahab and the red cord (or as I like to call it, the red thread) make a stunning picture of Jesus’ salvation offered to sinners by grace through faith, not personal merit or works.

Through the Jordan and Into the Land

Ready to take the Promised Land, Joshua marched Israel right through the middle of the Jordan River and into the land.

At the very moment the priest stepped into the flood-stage waters of the Jordan carrying the Ark of the Covenant, God heaped up the water on either side and made a straight path through the river.

The Ark of the Covenant was a holy box made of gold that contained the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments, Aaron’s blooming rod, and manna. The ark’s cover was the Mercy Seat where God forgave their sin and His presence dwelled.

Joshua Meets the Commander of the LORD’s Army

In the Promised Land, Joshua met the Commander of the Lord’s Army—the Lord Jesus Himself (Joshua 5:13-15).

Most Bible scholars believe the Commander was Jesus because God’s angels never accept worship. But this Commander did. Worship belongs to the Lord alone.

Plus, the Commander told Joshua to take off his shoes because he was standing on holy ground. This reminds us of when God spoke to Moses from within the burning bush and told Moses to take off his shoes because he was standing on holy ground (Exodus 3:4-5).

The Fall of Jericho—But Not Rahab

After Joshua talked with the Commander, the dramatic events of the fall of Jericho unfolded (Joshua 6).

Israel marched around Jericho once a day for six days.

On the seventh day, they blew their trumpets and marched around the city seven times.

And the walls came tumbling down – every one of them – except Rahab’s tower.

God saved Rahab and her family and continued the beautiful picture of Jesus’ salvation by faith, not works.

From Stunning Victory to Shocking Defeat

After this stunning victory, Israel suffered a shocking defeat at the city of Ai (Joshua 7:1-9).

It was Achan’s fault (Joshua 7:10-26).

Achan stole items from Jericho that God had commanded they dedicate to destruction – gold, silver, and fancy clothing. They weren’t to conquer the Promised Land to build their wealth.

But Jericho’s shiny stuff dazzled Achan. He stole it and buried it in the ground in his tent when no one was looking. Except for God. Duh.

Israel and Achan learned a tragic lesson.

After they dealt with the sin, they dealt with Ai and God gave them the victory in dramatic fashion (Joshua 8). Imagine that.

Sneaky Gibeon

Joshua renewed God’s great covenant with Israel, and then they blew it. Again. Israel fell for a clever scheme set by men from Gibeon (Joshua 9).

The Gibeonites didn’t want Israel to destroy them, so they pretended to come from a far away country—a country outside the Promised Land. (Remember, God said they were to extend mercy to nations outside the Promised Land.)

They asked Joshua to make a treaty of peace with them. Their sneaky plan worked because Joshua failed to check with God.

Taking the Land

At this point, the conquest of the Promised Land marched forward in full force and many battles took place.

The sun stood still (Joshua 10:1-15), five enemy kings got trapped in a cave (Joshua 10:16-28), and Joshua and his army defeated the giants Israel had so feared before (Joshua 11:21-22).

Despite the many victories Israel enjoyed, they didn’t conquer all the land.

God promised to give them all the land, but they didn’t trust Him and take it all. God’s promises didn’t fail. Israel did.

And just as God warned, the remaining nations proved to be a stumbling block to Israel. Over time they drew Israel into the worship of false gods and other terrible sins.

Dividing the Land and A Civil War?

The book of Joshua then records Joshua dividing the conquered land among the tribes of Israel, including pastureland for the Levite priests.

As soon as the eastern tribes set out to take possession of their allotted land, trouble arose when they stopped along the way to build an altar.

The western tribes mistakenly believed the eastern tribes were making an idol for themselves rather than worship at the true altar (Joshua 22).

But cool heads and wise words averted a war.

Side Note: If the eastern tribes had chosen to settle inside the borders of the Promised Land rather than outside, none of this would have happened. (Kind of like when we Christians think we can live with one toe in “the world” outside of godly standards and think no harm could come of it. Hmmmm.)

