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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries
Judges 10

 

 

Verses 1-5

EXPOSITION

10:1

Tola the son of Puah, the son of Dodo. Nothing more is known of Tola than what is here told us, viz; his name, his parentage, his dwelling-place, his office, the length of time which he held it, and the place of his burial. Who were the enemies from whom Tola was raised up to save Israel we are not told. There was probably no great invasion or grievous servitude, but perhaps frequent border wars requiring an able and watchful chief to maintain the independence of Israel. Tola and Puah (otherwise written Puvah) were both names of families in Issachar (Genesis 46:13; Numbers 26:23). Shamir in mount Ephraim, to distinguish it from Shamir in the hill country of Judah (Joshua 15:48). Both are otherwise unknown.

10:3

Jair. We read of Jair the son of Segub, the son of Machir's daughter by Hezron, in 1 Chronicles 2:21-23, and are there told that he had twenty-three cities in the land of Gilead (called Havoth-jair), which were included in the territory of the sons of Machir. The same information is given in Numbers 32:40-42, and in Deuteronomy 3:14, Deuteronomy 3:15, in both which passages Jair is styled the son of Manasseh, and is stated to have called the cities after his own name, Havoth-jair. In the present verse we are also told that Jair the judge was a Gileadite, and that he had thirty sons who had thirty cities in Gilead called Havoth-jair. The question arises, Can these two be the same person? If they are, Deuteronomy 3:14 must be a later parenthetical insertion, as it has very much the appearance of being. The notice in Numbers 32:41 must also refer to later times than those of Moses, and we must understand the statement in 1 Chronicles 2:22, that "Segub begat Jair," as meaning that he was his lineal ancestor, just as in Matthew 1:8 we read that "Joram begat Ozias," though three generations intervened between them. If, on the other hand, they are not the same, we must suppose that Jair in our text was a descendant of the other Jair, and may compare the double explanation of the name Havoth-jair with the double explanation of Beer-sheba given Genesis 21:31; Genesis 26:31-33; the threefold explanation of the name Isaac, Genesis 17:17; Genesis 18:12; Genesis 21:6; and the double explanation of the proverb, "Is Saul among the prophets?" given in 1 Samuel 10:11, 1 Samuel 10:12; 1 Samuel 19:23, 1 Samuel 19:24. The Hebrew name Jair is preserved in the New Testament under the Greek form of Jairus (Mark 5:22).

10:4

Thirty ass colts. The number and dignity of these knightly sons of Jair shows that Jair himself, like Gideon ( 8:30), assumed the state of a prince. The word in Hebrew for ass colts is identical with that for cities, as here pointed, and this play upon the words belongs to the same turn of mind as produced Jotham's fable and Samson's riddle ( 14:14).

10:5

Jair ... was buried in Careen. A city of Gilead according to Josephus, and probability. Polybius mentions a Camoun among other trans-Jordanic places, but its site has not been verified by modern research. Eusebius and Jerome place it in the plain of Esdraelon, but without probability. The careful mention of the place of sepulture of the judges and kings is remarkable, beginning with Gideon ( 8:32; 10:2, 10:5; 12:9, 12:10, 12:12, 12:15; 16:31; 1 Samuel 31:12; 2 Samuel 2:10, etc.).

