Judges 8:18-21 Kings, camels and crescent moons

JUDGES 8:18-21
18 Then he asked Zebah and Zalmunna, “The men you killed at Tabor—what sort of men were they?” They answered, “As you are, so they were. Each one of them resembled the son of a king.”  19 Gideon replied, “They were my brothers, the sons of my mother. As the LORD lives, if you had spared their lives, I would not kill you.” 
It’s safe to say that the scene has now changed. Since Gideon’s son is on hand in verse 20 and unwilling to draw his sword, it is more than improbable, it’s not even possible, that Gideon’s son Jether would have been chosen to be one of his father’s 300. No, we are now back home again, in the village of Ophrah. Having settled the nation’s crisis with Midian, it was possible for Gideon to act as kinsman-redeemer for his brothers, the “avenger of blood,” as the Lord described his role (Numbers 35:22-27). The law of the cities of refuge applied to an accidental killing (Num. 35:15). Otherwise, even an enemy king could be held accountable for someone he had killed with malice aforethought. If the avenger of blood found him outside one of Israel’s six cities of refuge, then the law was clear: “The avenger of blood may kill the accused without being guilty of murder” (Num. 35:27). The matter had to be established on the basis of two witnesses, but here the two witnesses were the two accused kings, and they freely admitted their guilt. Gideon seemed ready to show them mercy in the matter of their invasion of Israel and to let them go, but they had killed his brothers, and so he was not going to spare them.
A minor detail which we can point out here because it will turn up again later in this chapter is that Gideon mentions that his brothers were “sons of my mother.” That means that they were not only brothers by the same father, but by the same mother. They were full brothers. In those lawless days, it had become commonplace for a man to take several wives or concubines, and even to beget children through his slave girls, not unlike the sad state of affairs in the American Old South when slave owners took advantage of the women around them without thinking about the sins they were committing against the sixth and tenth commandments. We live in just as depraved a day today, and since Luther complains about this in his time as well, we see that until Christ comes again in the Judgment, there will continue to be sins like this—but they will never, ever, cease to be sins. God does not lesson his prohibition against idolatry when more and more people commit idolatry. Nor does he change the fifth commandment when murder abounds, nor the seventh when everyone robs his neighbor or his boss or his church, nor the eighth when everyone and his godmother becomes a gossip. So also we can never expect God to ease up on his restrictions against adultery, polygamy and fornication just because they are increasingly commonplace. And Gideon himself would show that he was just as capable of these sins as anyone else. 
20 Then Gideon said to Jether his firstborn son, “Kill them!” But the boy did not draw his sword because he was afraid. He was still only a boy. 
Here we see a boy disobey his father without any repercussion. Jether did not haul out Acts 5:29 or object because his thought his father was in the wrong. He was just afraid. We don’t know how old he was. Old enough, I suppose, to wear a sword. But if I asked my twenty-year old Jonathan or my seventeen-year old Benjamin to run their brand new swords, never out of their sheaths, through a couple of kings I had conquered, I don’t think I’d be surprised if either of them refused. Nor would I judge them. I’m not just looking at them as a product of our modern culture, but as young men, and as my sons. No, Jether did not break the fourth commandment, nor the first. He was just a boy who was afraid, and so he stands with no condemnation at all. In fact, he stands in contrast to his younger brother Abimelech—but more about that later.
21 Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, “Come and kill us yourself. ‘As is the man, so is his strength.’” So Gideon killed Zebah and Zalmunna; and he took the crescent ornaments that were on the necks of their camels.  
The kings revealed something about themselves here. First, they showed uncommon bravery in the way they faced their deaths. Second, they understood that to be killed by a boy would have been an honor for the boy, and a disgrace for them. 
Was “‘As is the man, so is his strength,’” a proverb of some kind? It means that the strength or resolve to kill belongs to a man and not to a boy. I have put it in quotes, and so does the NIV, but most translations do not. Since Gideon was the victorious warrior, it was an honorable death for them to be killed by him.
Let’s talk about the “crescent ornaments” for a moment. Ornaments shaped like a crescent moon were commonplace among the nomads of Arabia and also among the people of Israel. Isaiah mentions them (Isaiah 3:18) as being worn in Israel some five hundred years after this time. The crescent moon is still a symbol among some descendants of the desert people, in Islam in particular, but that doesn’t mean that these Midianites had anything at all to do with a religion that did not exist until 1500 years after this time. The state of South Carolina has a crescent moon on their flag, and that, too, has nothing whatsoever to do with Islam. These ornaments hung around the necks of the Midianite women and their camels as decorations. Gideon took them as plunder, but we’re not told what happened to the camels. He may have used them to pay his troops. 
