The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
Divine and Human Influence
DO not trouble yourselves about the personality or name of this angel that "came up from Gilgal to Bochim." He is always "coming up." Why do we miss great meanings by fastening upon little pedantic points? The angel charged the people with having broken God"s conditions, upon which he promised to be with them and keep his covenant with their houses. That angel still lives. Now we call him Memory, or Conscience. What is there in the change of name? He is an angel still. He is the wonderful Presence in life which takes note of all our goings, thoughts, and doings,—an invisible, un-slumbering Spirit that, so to say, keeps the covenant in one hand, and our life in the other, and looks to see how the harmony is sustained. If now and then the Spirit should turn from the covenant and say to the life, Think I you are wrong; you are out of course; you have lost step and touch with Heaven—surely we should say the voice is the voice of an angel; it is no common rough tone of accusation, but an appeal spoken sweetly to the innermost heart and thought of the Prayer of Manasseh, and should be answered according to its own quality. Thus we get great meanings in the ancient records. But if we stand here and ask questions about angels, their history, their figure, the law of their movements—inquiries to which there can be no possible answers—we shall feel ourselves no longer in a flowering garden, golden with the richness of summer, but in a burning and waste wilderness. Give the angel good hearing. Never arrest unduly or impatiently the voice of reproach and accusation, but answer it rationally, fearlessly: if there is nothing in the accusation, the answer will be short and easy; but, contrariwise, if the accusation is really sound and true, consider it, be not afraid of it, and with reverent familiarity interrogate it, apply it, and escape from its honest charges by better behaviour.
The people having heard the accusation, "lifted up their voice and wept. And they called the name of that place Bochim"—a place of weeping, a place of many tears. So they were not lost. This is the value of emotion: its presence indicates that the heart is not utterly dead to all solemn appeal and heavenly judgment. However fickle the life—and the best life is fickle—let us thank God if we can feel the tone of accusation, the language of reproach, and answer it even with the feeble answer of tears. Oftentimes tears are the best words. Were we to answer the accusation of the angel with words, we should get into controversy, and controversy lies at an infinite distance from repentance. When we lose speech we may gain power. It is better to bow down the head in silent, tearful sorrow, when the accusation is poured down upon us, than to attempt to answer it by petty excuses, or by inventing replies which are as feeble as they are dishonest.
So the people cry, and begin again. They were human. In this respect we ourselves are of the same race. Our days represent but a series of evil actions and late repentances. A singular mixture is life:—prayer, and blasphemy; high-handed rebellion, and meek humiliation; great vows, majestic in their moral nobleness, and lies of which lost spirits might be ashamed.
In the seventh verse we come to a more human aspect of the exciting history:—
"And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord, that he did for Israel." ( Judges 2:7)
What a noble influence may be exerted by one consecrated life! "The people served the Lord all the days of Joshua." We have had similar experience. We say: Since the leader died the followers have gone sadly astray. Or we say: Had the leader lived, it would not have been thus; he would have kept us together; his gracious domination would have ruled us aright; our reverence for him amounted to a species of religion. Or we say: Since the just critic died things have become demoralised; he was a just judge; he was generous withal; he saw the best side of every Prayer of Manasseh, and took the kindliest view of every subject: but he was so strong, so true, so honest; his voice was a judgment, his look was an approbation or a disfavour; everything about him was of a noble, healthy, beautiful kind; since he died there is no judge in the land. So we may come by an examination of our own experience to understand many of these old biblical incidents.