HOMILETICS

10:1-5

The lull

In the affairs of nations, as in the lives of men, there are occasional periods of uneventful quietness, when the storms and winds of stirring interests and aggressive actions are lulled, and a monotonous rest succeeds to exciting change. At such times no great characters stand out from the historic canvas, no activity of mind producing a clashing of opinion agitates the surface of society, no great measures are called for, no striking incidents of a prosperous or of an adverse kind diversify the scene. It is so likewise sometimes in the Church. Heresy is still; persecution is still; aggressive movements of parties are still; controversy is hushed; Christianity folds her wings and takes no flight into distant lands; there are no reformers at work. Fanaticism is asleep; the uniformity of slumber supersedes the diversities of energetic religious life. Such periods of stillness may have their uses in Church and State, but they have their evils likewise. And they are only temporary; often only the lull before the storm. Such were the forty-five years of the judgeships of Tola and Jair. In their days we read of no invasions of their foes. No Gideon comes to the front with the strong life of unquenchable faith and indomitable courage. The only events chronicled are the peaceful ridings of Jair's sons upon their asses' colts amidst their ancestral cities. But troublous times were at hand. It was the lull before the storm Would the storm find the people prepared? The sequel will show. Meanwhile the reflection arises, Be it our aim in quiet times not to fall asleep; in times of excitement not to lose the balance of a sober mind and the calmness of a deep-rooted faith.

HOMILIES BY A.F. MUIR

10:1-5

The calm after the storm.

Partly exhaustion, partly consciousness of Divine judgment, restrains the spirit of Israel. The punishment of its unfaithfulness had come from within itself, and was the more felt. The pendulum now swings slowly back.

I. IT WAS A "PEACE OF GOD." The hand of Jehovah was seen. The consciences even of the wicked had been touched. So in the lives of individuals and nations there are times given of God after judgments in which to repent and amend; and these are not of their own creation, but a result of a gracious Providence. But as they are each a calm after a storm, so, being unimproved, they may be but the portentous lulls before greater judgments. The enemy from without is restrained, as if to say that the real danger could only arise from within.

II. ITS CHARACTER. Undistinguished by great individual exploits; but showing a general advance in civilisation, the arts of peace, and external respect for government and religion. The solid monuments of the people's industry and foresight (the cities of the circle of Jair, etc.) remained. A happier generation lived and throve over the ashes of the guilty past; and some steps were taken towards the more settled and permanent type of government, the monarchy.

III. ITS IMPORT. God's punishments and judgments are intended to prepare for peace. The sinner can never say he has had "no room for repentance." But this was only external and temporary peace—a truce with an unreconciled Heaven. It is precious, therefore, only as making for and typifying the kingdom of Christ, and the peace of believers, which follow upon storm and overturning and Divine chastisements, but confer unspeakable blessings and make happy.—M.

HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY

10:1-5

Quiet times.

I. THE BEST MEN ARE NOT ALWAYS BEST KNOWN. We know nothing of Tola and Jair in comparison with what we know of Abimelech. Yet the very fact that little is said of them is a proof that they were good and honest men. We are too ready to mistake notoriety for fame and both for signs of greatness. They are not the greatest men who make the most noise in the world. It is something if this censorious world can say no ill of us. Aim at doing well rather than at striking attention.

II. QUIET TIMES ARE HAPPY TIMES. Israel was now experiencing the happiness of the people whose annals are dull. It is generally a miserable thing to be the subject of an interesting story; the more full of incident the story is, the more full of distress will be the person to whom it relates. Happiness generally visits private lives in their obscurity, and forsakes those which are protruded into the glare of vulgar curiosity. David's happiest days were spent with the sheep on the hills of Bethlehem. Christ found more happiness at Capernaum than in Jerusalem.

III. QUIET TIMES ARE OFTEN HEALTHFUL TIMES. There is a quietness which betokens the stagnation of death, and there is a condition of ease which favours indolence, luxury, and vice. But there is also a quietness of healthy life (Isaiah 30:15). The flowers grow, not in the noisy storm, but in soft showers and in quiet sunshine. In times of quiet a nation is able to effect legislative improvements, to open up its internal resources, to develop commerce, to cultivate science, art, and literature, and to turn its attention to the promotion of the highest welfare of all within its borders. In times of quiet the Church is able to study Divine truth more deeply and to carry out missionary enterprises with more energy. In times of quiet rightly used the soul enjoys the contemplation of God and grows under the peaceful influences of his Spirit (Psalms 72:6).