This was a bloody time, when a father might offer his son the honor of killing an enemy, but there is nothing here for us to apologize for or to explain away with any spiritual meaning apart from the one offered in the text. Israel was failing to carry out the will of God and drive out the Canaanites from their land. The Lord used Gideon and the other judges to show the nation that it could be done, without no resources at all apart from faith. There is no difference between this and the message of our salvation. We can’t hope to accomplish it ourselves. We don’t have the resources to stand up to the devil and his hosts, nor even to the requirements of our heavenly Father. But God only wants us to trust in him, because he sent his Son into the world, a Son who also did not take up a sword, but a Son who equally did not shrink away from his duty. Our Lord Jesus fearlessly offered himself as the ransom for all mankind, and he accomplished our salvation in his own blood. Put your trust in him, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you to live out your life of faith and of trust as your serve God with everything that you do.
In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith
Archives by Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel: http://www.wlchapel.org/worship/daily-devotion/
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul's Lutheran Church, New Ulm, Minnesota

Ruth 2:8-10 The shadow of his wings

RUTH 2:8-10
8 Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Listen,  my daughter. Don’t go to gather fallen grain in any other field. Don’t leave this field, but stay here, close by to my servant girls. 9 Notice which field that they go to harvest, and follow them. Be at ease: I have ordered my young men not to touch you. When you are thirsty, go to the water jars, and drink from the ones my servants have drawn.”
We don’t know how different Ruth and Boaz were in age. Ruth had been married for almost ten years (1:4), so he was at least in her mid-twenties by now. Boaz may have been a little older, but why would a man like Boaz have no wife by now? Was he a widower, too, and childless?
He encourages her to stay within his own fields, going only where his servant girls went. It might have been tempting for a gleaner to choose different fields, and a polite girl like Ruth might have been afraid that she was gleaning too much from one man. But no, Boaz had more than one reason for wanting her to remain. 
He had given orders to his young men not to touch her. This may have had more than one meaning. The harvesters probably made sure that gleaners didn’t take more than their share. Some gleaners—especially a foreigner who didn’t know the law—might easily make a mistake or try to take more than their share. It was probably a common practice for the reapers to enforce local justice with a slap or a beating for anyone who broke the rules. But Boaz ordered them not to touch her. This would also have meant that they were also not to take advantage of her. During the kingless and sometimes almost lawless days of the judges, a foreign girl’s virtue wouldn’t have had much protection in the rolling valleys and vineyards surrounding Bethlehem. 
Also, Boaz was offering more than his protection to this girl who had impressed him by remaining with his relative Naomi. He was offering his hospitality. Naomi was family, and Ruth fell under that umbrella in his mind, although there were no blood ties at all between Boaz and this Moabite girl. He wanted her to know that she could take without fear or embarrassment anything that his own sister could take, whether a shock of grain or a drink of water or a lie down in one the shelters for an undisturbed nap. 
So as Boaz offered his protection and his hospitality, Boaz was also offering his friendship. He wanted to see that Ruth and Naomi got settled and established here in Bethlehem, and that nothing would spoil or interfere with that. He was keeping them under the shelter of his wings (Psalm 61:4).
In the last phrase of verse 8, I have tried to capture Boaz’ way of speaking with a solecism (grammatical error) in the translation. Normally a Hebrew author or speaker would follow the verb “stay close” with the simple preposition be-, and the author does this as he writes (1:14; 2:23). But when Boaz is quoted, he says “stay close” with an unexpected word,  ‘im. I’ve handled this with an improper English expression, “stay close by to….” It was Boaz’ way of speaking; not something we would ever need to correct and nothing a polite person would have said anything about in person to this honest, hard-working man. But I think it’s worth noticing, to remind us that these were real people, living out their faith. The Bible is not some doctored story. It’s the history of God’s plan of salvation in the world and for the world. 
10 Ruth fell face down, bowing herself to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take any notice of me, since I am a foreigner?”
Ruth understood that Boaz was taking her into his protection and offering her his friendship. She was humbled and awed. Her question is completely sincere. It has been said that her question shows that beyond these things, she was showing her curiosity as to why he would be so kind. Were the wheels already beginning to turn in Ruth’s mind as to her future with his man?
