“And after him (Jephthah), Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel. And he had thirty sons and thirty daughters whom he gave to husbands outside his tribe, and thirty daughters (daughters-in-law) whom he brought in from outside his tribe for his sons. And he judged Israel seven years.”
Judges 12: 8, 9
“The Gradual Downhill Slide”
“Heed the spark or you may dread the fire.”
Have I ever found myself on a slippery slope going downhill, after taking a first step, and doing something I felt I shouldn’t do?
What was the result in my life?
“This downhill path is easy, but there’s no turning back.”
“I saw not till now what sin brings with it – that we must tread others underfoot.”
Several days ago, Jim and I drove from our home, down to Phoenix so Jim could see the doctor about the kidney stone that had plagued him with severe pain over the last few weeks. Ever since our car accident, I have disliked traveling in bad weather, but unfortunately, on this particular day, we had no choice and when we left our home Sunday afternoon it was sleeting and the clouds looked very foreboding. Thankfully, most of our trip was uneventful until we got to the part of the trip I call the “Big S curves.” Just before entering the Phoenix area, there is a rather lengthy hill you must come down and as we approached this section of road, I could see flashing lights ahead. As we got closer to the emergency vehicles, it was obvious a hail storm had passed by leaving small icy rocklets all over the road. When cars hit this patch of the highway, their tires lost traction and the vehicles began to slip and slide. At least six cars were off the road in ditches and wedged against the guard rails on the freeway. I felt very blessed we were able to slow down and get through the havoc safely, for Jim and I had been in one of these hail storms before and found it almost impossible to control our car on the slick road. Before you know it, the car starts sliding ever so slowly and if you are headed downhill, the momentum created, pushes you forward, no matter what you want to do or where you wish to go.
Cars losing control on a slippery road are a tangible example of what can happen when one begins a gradual slide downhill. Sadly, our lives sometimes mirror the cars we saw that had landed in a ditch or hit a guardrail because there was no ability of the person in the driver’s seat to change the course of events.
When we began to study the lives of all the women in the Bible, one thing I purposed was that I would read every text in Scripture as we went through the Bible, verse by verse and chapter by chapter. So far, I have done exactly this. But here in Judges, after studying the life of Jephthah’s daughter for several weeks, and knowing that our next study was on the women in Samson’s life, I, at first, skimmed over Judges, Chapter 12. It’s not a long chapter, and the first seven verses are a continuation of Jephthah’s rule as a judge in Israel – a rather bloody rule at that!
But then, in Judges 12: 8, a new judge is leading Israel who is named Ibzan.
As I reread this chapter several days ago, one of the verses jumped off the page and hit me between the eyes and I found that again, God’s holy Word, written long ago, when really studied carefully, becomes as relevant to you and me, as though it were penned yesterday. By reading the Bible in the sequence it was put together, we also get a contextual picture of what was happening and it helps us more clearly understand, not only why things happened the way they did during the time of the judges, but also, why, if we choose to have the same behavior now, we can expect the same results and consequences.
Our text for today is Judges 12: 9. In this passage we find two critical points which underscore the state of affairs during the time of the Judges. First, Ibzan, who judged Israel for seven years, had thirty sons and thirty daughters, doubtless by a plurality of wives. This idea that marriage was for earthly convenience, to be used as a tool for enlarging your family tree and for the whim of man just to find another woman whenever he pleased, was not in God’s plan – period. Second, we find that instead of Ibzan finding wives and husbands for his children among his own tribe, the Bible says he sought wives and husbands in other tribes. As some Biblical scholars note, this looked like a wise political move for now Ibzan had relatives within many of the tribes and this could make it easier for him to govern or to “have control.” This pattern of behavior was not in the original design for the children of Israel, either.
And so, during an era when God’s leadership was portrayed through the lives of Israel’s Judges, God’s advice was ignored and even flatly disobeyed. It was the “leaders,” the “Judges,” who should have been the examples of heavenly obedience and yet they were “doing their own thing.”
To put this situation in practical terms, Ibzan’s behavior of multiple wives and tribal intermarriage could be viewed the same today if the leader of any one of many denominations or churches suddenly informed the entire membership that he was going to marry ten different women and further, it didn’t matter who his kids married as long as it made “political” sense. How would you feel? Well, remember, all during the time of the Judges, we find the leadership not placing value in the lives of their “wives” or their children. What’s more, having a heathen harlot on the side became rather routine, too. When the leaders decided they could do as they pleased, the Bible records that everyone in Israel began to do, “what was right in their own eyes.”
I read a quote long ago that said, “One wrong step leads to another.” This is certainly the case of the stories we find in Judges. The gradual slipping downhill took on such momentum that God’s ideal for His children became marred so badly, it was nearly impossible to recognize what the original plan was.
This is critical for you and me today, for once we choose to take a step on the slope that “leadeth to destruction,” we are in for great sorrow and pain – for sometimes that first step, may unknowingly, become an irrevocable step and we find we are unable to retrieve what we have lost.
“No sin is small. No grain of sand is small in the mechanism of a watch.”
“Weaver God, we come to You, or more the truth – You find us, disconnected and out of sorts. We are disheartened by our failures, discouraged by our weakness and little that we do seems worthy of Your grace. Restore our future. Weave for us the tapestry on which our lives are stretched. Give us patience with the endless back and forth of shuttle, hand and effort. We look too closely, seeing only strands and knots and snarled threads of too-much-trying or none-at-all. Grant us eyes to see the whole of which we are a part. In the end, we ask for gentleness with ourselves, acceptance of our less than perfect ways. We pray that what we do and what You weave form patterns clear to all, of mercy in the warp of it and love throughout.”
Pat Kozak and
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