Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on July 22, 2015 under AM Bible Study | Be the First to Comment

AM Bible Study Group; July 22, 2015 from Judges 11:12-27

Theme: The mercy of God is shown in that He could not endure the misery of His unfaithful people.

(All Scripture is taken from The New King James Version, unless otherwise indicated).

Once, when Jesus was accused of casting out demons by the power of the devil, He said this: “No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house” (Mark 3:27). The devil is that ‘strong man’; and he is helpless before the Son of God. But even after the Lord Jesus has plundered the devil’s kingdom and saved some of his former captives, the devil nevertheless argues and fusses and opposes. Think of all the ways he shoots his fiery darts at us, or seeks to discourage us, or roars against us, or lies to us, or accuses us! And yet, we’re told, “Resist him, steadfast in the faith” (1 Peter 5:9); and are told that if we resist him, “he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

The story of the judge Jephthah’s stand against the oppressive Ammonites illustrates this to us. The people of Israel had been disobedient to God; and He had allowed the wicked people groups around them to oppress them. But they returned to the Lord; and He—in mercy—raised up Jephthah to be their defender. His rise to action illustrates to us how we need to take a bold stand against the devil’s lies and tactics, and to cling faithfully to what God has graciously given us through Christ our Savior.


A. The story is taken up after Jephthah was called by his people to be their defender, and after he and they had made an agreement before God together (10:17-11:11). And now, having entered into this binding agreement before the Lord to be their leader, Jephthah boldly confronts their oppressor. We’re told, “Now Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the people of Ammon, saying, ‘What do you have against me, that you have come to fight against me in my land?’ And the king of the people of Ammon answered the messengers of Jephthah, ‘Because Israel took away my land when they came up out of Egypt, from the Arnon as far as the Jabbok, and to the Jordan. Now therefore, restore those lands peaceably’” (vv. 12-13). And what’s so interesting about this is that what they said never actually happened! 300 years had passed since Israel came up from Egypt; and in that time, the people of Ammon had twisted the facts. As Numbers 21 shows us, the people of Israel went into the borders of Ammon; but it was the land of the Amorite people that they conquered and took possession of—not of the Ammonites!

B. It is wise for us not to try to even speak to the devil or to debate with him about his charges against us. But it is very important to know that when he speaks, “he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44). Whenever he stands in opposition to our rights in Christ, he does so through twisting the truth. Though we ought not to even engage him personally, we do have to deal with the people he deceives; and our method with them ought to be to confront the devil’s lies with the word of God’s truth.


Jephthah responded to the false declaration of the king of Ammon. And notice that he does so through four main lines of argument:

A. First, notice that he doe so through the line of historical facts:

So Jephthah again sent messengers to the king of the people of Ammon, and said to him, “Thus says Jephthah: ‘Israel did not take away the land of Moab, nor the land of the people of Ammon; for when Israel came up from Egypt, they walked through the wilderness as far as the Red Sea and came to Kadesh. Then Israel sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, “Please let me pass through your land.” But the king of Edom would not heed. And in like manner they sent to the king of Moab, but he would not consent. So Israel remained in Kadesh. And they went along through the wilderness and bypassed the land of Edom and the land of Moab, came to the east side of the land of Moab, and encamped on the other side of the Arnon. But they did not enter the border of Moab, for the Arnon was the border of Moab. Then Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, king of Heshbon; and Israel said to him, “Please let us pass through your land into our place.” But Sihon did not trust Israel to pass through his territory. So Sihon gathered all his people together, encamped in Jahaz, and fought against Israel. And the Lord God of Israel delivered Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they defeated them. Thus Israel gained possession of all the land of the Amorites, who inhabited that country. They took possession of all the territory of the Amorites, from the Arnon to the Jabbok and from the wilderness to the Jordan” (vv. 14-22).