Her action was within the customs of the time. We tend to view history through the lens of our own experiences and culture rather than seeing the past in the context of its own culture. The act of bowing low on the ground was not unusual at all (Gen. 37:10; Numbers 22:31; 1 Sam 25:23; 2 Sam 1:2; 1 Kings 1:16,31). It was sometimes an act of worship (1 Chron 29:20), an act of contrition (Psalm 38:6), or an act of giving honor (Genesis 43:28). Ruth was showing sincere humility. 
Just as Ruth asks why this powerful man would take any notice of her, so also we ask why our heavenly Father would take any notice of us. We’ve done nothing to merit any interest or compassion from him. Most of us are Gentiles by birth, foreigners to God’s chosen family. And yet he has covered us with his holy protection, offered us his holy bread and drink, and he has placed us alongside all his other servants. And yet we do not have the status of servants, but of heirs. This historical account from the time of the judges foreshadows the status of Christians in God’s kingdom today. Remember to remember your place, in humility first, and in joyful praise second. You have been loved and protected by Christ, and he has risen with healing in his wings (Malachi 4:2). 
In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith
Archives by Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel: http://www.wlchapel.org/worship/daily-devotion/
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul's Lutheran Church, New Ulm, Minnesota

Judges 8:10-17 Gideon’s victory

JUDGES 8:10-17
10 Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with their army of about fifteen thousand men, all that were left of all the armies of the people of the east (a hundred twenty thousand armed men had fallen).  11 So Gideon went up by the caravan route east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and he attacked the army catching them off guard.  12 Zebah and Zalmunna, the two kings of Midian, fled, but he pursued them and captured them. He routed the whole army.  
Zebah is the Hebrew word for the oldest and most common type of sacrifice, the fellowship meal in which the meat of the slaughtered animal was shared with the family (Genesis 31:54; Leviticus 3:1).  Zalmunna sounds like the Hebrew word for “shadowy” (Psalm 39:7; 73:20). Since they had Midianite names, these may have been close approximations made by the Israelites, or nicknames, as when the British called Napoleon “Boney.” The two kings (from different tribes or branches of the Midianites?) fled and were captured. 
Verse 10 is where we learn the incredible size of the Midianite force. Almost ninety percent of them had fallen, and a pitiful fifteen thousand men remained. God had crushed the heads of the Midianites as they tried to slither back across the Jordan to their desert in the east.
13 When Gideon son of Joash returned from the battle by the Pass of Heres,  14 he caught a young man from Succoth and questioned him. The young man wrote down for him the names the seventy-seven officials and elders of Succoth.
The Pass of Heres is more literally the Pass of Nomads, an established mountain pass. Gideon’s 300 men were pursuing a force that still didn’t know how small the pursuing enemy force was, and by sticking to the route they took, Gideon was keeping the size of his half-brigade a secret (they still outnumbered him about 50 to 1).
On the way back to Succoth, Gideon captured a boy educated enough not only to read and write, but one who knew all seventy-five officials and elders of Succoth. The Hebrew word for “young man” can mean anyone from infancy (like the baby Moses, Exodus 2:6) to a youth (like the 17-year old Joseph, Genesis 37:2), or a servant of some kind (like Joshua when he was Moses’ servant, Exodus 33:11). Could this have been a schoolboy? A servant of one of the officials? We can’t say for certain. But we can certainly say three things:
First, education was at a premium among the Jews at this time. If a random youth taken captive outside a city could read and write, then it’s extremely likely that almost everyone taught their children some basic things. Unfortunately, Israel was teaching the three R’s, but not their own religion. Leaving religious learning up to a child’s choosing only means that the child with never, ever choose to learn about what he has never been exposed to. Parents who use this excuse today (to let their children “choose” their religion) condemn their children as surely as the crowd shouting for Barabbas condemned their children as they condemned Jesus: “Let his blood be on us and on our children!” (Matthew 27:25).
Second, God was with Gideon. He saw to it that Gideon’s plan would be carried out even here at the stage of carrying out a threat he had made while exhausted and frustrated. His anger had been righteous, and God supported his words. An example would be made of Succoth for the rest of Israel. 
Third, God works out all things for our good and to his glory. Once again the Lord supplied Gideon with precisely what he needed at just the right moment. This educated young man had all the information Gideon needed, and he fell into Gideon’s possession at exactly the right moment. Time after time, the Lord proved that his words were true when he said to Gideon, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior” (Judges 6:12).