IV. QUIET TIMES ARE MORE FREQUENT THAN WE COMMONLY SUPPOSE. History directs inordinate attention to scenes of tumult, and necessarily so. Hence we are likely to magnify the range of these. In times of war there are vast areas of peace. The terrible seasons which attract our attention are separated by long intervals of quiet which pass unnoticed. Thus it was

(2) in the history of our own country, of the Church, and of the world; and


Verses 6-18

EXPOSITION

10:6

Did evil again. We may conclude that Tola and Jair had used their influence to maintain the worship of Jehovah; but at their death idolatry broke out with more virulence than ever. Not only were the many altars of Baal and Ashtoreth honoured, as in former times, but new forms of idol-worship, according to the rites of all the neighbouring nations, were introduced among them. The gods of Syria, i.e. Aram, who are not usually named, but whose worship is spoken of (2 Chronicles 28:23), and whose altar attracted the attention of Ahaz (2 Kings 16:10), and one of whom was Rimmon (2 Kings 5:18); the gods of the Zidonians, Baal and Ashtoreth, probably with rites somewhat differing from those of Canaan; Chemosh, the god of the Moabites; Milcom or Moloch, the god of the children of Ammon; and Dagon, the god of the Philis-tines—all were worshipped, while the service of Jehovah was thrust aside (see 1 Kings 11:5-7).

10:7

The anger of the Lord, etc. See 2:13, 2:14. Into the hands of the Philistines. Probably the same Philistine domination as is described more fully in the history of the judgeship of Samson (chs. 13-16.). But now the writer confines his attention first to the oppression of the Ammonites.

10:8

That year. It does not appear clearly what particular year is meant. Jarchi explains it as the year in which ,air died. It may mean the very year in which the idolatries spoken of in 10:6 were set up, so as to mark how closely God's chastisement followed the apostasy from him. They, i.e. the children of Ammon. Eighteen years. The same length as that of the Moabite servitude ( 3:18). The land of the Amorites, i.e. the territory of Sihon king of the Amorites, and Og the king of Bashan (Numbers 32:33). In Gilead—in its widest acceptation, including, as in Deuteronomy 34:1; Joshua 22:9, Joshua 22:13, Joshua 22:15; 20:1, the whole country held by the Amorites on the east of Jordan, and given to Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. But in its narrower and stricter sense Gilead was bounded on the north by Bashan proper, and on the south by the Mishor, or plain of Medeba, which lay between the valley of Heshbon and the river Arnon, thus excluding that part of the territory of Reuben from Gilead (see Joshua 13:9-11). Originally, as we learn from 11:13-22, the territory bounded by the Arnon on the south, by the Jabbok on the north, by the wilderness on the east, and by the Jordan on the west, had belonged to Moab, but the Amorites had taken it from them before the conquest of Sihon by the Israelites.

10:9

The children of Ammon, etc. It would seem that at this time the king of the children of Ammon was also king of the Moabites, since he laid claim ( 11:13, 11:24) to the land which had once belonged to Moab. If we may trust the king of the Ammonites' statement, the object of the war was to recover that land, and he carried the war across the Jordan into the territory of Judah and Ephraim in order to compel the Israelites to give it up.

10:11

Did not I deliver you, etc. These references to former deliverances are of great historical value, and not the least so as they allude to events of which the existing records give no account, or a very imperfect one. They show the existence of a real history in the background of that which has been preserved in the Bible (see 8:13, note). From the Egyptians, as related at large in the Book of Exodus; from the Amorites, as related in Numbers 21:21-35; from the children of Ammon, who were confederate with the Moabites under Ehud, as we learn from 3:13; from the Philistines, as is briefly recorded in 3:31.

