Psalm 105:16–22; Judges 18; Luke 22:24–38

Psalm 105:16–22: Our psalmist relates the story of Joseph opening with the God-created famine that sent Joseph’s brothers down to Egypt: “And He called forth famine over the land,/ every staff of bread he broke.” (16). Then, the poet leaps back in time, only implying the evil act of his brothers as he focuses solely on Joseph: “He sent a man before them—/ as a slave was Joseph sold.” (17)

The poet leaves out the details of the story than landed Joseph in prison, focusing instead on his suffering: “They tortured his legs with shackles,/ his neck was put in iron.” (18) Poetic necessity leaves out the details of how Joseph was freed, making it clear that Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams and his ultimate freedom was strictly God working through Joseph : “until the time of his [Jospeh’s] word had come,/ the Lord’s utterance that purged him.” (19)

Ultimately, Joseph is freed by Pharaoh, who “made him master of his house/ and ruler of all his possessions.” (21) Joseph was so exalted that he could “admonish his princes as he desired/ and to teach wisdom to his elders.” (22)

As the psalmist tells it, the Joseph story is a foreshadowing of the Exodus story: from slavery to honor. Which is exactly what is to come to pass in the future. And of course, the ascent from slavery to honor, from imminent death to new life, is our story as well: we are freed from being imprisoned by our own will through the power of Jesus Christ.

Judges 18: As the authors keep reminding us, “In those days there was no king in Israel.” (1). Apparently in the complicated allotments of tribal territory, no land was given to the tribe of Dan. However, it appears by context that the Philistines had pretty much taken over the territory originally given to Dan. So the danite leaders send “five valiant men…to spy out the land and to explore it.” (2) The unstated objective of course is to scout out new territory for the tribe.

Via a coincidence that we usually see only in the movies, the five men come to the house of Micah where “they recognized the voice of the young Levite,” and ask “What is your business here?” (3) The unnamed Levite replies that he’s employed by Micah as his priest. Apparently the Levite is still loyal to God rather  than the silver household idol since the visitors ask him to “Inquire of God that we may know whether the mission we are undertaking will succeed.” (6). The Levite assures them that God is watching over them and they proceed on their way.

So, is the elaborate Micah and the Levite story of the previous chapter merely a setup for this encounter? Or are the authors telling us that the Levite remained loyal to God even though the priest was hired into the household where other gods were worshipped? Assuming that the book of Judges was written during the Babylonian captivity, the larger meaning could be that even though they are in a pagan land, they can still remain loyal to—and obey—God.

The five men arrive at Laish where they observe people living “quiet and unsuspecting, lacking nothing on earth, and possessing wealth.” (7) Unlike Moses’ spies all but two of whom who returned fearful, these spies return to the Danite leaders recommending that they “enter in and possess the land.” (9) So, 600 men set out and, yes, arrive at the house of Micah.

The five spies enter the house and “took the idol of cast metal, the ephod, and the teraphim.” (18) They then talk the priest into coming with them by pointing out, “Is it better for you to be priest to the house of one person, or to be priest to a tribe and clan in Israel?” (19)

Micah realizes what’s happened, and overtakes the Danites, who ask him what his problem is(!) Micah replies why they’re taking his idols and his priest, but the danites warn him, “You had better not let your voice be heard among us or else hot-tempered fellows will attack you, and you will lose your life and the lives of your household.” (25) Micah, knowing he is outnumbered, relents and returns home now idoless and priestless.

The Danites go on to conquer the hapless folks at Laish, “to a people quiet and unsuspecting, put them to the sword, and burned down the city.” (27) who had “no deliverer, because it was far from Sidon and they had no dealings with Aram.” (28) But rather than worshipping God who apparently allowed them to conquer these unsuspecting people, “the Danites set up the idol for themselves, [and employ] Jonathan son of Gershom, son of Moses, and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the time the land went into captivity.” (30) So, apparently the Levite was Moses’ grandson.

So, why are the authors relating this detailed story of a tribe that ends up killing a gentle folk and worshipping an idol? Is it a moral lesson? The Danites have been completely successful, but they are also heretical. This story is disturbing at best.

Luke 22:24–38: Despite Jesus’ many statements that the Kingdom of God is not a political power, the disciples apparently still believe that Jesus will establish a traditional earthly kingdom. “A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest.” (24) Rather than chastising them for their obdurate stupidity, Jesus uses the dispute as a teachable moment to speak about the qualities of servant leadership—something he’s already hinted at when he said “the first shall be last.” Jesus speaks ironically of himself, saying “the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves.” (26) In other words, a true leader must first be a servant. He points out that although he is the greatest among them, “I am among you as one who serves.” (27)

But Jesus is kind when he could of been harsh and rather than chastising, he tells them, You are those who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom.” (28, 29) and that eventually, “you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (30)

Jesus directs his words to Peter, who has sworn undying fealty to Jesus, and makes the famous prediction, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.” (34) Unfortunately, Luke does not indicate what happened next. Did Peter protest again or was he silent? I think that for the first time in the years he’s been with Jesus he was struck dumb.

Jesus implies that things are about to change drastically. When before he sent them out “without a purse, bag, or sandals” they did not lack for anything. However, now a battle will begin and the disciples must be prepared to fight: “But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one.” (36)

In a very clear statement that he is not rising to political power, Jesus states that will soon be treated like a criminal by quoting Isaiah, “this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted among the lawless’; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.” The disciples are seemingly ready to fight, when they “said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” He replied, “It is enough.” Two swords are insufficient to win an earthly battle, but as Jesus points out, for the Kingdom of God, two swords are ample—as we will shortly see.

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