All of this is recorded for us in the historical record from Numbers 21:21-32. Israel took nothing aggressively. What the people of Israel had gained, they gained because they were attacked—and because God gave it to them. And what they gained wasn’t even from the Ammonites. It was from the Amorites! Our faith in Jesus—and our rich inheritance in Him—is based on facts!

B. Note then that he argues from theology. Jephthah said, “‘And now the Lord God of Israel has dispossessed the Amorites from before His people Israel; should you then possess it? Will you not possess whatever Chemosh your god gives you to possess? So whatever the Lord our God takes possession of before us, we will possess’” (vv. 23-24). The god Chemosh was the false god of the Moabite people; and it appears that the Amorite people lost their possessions because they had associated themselves with those who were hostile to God’s people. Jephthah is not here saying that Chemosh was a real god. He was simply arguing rhetorically that what the Amorites would think with respect to their false god, the people of Israel should believe with respect to what God gives them. We have a right to lay claim to whatever God gives us in Christ. As Paul wrote, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).

C. Jephthah then argues from what we might call ‘precedent’. He says, “’And now, are you any better than Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever strive against Israel? Did he ever fight against them?’” (v. 25). This points us back to the story of Numbers 23-24; where Balak—the king of Moab—hired the prophet Balaam against God’s people. He sought to curse them, and he did seek later to deceive them; but he did not attack them by warfare—as the Amorites did. Was Ammon now thinking itself better than the king of Moab?—daring to lay a hand on God’s chosen people? “Woe to him who strives with his Maker!” (Isaiah 45:9).

D. Finally, Jephthah argues from what seems like ‘a statute of limitations’. Although Ammon had no legitimate claim for which to argue; Jephthah asks the Ammonite king, “’While Israel dwelt in Heshbon and its villages, in Aroer and its villages, and in all the cities along the banks of the Arnon, for three hundred years, why did you not recover them within that time?’” (vv. 26). The answer would be, of course, because they could not. God kept the people of Israel in His hand. But even if they could, three-hundred-years’ of inaction was more than sufficient to forfeit any claim they might have had. What God gives to His people, no amount of time can overturn. “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (Romans 8:33-34).


Jephthah closes with these words; “’Therefore I have not sinned against you, but you wronged me by fighting against me. May the Lord, the Judge, render judgment this day between the children of Israel and the people of Ammon’” (v. 27). What a great argument! It’s like the Lord’s own argument for His people in Zechariah 3:2; “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?” Truly, there can be no better argument than that! “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

* * * * * * * * * *

As we see next in the story, the people of Ammon did not heed the words of Jephthah (v. 28). They could have said, “You have made a convincing case, Jephthah. We will back off and let Israel alone.” But they didn’t. Instead, they remained aggressive—and ended up a defeated people.

Let’s learn the lesson from this: Our God stands to the defense of those who take their stand on His promises. Let’s never let the devil sway us from them.

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Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on July 19, 2015 under 2015 | Be the First to Comment

Message preached Sunday, July 19, 2015 from Mark 6:45-52

Theme: This passage suggests to us the kind of spiritual habits we must have in order to welcome the Lord Jesus into our trials as we should.

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THE DESPISED JUDGE – Judges 10:17-11:11

Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on July 15, 2015 under AM Bible Study | Be the First to Comment

AM Bible Study Group; July 15, 2015 from Judges 10:17-11:11

Theme: Jephthah’s return to his people is a picture of God’s grace to the people who rejected Him.

(All Scripture is taken from The New King James Version, unless otherwise indicated).

The story of Jephthah—the judge of Israel during its time of oppression under the combined enemies Philistia and Ammon—is a strange one. Many of the stories of the judges are strange; and Jephthah’s story is no exception. But one of the things that is remarkable about his story is that the beginning of his story bears a great similarity to the story of God’s strained relationship with Israel.