What a compliment is this to Joshua! How little, perhaps, did Joshua know what he was doing! If you ask for a eulogium upon Joshua, where will you find it? Is it set forth in any special form? Can we turn to a given page and say, Behold the eulogy spoken by the most eloquent lips of the time; see how paragraph follows paragraph, how climax heightens above climax, till the noble panegyric makes one feel how good a thing it was to live in the days of old? There is no such page, there is no such eulogy; but read this seventh verse and say whether it is not praise enough for any son of man:—"And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua." That is the only eulogium worth having: a great social influence, a sublime, beneficent action, operating all the time and upon everybody, and yet the man himself saying little and seldom seen. There are many eulogies: some in noble words that can only be credited by the imagination; some in out-of-the-way actions and silent deeds and subtle influences which can only be fully comprehended by a kindred spirit—yea, even by God himself. Let us thank God for our leader. The father is a Joshua in the family. So long as he lives there will be no controversy amongst the children: they all love him, so that one word of his will be final; were there tumult in the house he could by one sentence settle it,—not by arbitrary authority, but because of something in his quality not to be defined or measured, something that begets a magnificent moral reverence and trust. So it is in business, so in the State, so in the Church, so everywhere. The one true life may be keeping a thousand other lives in the right direction. A beautiful picture is given in the eighth verse:—
"And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being an hundred and ten years old." ( Judges 2:8)
Joshua gone. All that generation gathered to their fathers:—"There arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel"—a blind generation, utterly poor, historically penniless; men without anything that was more than one day old. These are the weights which time has to carry; these are the burdens of the ages; these are the men who let history die. What men should we be if we realised our history! Could we see the past as it ought to be seen, it would be like a cloud of spirits, a great army of angels, a sky shaded rather than darkened by heroic spirits, master souls that ruled their time. The other generation is always coming—the poor, penniless generation, the non-related generation; the generation that thinks every man a separate atom, or individual without any relation to the sum-total of things,—this is the generation that loses religion. Why? Because religion is historical. Religion binds man fast to the past. Religion does not incline itself towards the future in some selfishly expectant attitude; it lies back upon the past, and by the past seizes the future. We should be ashamed of some people—the people that talk mincingly, vain-gloriously, with affectation, with superficiality, win look upon life as a thing begun yesterday, and to be enjoyed today, and left tomorrow; they make us sore of heart; we feel poor in their presence; they have not seen "the great works of the Lord;" they have not bowed down to some worthy leadership and accepted its discipline and chastisement; they have influence only for a moment because they speak of things that endure but for a moment. Let us pray for the preservation of heroic memories. Let us remember that we never could have had a Bible to read if some men had not printed it as with their blood and bound it with their martyrdom. Let us think that we could not meet in many a Protestant church if there had not been men who counted not their lives dear unto them that they might stand up for liberty and defy the whole brood of hell. Now we ask little questions about things that our fathers died for! We now use the liberty they bought to praise the very tyranny which killed them.
So the generations come and go:—
"And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim: And they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the Lord to anger. And they forsook the Lord, and served Baal and Ashtaroth" ( Judges 2:11-13).
How did the Lord answer them? He could not answer them in words. There are times when words are useless. The answer is in the fourteenth verse:—
"And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and he delivered (hem into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies." ( Judges 2:14)
"And they called the name of that place Bochim" ( Judges 2:5).—Bochim (the weepings) was the name given to a place (probably near Shiloh, where the tabernacle then was) where an "angel of the Lord" reproved the assembled Israelites for their disobedience in making leagues with the inhabitants of the land, and for their remissness in taking possession of their heritage. This caused the bitter weeping among the people for which the place took its name.