10:12

The Zidonians also. This allusion is not clear; it may mean the subjects of Jabin king of Canaan, as the northern Canaanites are called Zidonians in 18:7; and this agrees with the order in which the deliverance from the Zidonians is here mentioned, next to that from the Philistines, and would be strengthened by the conjecture that has been made, that Harosheth ( 4:2) was the great workshop in which the tributary Israelites wrought in cutting down timber, etc. for the Phoenician ships; or it may allude to some unrecorded oppression. The Amalekites, who were in alliance with the Midianites ( 6:3, 6:33), as previously with the Moabites ( 3:13) and with the Canaanites ( 4:14), and whose signal defeat seems to have given the name to the mount of the Amalekites ( 12:15). The Maonites. It is thought by many that the true reading is that preserved in the Septuagint, viz; the Midianites, which, being the greatest of all the foes of Israel, could scarcely be omitted here (see 6:1-40; 7:1-25; 8:1-35.). If Maonites or Maon is the true reading, they would be the same people as the Mehunim, mentioned 2 Chronicles 26:7 (Maon, sing; and Meunim, plur.).

10:16

And they put away the strange gods. Here at length were "the fruits meet for repentance," and "the returning to the Lord their God;" the intended result of the severe but loving correction (see Homiletics, 6:25-32). Cf. Genesis 35:2; 1 Samuel 7:3, in which passages, as here, the phrase the strange gods is the correct rendering; not, as in the margin, gods of strangers. The Hebrew phrase here rendered his soul was grieved occurs Numbers 21:4; 16:16; Zechariah 11:2; it means was impatient—literally, was shortened, i.e. he could bear it no longer. A somewhat similar description of the Divine relenting is contained in the beautiful passage Hosea 11:7-9.

10:17

This verse ought to begin the new chapter. The preliminary matter of Israel's sin, of their oppression by the Ammonites, of their repentance and return to the God of their fathers, and of God's merciful acceptance of their penitence and prayer, was concluded in the last verse. The history of their deliverance by Jephthah begins here. And the children of Ammon, etc; i.e. they encamped, as they had done during the previous seventeen years, in Gilead, either to carry off the crops or to wring tribute from the people, or in some other way to oppress them, expecting no doubt to meet with tame submission as before. But a new spirit was aroused among the Israelites. By whatever channel the bitter reproach in 10:11-14 had been convey. ed to them, probably by the same channel, whether angel, or prophet, or high priest, had an answer of peace come to them on their repentance, and so they were roused and encouraged to resistance. As a first step, they encamped in Mizpeh (see 11:11, 11:29, 11:34). Mizpeh, or Mizpah of Gilead, is probably the same as Mizpah in Gilead where Laban and Jacob parted (Genesis 31:25, Genesis 31:49); as Ramoth-Mizpeh (Joshua 13:26), called simply Ramoth in Gilead (Joshua 20:8; 1 Chronicles 6:80); and as the place well known in later Israelite history as Ramoth-Gilead (1 Kings 4:13; 1 Kings 22:3, 1 Kings 22:6), situated in the tribe of Gad, and a strong place of much importance. It was the place of national meeting for the whole of Gilead. Mizpah means the watch-tower, and would of course be upon a height, as the name Ramoth-Mizpeh, the heights of Mizpeh, also shows. It almost always preserves its meaning as an appellative, having the article prefixed, ham-mizpah, which is its usual form; only once ham-mizpeh (Joshua 15:38), and Mizpeh (Joshua 11:18; 11:29; 1 Samuel 22:3), and once Mizpah (Hosea 5:1). Whether Mizpeh in 20:1-3 is the same will be considered in the note to that passage. The modern site is not identified with certainty; it is thought to be es-Salt.

10:18

Gilead. See note to 10:8. The people and princes. There is no and in the Hebrew. It is perhaps better, therefore, to take the words in apposition, as meaning, And the assembly of the chiefs of Gilead. The first step was to find a competent leader, and they agreed to appoint such an one, if he could be found, as their permanent head and captain.

HOMILETICS

10:6-18

The Ethiopian's unchanged skin.