15 Then Gideon came to the people of Succoth and said, “Here are Zebah and Zalmunna! You taunted me by saying, ‘Do you already have in your possession the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna, that we should give bread to your exhausted warriors?’” 16 Then he took the elders of the city and he took briers and thorns of the desert and with them he tore the flesh of the people of Succoth.  17 He also tore down the tower of Penuel, and killed the men of the city. 
In Psalm 83, David’s poet Asaph describes a huge coalition of Israel’s enemies: “Edom and the Ishmaelites, Moab and the Hagrites, Gebal, Ammon and Amalek, Philistia, with the people of Tyre, even Assyria…” (Psalm 83:6-8). As fearsome as this army must have been, Asaph looks back onto Israel’s past, to this account of Gideon, and he brings comfort and confidence to Israel that God would help them by doing to these enemies “as you did to Midian…Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb, all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna, who said, ‘Let us take possession of the pasturelands of God.’ Make them like tumbleweed, O my God, like chaff before the wind.” (Psalm 83:9-13)
Gideon had carried out God’s command to drive out the Canaanites, and he punished the Israelites who refused to help him. If a village had said, “We are too poor, we have nothing to spare, but go with God’s blessing and bring victory to the land,” Gideon would have understood. Of all the judges, he was perhaps the poorest and he understood what it was to have nothing. But the men of Succoth and the people of Penuel (or Peniel) had plenty. They refused to help him out of fear. Their fear was a symptom of their mistrust of God and their unbelief, so their punishment was a powerful message for the rest of Israel. 
God wants us to stand up for our faith, even when it’s difficult to do so. He wants us to show that we trust in Jesus, and to know that he is with us, even when we’re in danger. This was the lesson Gideon taught to Ephraim and the people of Gad, and it’s a lesson we need to learn, too.
In 1671 the Lutheran composer Johann G. Olearius wrote “Jesus Christ, My Pride and Glory,” which urges Christians to stand firm in our faith: 
Jesus Christ, my pride and glory,
He, the true and living light, 
Strengthens me with glorious might.
Christ, revealed in sacred story,
Whom I now as Lord confess, 
Teaches me true holiness. (CW 464, vs 1)
In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith
Archives by Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel: http://www.wlchapel.org/worship/daily-devotion/
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul's Lutheran Church, New Ulm, Minnesota

Judges 8:1-9 Thorns and towers

JUDGES 8:1-9
With this chapter, Gideon’s tale comes to an end. It is told in seven brief episodes:
1. 8:1-3  Ephraim’s complaint
2. 8:4-9 Gideon rejected at Succoth and Peniel
3. 8:10-12  Gideon captures Zeba and Zalmunna
4. 8:13-17  Succoth and Peniel punished
5. 8:18-21  Zeba and Zalmunna executed 
6. 8:22-27  Gideon’s sin (the ephod)
7. 8:28-35  Gideon’s death and the people’s forgetfulness
8 Then the Ephraimites said to Gideon, “What have you done to us? Why didn’t you call us when you went to fight against the Midianites?” And they criticized him sharply.  2 He answered them, “What have I done in comparison with you? Isn’t the gleaning of Ephraim’s grapes better than the whole vintage of Abiezer?  3 God has given the Midianite generals, Oreb and Zeeb, into your hands. What have I been able to do compared to you?” When he said this, their anger against him subsided.  
The true answer to their childish outrage has already been answered: God wanted to show Israel that the victory was from him, and not from their own cunning or prowess. Gideon may have thought that the Ephraimites wouldn’t want to hear what God said,  so he chose a gentle comparison: What is my family’s best vintage compared to the vast harvest of Ephraim? Even your gleanings—the grapes picked up after harvest by the poor and the strangers—would be more than anything I could produce. This flattered the Ephraimites. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath” (see also Prov. 16:14; 21:14). 
This is a good place to remember the New Testament judgment of Gideon, who was remembered as a man “who administered justice, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies” (Hebrews 11:32-34). 
4 Then Gideon and the three hundred men with him kept up the pursuit even though they were exhausted. They came to the Jordan and crossed over. 5 Then he said to the people of Succoth, “Please give some loaves of bread to my followers, for they are exhausted, and I am pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.”  6 But the officials of Succoth said, “Do you already have Zebah and Zalmunna in your hands, that we should give bread to your army?”  7 Gideon replied, “Well then, when the LORD has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hands, I will tear open your flesh with the thorns and briers of the desert.”  