Almighty God, thou hast heard the prayers of thy saints, and answered them with great love. We ourselves know this, and our hope in God is as a strong trust. We know when we have prayed unto thee, because the answer is in our hearts whilst we are yet speaking. We know the heavenly Presence; we can tell when we have reached thy throne: behold, thou dost come to us and turn our prayers into sweet replies in the very act of offering our supplications at thy throne. We are thankful as we look back upon the years that are gone. We will think of thy mercy, and not of our sin; we will dwell upon the lovingkindness of God, and not upon the rebellion of our own hearts. The years have been full of thy mercies; thy compassions glitter in them like jewels: thou truly hast been good unto Israel, even to them that are of a clean heart; and thou hast also been kind unto the unthankful and to the evil: whilst thy rain and thy sunshine have fallen upon the good, they have not been withheld from the unjust. We look onward with hope. Thou wilt not forsake us in the seventh trouble; thou wilt redeem thy covenant to its utmost letter, yea, thou wilt add to it and exceedingly multiply thy grace towards us. Keep us in the holy way; show us the sanctuary that is on high, and may our hearts desire to be in it night and day; may we measure all things by its weights and balances and standards: then shall we know when we are right and when God is pleased. Give us to see more and more of the grace that is in Christ Jesus, Son of Prayer of Manasseh, Son of God. He was the express image of his Father, the very brightness of his glory. May we study his words profitably, lovingly, seeking out their meaning with earnest hearts and receiving the same in all its fulness. We commend one another to thy tender care. Thou knowest what we need most—in ourselves, in our houses, in our businesses. Thou knowest the serpent that is pleading with us, telling us the lies we like to hear. Thou knowest the weak point in the character, where the assault tells most immediately and most disastrously. Thou knowest every trap set for our feet, and gin and snare, cunningly laid, that we may be taken and overthrown. We know nothing about it ourselves. We look on, and see nothing but a great cloud. We will therefore trust in the living God, putting our hand into his and asking to be led and directed and sustained by the eternal Spirit. Whether our days be many or few, may they be bright with thy presence, and wealthy with honest and good service. Where there is a difference between man and Prayer of Manasseh, oh heal the controversy and restore the love; where there is difficulty at home, dissolve the perplexity; where there is sorrow because of the family—wandering, unfilial, broken—speak some new parable that shall bring the wanderers all back again, or the old parable, but with the sweetness of a new tone. Be with those who are in trouble on the sea—that great, weary, unfriendly, threatening sea. Be with those who are in deeper trouble—the trouble of mind and heart, who are suffering from the sting of accusation and remorse, and the bitterness of just reproach;—yea, according to our varied necessity do thou come to us, and love us, and heal us, and do us good.
We pray every prayer at the Cross, and we feel it not to be a prayer until we have spoken the crowning name of Jesus—Jesus Christ—Immanuel—God with us. Amen.
"Handfuls of Purpose"
For All Gleaners
"And when the Lord raised them up Judges, then the Lord was with the judge"— Judges 2:18.
A picture of society when divinely constructed.—The economy of mediation is here, as everywhere, observed.—The great principle of election is here also affirmed.—The judges were raised up by the Lord.—Men did not make themselves Judges, nor did the people arbitrarily appoint and dismiss the judges.—The appointment was divine.—So it ought to be considered in all magistracy, judgeship, and government.—Society is a piece of mosaic wrought out by the loving hands of God.—God will only speak through the judges whom he himself has created and appointed.—The judge should recognise this himself, and be modest and self-restrained in proportion.—The true leader is always himself a follower of the divine guidance.—Elevation to office does not mean release from responsibility, but rather a responsibility that is enlarged and sanctified.—In times of national crisis men should pray that God would send the right leaders into the land, and clothe those leaders with appropriate influence.—It is in vain to have an orthodox Church and an atheistic State—that is to say, that the Church may be guided by God, but that the State may attempt to govern itself.—The Church should continually pray for the State, and thus acknowledge that God is the God of nations as well as the God of churches.—It is marvellous to observe how throughout the whole Scripture, all great appointments are acknowledged to be in the hands of God.—The children of Israel cried unto the Lord, and Moses was sent; again they cried, and judges were raised up; and so throughout the whole historical line, until Jesus Christ says, "Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest."—This is a lesson quite as much to those who suppose themselves to be appointed to high authority, as for the peoples whom they rule or attempt to direct.—The true Judges, minister, leader, statesman, will recognise that he is divinely appointed, and therefore accountable to God.—This will give moderation to his counsels, and invest all his thoughts and purposes with supreme solemnity, and will subdue the pomp of office by the consciousness of personal obligation to God.
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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Judges 2". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25