January 17: The Difference Between Confessing and Repenting

Read Judges 10

Israel was in a constant state of needing saved from their own mistakes.

It’s the story of the Judges. And it’s the story of my own heart, too.

If I let myself get sloppy and don’t follow His ways carefully, wholeheartedly, I will find myself broken yet again.

Broken leads to more broken. It’s the story of mankind.

But God uses the brokenness of His children to usher in repentance, and pull us to the His heart of compassion. Straight through to His deliverance.

When the Israelites fell back into their old, familiar ways, God threw up His hands and gave their enemies free reign. (See verses 7 and 8.)

But the people cried out to Him, distressed and ruined. We know we’ve done wrong. Now save us again! Pleeeease!!!

God wouldn’t be convinced by the mere sound of their words.

I read this and wonder if the children of Israel were just playing the game. They’d grown accustomed to the rhythm of turning to other gods before falling into God’s punishment.

Then they would cry to Him for help until finally He saved them yet again.

I think God was privy to their game and wanted to free them from the cycle the Israelites were all tangled up in.

So He waited for them to acknowledge the truth. It wasn’t just that they had sinned, yet again. It was that they were at the mercy of God Almighty, the One Who had chosen them, set them apart, entered into intimate covenant with.

I think He wanted them to realize and proclaim the truth that He alone had total reign over every part of every battle. 

Not their words of repentance. Or their cries for help.

Only God.

We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you. Only please deliver us this day.

And the children of Israel put away their foreign gods and served the LORD with their hearts as well as with their words.

Almost as if they went from telling God they knew they screwed up to proclaiming the truth that He was the One in charge, and He did not owe them anything.

It’s the difference between confessing and repenting.

The difference between words and action.

The truth is, we are all completely at his mercy. It’s just easier to see in the Israelites’ mistakes thousands of years ago than it is to see in our own right now.

brw

Posted in Judges

January 16: The Problem With Abimelech

Read Judges 9

He’d been born of a concubine. The natural consequence of his father not following God’s ways.

Abimelech, Gideon’s son had it in for his brothers and the rest of his father’s side of the family. He knew what he wanted. And it did not include them.

Self-appointed leader, Abimelech was bad news. He cared nothing for his father’s house. Cared nothing for his father’s honor. The honor Gideon violated when he went and got all those extra wives.

But God was still in charge. Still faithful to fulfill His promises to His people. And He took care of Abimelech. Like a mobster takes care of anyone who crosses him.

See, God had promised through His servant Moses that if they were careful to obey all He’d commanded He would give them blessing beyond blessing.

But it was a covenant thing. He offered blessing. They offered their souls. Their whole-hearted obedience. Their passionate following.

Sure, God would bless them if they followed His way. But the promise was two-fold. If they failed to follow Him, failed to carefully obey His commandments and ways, He would sell them over to their enemies, leave them for dead. Until they were destroyed.

Because He loved His people. And He wanted their whole hearts.

So Abimelech rose to power and carried out his wicked schemes. Killing all of Gideon’s sons but one.

God sent an evil spirit to divide Abimelech’s kingdom. The kingdom that belonged to God. And disunity and dischord and hatred and mistrust filled the house of Abimelech.

It was a mess.

But God remained faithful.

He had promised Israel that if they were unfaithful, He would be faithful to send them into utter disarray. They would meet grief and destruction in the form of Him turning His back on them.

Time and time again, His children had turned away. So He sold them into slavery and submission. He gave them over to their pursuers so they would turn back to Him, realizing their need and calling to Him, the only One Who could save them.

Did you catch those last words? The ones about why God turned His back on His people?

He did it because He loved them and wanted them to realize their absolute need for His way, His will, His covenant blessing, their passionate devotion to Him.

Sometimes God lets us find our brokenness. Not because He’s forsaken us. Quite the opposite. Because He loves us too.

And He wants us to turn to Him in our utter need and find all He wants to give us when we do.

brw

Posted in Judges

January 15: Dear Gideon

Read Judges 8

Dear Gideon,

I just read the story about you in the Bible. Pretty amazing what God did through you!

I have a few questions, though, and I wonder if you might take some time to consider.

First off, I must apologize. I’ve known your story, felt your fear, seen the amazement that God worked through those 300 men when you conquered the Midianites. And, although I am certain I must have read the story of your end before, I honestly don’t remember it.

Today as I read, I’m not sure I understand.

