Wednesday, February 26, 2014
And Micah said to him, “Stay with me, and be to me a father and a priest, and I will give you ten pieces of silver a year and a suit of clothes and your living.” And the Levite went in. And the Levite was content to dwell with the man, and the young man became to him like one of his sons. And Micah ordained the Levite, and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah. Then Micah said, “Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, because I have a Levite as priest.” (Judges 17:10-13 ESV) During the time of the judges, when everyone was doing what seemed right in his own eyes (boy, does THAT sound familiar...), we see all sorts of things happening in the name of true spirituality. Micah remembered enough of the Law of God to know there was something special about the Levites. Surely, it wouldn't hurt to have one around to bring God's blessings. As the story unfolds, Micah ends up losing the priest, and much of which he has been blessed. The same thing continues to happen to this day. We think having angel statues or bible verses on the wall or some other semblance of spirituality will bring God's blessing. The fact is, it is only God Himself who brings such blessing. It is not some relic or religious person we hold on to, but faith in and obedience to the Lord of All.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Judges 12:8-15 After him Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel. He had thirty sons, and thirty daughters he gave in marriage outside his clan, and thirty daughters he brought in from outside for his sons. And he judged Israel seven years. Then Ibzan died and was buried at Bethlehem. After him Elon the Zebulunite judged Israel, and he judged Israel ten years. Then Elon the Zebulunite died and was buried at Aijalon in the land of Zebulun. After him Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite judged Israel. He had forty sons and thirty grandsons, who rode on seventy donkeys, and he judged Israel eight years. Then Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite died and was buried at Pirathon in the land of Ephraim, in the hill country of the Amalekites. Sandwiched in between some of the more well-known judges of Israel are these three. We know very little about their exploits or demonstrations of faith. Some of the few details of their lives were not necessarily good: Should Ibzan have brought in wives from outside for his sons, or was that just bringing in more paganism? wad Abdon just trying to outdo Ibzan by having more sons and more donkeys? And all we are told about Elon is where he was buried! What is so impressive about that? Maybe that is part of the reason for their inclusion. We are always searching for impressive things about men. Mixed in with the "great" judges are some not so impressive things as well(next up is Samson.) Maybe God is trying to tell us to stop being wowed by men and be wowed by Him. HE is the great deliverer and King. Let's worship and trust in Him, not any earthly ruler, no matter how impressive he or she may seem to be.
Monday, February 24, 2014
Judges 11:29-35 Then the Spirit of the Lord was upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh and passed on to Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he passed on to the Ammonites. And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the Lord's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.” So Jephthah crossed over to the Ammonites to fight against them, and the Lord gave them into his hand. And he struck them from Aroer to the neighborhood of Minnith, twenty cities, and as far as Abel-keramim, with a great blow. So the Ammonites were subdued before the people of Israel. Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah. And behold, his daughter came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances. She was his only child; besides her he had neither son nor daughter. And as soon as he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot take back my vow.” Sometimes we look at biblical characters and think to ourselves: "What an idiot. Here was Jephthah, called by God, having the Spirit upon him, guaranteeing victory in what He had called him to do, and he makes this rash vow." Then we look in the mirror and rewind the recorder of our own lives and hear the things we have said that come back to haunt us - promises we have made, and the famous "I would never...", as well as other rash vows and proclamations. What harm and hurt we cause, needlessly, to ourselves and those we love, when we fail to control the tongue. Set a guard over my mouth today, Lord.
Sunday, February 23, 2014
Judges 6:11-18 Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” And Gideon said to him, “Please, sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” And the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house.” And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.” And he said to him, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, then show me a sign that it is you who speak with me. Please do not depart from here until I come to you and bring out my present and set it before you.” And he said, “I will stay till you return.” Gideon was full of questions. 'Why? Where? How? Will you? we do the same things: We question the character of God, we fail to see what He is doing now; we doubt whether He can use us; we wonder if He will leave us midstream. But God is the same today as always; He is at work in ways we cannot see; He still calls His people to do His will: He will never leave or forsake us. We have questions; He has answers, and they're always the right ones. We need to ask, listen, and act in belief. Lord, help our unbelief!
Saturday, February 22, 2014
Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day: “That the leaders took the lead in Israel, that the people offered themselves willingly, bless the LORD! “Hear, O kings; give ear, O princes; to the LORD I will sing; I will make melody to the LORD, the God of Israel. (Judges 5:1-3 ESV) This victory celebration after the LORD had delivered Sisera and his army into the hand of the Israelites was indeed a national celebration. Though it says this was a duet of Judge Debby and General Barak, all the leaders who took part and all those who "Offered themselves willingly" are acknowledged. As a wise Judge, Deborah realized how important each and every willing heart was, and Barak realized he could not have won without a wonderful woman (or two, for that matter...) Any victory celebration that only mentions "me" falls far short of reality, especially when it comes to work done for God's Kingdom and God's glory.