Among the invaluable lessons of Holy Scripture, not the least valuable is the insight given by its histories into the true nature of the human heart. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked," is the prophet's description of the heart of man, and the history of the Israelites is a signal illustration of its truth. We are apt to think that if we had passed through the waters of the Red Sea, and seen Mount Sinai on a blaze, and eaten the manna from heaven, and drank the water out of the stony rock, and been led to victory by a Joshua, a Barak, a Deborah, or a Gideon, we never could have forgotten such signal mercies, could never have been unfaithful to the gracious Author of them, could never have preferred the vain idols of the heathen to the living God. Still more do we think that if we had seen the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, had heard his wondrous words and seen his mighty works, or had been witnesses of his cross and passion, and talked with him after his resurrection, we should not be the worldly, lukewarm disciples we now are But we are wrong in thinking so. The image of the human heart reflected in the history of the Israelite people is a more true and faithful one than that portrayed by our own self-love. And that image is one of the depraved human will constantly deflecting from rectitude, constantly drawn aside from truth and godliness by the power of selfish affections and corrupt lusts; occasionally, as it were, turned back toward God, either by strong influences from without, as stirring events, heavy chastisements, striking deliverances, powerful examples, faithful warnings; or by strong emotions from within, as fear, or gratitude, or hope; but as soon as these influences begin to cool, regularly returning to their old habit of thinking and acting, and falling back into their own evil ways. The particular kind of sins to which the heart is most prone varies indeed in different ages of the world, and with the different conditions of the human society. With the Israelites it was idolatry. The fascination of the heathen idols was incredibly strong. In spite of reason, in spite of experience, often of the most bitter kind, they were attracted to the rites of heathenism by the strongest sympathies of their own perverse hearts. While they shrunk from the lofty obligations of the holy service of God, they abandoned themselves with willingness of mind to the base servitude of the idols, consenting to their shameful requirements, and gloating in their abominable rites. The desire to be like the nations, the influence of example all around them, the mysterious power of superstition, the agreement between their sensual hearts and the sensual rites of idolatry, were forces steadily turning them away from God, and constantly prevailing over the temporary influences which from time to time had moved them to repentance. But it is just the same with other kinds of sin which strike their roots deep into the hearts of men, and find a ready consent in the diseased moral conditions of those hearts. For a moment perhaps their power may be weakened by some opposite force, but, unless the fountain of the will is really renewed and sweetened by the indwelling Spirit of God, the same spectacle will be exhibited, as in the case of the Israelites, of the character which had been forced back returning surely and steadily to its natural bent; of the old influences of pride, selfishness, and lust resuming their former sway; and of the previous tastes, and manners, and ways of life being restored to their old supremacy. And it will be found that neither reason, nor experience, nor common sense, nor even self-interest, are able to prevent this. The Ethiopian cannot change his skin, nor the leopard his spots. No more can they do good that are accustomed to do evil (Jeremiah 13:23). The evil bent of a corrupt nature will ever be towards evil. It is the knowledge of the evil that is in us, and the consequent distrust of ourselves, which is the first real step towards a lasting change. Not till this evil is experimentally felt do the two great doctrines of the gospel, atonement for sin by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and regeneration by the Holy Spirit of God, assume real significance and value in our eyes. When it is known and felt, the inestimable blessing of forgiveness of sin is known and valued too. So is the all-sufficient grace of the Holy Ghost. Then too comes watchfulness against the deceit and treachery of the heart; then a steady striving against sin; then a firm resolution not to open the heart to the subtle influences of sin, but rather to crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts; and so what was impossible to unassisted nature becomes an actuality through God's all-sufficient grace. The Ethiopian skin is transformed to a holy whiteness, the leopard's spots are done away, the corrupt heart is renewed in holiness after the image of God, and the old man becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus the Lord.

HOMILIES BY A.F. MUIR

10:6

Recurring habits of evil.

The external. "peace and order do not break the entail of evil habit—"they continued to do evil."

