Day 61

by Rev Joel Yong

Judges 9:4-6
So they gave him 70 pieces of silver from the temple of Baal Berith. With the silver, Abimelech hired worthless and reckless men to follow him. Then he went to his father’s home in Ophrah. There he executed his 70 brothers, Jerubbaal’s sons. But Jotham, Jerubbaal’s youngest son, survived because he hid. All the citizens from Shechem and Beth Millo united. They went to the oak tree that was still standing in Shechem and proclaimed Abimelech king.

Abimelech persuaded the people to let him lead.
And he did. Unscrupulously.

He hired ‘… worthless and reckless men’ unlike David who had mighty men following him.
Because he only attracted those without any real depth and quality.

His leadership seemed successful but for only a short time and he killed 70 of Jerubbaal’s sons.

His cruelty did not go unnoticed. God avenged the blood shed by him.

By the end of the chapter we read that while engaged in conflict- this happened:

Judges 9:53-57
Then a woman threw a small millstone that hit Abimelech on the head and cracked his skull. He quickly called his armorbearer. He told him, “Take your sword and kill me! I don’t want anyone to say, ‘A woman killed Abimelech.'” His armorbearer did as he said, so Abimelech died. When the people of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, they all went home. So God paid back Abimelech for the evil he had done to his father when he killed his 70 brothers. God also paid back the men of Shechem for all their evil. So the curse of Jotham, son of Jerubbaal, came true.

For a warrior back then- to be killed by a woman, was a disgrace.
So he asked to be killed by his armorbearer instead.

A worthless leader who resorted to unscrupulous means to get things done- dies a dishonorable death. Suicide after receiving a mortal wound inflicted by a woman’s millstone.

Day 60

by Rev Joel Yong

Judges 6:6-10
And Israel was brought very low because of Midian. And the people of Israel cried out for help to the Lord. When the people of Israel cried out to the Lord on account of the Midianites, the Lord sent a prophet to the people of Israel. And he said to them, Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I led you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of bondage. And I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all who oppressed you, and drove them out before you and gave you their land. And I said to you, I am the Lord your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But you have not obeyed my voice.

Israel prays.
God answers and He cites why they are suffering.
Their disobedience.

Too often in today’s world we hear testimonies about believers crying out in prayer to God and how He delivers and some speak of long moments when God is silent.

But I have never heard of anyone sharing that God told them that they were being punished and hence the suffering.

Perhaps we are a tad self-righteous and assume our sufferings are never our fault?

I do believe God still disciplines us today as He did in the days of biblical Israel.
And perhaps He isn’t silent … perhaps we have not been listening.

Day 59

by Rev Joel Yong

Judges 2:10
And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.

How did this happen?
The generation who saw what God did- failed to tell the younger generation about it.
They also failed in helping the younger generation live out a life of faith, following God in the present day and thus leaning on Him for strength throughout life’s journey.

As a result- this is what happened:

Judges 2:11-13
And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger. They abandoned the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth.

We must constantly tell our young what God did for us and help them to live out their faith daily so they can see God is real in their parents’ time and also in their present day.

One way of doing this is to reflect upon each day before we sleep and thank God together as a family for the things we have been blessed to experience and look to Him for help for the obstacles in our way. This sort of prayer log- helps the young recollect how God is present in every moment of our days and not just in our parents’ historical experience.

The better priesthood

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: Hebrews 7:1-17; Psalms 105:37-45

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
Hebrews 7:11 “Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron?”

While the Levitical priesthood served the people of Israel by making offerings to God on their behalf, it was not a “perfect system”. In those days, there were several offerings to be made to God and the first was the burnt offering. The burnt offering was made for the general atonement of sins and expression of devotion to God. In Leviticus 1, it is said that if the burnt offering was to be taken from the herd, a male without blemish must be offered. While such bulls (or lambs in the case of Passover) without blemish were carefully chosen for the required offerings, they were not perfect.

No matter how spotless these offerings were, they were not perfect because they were created by the One who is perfect. Perfection can only come through the sacrifice of the perfect Lamb of God Himself. To give us the better priesthood after the priesthood of Aaron; Jesus therefore had to obey the will of the Father and sacrificed Himself at Golgotha. This is so that for those who believe, we are considered as righteous before God. For those who believe, we now belong to the better priesthood.

