For the Diggers: Lessons from Jabesh-Gilead

The town of Jabesh-Gilead was in the half tribe of Manasseh that settled on the east of Jordan. Jabesh was the name of the town and Gilead was the region, that region being partially in Manasseh and partially in Gad. Jabesh-Gilead was in the land belonging to Manasseh. (You will remember Manasseh was one of the sons of Joseph, along with Ephraim.) We remember that one of the stipulations for their being allowed to settle on the east side of the river, before the conquering, was that they would go across the Jordan and help their brethren fight for the promised land, driving out the inhabitants of Canaan. We read about this agreement in Joshua 1: 14,15:

Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle, shall remain in the land which Moses gave you on this side Jordan; but ye shall pass before your brethren armed, all the mighty men of valour, and help them; Until the LORD have given your brethren rest, as he hath given you, and they also have possessed the land which the LORD your God giveth them: then ye shall return unto the land of your possession, and enjoy it, which Moses the LORD’S servant gave you on this side Jordan toward the sunrising.

It seems that the two-and-a-half tribes kept that commitment to go in and fight for the whole of Israel as they conquered Canaan. But it was during a later civil war that erupted between Israel and a remarkably immoral tribe of  Benjamin, over an abused concubine, that the men of Jabesh-Gilead went AWOL and failed to defend the honor of the nation against Benjamin. Because they failed to show up in this important and God-sanctioned war, the men and married women of the city of Jabesh were killed in the very last chapter of the book of Judges. A curse had been pronounced on Benjamin, because of their immorality and violence, that no man of Israel would give his daughter in marriage to the Benjamites. So, because of this failure to come to war against the Benjamites, the remaining unmarried women of Jabesh-Gilead were given as wives to the Benjamites who had survived the war.  (After all, this was not technically a violation of the curse, since these virgins had no fathers to give them in marriage. Their fathers had been killed in the punishment on Jabesh-Gilead.) These marriages were performed in order to preserve the tribe of Benjamin, threatened by extinction because the few men who remained had no wives.  Thus began the rebuilding of the tribe of Benjamin (of which Saul, coincidentally, was a son).

Fast forward to I Samuel 11. Though some years had passed, it appears to me that there were some of the men of Judges 21, who may have  been living still by the time of the events of I Samuel 11. (Some commentators put these events in close proximity time-wise. Others believe they may have been some 300 years apart.) The young boys who were left in Jabesh-Gilead had perhaps had time to reach adulthood or even be grandfathers, but the city would have likely been yet vulnerable to attack since its utter destruction had occurred in the not-too-distant past (although the exact date of the civil war is not certain). 

At this point (I Samuel 11), Saul was on the brink of becoming the brand new king of Israel and his first major challenge was when the Ammonites, under King Nahash, attacked the city of Jabesh-Gilead. The vulnerable city attempted to make a league of service to the Ammonites, but the men of Nahash the Ammonite required that the men of Jabesh-Gilead have their right eyes plucked out before coming into their service. The men of Jabesh-Gilead asked for one week, during which they appealed to Israel for help, in order to preserve their eyes and perhaps maintain their liberty. It was Saul, who organized an army and rescued Jabesh from the Ammonites. Lots of questions can emerge from this scenario. 

  1. Was Saul’s mother or grandmother one of those women who came from Jabesh-Gilead in forced marriage to a remaining Benjamite? Was this one reason he was quick to go to the rescue of that city? Did he have relatives who were young boys at the time of the initial destruction? 
  2. Was Saul lacking in character as the first king of Israel because of the fact that the male leaders of his tribe were almost all killed as a result of their immorality? Was this, perhaps, part of God’s purposeful lesson in giving the nation a human king rather than allowing the intended divine system to remain in place? 
  3. Lastly, we see that the bodies of Saul and his sons following their deaths in battle against the Philistines were left on the wall of Bethshan (I Samuel 31:11-13). Who was it that went to get the body of the former king of Israel and bury him? It was the “valiant men of Jabesh-Gilead.” They brought Saul and his sons to Jabesh and buried them under a tree. David later thanked the people of Jabesh for this act of piety (2 Samuel 2:4-6). Why, out of all of Israel, who had served under this the first king of Israel, was it that the men of Jabesh went to get the body?  Was it possibly because the king’s matriarchal ancestor was from Jabesh-Gilead? This is impossible to ascertain, since we cannot be sure of the exact chronology of the events in Judges 21 or the exact identity of Saul’s mother, but it is interesting to ponder. 