I. OBSERVANCE OF EXTERNAL DECENCIES OF LIFE IS NO SAFEGUARD AGAINST INBRED DEPRAVITY. Only the hearty love and service of God. Probably the "whoring after other gods" began beneath the cloak of an orthodox worship. For a certain time material prosperity may consist with religious laxity.

II. BESETTING SINS, UNREPENTED OF, ASSUME MORE AGGRAVATED PHASES. Like the man out of whom the devil had been cast, which, returning from the "dry places," and finding his heart "empty, swept, and garnished," "bringeth seven other devils," etc. It was an idolatrous confusion; there could be no rationale of these systems, harmonising them with the conscience, or even with one another. All sense of raceness has deserted Israel. It plunges heedlessly into a sea of obscurity and filth.—M.

10:7-10

Immediate and effectual retribution.

I. IN THE PUNISHMENT INFLICTED THE CALAMITY WAS CLEARLY CONNECTED WITH THE SIN.

1. The sin committed is at once followed by penalty.

2. The punishment lasts whilst the transgression is unrepented of.

3. The seducers become the instruments of punishment.

II. THE UNHELPFULNESS OF IDOLATRY WAS EXPOSED. The Ammonites, whose unholy practices they had copied, take advantage of their weakness, and pitilessly despoil and harass them. The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel. Of all the gods they had served, Baal, Molech, Astarte, etc; not one could deliver them. Only Jehovah can hear, and to him they are at last driven. Even Gilead—the heroic land—is rendered helpless before the despised Ammon, as if to show that real bravery is a moral quality. And the old "fear of Israel" which kept the heathen nations back was gone. The Ammonites wax bold, and cross the Jordan even into Judah.—M.

10:10-14

God answering hardened transgressors.

He seems to deny the petition. Is this capricious? There is surely not only cause for it, but a purpose working through it.

I. THE AIM OF THE SEVERITY IS TO AWAKEN TRUE REPENTANCE. Inconvenience, discomfort, distress, humiliation may all be felt without true repentance. The latter arises from sorrow for and haired of sin as sin.

II. THIS IS SECURED by—

1. An appeal to memory of manifold deliverances and mercies.

2. Holding the sinner under the yoke of his own choosing when he no longer chooses it.

3. The temporary horror and despair of rejection. "I will deliver you no more."—M.

10:15, 10:16

Works meet for repentance.

A wonderful summary; an evangelical anticipation.

I. IN WHAT THESE CONSIST.

1. Heartfelt sorrow and confession of sin.

2. Absolute yielding of oneself into the hands of God.

3. Forsaking the sins that have deceived and destroyed.

4. Serving Jehovah with new obedience and zeal.

II. How THESE APPEAL TO THE MIND OF GOD. "His soul was grieved for (literally, endured no longer) the misery of Israel." The alternate hardening and melting of God's soul an accommodation to man's conceptions and feelings; yet with a reality corresponding to them in the Divine nature. They have a disciplinary effect, and their succession is impressive. So God "repents." To our heavenly Father the proofs of our sincerity are an irresistible petition. He welcomes the first signs of true repentance, and leads it forth into saving faith. The truly repentant were never yet rejected. In working this repentance in their minds he began to answer their prayer even whilst rejecting it.—M.

10:17, 10:18

Faith restoring courage and might.

I. BY PROMOTING THE UNITY OF GOD'S PEOPLE. The worship of Jehovah is the uniting and inspiring principle. All other worship disunites and weakens. The very site of their camp was instinct with solemn, Divine associations.

II. ENABLING THEM TO FACE RESOLUTELY THE GREATEST TROUBLES OF LIFE. Israel is in the field against Ammon, a circumstance full of meaning. When the Spirit of God enters a man he looks upon difficulties with a new resolution. It enables him "to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them."

III. RENDERING THEM WILLING TO ACCEPT THE LEADER GOD SHALL INDICATE. It is no lusting after a king now. The only King is Jehovah. But a leader and judge is sought. So the true Christian will reverence and follow all who are inspired and appointed by God.—M.

HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY

10:10

From God to Baal.

I. MAN MUST HAVE SOME RELIGION. If God is forsaken, Baal is followed. The soul cannot endure a void. This temple must always have some deity in it. If the higher religion is rejected, a lower superstition will take the place of it. The decay of the national religion of old Rome was accompanied by the adoption of strange Oriental cults, and by the spread of a religion of magic. Modern scepticism gives birth to extraordinary forms of superstition—religions of nature, of humanity, of spiritualism. Accordingly, the effort to attain freedom by escaping from the restraints of Christianity is a delusion, and ends only in the bondage of some lower influence. The soul must have some master, and if it rebels against God it will serve Baal, mammon, the world, the flesh, or the devil. True liberty is only found in willing obedience, in the submission of love, in sympathy with the mind of God, in delighting in his law. Perfect freedom of will arises from perfect harmony between our will and God's will, so that we gladly desire what he requires (Psalms 40:8).

II. SIN HAS TWO LEADING FEATURES, A POSITIVE AND A NEGATIVE. It is forsaking God and serving Baalim; omission and commission. The tendency is to regard one of these two much to the neglect of the other. Over-scrupulous people are very sensitive about the minutest act of positive wrong, but sometimes indifferent in regard to the neglect of duty. Energetic people often make the opposite mistake, and show great anxiety to do good service, while they are not sufficiently careful to avoid hasty acts of a questionable character. These two sides of sin are closely connected. Devotion to God is the great safeguard to purity; when this grows cold the soul is open to the attack of temptation, leading to direct transgression. On the other hand, positive sin is poison to religious faith. The commission of evil deeds inclines us to the omission of duties. Impurity paralyses zeal. We cannot serve God while we are serving Baalim.

III. CONDUCT ALWAYS TENDS TO RUN INTO EXTREMES. We serve God or Baalim, light or darkness, good or evil. There is no middle course. There appears to be more variety, gradation, and mixed character in life than is allowed for in Scripture (e.g. 1 John 3:8-10). But life is only yet beginning to develop, its true nature will be seen in eternity. Two seeds may look much alike, and the first sprouts from them may not be very dissimilar, yet the gardener who knows the natural history of the plants, judging by their whole growth, may pronounce them to be very different. In this early growth of the soul's life on earth, the great question is, What tendencies does it show? The twilight of sunrise looks very like the twilight of sunset, yet the one is the prophecy of day and the other the portent of night. Two streams which flow from one watershed are at first near together, yet if one is running east and the other west, they may come at last to be divided by a whole continent, and to end in two separate oceans. We must be moving in one or other of two directions. The question is, Are we going to the light or from the light, to God or from God? The tendency determines the character of the life, and this must be justly estimated by the full issues involved in the tendency, not by the present early stages of it. Thus we are all children of the light or children of the darkness, ripening into saintly servants of God or corrupting into wretched slaves of sin.—A.

10:13, 10:14

The test of trouble.

I. WE ALL NEED A REFUGE FOR TROUBLE. Life is so mixed that even to the happiest it is full of disappointments and anxieties. Though it may be smooth at present, we know that it cannot continue so for ever. The storm must fall at some time on every soul that is making the voyage of life. "Man is born to trouble" (Job 5:7). The self-assurance that suffices us in prosperity will not be enough when the tribulation comes. Some refuge every soul must then seek.

II. THE GREAT REFUGE FOR TROUBLE IS IN RELIGION. This is not the sole function of religion. It is also a light, an inspiration, an authority. But all men who have a religion turn to it as their supreme haven when the storms drive. We are naturally religious. Instinctively we look up—if not to the light, then to the darkness, the mystery, the unknown above us.