In the passage that immediately precedes the introduction to Jephthah—in 10:6-16—we’re given a detailed description of the repeating cycle that so dominates the book of Judges. God’s people proved unfaithful, and they rejected Him. He allowed them to fall into the hands of their enemies. They cry out to Him for mercy. He has compassion on them and gives them a deliverer. But in the story of the most latest episode of this cycle, we find that God speaks very personally to the people (vv. 11-14). He tells them that they didn’t want Him; so why should He hear them now? Why don’t they go to the gods that they wanted instead of Him? But they cried out to Him for mercy; and we’re told that God “could no longer endure the misery of Israel” (v. 16). That sounds very much like the story of the rejection that Jephthah felt from his own people—and of their turning back to him for his help.

This story illustrates to us—in perhaps a faint way—what Jesus spoke of in John 15:20; “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.” Notice . . .


A. The hostility of the enemies of God’s people seem to have come to a head. After the cry of Israel to God—and after God’s gracious inclination of heart toward them—we’re told, “Then the people of Ammon gathered together and encamped in Gilead. And the children of Israel assembled together and encamped in Mizpah” (v. 17). The nation of Ammon was on the eastern side of the Jordan River—just north of the Arnon River. They had been violently hostile toward the people of Israel from the time of the Exodus (see Numbers 21:21-32). Gilead was a land directly east of the Jordan that belonged to the people of Israel—named after the son of the patriarch of the tribe of Manasseh (see Numbers 26:28-34). It would appear that they had driven the people of Israel out of their land; and they were assembled together in Mizpah—just northeast of Jerusalem. If this was the case, then the people of the region of Gilead were refugees; and their land was occupied.

B. They had already cried out to God; and the heart of God was mercifully inclined to them. But they needed a leader. “And the people, the leaders of Gilead, said to one another, ‘Who is the man who will begin the fight against the people of Ammon? He shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead’” (v. 18). It was into just such a time that God brought forth His chosen leader. But what a remarkable choice it was! It was a choice that illustrated to the people how He had been treated by them.


A. The writer of the book of Judges now takes us back in time to give us the story of this arising leader. “Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valor, but he was the son of a harlot; and Gilead begot Jephthah” (v. 1). We should take “Gilead” here to be a man named after the patriarch of his people. Apparently, this “Gilead” had an affair with a prostitute; and Jephthah—a remarkable man of courage and strength; but the product of illicit relationship—was the result.

B. It’s not a surprise, then, that the other “legitimate” sons of Gilead rejected Jephthah. “Gilead’s wife bore sons; and when his wife’s sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out, and said to him, “You shall have no inheritance in our father’s house, for you are the son of another woman” (v. 2). It was a tragic and cruel rejection. But note something of God’s providence in it. We’re told, “Then Jephthah fled from his brothers and dwelt in the land of Tob; and worthless men banded together with Jephthah and went out raiding with him” (v. 3; the NIV translates “a group of adventurers”). He—like David would later do—became the captain of a band of social rejects (1 Samuel 22:1-2) who went out on raiding expeditions; perhaps often against the enemies of God’s people as an Old Testament combination of Robin Hood and Rebel without A Cause. But it was through such rough and rowdy times that Jephthah learned the skills that God would put to use for the good of His people. Our sovereign God can use anyone; and He wastes nothing of the experiences they go through prior to His call.


A. That brings us back to the story: “It came to pass after a time that the people of Ammon made war against Israel” (v. 4). And there was no other leader for the people of Gilead like Jephthah—the very man that the sons of Gilead had scorned and sent away as unworthy. And now, just as they had done to God, they must now come to make their appeal to the man they had rejected. We’re told, “And so it was, when the people of Ammon made war against Israel, that the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob. Then they said to Jephthah, ‘Come and be our commander, that we may fight against the people of Ammon’” (vv. 5-6). They knew they had rejected him; but now they needed him.