Friday, February 21, 2014
And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. They forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth. Therefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia. And the people of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim eight years. But when the people of Israel cried out to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel, who saved them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother. The Spirit of the LORD was upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the LORD gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand. And his hand prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim. So the land had rest forty years. Then Othniel the son of Kenaz died. (Judges 3:7-11 ESV) Othniel did not just pop out of anywhere. We saw him in Joshua 15 as well, where we find he had proven himself to be a man of faith, accepting a challenge from Caleb, another very Godly man, to rise up and defeat the enemy. So the Lord had been raising up Othniel for some time, for such a time as this. By accepting one challenge at a time, Othniel became the first great hero and judge during this time peridd. Who wouldn't want to name a son after him!
Thursday, February 20, 2014
When they had finished distributing the several territories of the land as inheritances, the people of Israel gave an inheritance among them to Joshua the son of Nun. By command of the LORD they gave him the city that he asked, Timnath-serah in the hill country of Ephraim. And he rebuilt the city and settled in it. (Joshua 19:49-50 ESV) This paragraph is one of those little details easy to overlook. After all the tribes had been listed and had their boundaries and cities assigned, then and only then did Joshua receive his inheritance. This is a sign of a true leader - willing to do the job to bless others before seeking his own. He did not lose out. I think any of us would be satisfied with a city - sounds as much fun as a mansion! God is good and always takes care of us.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Joshua 15:13-19 According to the commandment of the Lord to Joshua, he gave to Caleb the son of Jephunneh a portion among the people of Judah, Kiriath-arba, that is, Hebron Arba was the father of Anak. And Caleb drove out from there the three sons of Anak, Sheshai and Ahiman and Talmai, the descendants of Anak. And he went up from there against the inhabitants of Debir. Now the name of Debir formerly was Kiriath-sepher. And Caleb said, “Whoever strikes Kiriath-sepher and captures it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter as wife.” And Othniel the son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb, captured it. And he gave him Achsah his daughter as wife. When she came to him, she urged him to ask her father for a field. And she got off her donkey, and Caleb said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Give me a blessing. Since you have given me the land of the Negeb, give me also springs of water.” And he gave her the upper springs and the lower springs. Caleb has a history... a history of great faith and faithfulness to God. As one of the two faithful spies who gave a good report of the promised land, he was not intimidated by the giants they saw. In fact, he wanted that part of the promised land. It was one of the best areas. He believed God could and would give it to him. As a man of faith, he also attracted other people with great faith and vision. They were also rewarded for their faith and faithfulness. This includes Othniel, one of my favorite... but more about him later...
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
And they answered Joshua, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you. Only may the LORD your God be with you, as he was with Moses! Whoever rebels against your commandment and disobeys your words, whatever you command him, shall be put to death. Only be strong and courageous.” (Joshua 1:16-18 ESV) God has entrusted to Joshua the charge of leading His people into the promised land. He has challenged him to accept this call courageously. And Joshua is going to need all the courage he can get. I wonder what he thought when the people gave this promise: "We will listen to you just like we did to Moses!" Joshua had witnessed how that went: complaining, disobeying, rebelling. The people spoke truthfully when they said: "Be courageous: we know you're going to need it!" May we accept courageously today what God calls on us to do, because we are surrounded by sinners just like us..."
Monday, February 17, 2014
“Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak, and let the earth hear the words of my mouth. May my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, like gentle rain upon the tender grass, and like showers upon the herb. For I will proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God! “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he. (Deuteronomy 32:1-4 ESV) As Moses was transitioning out of this world, he left behind a song he taught to the people of Israel. The introduction is in the words above. This song was to be memorized and sung by the people to help them remember Who God is, what He has done, and what He will do if we do or do not remember Him. He is "The Rock." He knows what He is doing. What He does is Right. He is the Greatest!
Sunday, February 16, 2014
Deuteronomy 30:15-20 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” Though the promises given by God here were specifically to His chosen people, Israel, there is an ongoing principle for His people of all times: Choose life. Choose to live life by His plan and His principles. Choose to serve Him and not the gods of this world. Choose to love Him and receive His love. These choices will make a definite difference in our experiences in this life, and the life to come, and have a definite impact on generations to come.
