Friday, May 6, 2011

The Book of Judges - Tola

It's Friday and today we are back in the book of Judges. 
After Abimelech there arose to save Israel Tola the son of Puah, the son of Dodo, a man of Issachar; and he dwelt in Shamir in the mountains of Ephraim.  He judged Israel twenty-three years; and he died and was buried in Shamir.  Judges 10:1-2 NKJV
That is all we know about Tola's life.  Just two short, matter-of-fact verses of a Judge who ruled for a good amount of time of relative peace and security.  I think we also see some level of humility.  Tola was of the tribe of Issachar.  Looking back at the Patriarchs, Issachar was a humble tribe.  Here is the prophesy given his patriarch by Jacob when he blessed and prophesied over all the patriarchs before his death:
Issachar is a strong donkey, Lying down between two burdens; He saw that rest [was] good, And that the land [was] pleasant; He bowed his shoulder to bear [a burden], And became a band of slaves.  Genesis 49:14-15 NKJV
That is not exactly a glowing future.  Poor Issachar had to hear Zebulen called a haven for ships before him and Dan called to be a judge of his people after. Issachar gets slavery.  Now let us look at his name.  The name Tola, according to Strong's, means "worm, especially arising out of putrification."  That's not a name that gives pleasant images at all.  In Tola's defense, he was probably named for one of his ancestors, an early patriarch in the tribe of Issachar by the same name.  Still, not a flattering name. 

To make matter worse for Tola, he is considered to be a "minor judge."  Interesting how a man can rule a nation apparently walking with God and living in peace and safety for over twenty years and be considered to be "minor."  True, the label come from the little bit we know about him, but it is still a misnomer. 

While his name is unflattering, I think it is perfect.  Remember, he came into power after the whole Abimelech affair that we learned about last week.  I am sure after the civil strive brought up by the reign of Abimelech there was a good deal of national pain.  Abimelech basically tried to make himself king and met opposition to his claims with brutality.  Maybe Tola was not a worm, but he did rise out of putrification.  Then again, being that names are very important to God, we can look into his name a little more. His parents may have been naming him after a revered ancestor, but God may have had other plans.  Personally, I think his name reflects his humility.  I believe that what we can deduce about Tola is that he was a humble man being raised up by God in a very trying time. 

Another thing curiously absent from the history of Tola are any military exploits.  Nothing is written about some great military victory or even an enemy that attacked Israel.  Despite that, he was called to "save" Israel.  One has to ask from what they were being saved.  I think this goes back to Abimelech.  Even after he was gone, I am sure wounds run very deep.  We know from our own nation's civil war that those wounds take a very long time to heal, if they are even ever fully healed at all.  I am sure this was no different.  I do not think he was called to save Israel from a foreign enemy, but to save it from crumbling internally.  Considering how long he was a judge over Israel, I am sure that he met that call and God used him to hold together the nation. 

I think the most fascinating thing about Tola, though, is just how utterly humble everything is about him and his time as a judge.  He had a humble name. He came from a humble tribe.  He had a lack of any great military exploit to feature.  And even the fact that practically nothing was written about a long and successful time as a judge.  I can even add the fact that modern theologians refer to him as a "minor" judge.  Yet despite how humble everything about him that we know of is, his name is recorded in God's word for all eternity as a judge.  Those who think that humility gets you nowhere need to read about people like Tola. 

That is the take home message for today.  We put too much emphasis on pedigree in this day and age.  Did someone go to the right school? Do they have the right degree?  What family are they from? What church did they come out of or are they in?  What political party do they belong to?  How successful has that person been?  For many people, they almost want to see a resume when they hear someone teach the Word of God.  Even myself, I have faced criticism for writing about parenting or marriage when I am not a parent (yet) and I have only been married for a short time. While we make these things so important to us, they really mean nothing to God.  Just look at the Apostles.  You have tax collectors, fisherman, zealots, and other such people.  If anything, the most "qualified" Apostle was Judas and just look at how he turned out.  Then we have lowly Gideon who also had very humble beginnings. God does not look at any of those things and if anything they are all just roadblocks God has to knock down as he trains us up. The Bible tells us that He chooses the weak the confound the strong and the foolish to confound the wise.  So if you feel as though you are "unqualified" for service to God, think again. If you think you are not "smart" enough to teach or "strong" enough to go out and witness, think again.  When God is your strength, there is absolutely nothing that you are unqualified for. 

I want to close today with someone who had a very impressive resume who came into the service of God.  That person is Paul.  He had the education and civil and social standing to "qualify" himself for God's service, but he discounts all of what he had as garbage.  God is not looking at resumes, but He is looking at hearts and God loves nothing more than to use a lowly humble heart to do great things.
though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, [of] the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.  But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which [is] from the law, but that which [is] through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.  Philippians 3:4-11 NKJV

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