B. And just like God had done, Jephthah reminds them of their rejection of him; and considers how just he would be in turning his back on them. “So Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, ‘Did you not hate me, and expel me from my father’s house? Why have you come to me now when you are in distress?’ And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, ‘That is why we have turned again to you now, that you may go with us and fight against the people of Ammon, and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead’” (vv. 7-8). Their words to Jephthah do not sound like repentance. It seems like nothing more than an admission that they were in a time of distress; and that that’s why they called him. The only reason Jephthah would have been inclined to help them is because he could no longer endure their suffering—just like God Himself! How like Jesus’ words: “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:44-45).


A. Perhaps Jephthah wanted to make sure this wouldn’t lead to another rejection once the battle was over. “So Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, ‘If you take me back home to fight against the people of Ammon, and the Lord delivers them to me, shall I be your head?’” (v. 9). Note how, in this, Jephthah acknowledges that the help is of the Lord. Could it be that he himself was coming to a place of repentance too?

B. The leaders of the people knew the situation they were in—and perhaps also the cruel and unjust way they had treated their brother. “And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, ‘The Lord will be a witness between us, if we do not do according to your words’” (v. 10). That settled it! The only thing left was to make it a true commitment together before God. “Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and commander over them; and Jephthah spoke all his words before the Lord in Mizpah” (v. 11). They were now committed to him; and he was now committed to them; and they were all now recommitted to the Lord that they had rejected.

* * * * * * * * * * *

From the standpoint of the people of Israel, this reminds us of what the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church:

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence (1 Corinthians 1:21-26).

Truly, God is able to use the most unexpected and unlikely of people to do His work. But from the standpoint of Jephthah, we might consider that not only was he an illustration of God’s mercy; but that also God was an illustration to Jephthah. As Jesus said, we are to be “bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:13).

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Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on July 12, 2015 under 2015 | Be the First to Comment

Message preached Sunday, July 12, 2015 from Mark 6:35-44

Theme: The miracle of the feeding of the multitude teaches us that, by depending on Jesus, we can do all things He calls us to do.

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Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on July 8, 2015 under PM Bible Study | Be the First to Comment

PM Home Bible Study Group; July 8, 2015

Hebrews 9:1-15

Theme: This passage compares the limitations of the earthly sanctuary with the perfections of the heavenly sanctuary.

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Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on under AM Bible Study | Be the First to Comment

AM Bible Study Group; July 8, 2015 from Judges 10:6-16

Theme: The mercy of God is shown in that He could not endure the misery of His unfaithful people.

(All Scripture is taken from The New King James Version, unless otherwise indicated).

In this morning’s lesson, we begin a study of the story of another of Israel’s great judges—Jephthah. His story runs from Chapters 10 to 12. There are lots of great lessons to learn from the story of Jephthah. But the story of this great man of faith begins with a lesson about God Himself.

It begins in a way that has grown sadly familiar to us. After the period of the two judges Tola and Jair, we’re told that—once again—the people became unfaithful to God. And it would be hard to find a passage that reveals more of the hurt and anger that God feels toward His people when they ignore Him and turn from Him. But it would also be hard to find a passage that shows more to us of what it is that inclines God’s heart toward His disobedient people and moves Him to have mercy on them.

This passage shows us something remarkable. It shows us what it is that God cannot endure. Note first . . .


Same song—a different verse. After Tola and Jair had died, we’re told, “Then the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals and the Ashtoreths, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the people of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines; and they forsook the Lord and did not serve Him” (v. 6). The situation is like many that we’ve already read in previous stories in Judges—except with one important difference. In other cases, the people are said to have turned to one particular idol of one particular paganistic people group. This time, it seems that they turned to a whole variety of different gods of a whole variety of different people groups. Count them. There are seven different categories of idolatry mentioned. The range of their apostasy is staggering. And the key to it all is that “they forsook the Lord and did not serve Him”. Such “diversity” is no virtue. When we will not stand with the Lord, we truly will fall for anything.