Joshua’s Final Words

Before the end of the book of Joshua and the end of his life, Joshua presented a final charge to Israel’s leaders:

“Therefore, be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left, that you may not mix with these nations remaining among you or make mention of the names of their gods or swear by them or serve them or bow down to them, but you shall cling to the LORD your God just as you have done to this day” (Joshua 23:6-8).

(That was one long sentence – 83 words – and an important charge.)

Joshua then renewed God’s covenant with Israel once again and commanded them to choose whom they would serve:

“Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:14-16

About 25 years had passed since Israel first crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land. It was now time for Joshua to join the Lord with his forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

After these things Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being 110 years old” (Joshua 24:29).

Stay tuned for what comes next: The book of Judges, where every man did what was right in his own eyes.

Oh boy.




DEUTERONOMY ~ Dipping Our Toes into the Book of Deuteronomy

DEUTERONOMY - Dip your toes into the book of Deuteronomy. A Super-Short Summary and Less-Than-Super-Short Summary (Welcome to the Bible series) via www.JeanWilund.com

Book #5 ~ DEUTERONOMY

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” ~ Deuteronomy 6:4-5 ESV


Super Short Summary:

In Deuteronomy, God prepares Israel for entering the Promised Land and, through Moses’ final words, gives a picture of what the Christian life should look like.

Less Than Super Short Summary:

The curtain opens on Deuteronomy at the end of Moses’ life and the beginning of Israel’s new life in the Promised Land, the land of Canaan.

In Exodus, God had brought Israel out of slavery to Egypt, which gave us a picture of Jesus setting sinners free from slavery to sin.

In Numbers, Israel wandered the wilderness because of their unbelief. Even though God had promised to give them a land and His blessings to enjoy, they’d refused to believe Him.

Through Israel’s unbelief, God gave us a picture of Christians who’ve trusted Jesus to save them from sin and give them eternal life but refuse to trust Him for today’s challenges. Their fears and selfish pride keep them in a barren, wilderness-type life.

They never enjoy the full freedom Jesus promises to Christians who walk by His Spirit rather than by human effort. Bondage to fear and unbelief (often expressed by the less convicting word “doubt”) send them stumbling into sin and discouragement.

God provided for Israel in the wilderness, but He didn’t design the wilderness to be their permanent residence.

He brought them (us) out of slavery to Egypt (sin) for the purpose of bringing them into the Promised Land. There they could enjoy the fruit of His blessings (victorious Christian living).

All who refused to trust Him suffered loss. And Christians do, too. They will be saved from an eternity in hell separated from God, but they’ll miss out on God’s blessings in this life – the blessings of unshakable peace, joy in Christ, and much more.

Moses’ Final Words

In Numbers, God had told Moses he wouldn’t enter the Promised Land with the Israelites because he didn’t honor the Lord before the Israelites at the life-giving rock (Numbers 20:10-13).

In Deuteronomy, Moses was now 120 years old, but his eyesight hadn’t weakened, nor had his strength given out (Deuteronomy 34:7). Regardless, Moses’ apprentice Joshua would lead Israel into the Promised Land, not Moses (Deuteronomy 31:1-3).

But first, Moses had some final words for Israel – words they must always remember and never forget.

(The Hebrew name for Deuteronomy, Debarim, means the words.)

Always Remember, Never Forget

Moses began by reviewing Israel’s past since the time they’d left Mt. Sinai 40 years earlier. He reminded them of their rebellion and the painful consequences.

The rebels, however, weren’t Moses’ audience. Their children were. Their defiant parents had died.

But God’s promises lived on. Faithful to His Word, God was going to give the Promised Land to the children.

Before they entered, Moses made sure they remembered, through vivid recollections, how easily and often their parents had made empty promises to trust and obey God.

He then commanded this generation to remain faithful and obedient to God rather than to idols – worthless scraps of metal or wood, or anything they’d place over God.

He reminded them of God’s rules, regulations, and commandments (Deuteronomy 5), which were designed to lead them into right living and allow them to dwell safely in God’s presence.

