May 3

Judges 17:1-18:31

When everyone simply does what is right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6), strange things happen. This is one of those strange occurrences in the Mountains of Ephraim, with a man named Micah, a so-called Levite, and the tribe of Dan.

It begins with Micah confessing to his mother that he had stolen her silver…silver which she subsequently cursed. When he returns the silver to his mother, she took a portion of it and had an idol made, which Micah added to his shrine, where he also had an ephod and other household idols. Micah then ordained his son as priest, something clearly forbidden in the Law of the Lord (Numbers 3:10).

Next we find a young man from Bethlehem, a Levite, venturing out, looking for a place to live. I wonder if it’s because the children of Israel were not providing with tithes and offerings, or if this young man is simply seeking some type of adventure – he wants something different, “outside the box.” Either way, none of these people seem to be doing things God’s way. Micah crosses paths with this young man and hires him as his personal priest…he would receive ten shekels of silver, a suit of clothes, and room and board.

Judges 17:11 (NKJV) “Then the Levite was content to dwell with the man; and the young man became like one of his sons to him.”

It probably didn’t take long for Micah’s bubble to be burst as one day the tribe of Dan, who still hadn’t received their inheritance, travels through the mountains of Ephraim to find an easy fight for land (they can’t seem to win anywhere else). They find the land of Laish, and on their second time around decide to steal all the religious stuff from the household of Micah, including his Levite priest. It’s sad how it all went down, even the fact that the Levite left because the “numbers” were higher with the tribe of Dan. It turns out…he was a hireling.

The truth is – all of this was demonic. No one was doing things according to God’s Word and the enemy was setting up a deep stronghold through Dan. Notice what we read in:

Judges 18:30 (NKJV) “Then the children of Dan set up for themselves the carved image; and Jonathan the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land.”

This place of idolatry and pagan priesthood did not end until the children of Israel were carried away!

I’ve been to Israel, I’ve seen the altar set up to pagan gods, in this area of Dan, far north in Israel; you can still sense the tragedy of it all, even today. May God strike a healthy fear in our hearts! We don’t have the right to make up our own rules along the way, our own religion, our own priesthood. God help us to do things His way!

This map provides the key cities and locations mentioned in our reading.

John 3:1-21

Nicodemus was a very prominent person in the nation of Israel. Not only was he a Pharisee but he was also a ruler and is called “THE teacher of Israel,” by Jesus in John 3:10. Apparently, he had seen the signs Jesus did and he knew that Jesus had been sent by God. But the Jewish leaders had already rejected Christ, generally speaking, so Nicodemus comes to Jesus “by night,” discreetly. We might criticize him for his fear, but I’m just blessed that he came to Jesus at all.

Jesus doesn’t waste any time with Nicodemus – Jesus tells him straight-out, unless one is born-again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

“What man needs is not a boost from below but a birth from above.” – Warren Wiersbe. Nicodemus doesn’t understand the concept of the second birth, how can one be born again?

You’ll notice in the Gospel of John that often times the people took things literally, or physically, when they should have been thinking spiritually. In chapter 2 Jesus was speaking about the temple of His body, but they thought he was speaking about the literal, actual temple in Jerusalem. In chapter 4 the woman at the well was wondering how Jesus could give literal, actual water, when Jesus was speaking of spiritual water. God help us to up lift our eyes, to open our hearts, and to listen spiritually, for there are times when the words He speaks are to be taken in this way (John 6:63).

Nicodemus shows us that we can be a so-called spiritual leader in the land, and yet not be born-again. Sad to say, but there are many “pastors” and leaders in the church who are not saved – to them it’s simply a career or vocation. There are many people who serve and sit in the church, who do not know the Lord (Matthew 7:22-23; 13:24-30).

Jesus teaches us that we must be born of water and the Spirit. There are differing opinions as to what the water signifies. The immediate context seems to fit the idea that the water refers to the physical birth below, and the Spirit refers to the spiritual birth from above. We knew that it was time for both of our children to be born because the “water” broke in my wife’s womb.