Saturday, February 15, 2014
Deuteronomy 26:16-19 “This day the Lord your God commands you to do these statutes and rules. You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul. You have declared today that the Lord is your God, and that you will walk in his ways, and keep his statutes and his commandments and his rules, and will obey his voice. And the Lord has declared today that you are a people for his treasured possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments, and that he will set you in praise and in fame and in honor high above all nations that he has made, and that you shall be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he promised.” Rules, rules, rules. Is that what this relationship with God is all about? If you stumbled onto the Bible and started reading in the middle of Deuteronomy one might think so. But in context of the flow of the Book, it is far deeper than that. God's people are His treasure. Like anything we treasure, we want to keep them pure, clean and beautiful. He wants us to be holy not to be a mean bully, but to show and tell: "Look at my prized possession."
Friday, February 14, 2014
“You shall not see your brother's ox or his sheep going astray and ignore them. You shall take them back to your brother. And if he does not live near you and you do not know who he is, you shall bring it home to your house, and it shall stay with you until your brother seeks it. Then you shall restore it to him. And you shall do the same with his donkey or with his garment, or with any lost thing of your brother's, which he loses and you find; you may not ignore it. You shall not see your brother's donkey or his ox fallen down by the way and ignore them. You shall help him to lift them up again. (Deuteronomy 22:1-4 ESV) The other day I went to visit a shut-in. I had to jump over a mound of snow to get to the parking meter. When I did so, unknown to me, my phone fell out of my pocket. A short while later my wife received a call saying my phone had been found. Rather than ignoring it, or stealing it (who wants a "dumb" phone anyway...), this young man took it to his house and tried to connect with its owner. He kept it till I came to retrieve it. It's a basic principle of how we are to treat other people an their stuff. How often do we, do I, ignore other people's stuff, rather than take the time, effort, and care to help reunite them?
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Deuteronomy 9:6-7 “Know, therefore, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people. Remember and do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the Lord. In this chapter Moses begins a review of Israel's history and how they got from Egypt to the promised land. Rather than being marked by grateful obedience, they had been a stubborn, rebellious, stiff-necked people. They did not deserve the promised land and the blessings it would bring. We are often the same way, especially in this nation of blessings. God had chosen to have Israel drive out the pagan peoples not because Israel was so good, but because the others were so bad. We know God has blessed us, but we begin to believe that we deserve it. It is nothing about us; it is everything about God and His grace, mercy, love and forgiveness. May we beware our own tendency to self-righteousness today. May we not "re-write" history into how wonderful we are, instead of how great God is.
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Deuteronomy 8:1-10 “The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers. And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you. So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. "Remember" is a big word in this book, and in the whole of God's Word. He knows us so well; we are prone to forget. Especially the good things - we tend to take them for granted. And if we forget God's many blessings, we will also forget His reminders. Another thing about us is that we often resent being reminded; we do not like the loving discipline God gives us. We would rather forget His rules; we would rather forget Him. In our pride we want to feel like self-made, self-sufficient, all-knowing people. We are not. May we remember today: His blessings, His laws, Him.
Monday, February 10, 2014
Deuteronomy 6:1-9 “Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son's son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. There is nothing more frustrating than playing a game where you don't know the rules, others don't know the rules, or the rules keep changing. God knows that. So He gives us the rules, beginning with how we are to approach and relate to Him. Reverence Him. Obey Him. Love Him. Recognize Him for Who He is: Loving Creator, Deliverer and Lord. Sometimes we make it all so complicated, getting bogged down in the fine print. You don't need to worry about fine print in the contract, the covenant, if you really know and trust the One you are in covenant with. He knows the rules, plays by them, and wants to play the game with you, this game called life.
Sunday, February 9, 2014
Deuteronomy 5:32-33 You shall be careful therefore to do as the Lord your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess. After reviewing the Ten Commandments with the people, God reminds them, through Him, to take them seriously. These are more than mere suggestions. These are the path to successful living, to carry out God's plan and purpose for us. Don't play loose with them. When we do take them lightly, we stray and cause trouble for ourselves and all around us.