The Shema

God then gave a command that later became a daily prayer for Israelites known as the Shema.

The word shema means to hear and listen in such a way as to elicit a response.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. ~ Deuteronomy 6:4-5 ESV

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. ~ Deuteronomy 6:4-5 ESV

The Shema is still prayed today by orthodox Jews.

Jesus quoted it when asked what was the greatest commandment.

Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’” ~ Mark 12:29-30 ESV

Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’” ~ Mark 12:29-30 ESV

Warfare

To further prepare Israel for entering the Promised Land, Moses taught Israel how they must handle warfare.

They were to treat the people of the Promised Land (Canaan) differently than those outside it. The hearts of the people in Canaan overflowed with sin, making them ripe for judgment. God commanded they be devoted to destruction (Deuteronomy 9:4).

But those outside the Promised Land were to be shown mercy.

It can be hard to understand how a loving God could order entire cities to be devoted to destruction until you understand the depth of those nation’s sin and the mercy they could’ve enjoyed had they bowed to the Lord rather than raising their swords against Israel.

God is a righteous judge. The wonder isn’t how God could order Canaan’s destruction, but rather how He could have offered anyone extravagant grace and mercy.

Guard Your Heart

Toward the end of Deuteronomy, Moses addressed the condition of the Israelites’ hearts and alerted them to the many ways they’d be tempted to sin.

And he warned them that God would test them.

God would allow prophecies made by false prophets to come to pass in order to expose the true condition of the Israelites’ hearts. They needed to see for themselves when they saw their signs and wonders that they’d run after the false prophets’ idols rather than stay true to the one true God.

Everyone would see they didn’t want a true King. They wanted a Burger King. (Have it your way! Have it your way!

Blessing and Curses, Life or Death

Moses detailed the blessings God would pour out on them if they obeyed Him.

Astounding blessings! Surely Israel would faithfully obey so they could enjoy the many undeserved blessings the rest of their lives. (They didn’t!)

Moses also detailed the curses God would reign down on them if they disobeyed.

Terrifying curses! Certainly, they’d never risk forfeiting the great blessings by disobeying God and thus suffering the horrific curses. (They did!)

Regrettably, we’re not much different – if different at all. Too often we’d rather be our own god than serve the one true God.

Moses stood before Israel and commanded they choose. Life or death. Blessings or curses. (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)

Life and blessings were the obvious choices, but – Spoiler Alert – Israel often chose shocking sin over life-giving blessings. (Just wait until we get to the book of Judges! Oh my!)

God predicted Israel’s rebellion. He gave Moses a song to teach Israel which would stand as a witness against them that they’d been warned (Deuteronomy 32).

Moses then pronounced a blessing on each tribe of Israel (Deuteronomy 33). God’s grace in action.

Farewell, Moses

As the book of Deuteronomy closes we see Moses, the leader and prophet God called His friend, walking up to the top of Mount Pisgah. There the Lord showed him the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 34:1-4)

Then Moses, the servant of the Lord, died (Deuteronomy 34:5). He entered his rest and reward.

Hello, Joshua

Israel’s leadership passed to Joshua, who may have penned the final verses in Deuteronomy and this beautiful testimony to Moses:

“And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and wonders that the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel” (Deuteronomy 34:10-12).

 

 

 




NUMBERS ~ A Super-Short Summary (and a Less-Than-Super-Short Summary)

If you're new - or sort of new - to the book of NUMBERS - Dip your toes here in the Welcome to the Bible series via www.JeanWilund.com

Book #4 ~ NUMBERS

God is not a man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and not act? Does He promise and not fulfill? ~ Numbers 23:19 BSB


Super-Short Summary:

In NUMBERS, God reveals the stubbornness of man’s heart and the kindness of His own as they disobey Him despite His faithfulness. And He points forward to the cross, where His righteous anger over sin and His grace, mercy, and love toward sinners would meet in the death of His Son Jesus.


