PODCAST: The Best of Times, the Worst of Times, Part 10 (Covenant and the Cross #117 with Daniel Whyte III)

Welcome to the Covenant and the Cross Podcast. This is episode #117. I am your host, Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International. This podcast is designed to help you better understand the Word of God — both the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament is the story of the Covenant which God made with His chosen people Israel. And the New Testament is the story of the Cross which signifies the fulfillment of the Old Covenant with Israel and the formation of a New Covenant with redeemed people from many nations.

We always like to start out with the Word of God, and today’s passage of Scripture is from Joshua 7:1-5 which reads: “But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for A-chan, the son of Car-mi, the son of Zab-di, the son of Ze-rah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against the children of Israel. And Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Bethaven, on the east of Bethel, and spake unto them, saying, Go up and view the country. And the men went up and viewed Ai. And they returned to Joshua, and said unto him, Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; and make not all the people to labour thither; for they are but few. So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men: and they fled before the men of Ai. And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men: for they chased them from before the gate even unto Shebarim, and smote them in the going down: wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water.”

Regarding this passage, Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown wrote in their commentary: “There was one transgressor against the ban on Jericho, and his transgression brought the guilt and disgrace of sin upon the whole nation. His genealogy is given probably to show that from a parentage so infamous the descendants would not be carefully trained in the fear of God. After the sacking of Jericho, the next step was to penetrate into the hills above. Accordingly, spies went up the mountain pass to view the country. The precise site of Ai, or Hai, is indicated with sufficient clearness and has been recently discovered in an isolated tell, called by the natives Tell-el-Ha-jar, “the mount of stones,” at two miles’, or thirty-five minutes’ distance, east southeast from Beth-el. Beth-aven, or house of vanity, a name afterwards given derisively, on account of its idolatries, to Beth-el, “house of God,” but here referred to another place, about six miles east of Beth-el and three north of Ai. As the population of Ai amounted to twelve thousand, it was a considerable town; though in the hasty and distant spying, it probably appeared small in comparison to Jericho; and this may have been the reason for their proposing so small a detachment to capture it. An unexpected resistance and the loss of thirty-six of their number diffused a panic, which ended in an rout. They were chased unto the “breakings” or “fissures” at the opening of the passes. It is evident that the troops engaged were a tumultuary, undisciplined band, no better skilled in military affairs than the Be-dou-in Arabs, who become disheartened and flee on the loss of ten or fifteen men. But the consternation of the Israelites arose from another cause–the evident displeasure of God, who withheld that aid on which they had confidently reckoned.”

Today’s quote about the Bible is from Robert E. Lee. He said: “In all my perplexities and distresses, the Bible has never failed to give me light and strength.”

Our topic for today is titled “The Best of Times, the Worst of Times, Part 10” from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.

After the civil war of A-bi-me-lech’s day, the text tells of six minor judges, leaders who generally receive just a note in passing. As was the case with Sham-gar, we have little information about To-la and Jair. We are told more regarding Jeph-thah.

The situation is familiar. The people did evil in the eyes of God, and God sent the Am-mo-nites to oppress them. The people cried out to the Lord, but He responded by stressing their continual rebellion and told them to cry out to the gods they had chosen. The point hit home, and the Israelites put away the foreign gods. They also met at Miz-pah to discuss the situation. They decided to ask for help from Jeph-thah. Because he was the son of a prostitute, Jeph-thah had been ostracized and had left home. He had also accumulated a large following of adventurers. It was this demonstrated leadership that attracted the Israelite leaders, and they agreed to make Jeph-thah their head so that he might deliver them.

Jeph-thah is most noted for the promise he made to God before he went to war: “If you give the Am-mo-nites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Am-mo-nites will be the LORD’S, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering”. He won the battle, but when he returned, the first thing that came out to meet him was his daughter, his only child. The usual translation of the vow implies that he then performed a human sacrifice. The word translated “and,” however, could also be rendered “or,” and in this case, it seems to indicate that Jephthah anticipates two possible outcomes.

This interpretation is supported, first, by the response of the daughter, who asks for time to lament that she will not be able to marry—not that she is going to die. Second, the text never uses the words “sacrifice” or “burnt offering” in this section, but rather that “he did to her as he had vowed”. Third, human sacrifice was an abomination among pious Israelites. While it was sometimes practiced in the land, it took place always in the context of service to false gods. In this light, I would suggest that Hannah’s dedication of Samuel to God is the model for what we see here.

The extended narrative on Jeph-thah is followed by a short section that lists three more judges. Ib-zan, E-lon, and Ab-don are cited as people who judged Israel for short periods of time. The significant point of these final three leaders is that each served in different regions. Moreover, we are not told that the whole nation of Israel enjoyed the periods of peace pointed out under the earlier judges. This overall pattern will come to a climax with the last major judge, Samson.

Lord willing, we will continue this topic in our next broadcast.

Let’s Pray —

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Before we close, dear friend, I want to remind you that the most important thing you should know about the Bible is that it is the story of God working to save humanity from sin and the consequences of sin. He did this by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins and take the punishment that we deserve on Himself. Romans 5:8 says, “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, and you want to get to know Him today, here’s how.

All you have to do is believe “that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” and you will be saved. The Bible states in the book of Romans 10:9, 13: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Pray and ask Him to come into your heart and He will.

Until next time, remember the word of God is the foundation to a successful life. God bless.