Why did you make an ephod? Did you make it to remind all Israel that asking God was always first thing? Did you gather gold from the Ishmaelites and construct an ephod for your home town to make sure you would never forget that it was God who gave the victory?

That ephod, I read, turned out to be a trap for you and your family. I’m trying to figure out why. Did you forget, in all your trying to remember, that God’s way is always the victory?

I read about the end of your life, Gideon, and in all honesty, it kind of scares me. I mean, you were so careful to know God’s ways in the beginning, so careful to make sure it was Him you were following and not your own pride. But then this.

You fell.

You fell into the snare that you yourself created and the trap of thinking you needed more than one wife.

I totally get it. I find it so easy to slip from total surrender into lazily pretending I trust God’s every move. Just yesterday, in fact, I caught myself second-guessing His truth. The wisdom I had asked Him for about what to eat, how to spend my time. He nudged with His reminding. But I ignored it.

No doubt, Gideon, if you could re-live those last years, after you led the Israelites to victory over Midian, you would change a lot. I imagine you might change your confidence-placement. It seems like maybe you let it slip from Almighty God to something less than complete surrender.

Gideon, thank you for the example. Thank you for reminding me to keep my focus and my surrender totally on Almighty God.

Thank you for letting God use you even then. To remind me. To keep me focused.

Truly,

Bria

brw

Posted in Judges

January 14: God’s Compassion in Gideon’s Call

Read Judges 7

I have to wonder if Gideon was confused about exactly what he feared. Was he more afraid of moving without God’s guiding? Or was it just plain fear?

I tend to think it wasn’t necessarily the threat of defeat as much as Gideon was simply afraid to move without God at the helm. I wonder if Gideon feared that he was imagining God’s voice in this whole thing?

I guess it doesn’t really matter, when it comes down to it. I mean, He doubted. Right? And God proved His voice and His hand and His initiative to go. So. Gideon went.

Still, I love the sense of comaraderie that God affords Gideon through it all. Sure, Gideon, I’ll make the fleece wet.  No problem, Gideon, I’ll keep the fleece dry.

So when He thinned the army out, I picture God sort of smiling to Himself. Just wait, Gideon, til you can see what I see. You’re worried about doing this in your own strength? I will make it abundantly clear that this victory is Mine and Mine alone!

First He had Gideon simply ask the men of Israel. Are you afraid? No problem! Go on home. God’s got this. So twelve thousand just up and left.

Still there were too many for God. He wanted to make it abundantly clear — to Gideon, to Israel, to all the nations around — that God and God alone was the Victor and the Conqueror of the land.

One more filter for the army of God. Something about lapping up water versus kneeling down to drink it. And the army was the perfect size. Three hundred men plus the God of all that is.

I love the way God deals with Gideon all the way through. “But if you are afraid to go down . . .” (v11). No disappointment or shaming. Just plain compassion for the fear He knew His man was fighting.

I believe it’s a lesson in God’s I-will-never-ever-leave-you promise. His mercy and compassion that meet us, even inside our fears.

This was God’s battle, His victory. But He wanted Gideon to be part of it. So He called him to lead. Then God gave him the courage, community and compassion He knew he would need.

The God you and I follow today? He’s the same One Gideon followed into battle. He still walks with us. Still tends to our needs, no shame for our fears or our doubts. He loves us passionately, and He wants us to know His mercy in such a way that it can only end in utter praise of Him and all that He has done.

brw

Posted in Judges

January 13: The Pit Called Fear and the Man Called Mighty Warrior

Read Judges 6

Hiding for fear. That’s how we find Gideon when we meet him in Judges 6.

Afraid.

Understandably so. Fear weaves through Gideon’s story like thread in a quilt.

The Midianites had bullied his people into hiding after stealing their livelihood for seven straight years. The Israelites had spent seven years victimized and laying low, merely surviving in fear. And afraid.

Then God showed up with seven words of life and unafraid. He called Gideon to more than mere survival, bidding him to place his fear on Him, the only One truly deserving.

“The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”

Six more words, and the charge was complete.

“Go in the strength you have . . .” (v14).

If we take a step back and look into that winepress, we see a scared little boy hiding from a big bully.

“But Lord . . . (m)y clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family” (v15).

God saw something much different, though. He saw a man in whom He could display His own strength. A mighty God-made-warrior chosen from the least and the weakest, called to show off His own power and might.

Isn’t it just like God to call that man to victory over the enemy? Isn’t it just like Him to name him a mighty warrior?