Less-Than-Super-Short Summary:

In Numbers, the action picks up after a slow opening – the account of a census (Numbers 1).

1, 2, 3, 4 .  . . zzzzzzz.

The first census counted 603,550 men able to fight (Numbers 2:32).

(The census gave the book of Numbers its English title. The Hebrew title is Bemidbar, which means In the Wilderness because the action takes place in the wilderness. I like the Hebrew title better.)

The census proved God was fulfilling His promise to make a large nation from Abraham. With God as their ruler, they’d grown to more than a million Israelites. This certainly qualified them to be a nation.

Bird’s Eye Cross

After the census, God mapped out where each tribe would set up their tents whenever they camped along the way to the Promised Land (Numbers 2).

(From a bird’s eye view, the tribe placement resembled a cross. Interesting.)

He then instructed the tribe of Levi how to serve the Lord in the tabernacle and detailed more rules and regulations for Israel (Numbers 3:1-10:10). Throughout these chapters, God reminded them of His holiness — and mankind’s struggle with it.

God’s Holiness: No analogy of God is perfect, but imagine God’s holiness is like the sun. We couldn’t live without it, but we’d better approach the sun properly. Even if we wear proper viewing glasses, the sun’s infrared heat can warm the tissue and liquid in our eyes. Boiled eyeballs?! 

Camping With God

For a year, Israel had been camped at Mt. Sinai as God prepared them for their journey to the Promised Land.

His presence would now lead Israel from a cloud by day and from a pillar of fire by night. That must have been an intimidating sight. (Numbers 9:15-23.)

Now organized by God, Israel left Mt. Sinai and headed into the wilderness by tribes for the first time following the cloud (Numbers 10).

You might expect the priests to be the first to head out after God, but the tribe of Judah led the way. How fitting since Jesus descended from the tribe of Judah.

No sooner had Israel headed out, than it began again. They showed their true colors, and it wasn’t pretty.

Incessant Whining and Mutinous Plots

Incessant whining and mutinous plots fill the book of Numbers. Each time, God responded in dramatic fashion.

Israel’s worst offense came when they rebelled against God and refused to enter the Promised Land. (Numbers 13-14). (God wasn’t just saving them from slavery. He’d promised them a new life in a land of their own.)

Moses sent twelve spies into the land. Ten came out with their knees knocking because they saw giants. Two (Joshua and Caleb) came out itching for battle.

But the ten spies melted the hearts of the people, and the Israelites refused to budge.

Their unbelief fueled their rebellion and turned an 11-day hike into a 40-year wandering because they chose to fear men rather than trust God.

You’d think Israel would’ve learned their lesson by now. JustBelieve. God.

Mutiny in the Wilderness

As the Israelites wandered, they continued their mutinous ways, even worshipping worthless idols.

Israel’s sins cost them. And God answered in jaw-dropping ways.

The ground swallowed some (Numbers 16), Aaron’s staff grew flowers and almonds (Numbers 17), and a plague ravished those who worshipped the false god Baal (Numbers 25).

A donkey even talked. (Yes, really – Numbers 22.)

An evil king had hired a certain prophet to curse Israel, but it didn’t work out well for the king. After the donkey and the Angel of the Lord talked sense into the greedy prophet, God used him to bless Israel and prophecy about King David and Jesus.

The prophet later met his doom at the end of a sword when he battled against Israel – Numbers 31:8. More proof that mankind’s heart is stubborn and slow to learn. Who forgets what a talking donkey taught you?

(Questioning whether to believe a donkey talked? God gave mankind the ability. And parrots. And apparently a Siberian Huskey. He can give it to a donkey, too. Nothing is hard for the God who created the heavens and the earth.)

Correcting God

Sin played Israel, but even faithful Moses wasn’t exempt from its traps.

Moses heard God’s instructions to speak to a specific rock and God would bring water from it. But he had a better plan. He chose to alter God’s instructions and struck it instead – twice (Numbers 20:2-13).