Succoth (“shelters”) was the place where Jacob settled his family and his livestock after wrestling the angel and encountering his brother Esau (Genesis 33:17). It was located on the east side of the Jordan, just north of the ravine of the Jabbok River. It was a place that any Israelite would have thought of as an ancestral home, a place where they should have been safe. But after asking the Israelites there (they were Gadites) for bread, Gideon was refused. Perhaps they refused to help him because they were afraid that the Midianites would take revenge on them later (if Gideon lost this war). Gideon’s reply shows his frustration, which was truly godly anger.
His threat recalls literally the threats God made to Israel when he commanded that they should drive out all the other nations from Canaan. “If you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides” (Numbers 33:55). Joshua also said, “They will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land” (Joshua 23:13; see also Judges 2:3). And Solomon said, “In the paths of the wicked lie thorns and snares, but he who guards his soul stays far from them” (Prov. 22:5; 24:31). In essence Gideon was saying, “God warned you that if you don’t drive these people out, they will be thorns in your sides. Since you didn’t help me, I’m going to put actual thorns in your sides—and backs, too.”
8 From there he went up to Peniel, and made the same request of them. But the people of Peniel answered him just as the people of Succoth had answered.  9 So he said to the people of Peniel, “When I come back in triumph, I will tear down this tower.”
Peniel was also known from the days of Jacob (the Hebrew says Penuel, but the same place is meant—perhaps Gideon’s dialect is showing here, as in Judges 12:6).   It was where he wrestled the angel of the Lord, and realized he had been struggling with God (this was how he was renamed Israel, “struggles with God”). The people there had built a tower for protection. We are going to see that towers at this time were very much in vogue, since Gideon’s son would later attack towers at Shechem (Judges 9:46-49) and Thebez (9:50-52). A strong tower was a good idea, “a strong tower [defends] against the foe” (Psalm 61:3). Solomon said that “the name of the LORD is a strong tower, the righteous run to it and are safe” (Prov. 18:10). But this only highlights the trouble here at Peniel. The history of their village was that their ancestor Jacob had actually seen God here (“Peniel,” the face of God), but they were trusting in their tower for defense, not in the Lord God.
The First Commandment should be a simple encouragement for Christians; the law as a guide at its easiest: Fear, love and trust in God above all things. But if only we could keep this commandment perfectly, we wouldn’t need the others. God gives us sign after sign that he is with us, that he loves us, that he has forgiven our sins. But we still look away from his face, the very Peniel of Christ, and turn to our own man-made pinnacles and towers. This has been a problem since before the tower of Babel (Gen. 11:4). It’s a sign of our sinful weakness. Jesus said, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38). 
Why is this so? Why don’t we evolve into better and better creatures, as science wants to preach as the way of the universe? It’s because evolution from worse to better, from inferior to superior, is a myth. It preaches a doctrine contrary both to the Word of God (which is heresy) and to the school of human experience (which is foolishness). “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). So this is our state from conception: “Every inclination of man’s heart is only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5). In our weakness, we are more than just weak, we are dead in our sins (Colossians 2:13); dead in our transgressions (Ephesians 2:1). But God rescued the weak and the needy (Psalm 82:4), the spiritually dead. Jesus Christ came as our high priest, “tempted in every way, just as we are, yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15) and he offered himself as the sacrifice to atone for our sins. We have not evolved from sinners into believers; we have been rescued and loved. That’s why we praise Jesus for what he has done, and that’s why we share his word with the world. 
In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith
Archives by Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel: http://www.wlchapel.org/worship/daily-devotion/
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul's Lutheran Church, New Ulm, Minnesota

Judges 7:24-25 Victory and judgment

JUDGES 7:24-25
24 Then Gideon sent messengers throughout all the hill country of Ephraim, saying, “Come down against the Midianites and seize the waters of the Jordan against them, as far as Beth Barah.” So all the men of Ephraim were called out, and they seized the waters of the Jordan as far as Beth Barah.  