What we can know is that, for whatever reason, Saul was quick to defend the people of Jabesh-Gilead even before he became king of Israel. He was not of the judgment that, because of their prior failures to stand with Israel, that Israel should fail to stand for them. 

Finally, it is interesting to note that the attacking people in 2 Samuel 11 was the people of Ammon. The Ammonites, of course, were the Semitic people born of Benammi, who was one of the sons born to Lot after his incestuous relationship with his daughters shortly following his delivery from Sodom. The Ammonites, though related to Israel through Lot, were a constant thorn in the side of God’s people. 

In all of these interwoven accounts, one thing is very clear. Sin has a very progressively negative effect as time goes by. A “vacation” from the battle for Jabesh turned into the massive destruction of the adults of the entire city. (How much destruction do we encounter/cause when we take a break from fighting the spiritual battles of our own environments?) 

A single act of immorality turned into the humbling of an entire tribe of Benjamites. (How often do we fail to see huge consequences of “a little action” that violates the moral code of God? Is this not the 2017 Fox News story we see being replayed over and over this very week?)

An entire nation of wicked people grew from a single incestuous decision/act on the parts of some desperate women. (Do parents today make decisions that may turn into national tragedies? You do not have to look very far into monarchies and other governments of the modern world to see what happens when parents become separated from Biblical moorings.) 

The rejection of God as king never had a chance of being what was best for Israel. (Spiritually, we rob ourselves of our very best happiness in this life and eternal fulfillment when we reject Him as King in our lives.)

The regrowth of Benjamin without the fathers/leaders of that tribe resulted in moral poverty. (Once again, this is the plight of our nation today. It is the catalyst for moral bankruptcy or, at least, one recurring arc of a cycle of moral depravity.)

Saul and his sons were poor and desperate at the time of their deaths. There was no national mourning for the king, no proper burial and no pomp and circumstance. (When we die without His favor, our desperation is inevitable and limitless in both its depth and its eternality.)

Sister to Sister: Digging Deep’s a Little Piece of the Providence.

Most of us could use a little good news this week, so here it is:

Kerri Epling, a sweet Digging Deep participant from Elizabethton, Tennessee, tells me that, through the Digging Deep Facebook group, Jessi made an eternal connection—one that resulted in her sins being washed away (Acts 22:16) and in her translation from the power of darkness to the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Col. 1:13). That’s good news. 

Jessi grew up with a connection to the church though her grandfather and even was immersed as a young girl, but was not truly converted. Now, grown and married and searching for truth, she came across the DD page, among others, and mustered her courage to inquire there about the church in her area. (Jessi said she was kind of “stalking” us. Well, I like for friends like Jessi to be “stalking”!) Thanks to those of you who responded, and especially to Kerri, she and her husband have engaged in extensive study this week and, on Sunday night, Jessi was baptized for the remission of her sins (Acts 2:38)!

Jessi now has a brand new Digging Deep study guide and a group of ladies who are excited to support her. She has a welcoming family in the Lord and a living relationship with her Father. She has the promise of heaven! Her husband is studying, too, and I know you all will be praying along with me for wisdom for his teachers and a tender heart toward the Word.

I know some of you would love to encourage Jessi by sending a card or a personal note. Here’s how:

Jessi

℅ Kerri Epling

The church @ 137 East C Street 

Elizabethton TN 37643

There are some powerful lessons hidden in Jessi’s story. Here are a half dozen:

  1. The influence of a godly grandparent can outlive him/her. Even when it seems you may be fighting a losing battle for the souls of your grandchildren, keep fighting. They may remember and turn even after you’re gone. 
  2. Social media has done/ can do eternal good. It often makes our world in Him a little smaller and our evangelism more efficient. Use it for His glory.
  3. Thank Him for providence. He can work through unexpected means when someone is looking for truth. (Amazingly, Jessi found that she and her husband had known some of the same people and had some previous connections with Kerri’s family!…just common ground that helped establish camaraderie and confidence.)
  4. Never pass up a chance to study with someone or direct someone toward truth. There are searching souls among us!
  5. Always muster the courage to ask for spiritual help when you need it.  Conversely, always muster the courage to reach out of your comfort zone to spread the Word. (Tonight in our Bible class, we studied Acts 8. How much courage it must have taken for Philip to go into Samaria, a place where those of Judea were generally unwelcome to, for the first time, present the gospel to Samaritans. Was he surprised when many believed and obeyed? )
  6. Learn to be expecting God’s word to convict hearts when we teach it in love. 

Keep Digging. There’s gold at the end of the dig (Revelation 21:18-21).