Even though Moses sinned, God brought life-giving water from the rock and displayed for Israel how Jesus, the Messiah, would one day give them living water. (Numbers 20:11; John 4:10)

Living water is a metaphor of the type of life Jesus gives.

“Correcting” God cost Moses dearly. God banned him from entering the Promised Land.

Tip #1: If you ever find yourself disagreeing with God, stop and consider which one of you is most likely wrong. In case you’re wondering, it’s you. It’s always us. Never God.

Tip #2: Sin always costs. And it never affects just you.

In another display of Israel’s true heart, they “loathed” God’s miraculous care of bread (manna) He sent each morning from heaven (Numbers 21:5 NASB).

So He gave them serpents. (Remind anyone else of the first sin in the garden?)

He also gave them a powerful picture of Jesus lifted up on the cross. Jesus Himself referred to it (Numbers 21:4-9; John 3:14-15).

Poised for Victory

As God led Israel throughout the wilderness for 40 years, we see a mixture of battles, sin, mercy, consequences, and victory.

By the end of their wandering, everyone who’d refused to trust and obey God and enter the Promised Land had died.

But their children were ready. They’d grown in wisdom and faith through God’s training.

Numbers comes to a close with another census (601,730 fighting men—Numbers 26:51) and Israel standing poised on the border of the Promised Land.

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LEVITICUS ~ A Super-Short Summary (and a Less-Than-Super-Short Summary)

LEVITICUS - Dipping our toes into Leviticus. A Super-Short Summary and Less-Than-Super-Short Summary (Welcome to the Bible series) via www.JeanWilund.com

3. LEVITICUS

You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine. ~ Leviticus 20:26 ESV


Super-Short Summary:

In Leviticus, God calls Israel to be holy as He is holy, exposes mankind’s inability to reach His standard, and points to the solution in His Son Jesus.


Less-Than-Super-Short Summary:

The essence of Leviticus is God’s holiness.

Holiness is something or someone set apart from what is unclean/unholy and devoting it instead to what is pure.

Through a series of laws, rules, and regulations, God called Israel (Leviticus 20:26)—and later Christians (I Peter 1:15)—to be holy as He is holy. That’s extreme holiness. (Actually, holiness can’t be less than extreme or it’s no longer holy.)

God’s call was a problem for Israel because not even they, God’s chosen people, stood a chance at reaching His standard of holiness on their own. (I refer you back to Genesis and the born-with-sin problem Adam and Eve passed down.)

God’s promised solution would come through His perfect Son Jesus Christ, but Jesus wasn’t coming in their day. They needed a temporary solution. Leviticus details it. (And by “details it”, I mean DETAILS it. That may be what’s kept Leviticus from becoming the next blockbuster movie—or even a made-for-TV movie.)

Laws, Rules, & Regulations

Leviticus overflows with laws, rules, and regulations to lead Israel into holiness.

Tradition says God gave Israel 613 laws. (And we thought it was impossible to keep all Ten Commandments perfectly. It is.)

As complex as they were, Israel needed God’s laws because He was now living among them. Just as we teach our children the rules for handling fire so they don’t get burned and die (Don’t touch!), Israel needed to understand how to approach God so they didn’t come the wrong way and die. (Mankind’s sin and God’s holiness don’t mix.)

The Offerings

One of the ways Israel could live in the midst a holy God was through the giving of five major offerings: the burnt offering, grain offering, peace offering, sin offering, and guilt offering (Leviticus 1:1-6:7).

The offerings helped the Israelites receive forgiveness and worship God. They also taught them more about God’s nature and pointed to Christ.

The Holy Festivals

Besides the five offerings, God required Israel to observe seven holy festivals: Sabbath, Passover, Firstfruits, Weeks, Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Booths (Leviticus 23:1-25:55).

We’ll discuss the offerings and festivals another day, but for now, understand that besides keeping them safe in their sinful state in the presence of a holy God, each taught them important truths about God’s nature and what Jesus would do in the future.

Clean and Unclean

Leviticus talks a lot about clean versus unclean (Leviticus 11:1-15:33).