Saturday, February 8, 2014
And Moses commanded the people of Israel according to the word of the LORD, saying, “The tribe of the people of Joseph is right. This is what the LORD commands concerning the daughters of Zelophehad: ‘Let them marry whom they think best, only they shall marry within the clan of the tribe of their father. The inheritance of the people of Israel shall not be transferred from one tribe to another, for every one of the people of Israel shall hold on to the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers. And every daughter who possesses an inheritance in any tribe of the people of Israel shall be wife to one of the clan of the tribe of her father, so that every one of the people of Israel may possess the inheritance of his fathers. So no inheritance shall be transferred from one tribe to another, for each of the tribes of the people of Israel shall hold on to its own inheritance.’” (Numbers 36:5-9 ESV) As final preparations were being made for entering the promised land, these women brought up an overlooked detail: what about us? Moses said: "You are absolutely right!" Rather than being unseen and unheard in the Old Testament, women and their opinions were recognized and valued. Moses said: we are going to act on this. May we listen to the wise women in our lives as well.
Thursday, February 6, 2014
Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes of the people of Israel, saying, “This is what the LORD has commanded. If a man vows a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth. (Numbers 30:1-2 ESV) Here we are five weeks into the new year, and how many new year's resolutions have we broken? How many promises to the LORD? Why is this such a big deal with God - keeping our word? Because He keeps His word, and he calls on us to be like Him. May we listen to ourselves today, and what we promise, and take our words seriously
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Numbers 23:19-23 God is not man, that he should lie,or a son of man, that he should change his mind.Has he said, and will he not do it?Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? Behold, I received a command to bless:he has blessed, and I cannot revoke it. He has not beheld misfortune in Jacob,nor has he seen trouble in Israel.The Lord their God is with them,and the shout of a king is among them. God brings them out of Egyptand is for them like the horns of the wild ox. For there is no enchantment against Jacob,no divination against Israel;now it shall be said of Jacob and Israel,‘What has God wrought!’ Many of us are familiar with the story of Balaam and the donkey, and how God works to make sure His message is given, and given right to King Balak. What we often do not do is take time to see what that message was. The above quote from one of the messages God gave contains so much truth that is common knowledge (at least to the follower of God.) God tells the truth. He keeps His Word. He blesses and delivers His people. No one can change these things. God is the one who brought Israel out of Egypt, not Moses. A wise person looks and says: "See what God has done!" Even a donkey can see that!
Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Numbers 21:4-9 From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. If the question of the TV gameshow Family Feud was: "What is the most prominent sin of God's people," the answer may well be "complaining." At this point Israel was well into their time of wilderness wandering. They had complained about the water numerous times, begged for something other than manna, rejected God's call to enter the Promised land because of "giants in the land," and constantly complained that things were better back in Egypt. And here they are again. Of course, they were not the originators of complaining. It was at the root of Satan's temptation in the garden: God provided in abundance every good thing, BUT He said we could not have the fruit of that one tree. Satan convinced Eve and Adam that God was just not fair; they had a valid complaint. So, are we going to jump on the bandwagon today? Or are we going to see complaining for the deep-seeded sin that it is?
Monday, February 3, 2014
Numbers 10:11-13 In the second year, in the second month, on the twentieth day of the month, the cloud lifted from over the tabernacle of the testimony, and the people of Israel set out by stages from the wilderness of Sinai. And the cloud settled down in the wilderness of Paran. They set out for the first time at the command of the Lord by Moses. To pick this passage out of context, one would see it as a mere matter of fact, but it is much, much more. Israel has been camped at Sinai for a year now, waiting to receive God's laws, building the tabernacle, and organizing the camp for their journey. They are now ready to head to promised land! We need to be much better readers and visualize the cloud of God's presence rising up and heading out. What a dramatic moment - to be able to see where God is leading!! We still can today, if we will prepare to follow Him. Let us start this day and week preparing our hearts to do so!
Sunday, February 2, 2014
Numbers 6:22-27 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.” After everything and everyone was in place in the tabernacle, the place of God's presence with His people, this is what He wants to say: "I want to bless you." God wants to look on us and smile, watching us live life before Him in love and obedience, carrying out His will, living according to His Word and plan. When we do, we will sense His smile and live in peace. May we know His blessing today.
Saturday, February 1, 2014
Numbers 5:5-7 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, When a man or woman commits any of the sins that people commit by breaking faith with the Lord, and that person realizes his guilt, he shall confess his sin that he has committed. And he shall make full restitution for his wrong, adding a fifth to it and giving it to him to whom he did the wrong. Again, in Numbers, it is easy to get lost in the details of all the laws for how the Israelites were to live as God's people and miss the big picture. There is a thread that runs throughout the whole of the Bible - that forgiveness is possible with God. He makes a way and lets people know what that way is. It always involves confession - telling God that we have sinned, and then following His steps to forgiveness. For us that means accepting by faith what Christ has done on our behalf. He is faithful to forgive!