Another view of the water that I lean towards, is that the water is in reference to the Word. In Ephesians 5:26 the water is the Word. And Peter gives us a solid cross reference in 

1 Peter 1:23 (NKJV) “having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the Word of God which lives and abides forever.”

I’ve always shared with people that the best commentary on the Bible is the Bible, and what we find is that the Spirit of God takes the Word of God and conceives a child of God.

One of the things you’ll notice is that the Gospel of John clearly teaches us that Jesus has been sent by the Father, with what I call, “Truth from the Top.” Jesus came down from heaven – if a person can receive that reality, than they should be open to wholeheartedly listen to the message of the Messiah.

Jesus then seamlessly transitions into exactly how we’re born-again – by simply believing in Him. Jesus points back to Numbers 21 when the children of Israel had been bitten by serpents; they were dying in droves. God commanded Moses to do something rather bizarre. He told him to fasten a serpent to a brass pole, lift it up, and anyone who was bitten would only have to look at this strange sacrifice and they would be saved. We look back now and realize that this Old Testament occurrence provided a picture of how Jesus would one day be nailed to a cross and lifted up; all we would have to do is look to Him with eyes of faith and we will be saved!

Isaiah 45:22, (NKJV) “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.”

John 3:16 has been called the Gospel in a nutshell. What love the Father has for us, that He would give His only Son (I still can’t fathom the thought) – that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

We read the blessings of belief, but we also read the warnings of unbelief – condemnation…and the wrath of God. We see the real and root reason people reject Jesus, because they love their sin (John 3:19).

I’d like to recommend a visual experience. This movie is WORD-FOR-WORD the entire Gospel. Perhaps you’ve seen movies on the life of Christ, but there aren’t many which are word for word! This movie uses the Good News Bible, which is a solid version, easy to understand. Let me know if you’re able to watch it and what you think.

Psalm 104:1-23

What a beautiful Psalm that begins by celebrating the LORD and the wonders of His creation! It’s good to get out of our concrete jungles from time to time; to open our eyes and see how creation reveals the majesty of our Creator.

Can you imagine Him stretching out the galaxies of heaven like we do a curtain? The clouds as His chariot? God walking on the wind? He made the angels His first ministers and then there’s the “foundation”  of our floating earth. The ocean waters, covering all those mountains and valleys in the deep sea. In case you’re wondering the world’s largest underwater mountain is Mauna Kea, which is a dormant volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii. Mauna Kea rises 19,678 feet or 5,998 meters from the ocean floor before breaking through the surface and then rising another 13,796 feet or 4,205 meters to it’s peak.

The springs that provide water for the beasts and the birds, the wild and domesticated animals, the grass, the vegetation, the fruit of the vine; the trees, the hills, the moon, and the sun…and there we are in the middle of it all, soaking it in, cooperating with His creation as we work the fields of our Father.

I’ve noticed that when people get saved, they appreciate creation more, and the One who made it all for us to enjoy.

Proverbs 14:20-21

Proverbs 14:20 reveals the way of the world – not as it should be – but unfortunately as it is, how often times the poor are despised, looked down on, even hated.

James addresses this in 2:1-8 of his very practical letter, for it can even happen in the church. They say, “There is little friendship in the world, except that which is governed by self-interest.”

Proverbs 19:4 (NKJV) “Wealth makes many friends, but the poor is separated from his friend.”

Proverbs 19:7 (NKJV) “All the brothers of the poor hate him; how much more do his friends go far from him! He may pursue them with words, yet they abandon him.”

So sad. Of course, there are those who know better, who cultivate friendship not for what they can get, but for what they can give; they’re truly friendly and willing to be a friend to those God brings into their paths.

As we read in Proverbs 14:21 we shouldn’t despise (look down on) anyone; we’re called to be merciful to the poor, which makes us happy – that’s what this passage teaches us.

Acts 20:35 (NKJV) “I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

If you want to be happy, remember, it has a lot to do with generosity, those two concepts are closely connected. God cares for the poor, and so should we…we’ll see this again in Proverbs 14:31

If you have any questions or comments on today’s reading, or you’d like to share something the Lord showed you, feel free to leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you as we grow forward in 2021.

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