III. THE VALUE OF RELIGION IS TESTED BY ITS EFFICACY AS A REFUGE IN TROUBLE. The breakwater is tested by the storm; the armour is tried by the combat; the medicine is proved by the disease; the consolation is revealed by the distress. If the lamp of our religion will only burn while the sun of prosperity shines, and goes out when the night of adversity closes in, it is worthless. Men make gods of their pleasures, their business, their science. What can the husk of old pleasures do in the "winter of discontent," when no new pleasure can be evoked? What will the idols money, fame, knowledge avail in the agony of the wreck of a life's hopes, in the mystery of death and eternity? How foolish to be engrossed in pursuits which will leave us destitute in the hour of our greatest need!

IV. IF WE HAVE NOT SUBMITTED TO THE TRUE RELIGION IN PROSPERITY WE HAVE NO RIGHT TO EXPECT TO ENJOY THE REFUGE OF IT IN ADVERSITY. There are men who postpone attention to the claims of Christ till the time of trouble, and find no way to him when they most need him. They will "make their peace with God" on their death-bed. But this is not so easy as they suppose. Apart from the wickedness and insult to God which such conduct implies, it is also the height of folly, and is based on a complete misconception of the first elements of true religion. It is true that God is willing to receive us whenever we honestly return to him in repentance; but

(2) genuine repentance, involving a change of desire, is not easily created by selfish fear;

(3) it is not well that men should too readily escape from all the consequences of their sins.—A.

10:15, 10:16

Repentance.

I. REPENTANCE INVOLVES CONFESSION OF SIN. The people admit their guilt to themselves and declare it frankly to God.

1. We must confess sin. We cannot turn from sin till we are conscious of sin. God will not forgive our sin till we confess our guilt. These two things, the self-knowledge and the self-revelation before God, which are implied in confession, must be found in true repentance. Pride would simply forget the past, but this cannot be forgotten till it is forgiven, nor forgiven till it is confessed (1 John 1:9).

2. The confession must be to God; because

(3) we have no warrant for believing that he delegates this Divine prerogative to any human deputy.

II. REPENTANCE INVOLVES SUBMISSION TO GOD. No repentance is complete which does not involve self-renunciation. This is necessary,

(1) because, since sin arises from self-will and rebellion against the will of God, the return from sin must be marked by a return to obedience;

(2) because the penitent is conscious of his utter ill desert, and of his absolute dependence on the mercy of God, so that he dares claim nothing but what God may think fit to give him, and knows that at the worst this can be no harder than what he merits; and

(3) because repentance involves the admission that while we were sinful and foolish in forsaking God, he was always good to us, and will never do for us anything short of what is best. Repentance thus recognises again the despised fatherhood of God, and willingly trusts to his grace.

III. REPENTANCE INVOLVES PRACTICAL AMENDMENT. The children of Israel put away the strange gods from among them, and served the Lord. If repentance is genuine it will show itself in conduct—it will bring forth fruits (Matthew 3:8). This does not imply—

1. That we must complete the reformation of our own lives before God will forgive us, because

(1) that is impossible (Jeremiah 13:23); and

(2) the very object of the gospel is to do this—i.e. to save us from our sins (Acts 3:26).

2. Neither does it imply that any measure of reformation will be regarded as penance, as sacrifice, as a meritorious work securing forgiveness, since the essence of forgiveness lies in its freeness. But it implies that the genuineness of repentance must be tested by its effects. Repentance is not a mere feeling of grief; it is not seated in the emotions, but in the will. It is a change of desire, and the wish to do better. This is active, and must manifest itself in conduct. The conduct will be twofold:

(1) the giving up of old evil ways, and

(2) the commencement of the service of God.

IV. REPENTANCE IS FOLLOWED BY TOKENS OF GOD'S MERCY. When the people repented God could no longer endure their misery. He never willingly afflicts (Lamentations 3:33). He only waits for our repentance to show his compassion. It is possible then because

(1) there is no longer the necessity for continued chastisement;

(2) the justice and righteousness of God no longer require him to look upon us in wrath; and

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Judges 10:4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/judges-10.html. 1897.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, September 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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