Christians are now under a better priesthood; that is led by none other than the Great High Priest Jesus Christ. In fact, the Apostle Paul said that in this “new system” we are no mere “church-goers” but a priesthood of believers. In this better priesthood, there is no longer a need to bring unblemished bulls for the atonement of our sins or even the expression of our worship to God. Jesus had done it all.

So by faith, we are now able to worship and commune with God on a daily basis. By faith, we are now empowered to live the new life in Christ and make disciples. What a privilege this is! What great love from the Almighty!

May I not take this privilege for granted and henceforth become complacent. May I not turn my eyes from this new and better priesthood. May I not choose to follow the old priesthood where ministry, family and work became a burnt offering unto the Lord; where works are thought to be bargaining chips for salvation.

Lord, it is only by Your grace that I am given the opportunity to be inducted into this better priesthood. Help me to serve Your people in humility and wisdom; keeping in mind that You are the One who have brought me out of the mire and into Your marvellous Light. Amen.

Day 58

by Rev Joel Yong

Joshua 24:16-18
Then the people answered, Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods, for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed. And the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.

Israel was a new nation but nowhere in the text above, do we read of “Our forefathers’ blood and sweat got us here.” or “Moses’ vision and selflessness birthed our nation.”

There is no focus on a founder or a group of ancestors as the ones credited for Israel’s success. No, the glory is given to God and the credit is given to Him alone.

The Israelites are critically aware that it is only because of God that all these things were possible.

Joshua proceeds to test them further and warns them of the conditions required of a people who want to follow the God of Israel.

Joshua 24:19-21
But Joshua said to the people, You are not able to serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good. And the people said to Joshua, No, but we will serve the Lord.

An unwavering commitment was required and not a fickle faith.
There was punishment awaiting those who would treat God in such a manner- as if He was a common deity.
But the people stood firm in their decision.

It’s time to review our commitment to follow God and it’s good to do this at specific moments of the year.

Are we committed to choose God above all other gods and do we give Him credit for all in our lives or do we subtly credit ourselves for various achievements instead?

He is our Source of life and blessings- we are nothing without God.
God is everything and even if we choose not to follow Him- it is not to His disadvantage.

Day 57

by Rev Joel Yong

Joshua 23:2-3 ESV
Joshua summoned all Israel, its elders and heads, its judges and officers, and said to them, I am now old and well advanced in years. And you have seen all that the Lord your God has done to all these nations for your sake, for it is the Lord your God who has fought for you.

Joshua was old and dying and was leaving the task of leading Israel’s future to the next generation.

Note that he doesn’t expect them to be faithful because of all the things they HEARD him say about God. No, he references their own experience!

I feel our young should not base their faith on what is taught in Sunday school lessons alone or what we tell them God did for us as parents alone … but rather they should do so from their own living out of the faith and being able to see how God is active and alive in their daily lives.

Then they will know – even when their parents are long gone- that God is that unchanging Rock they can depend upon in an ever changing world.

A heart of flesh

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: Ezekiel 10:1- 11:25; Proverbs 27:1-2

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
Ezekiel 11:19-20 “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them.”

As the prophet Ezekiel lament if God would make an end to the remnant, God responded that one day He will gather the Hebrews and give them a new heart i.e. from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh. This heart of flesh shall be given so that God’s people can walk in His statutes and obey His commandments. However those who persist to dabble with abominations, they will face judgment from the Lord.

How gracious is the Lord! His patience is immeasurable. He even goes to the extent of giving His people a new heart to obey Him.

For believers who live in the age of the New Testament, “a new heart” is relatable to finding our salvation in Jesus Christ. Otherwise it is impossible for us to truly follow God’s commandments. In Christ, we are empowered so that we can act upon God’s will.

However, I am also reminded that even having “a new heart” is no guarantee. It is no guarantee that we will follow God all the way. The fault lies not in God’s grace; the fault lies in ourselves to even turn flesh into stone. King Saul was one good example. God gave him a new heart and anointed him king. But he gave in to his own insecurities, consistently hardening his heart towards God and finally died condemned.

May the Lord have mercy. May we be good stewards of the new heart He has given to us in Christ and continue to fight the good fight of faith till we meet Him face to face again.

Lord our God, help us to persevere in You and walk in You. Not by our strength nor might; but by the Spirit and in the Word. Amen.