God’s heart must have been greatly broken and deeply offended. We’re told—and with justification—“So the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel; and He sold them into the hands of the Philistines and into the hands of the people of Ammon” (v. 7). If they wanted the gods of other people groups, then the one true God would sell them into the hands of other people groups. “From that year they harassed and oppressed the children of Israel for eighteen years—all the children of Israel who were on the other side of the Jordan in the land of the Amorites, in Gilead” (v. 8). Gilead is important to mention; because that was the home of the previous judge Jair. But it would also be the home of the next judge Jephthah. That land became the target of the enemy of God’s people. But it wasn’t isolated to just Gilead, because we’re told, “Moreover the people of Ammon crossed over the Jordan to fight against Judah also, against Benjamin, and against the house of Ephraim, so that Israel was severely distressed” (v. 9). The land was crisscrossed with oppression because of the people’s unfaithfulness.


Note what was told us in verse 9—that the people were severely distressed. Their trouble is like what was said back in 4:3—how, in the times of Deborah, the people were “harshly oppressed”. The remarkable nature of the suffering of God’s people under the hands of various pagan enemies brought them to a truly desperate state of misery. And in their misery, they cried out to God. “And the children of Israel cried out to the Lord, saying, ‘We have sinned against You, because we have both forsaken our God and served the Baals!’” (v. 10). Can we dare to say that anything—even such suffering for sin—that causes us to cry out to the God that we have forsaken is, in reality, a great blessing?


God’s initial response, however, didn’t look like one of mercy. Instead, it looked like a display of great hardness—as if it were an act of shunning from a betrayed lover. God reviews their past—reminding Him of all the various pagan oppressors from which He had already delivered them. “So the Lord said to the children of Israel, ‘Did I not deliver you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites and from the people of Ammon and from the Philistines? Also the Sidonians and Amalekites and Maonites oppressed you; and you cried out to Me, and I delivered you from their hand’” (v. 11-12). Count the number. Seven! Shouldn’t that ‘perfect number’ have been enough times to have learned? “’Yet you have forsaken Me and served other gods. Therefore I will deliver you no more’” (v. 13). What horrible words! But they were just, weren’t they? And then, God tells them—in almost a mocking way—“’Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in your time of distress’” (v. 14). They, of course, couldn’t. This sounds like something that Moses said to the people of Israel long before—when he gave a stern warning of the judgment that would come if they departed from God:

He will say: ‘Where are their gods,

The rock in which they sought refuge?

Who ate the fat of their sacrifices,

And drank the wine of their drink offering?

Let them rise and help you,

And be your refuge’” (Deuteronomy 32:37-38).

But as we will see shortly, God is never really deaf to the cries of the people on whom He placed His eternal love. We might think of this as a test—much like that time when God appeared to have “repented” at the appeals of Moses after He threatened to destroy the people (Exodus 32:7-14). Will these doomed apostates respond with true repentance in the face of such words from God?


They did. We’re told that they uttered a confession with their words; “And the children of Israel said to the Lord, ‘We have sinned! Do to us whatever seems best to You; only deliver us this day, we pray’” (v. 15). But they also put action to their words through genuine repentance; “So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord” (v. 16a). Let’s learn from this that, so long as we are in the day of grace—so long as we have breath and body—it’s never too late to repent!


Note God’s gracious response—and marvel at it. “And His soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel.” What a merciful God we serve! But note carefully—it was not the repentance of the people that we’re told finally broke God’s heart. Rather, we’re told that He could no longer endure the misery of His people. It was not their repentance that ‘earned’ God’s mercy. He is always a faithful lover of His people; and His mercy was always there—waiting for the right moment to be shown.

* * * * * * * * * *

As we will be see next week, that mercy was shown in the provision of a deliverer. Let’s learn the lesson of this passage. What moves God to show compassion to us in our sin is not our repentance. It’s not something in us, but rather something in Him. He cannot endure the misery of the people He loves!

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