Preaching from the Book of Judges has been stretching me. It’s usually a good thing for us to be stretched. Yesterday’s sermon was particularly hard, because the story of Jephthah is not a pretty story. It should give us confidence in the reliability of the Scriptures that it does not shy away from the ugly, difficult stories.
Something became evident to me as I was preparing my sermon on Judges 10-11, that I was not able to take the time to discuss, but I think it’s important for us. By the time of Jephthah, Israel had been drifting away from God for a long time. They had also allowed themselves to be influenced by the false gods of the people around them for a long time. This was so much the case that Jephthah’s view of God was influenced more by the practices of the people around him than it was by the way that God had revealed himself to his people through the Scriptures. Some of the false gods of the people around them were worshiped by human sacrifice. We found in God’s Word that even Jephthah’s rash vow need not have resulted in the death of his daughter (Leviticus 27). God was neither influenced by Jephthah’s vow, nor did God demand the death of his daughter. This was Jephthah being influenced by the false worship that surrounded him
I hope this makes us all the more determined that we need to know what God has said, rather than assuming what everyone says God is like is true. This is why it’s so important for us to spend time in God’s Word together as a believing community.
Related to this, another congregation’s building in China was demolished this past week. You can read the story here. It reminds me of a story I heard of a missionary who was talked to a Christian woman who lived in China. The missionary was explaining that while Christians in the United States were completely free to go to worship every Sunday without fear of retribution, many simply chose to not go. The concept was very difficult for the woman to grasp. She couldn’t imagine having to freedom to attend a worship service and not making the most of that opportunity. It makes you think.
If you weren’t in the worship service, I want to make you aware of an announcement Josanne and I made at the end of it. Josanne has had a strong sense of her need to be with her father at this time to help care for him. You might remember that Josanne’s mother passed away in June and that her father struggles with vascular dementia. As a couple, we have sought God’s direction with this. In part we prayed that God might guide us through the jobs that Josanne was applying for. She applied for jobs in several places, including two positions in Eastern Kentucky, near her father. She was offered both of those positions, and has accepted one. It is a temporary (2 year) appointment. At this point, our plan is for me to continue to serve at North Danvers, while she will live and work in Eastern Kentucky. This isn’t an easy decision and we will continue to discern the toll it takes on us, but we invite you to pray with us during this time of transition. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask us.
Hope to see you in worship Sunday! And hey, why don’t you bring along a friend?