Gideon’s job was no easy feat: calling his own father out for idolatrous acts. He could have been ridiculed, ostracized, not to mention killed, and by his own family, if he’d been caught tearing down Baal’s altar. (See verse 27.)

That’s why God started with those seven words. “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.” Declaring the truth of Gideon’s identity. Revealing the peace on which he could stand. The wholeness of God in all of His might and His fear-worthiness.

In His infinite wisdom and grace, Almighty God bestowed on Gideon the truth He saw.

I am with you, Gideon. Therefore, you are a mighty warrior, full of strength.

And God’s spoken word moved Gideon from helpless victim hiding out in a pit to valiant soldier tearing down false gods (vv 25-29), later conquering enemies in His name (Judges 7).

The same is true for us today. Just like with Gideon, God’s Word can move us out of fear-filled pits and into true freedom. Into true living that fears God and God alone.

brw

Posted in Judges

January 12: Deborah’s Humility, God’s Victory

Read Judges 5

I wonder if Deborah had considered herself to be the woman to whom God would hand Israel’s victory. Was she surprised to hear of Jael’s brave courage and her victory-securing role in the battle against Jabin and Sisera?

If I were Deborah, I believe would have expected that glory to be mine. After all, Deborah had been Israel’s leader even before God called Barak to battle. She’d been the one the people had turned to for wisdom and judgment, even as they lived under Jabin’s oppression for all those years.

But God’s choice in Deborah proved good and strong after the battle ended and all was said and done. He knew the woman He’d chosen, and I have to believe He liked her humility most of all.

We don’t find much in the Scripture about this woman, Deborah. But if we read between the lines, we can know this for sure: she was a woman who looked for God’s hand, not seeking glory for herself, and willing to celebrate His victory at every turn.

Deborah knew whose battle she fought. She knew who really led the Israelites. She knew she was but an instrument chosen by God for His own purpose. Not hers.

That’s how she could sing with Barak at the end of the battle against Jabin and Sisera. It’s how she could dance in victory, remembering the days before God had called her to lead. (See v6.)

Deborah had no problem praising the Almighty God for those who’d offered themselves for God’s use in the battle. It was not her they served. It was God.

“March on, my soul, with might” (v21)!

“So may all your enemies perish, O LORD! But your friends be like the sun as he rises in his might” (v31).

Are we willing to see ourselves like Deborah saw herself? To view ourselves as God’s servants, and His alone? Happy to celebrate the victory we know comes only from Him? Delighted to highlight other servants of Almighty God rather than ourselves?

It was a victory in itself that God’s people would obey. That they would listen to His call and bravely work together to rout Sisera and Jabin and claim victory for themselves. Sure Jael was brave. And Deborah and Barak led the army into battle. But, really, the victory was the LORD’s alone. That’s why Deborah and Barak sang the song of victory.

It’s how you and I can live singing even today. Humble and aware of whose hand holds real life. True deliverance. It’s all God’s to give.

brw

Posted in Judges

January 11: God’s Battle, God’s Victory

Read Judges 4

It’s hard to read about Barak and Deborah and not get distracted by Barak’s insecurity. His failure to take the bull by the horns, trust Almighty God at His Word, and go get Sisera.

But lets look at it differently today. Lets take some time instead to think about how God used Barak, even in his insecurity.

Although he wavered at the call to go to battle, relying on Deborah more than he should have, Barak still went to battle. Even after he learned that he would forfeit the glory that could have been his, Barak obeyed. He went to battle, fully aware that he would not get the glory for the victory that was sure to be theirs.

“Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory . . .” (v9).

I read the account and get the feeling Barak didn’t miss a beat. Yep. Okay. Just please, please come with me, Deborah. I can almost hear him tell her. This is not about me.

So Barak went to battle. The fact that a woman would receive the glory he would’ve gotten did not cause him to waver in his answer to the call.

I have to wonder if both he and Deborah figured she would be the woman.

In the end the victory would be chalked up to Jael. An altogether different woman, of whom we’ve not read before now. A housewife whose courage would seize the opportunity God literally laid in front of her.

God used Barak’s faith, and Deborah’s leading, to bring Israel to victory. No regrets for not getting the glory. It’s was God’s victory anyway. After all, that’s what the battle was all about.

It had been God’s all along. Both Barak and Deborah knew that full well.

How many times have you or I forgotten it, though? How often do we lose our focus and forget the battle we’re actually fighting is God’s?

It’s not about our own glory, but the victory He grants.

brw

Posted in Judges