Images: H.C. Question 97

May we then not make any image at all?

Exodus 34:13-17 – Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles. Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

“Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices. And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same.

“Do not make any idols.

2 Kings 18:4-5 – He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan.)

Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him.



Day 81: 1 Samuel 14-15; Saul's Legacy

So continues the battle with the Philistines, a conflict that continues for all the days of Saul’s reign as king.  But what we do see here is Saul taking the reigns of his Kingship, making decisions and rallying the people.  While it is good to see the king living into the role to which he has been called, it is interesting to see the his style as a ruler and his faith in God juxtaposed against that of his son, Jonathan and all of what happens after it.

There are really two different narratives that happen here, one in chapter 14 and the other in chapter 15.  In chapter 14 we see the actions of Jonathan dangerously venturing out with only his armor bearer to help protect him.  He goes out across the battle lines and up to the philistine garrison.  Rather than setting his own plan, he just says that he is going to stand up and trust that God will reveal to them what it is that they should do.  The sign is given, Jonathan obeys, and the garrison is defeated and the philistines panic and scatter.  Only then does Saul and the men with him come out of hiding.  Then Saul commands his military that they are to pursue the philistines and not take any food until they are defeated.  To me, this seems like an odd command in general, but for Saul, I think it betrays his feelings of who he trusts in.  Saul seems to be jumping on this fortunate turn of events and doesn’t want the opportunity to be lost because his soldiers stop to do something like eat food.

What happens?  Jonathan stops and eats some food.  Some people from the army warn him of what his father commanded to which Jonathan replies something akin to, “well that’s just dumb.”  We see here, very clearly where the faith of Jonathan lies:  in the power of God.  Saul is making bad decisions in the moment to take advantage of the confusion of the philistines.  He is relying on the strength of his army.  Jonathan knows exactly why this has happened.  He knows that it is the Lord that has given the philistines into the hands of Israel and that they should not rely on their own strength, but trust that as God has already worked, He will continue to do so.

This lack of faith and lack of following God is emphasized at the end of chapter 14 when we read that there was fighting all the days of Saul.  This is a direct reference to the covenant, where it says that there would be peace in the land if the people followed God and God’s law and there would be conflict should they fail to do so.  Saul’s lack of faith is then accented by his actions in the following chapter, not heeding the command of God and taking the best plunder for himself.  All this culminates in the rejection of Saul as king.  We read that the Lord regretted that He had made Saul king.

I think that this brings up a rather interesting thing to think about here.  We’ve read something like this a couple of times.  Back in Genesis 6 we read, “And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.”  Later, in Exodus 32, with the Golden Calf, the Lord is so angry about the people’s rebellion that He wants to destroy them, but Moses talks God out of it.  This raises the question though, if we believe that God is immutable (does not change) but we read here that God changes His mind or regrets something that He is already done, do not those things stand in contrast with each other?

The immutability of God here is really a statement of the nature of God’s character, something about who He is in His very being.  We know that God is Holy, and that He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  We know that God is wholly opposed to sin.  We also know that God is faithful to His people, loving them even in the midst of rebellion.  So what does that say to us here about God?  That He is, as always, true to His character.  God can never act in a way that is contrary to God’s character.  So we see that God is grieved to have made Saul the king, which is a result of Saul’s continuing sin against the Lord.  What we aren’t reading here is that God was wrong in doing so, but that He regretted His decision.  In any case, God is still acting in the way that God always acts, working against sin, upholding the covenant He made with Israel, and still bringing about His will in the world.



Day 70: Judges 4-5; Not for your Glory

As I said yesterday, some of these stories would are familiar while others are not… but many of them are graphic.  Tent peg to skull is surely not a way that I’d like to die.  However, I think this particular story is familiar for several reasons:  it is, to my knowledge, the only account of a female judge in the Bible and it is one of the more unique ways that the oppressor is killed.

Even with that in mind, I think that this story should gain its fame not from the judge, but from her testimony of the God that has empowered her.  She says to Barak, after getting him to agree to attack the overwhelmingly powerful force of Sisera and the Canaanite army, that though the victory would be won, the glory would not be his but would go to God.  As the story continues, where do we see God?  He goes before the people of Israel and He routes the army of the Canaanites so that they are destroyed to the last man.  All of what has happened here, Israel’s victory and the rest that would come to the land, was because of God.

Again we see His faithfulness in keeping the covenant with Israel.  He punishes them for the evil that they do, yet He hears their cries and has mercy on them in their time of need.  This is the cycle of the judges, back and forth again we will go.  It is important to see where God is in all of this.  It can look like He is absent or even mean, but these narratives tell us so much more about God and His faithfulness.  As we have seen and will continue to see, Israel is completely incapable of holding up their end of the covenant.  They broke it on the first day that they had received it with that Golden Calf.  Here again, and again and again they continue to break the covenant.  By the terms stated, God had every right to walk away and leave them in their punishment, but He doesn’t and He won’t.

Like a parent disciplining their children, so too does God discipline Israel using the power of other nations.  Yet like a loving parent, discipline does not mean that there is no longer love, and it is only for a time.  Interestingly, God upholds both ends of the covenant, becoming in Himself and His power, the means for the people of Israel to turn back to Him.  God knows that the people are sinful and He knows that because of our sin and our rebellion we wouldn’t choose Him if it were left up to us.  And even if we did, He knows that we wouldn’t ever be able to sustain that choice in our lives.  Which is why God has to take the initiative, He has to act first.  And this is what He does for Israel, providing a judge and the power to defeat their enemies and thus draw the people back to Him.

This is what He has done for us as well, even when we were lost in our sins.  Ephesians 2 tells us that we were dead in our sins and transgressions, and yet God, because He is rich in mercy, sent His Son to die for us.  We wander, all the time, like the people of Israel.  Yet God has taken the initiative for us too, providing a sacrifice for our sins!  He has kept His covenant and continues to be faithful to His people now and forever.