The Ephraimites understood just what they were called to do. By blocking the ford of the Jordan, they trapped the Midianites on the west back. The panicked nomads were quickly cut down by the men of Ephraim. Some commentators think that “the waters of the Jordan” could mean the Jordan’s many creeks, the tributaries that feed it here and there along its length. In the dry season, these are nothing but empty gulches. In the rainy season, none of them amounts to anything that a grown man can’t splash across if he needs to. The Jordan is a different story at flood stage. It’s more likely that Gideon was talking about those shallow parts of the Jordan that allow crossing, at least with difficulty—the fords of the Jordan. 
The necessity of such fords is illustrated in Lt. Lynch’s “Narrative of the U.S. Expedition to the Jordan River and the Dead Sea.” In his entry for April 15, 1849, Lynch reports finding such a ford which even had a small island:
“A little barren island divided the stream at the ford, and the current swept by with such rapidity as to render it doubtful whether the passage could be effected. Mr. Bedlow, however, made the attempt, and succeeded in reaching the island with no greater inconvenience than dripping extremities and a moist saddle. The rest were soon in the stream, clumsy camels and all, breasting and struggling, with various success, against the foaming current. There was a singular mixture of the serious and the grotesque in this scene, and the sounds that triumphed above the “tapage” of the boisterous ford, were the yells of the camel-drivers and the cries of the Arabs, mingled with shouts of unrestrained laughter as some impatient horse reeled and plunged with his rider in the stream, and the water was scattered about in froth and spray like a geyser.” (“Tapage” is French for a loud, disturbing noise. Lynch’s report is spattered here and there with such eruptions of his schoolroom French).
25 They captured two Midianite generals, Oreb and Zeeb. They killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and Zeeb they killed at the wine press of Zeeb. They pursued the Midianites and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon who was at the Jordan.  
The Ephraimites even caught two of the Midianite officers. Sar can mean “prince” or “official.” With an army this size it makes sense in the context to describe these men as generals.
Oreb means “raven” (Leviticus 11:15; Song 5:11; Prov. 30:17) and Zeeb means “wolf” (Isaiah 11:6; Sirach 13:17). The places where they died were known and even named for the acts. Something like that happened here in southern Minnesota. Not far from where I live is the town of Madelia where some of Jesse and Frank James’ companions, the Younger Brothers, were caught after an unsuccessful attempt to rob the bank in Northfield in September, 1876. A companion was killed and the Youngers were wounded and captured. The event is depicted in a huge mural on the wall of a building on the town’s main intersection, and is re-enacted every year on the anniversary of the gunfight.  
This victory is mentioned briefly by the prophet Isaiah, where in his tenth chapter he reveals the mind of the Lord, who picked up a filthy scourge—Assyria—with which to punish Israel his child, and then had to toss the scourge away in disgust as he brought his child back to his side. “O my people,” he said, “do not be afraid of the Assyrians when they smite with the rod and raise their staff against you the way the Egyptians once did. For in a very little while my indignation will come to an end, and my anger will be focused on their destruction. Then the LORD of Armies will wield a scourge against them, as when he smote Midian at the rock of Oreb” (Isaiah 10:24-26). God’s judgment is supreme: “An evil man is bent only on rebellion; a merciless official will be sent against him” (Proverbs 17:11). When it is time for God to judge a man, he will use whatever means he must to accomplish this, and to hold the man accountable for his life. This happens at death when the soul is judged (Eccl. 12:7), and then later the body is judged together with the soul on the last day, as Jesus explained (John 12:48) and as we confess:  “At his coming all people will rise with their own bodies to answer for their personal deeds” (Athanasian Creed). 
At that time, on judgment day, all unbelieving men and women and also the evil angels (including the devil) will be judged and cast into hell forever, as Scripture clearly says (2 Peter 2:4, “God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment”). 
At that time, God’s people—the good angels, and also you and I and all human beings who believe in Christ—will participate in this work. The good angels will separate believing men and women from unbelievers (Matthew 13:49-50), and then God’s believing men and women will judge the wicked angels, as Paul says: “Do you not know that we will judge angels?” (1 Corinthians 6:3). This doesn’t merely mean that Christians will judge the good angels, since their judgment has already happened. No, we will pronounce judgment on the evil, fallen angels. Since our will after the resurrection will conform perfectly with God’s will, our judgment will be precisely what God’s will for the fallen angels is, forever. And our forever will be eternal joy, with Jesus our Savior, and all who have looked to him for forgiveness. We will have it, and never lose it—nor anything else, ever again. 
In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith
Archives by Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel: http://www.wlchapel.org/worship/daily-devotion/
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul's Lutheran Church, New Ulm, Minnesota


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