The Pen is mightier than the sword, but the Pen must sometimes move the sword against corruption if the corrupt are not moved by the pen.. An idea without an implementer is useless. "The Rulers do not carry the sword in vain"Rom 13:4

Friday, January 3, 2014

God's sense of humor?

This post is directly linked thematically with the previous one about Marx and the business cycle.
I was going to put this bit in with that post but it's getting a bit longish.  The basic picture of that post was how mankind tends to follow the lines of least resistance morally, but then when disaster strikes, ie... a disaster linked to that 'line' they've been following, people tend to look to higher powers  for some help. "Oh God.... help me PUH-LEASE" as the air is hissing out of the life-raft in an increasingly angry sea.

In the case of Israel during the time of the Judges, they had what might be termed a  spiritual/religious  "business cycle."   They began with reliance on and observance to the God who saved them from slavery in Egypt, YHWH.  But because the natural inclination of sinful mankind is to follow after the 'easy way' of pleasure and hedonism, they ended up embracing the types of gods that reinforced and validated their spiritual waywardness. Baal and Ashtoreth were local pagan gods of this type.

But of course, if you pull up your bucket from the well of degradation, don't be surprised if it contains some  unsavory contents.

 One day, after YHWH allowed them to be taken over and enslaved yet again by various 'ites' in the region, they had a sudden burst of conscience and decided to give the true God a try....

 The Ammonites also crossed the Jordan to fight against Judah, Benjamin and Ephraim; Israel was in great distress. 10 Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord, “We have sinned against you, forsaking our God and serving the Baals.”

God's answer ?  Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them save you when you are in trouble!”

 The 'bargaining process'.....The  Israelites moaned and groaned, whined and whinged...
“We have sinned. Do with us whatever you think best, but please rescue us now.”

Even if you've never been in such a situation yourself, I'm sure you've either heard some joke or seen some clip of a show where some character in desperate circumstances tries to make a deal with God.
"Ohhhhhh GOD.... if you get me out of this....I'll give my life to serving the poor for a million years" kind of thing.

Fortunately for Israel, their words finally were translated into action....  "Then they got rid of the foreign gods among them and served the Lord"
Not a bad start... they changed their lives before any hint of help came from on High. Sadly, this is evidence that they knew the right path all along..but just refused to follow it. Ever been like that?

Long story short, God decides to help them, but.... this is the sense of humor bit maybe.....

The Israelites, now converted to 'goody two shoes' mode, start making all kinds of ambitious plans for the one God is going to raise up to save them.....(Judges 10)

“Whoever will take the lead in attacking the Ammonites will be head over all who live in Gilead.”

"Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior. His father was Gilead;....

....his mother was a prostitute."

Can you imagine all these 'reformed smokers'  who have suddenly found the large economy sized 'holiness' in the temple supermarket...and then the  bloke who is to be their new leader, -who is going to save them.....is the son of a whore?
This was too much for them I think, and they didn't call on him straight away. Jepthah had been exiled, hounded outa Dodge city by these newly purified people, by his hypocritical family, and had become a guerilla leader with a band of revolutionaries.  In the end, they realized that his warrior credentials were what they needed. If you are faced with a fight, you need a fighter! You can almost hear their passionate discussion. 
"Jepthah ???  HIM?...that ...that......I can't even say it....."
"But no one can kick ass like he can!"
"But, his mother is a dirty hooker!...how can God use such person to save us ?"
"And...remember what we said... whoever beats the stuffing out of these Ammonites will be our next leader! what will these other nations say about us? Think about our international reputation!!!"

4 Some time later, when the Ammonites were fighting against Israel, 5 the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob. 6 “Come,” they said, “be our commander, so we can fight the Ammonites.”
When things are really bad, we have to have the urgency to match the emergency! 

Full credit to Jepthah, he tried diplomacy before deploying a few Israelite  drones. He sent a delegation to the oppressors with a bit of a history lesson. But just as power corrupts, it also makes people deaf blind and stupid to truth if that truth means a loss of power and advantage, so the Ammonites chucked his diplomatic pouch into the circular file and gave him the moral equivalent of "the finger."

Long story short,  Jepthah brings out his version of the Abrams battle Tank (heavy chariots?) saves the nation, but he did a very stupid thing. I mean.. it was as stupid as giving your life savings to Bernie Madoff as a high reward sure thing investment. Jepthah tried to be 'spiritual' in his clumsy, un-learned way, and made a ridiculous gesture in the form of an oath that he would sacrifice to God the first thing that emerged from his tent after his victorious  return.  He won, and when he returned, his only child.. a daughter emerged from the tent!

The unfolding story from then on tends to tug at my own heartstrings quite a bit, as I'm an only child.
I recommend you read it, even if your are not a Christian, it's a very informative piece about Ancient near eastern international relations and more pertinent, about human nature. (for context it's best to read from chapter 10)  Although Jepthah took his oath seriously, to the point of tragedy. It should be stated that God does not ask us to make such stupid oaths.

Judges 11

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