God wasn’t referring to the need for a bath. These terms indicated whether the people were prepared and allowed to approach God (Clean) versus unprepared and prohibited (Unclean).

It also referred to whether an animal was permitted to be eaten (clean) or not (unclean).

Perhaps this analogy of my youngest daughter, a certified skydiver, will help explain what it meant for the Israelites to be clean or unclean:

Clean and Unclean Skydiving

While my daughter was getting her skydiving certificate, her instructors required her to follow specific rules and wear the prescribed equipment before they would deem her prepared and allowed to hurl herself from a plane. She was clean.

If she didn’t jump again within a certain number of days, however, it didn’t matter if she followed the rules and wore the right equipment. They’d deem her unprepared and prohibited from jumping. She would be unclean. 

Once she took the required refresher course, followed the rules, and wore the proper equipment, they’d pronounce her once again prepared and allowed to plummet from a plane toward the ground at about 120 mph with only a thin piece of fabric to keep her safe. She would once again be clean. (Crazy, but clean.)

Likewise, the Israelites had rules to follow. (Apparently 613 of them).

If they broke certain rules, God deemed them unclean. But after they performed the proper rituals, the priests could once again pronounce them clean and they could approach their holy God.

(Leaping from a plane without a parachute is safer than approaching a holy God the wrong way. The chilling story of Nadab and Abihu can attest to that—Leviticus 10:1-20).

The Priesthood

With all the offerings God required the Israelites to bring, the number of ways they could become unclean, and the important festivals they were to hold, the Israelites needed help. Thus, God instituted the priesthood, which we saw in Exodus (Exodus 28:1-29:46).

The priests served in the tabernacle, taught the people His law, and prayed for God’s guidance.

There were many priests but only one high priest. In Leviticus, God ordained Israel’s first high priest, Aaron ( Leviticus 8:1-10:20). Aaron was Moses’ brother.

God allowed only the high priest to enter the Most Holy Place (AKA the Holy of Holies) because God’s presence dwelled there over the Mercy Seat (God’s throne).

The high priest entered on the annual Day of Atonement. This most important day centered around the high priest and two goats. One goat paid the price for the sin of the nation, the other carried their sin as far as the east is from the west (Leviticus 16, Leviticus 23:37-44).

On this day, more than any other, the high priest portrayed a vivid picture of Jesus. But he wasn’t a perfect picture.

The high priest had to step through the curtain into the Most Holy Place with the blood sacrifice every year. Jesus’ death removed the curtain forever. He died one time for all time for all sin.

The Rewards of Leviticus

The book of Leviticus lies unread by many a Christian, its pages as crisp as the day they bought their Bible. It’s touted as the book few want to read. After all, it talks of bodily discharges, scabs, and other unsavory stuff.

But anyone who ventures into Leviticus and looks for Jesus will find treasures. Powerful pictures of Jesus, His plan of salvation, and how Christians ought to live to resist sin rise from its pages.

Leviticus may never become your favorite book, but it rewards any who choose not to thumb past it, but rather to linger in it.

At the very least, it will make you grateful to Jesus for fulfilling the law and bringing an end to the sacrificial system.

Jesus was and is the final sacrifice. Perfect in every way. Amen.

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EXODUS ~ A Super-Short Summary (and a Less-Than-Super-Short Summary)

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2. EXODUS

“The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.”
~ Exodus 12:13

Super-Short Summary:

In Exodus, God shows what it looks like to be rescued from slavery to sin and the dominion of evil and raised to new life into the freedom and service of a loving and perfect Ruler.


Less-Than-Super-Short Summary:

Exodus begins where Genesis ended. The family of Israel was still living in Egypt, but Jacob and his sons had long since passed away.

The new Pharaoh didn’t remember Jacob’s famous son Joseph and all that he did for Egypt. He only noticed their massive size. They’d multiplied like stars in the sky.

He feared Israel might rise up against him, he enslaved them.

Moses, A Baby Born to Save

Exodus 1-10 – Exodus tells the dramatic account of how God chose Moses, an Israelite baby named by the daughter of the man who wanted him dead.

