Today we spent most of our morning talking about some of the most difficult texts in the Old Testament: First, the story of Jephthah’s daughter in Judges 11 and second the story of the Levite and His Concubine in Judges 19. These are both very violent and challenging texts. Let me say by way of too simple a summary let me say that these texts are both to be read as failures of leadership, failures of faithfulness, failures of human beings to exercise agency in support of life and as examples of the consequences of lost trust in God. From one of our readings, “Judges does not in fact condone violence; to the contrary violence appears primarily as a sign that Israel has lost its way in relationship to God, that God’s people failed to recognize God’s reign over their lives and they subsequently spiraled downward into violent chaos.” The book of Judges ends with, “In those days Israel had no king, everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” (Judges 21:25). The point being that selfishness, and individuality ruled in the people’s hearts, violence and chaos began to spread.
We often shy away from reading these stories because they are challenging and possibly dangerous. Challenging because they may cause us to reflect on our own situation and recognize our own violence and selfishness. Dangerous because they might convict us of our failures, but hopeful in that they point to God’s tenacious love despite even the most violent and despicable actions of human beings. New life is possible.
I also cannot say enough for my colleagues, professors and school administrators. My classmates are simply amazing. Smart, articulate, thoughtful, kind, vulnerable and open. It would have been worth $10,000 just to spend this one-weekwith these people in this setting. The professors are some of the most outstanding in their field. Dr. Ellen Davis is one of the most sought after Old Testament scholars in the country. Dr. Willimon is a well-known preacher, former Methodist bishop and well-known author. As I’ve already noted my colleagues are simply amazing.
So, thank you. Thank you for the time away to study. Thank you for the gift of financial resources to do this. Thank you for your prayers and support while I’ve been away. I am looking forward to being home and being back with you all and our staff. I’m also looking forward to cooler temperatures… it’s currently 93 at 5:30pm… too hot!