One More Sleep before the Dig

Tomorrow is September 1st and the “Great Escapes” study is off and running. Podcast for September will be on the 19th at 7 pm CST here: http://new.livestream.com/whcoc/for-women. If you ordered a workbook and did not yet receive it, go here for the free download so you can start:http://thecolleyhouse.org/store#!/Digging-Deep-2017-Great-Escapes-Free-Download/p/90324654/category=20688312. Your book should arrive very soon. T-shirts may take a little longer since we ran out and are having more made. Thanks very much for being patient with our overwhelmed Colley house.

The “overwhelm” is such a blessing. There are a couple of new things this fall and I’m thankful for them both. One is that the study is being translated into Spanish and should be ready for “mi hermanas preciosa.” in just a few days. I cannot wait to receive input from many who have not before been able to join us due to the language barrier. Let’s praise Him for this new door and for Jacky Retana and the Moises Pinedo family, who are working hard to make this happen.

Second, the plan is to add a weekly audio podcast in addition to our monthly video podcast. Many have wanted this for listening during running, doing laundry, driving, etc… and we think it will be a plus for those women (all of us) who are good multi-taskers. Jennifer Benavides is arguably the best multi-tasker and is juggling a lot as she tries to make this happen.

Next, the study is growing to reach more women than ever before and a good number of those reached  are people who have never put on our Lord in baptism. I’m prayerful that the study will be convicting and instructive to anyone (including me) who needs to make changes during the year. Let’s be meek and lowly, like our Lord and make His will our own. If we just trust and obey, we will escape eternal punishment.  If just one soul is saved through the efforts here, our meager offerings are rewarded a hundred fold. Let’s keep connected on the “Digging Deep In God’s Word” Facebook page and, believe me, we will be finishing Great Escapes together  before we know it. Six previous studies have raced by! (Find previous studies here: http://thecolleyhouse.org/digging-deep)

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us…to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen (Ephesians 3:20,21).

On the eve before this study, I praise the One Who is able!

 

 

Sister to Sister: Directions for “Great Escapes”

Several first-timers are asking for details about exactly how to do the 2017-2018 Digging Deep study. Some have invited others (yay!) and these very significant “others”are needing the format for the study so they can begin with confidence. (Please do invite friends, especially your friends who are not Christians!) It’s so easy that it’s hardly worth a post, but, just in case you are overwhelmed with back-to-school, home-schooling, PTP exhaustion, or, better yet, congregational involvement overload, here it is: the study in a nutshell.

1 Every first day of every month beginning now, a new portion of the study will appear on the Digging Deep in God’s Word facebook page. That’s the place to find a concise copy of the current month’s study and the place to discuss the dig with others all over the world. Go there and see the discussion already happening! This year’s study has also been made available in a free download at http://thecolleyhouse.org and in a workbook also available online at the store. 

2 Be sure and join the Digging Deep for Encouragement facebook group as well. That’s the place for any prayer requests that are unrelated to the study.

3 Try your best to pace yourself throughout the month so that you can finish each month’s study by month’s end.

4 Keep your notes digitally or get a Digging Deep notebook. Either works fine. You just need someplace for notes!

5 Near the end of each month, there will be a live podcast discussing the month’s study. You will be able to type in your comments and questions in this chatroom and we will discuss them together: http://new.livestream.com/whcoc/for-women   All podcasts will be archived on this site, as well, so if you can’t listen live, you can listen later. It generally will occur on the last Tuesday of each month, but we will let you know the exact schedule well in advance on the podcast and on both of  the facebook pages. (If you want to go and listen to podcasts from other years, you may do that, too.)

6 You may optionally subscribe to this blog which will often, but not always, be an addendum to the study. It generally posts twice a week, usually on Mondays and Thursdays: http://thecolleyhouse.org/

7 The last podcast of the year will come to you live from ‘Polishing the Pulpit”during that annual conference that occurs each August. Those present who have completed the entire study will be recognized there.

8 Anyone who wants a Digging Deep t-shirt, be sure and order by next Monday at noon at: http://thecolleyhouse.org/store#!/~/product/category=7007069&id=39322979

We are always indebted to the elders at the West Huntsville church for their support and oversight. We are thankful for Jennifer Benavides for tech support and for every woman who co-hosts on our monthly podcast. But we are especially thankful for those of you who are committing to, persevering in and inviting to this year’s study. It’s not too late to invite friends. Most of all, we thank the Father through the Son for this great study from the Holy Spirit!

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it  (I Corinthians 10:13).