God chose Moses to save God’s people from slavery to Egypt. (Do you see a picture of Christ? A baby born to save people from slavery to sin – not to Egypt.)

The circumstances of Moses’ birth and childhood were remarkable.

The events that led him to run for his life and settle in Midian were disturbing.

And his call by God from inside a burning bush to return to Egypt was one of the greatest moments in history. And included one of my favorite verses.

FAVORITE VERSE: God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” ~ Exodus 3:14 NASB

God let Moses (and us) know that He is, has been, and will always be everything Moses needs (we need) for every moment.

Moses returned to Egypt and told Pharaoh to let God’s people go. Pharaoh said, “No,” so Egypt suffered ten terrifying plagues. God planned them to prove their gods weren’t gods at all.

The Blood of the Lamb Set Them Free

Exodus 11-13 – The final plague gave a dramatic picture of Jesus on the cross.

God told the Israelites to apply the blood of a perfect lamb to the top and sides of their door.

(If you picture the blood applied to the door, you can imagine Jesus on the cross. You can see the blood that dripped from the crown of thorns pressed onto Jesus’ head by the Roman guards. You can imagine the blood from His hands, which were nailed to the cross.)

The Israelites then were told to eat the Passover dinner inside their home and wait, ready to travel.

At midnight the LORD came. If He saw the blood on the door, He passed over the home, and the firstborn son didn’t have to die. (Just as God’s firstborn Son Jesus died on the cross in our place for our sin, the lamb of God died in the place of their firstborn sons.)

If the Lord didn’t see the blood on the door, death came. The firstborn son had to die, even in Pharaoh’s own home.

Pharaoh told Moses to take his Israelites and get out of town. So Moses did.

He followed the Lord, who led them from inside a pillar of clouds in the day and a pillar of fire at night. (Imagine how terrifying that must have looked.)

Through Giant Walls of Water

Exodus 14 – Even with all the miracles God had done in Egypt, the Israelites weren’t prepared for what He did next.

God parted the Red Sea. (Yes, really.)

The Israelites walked between two giant walls of water. They crossed over to freedom on dry ground.

Their passing out of slavery through the water and back out into freedom is a picture of the Believer’s identity with Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection to life.

After Pharaoh let all his free labor go, he flip-flopped his decision and ran after them with his army. (The man just won’t learn.)

But he lost that final stab at keeping Israel enslaved when the Red Sea crashed back into place over them. (Israel had already made it safely to the other side. Whew!)

Into the Wilderness

Exodus 15-23 – Moses led Israel into the wilderness on their way to a beautiful land of their own with God as their loving and perfect Ruler.

He soon discovered that despite having just been set free, they were an ungrateful, grouchy lot. (In other words, they acted like humans controlled by the sin in their hearts – like us.)

In the midst of their whining and rebellion, God gave them His Law – the Ten Commandments and a whole bunch of other rules. They served to reveal the sin that lurks in mankind’s heart and their hopelessness without a Savior.

The Tabernacle

Exodus 24-40 – Exodus ends with God giving Moses directions for building a Tabernacle, so He could live among them, and the Israelites building it.

The Tabernacle was a large portable tent (think portable church) where the priests and high priest brought God the sacrifice for sin. God’s presence would live over the Mercy Seat in the part of the Tabernacle known as the Most Holy Place. (That makes perfect sense, right?)

Exodus Shows Us Jesus

The Tabernacle and sacrifices gave Israel (and us) a powerful picture of the mercy of Jesus, our high priest, who came down to live among His people and sacrificed Himself to pay for our sin.

In fact, God used every one of the Israelites’ escapades to point to Christ and expose the truth about the nature of their (and our) heart, as well as His amazing faithfulness, grace, and mercy.

When we look closely at the Israelites, we see a startling reflection of ourselves. We’re equally inclined toward going our own way – the way of sin. But God continually drew His people toward Himself, and He draws us, too. Will we listen better than they?

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