Friday, March 14, 2014

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - PG 13

Disobedience, idol worship, a woman doing a man's job, deals, deception, murder, rebellion, lust, and violence are found in the book of Judges. This past week, I began reading the book of Judges and all I can say is, it has the makings of a Hollywood movie. From the Israelites turning from God to Baal worship, Jael driving a tent peg through a man's temple, Gideon putting out his fleece and Samson, the man of strength yet weak in spirit, losing it all because of a woman. The theme of this book is "And the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord." This book should have a rating of PG 13.

Judges has been known to be a graphic book. There was a story in Chapter 11 that was a bit disturbing to me. I read it a few times before and even noted in my Bible "be careful what you ask for." Starting in verse 30 and it reads like this: "And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD : 'If you give the Ammonites into my hands, 31 whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD's, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.' 32 Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites, and the LORD gave them into his hands. 33 He devastated twenty towns from Aroer to the vicinity of Minnith, as far as Abel Keramim. Thus Israel subdued Ammon. 34 When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of tambourines! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, 'Oh! My daughter! You have made me miserable and wretched, because I have made a vow to the LORD that I cannot break.'36 'My father,' she replied, 'you have given your word to the LORD. Do to me just as you promised, now that the LORD has avenged you of your enemies, the Ammonites. 37 But grant me this one request,' she said. 'Give me two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends, because I will never marry.' 38 'You may go,' he said. And he let her go for two months. She and the girls went into the hills and wept because she would never marry. 39 After the two months, she returned to her father and he did to her as he had vowed. And she was a virgin.From this comes the Israelite custom 40 that each year the young women of Israel go out for four days to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite."

I don't know what this man, Jepthah, was thinking when he told God that whatever comes out of the door of his house he would give to God as a sacrifice. Now, I don't know if they had dogs and cats as pets in those days and possibly he was hoping his family pet dog (maybe he barked too much) would come running to him. The scripture says that he had no other children. So I wonder if he and his wife weren't doing so well and maybe he was hoping that she'd come walking through the door to greet him. I think that is why this story bothered me so much. What was he expecting to come through his door? His wife? Pet? A servant he didn't like? Maybe his mother-in-law?

The story of Samson is quite a disturbing one as well. Here is another barren woman desiring a child. She conceives this child who is to be set apart from everyone else for God. He is to have no wine or unclean food and most of all, never to cut his hair. So what happened to Samson? A rebellious teen who is probably had such strict parents that he rebelled and did as he pleased. God gave him strength unlike any other and he abused his gift. It is possibe he was very prideful. The fact that he stopped at the lion carcass that he had mamed earlier with his bare hands and reached in, with the bees swarming, and ate the honey, tells me something was not right with him. (Judges 14:5-9) Would you eat honey out of a dead animal? Then he defiles his family by giving it to them to eat too.  Maybe his parents were too permissive because he was their only child and spoiled him rotten. Maybe they didn't know what to do with him. No Dr. Phil in those days. In chapter 14:1 & 2 says, "Samson went down to Timnah and saw there a young Philistine woman. 2 When he returned, he said to his father and mother, 'I have seen a Philistine woman in Timnah; now get her for me as my wife.'"Pretty demanding if you ask me. He intermarried, the very thing God had warned the Israelites about. Here is a Nazirite man who is supposed to be set apart, doing exactly what God had told him not to. Yet when he called on God to help him out of a bad situation, God was there. Then what does he do? He goes to Gaza and spends the night with a prostitute. Only to end up meeting Delilah who deceives him and as the scripture says, "nagged him day after day until he was tired to death" to tell her the secret to his strength.

I have to ask the question, what is the strength of my spirit? It must be like when my kids keep wearing me down about something and then finally after the third time, I either give in or put my foot down and say "no!" I do know that when I'm tired my spirit it tired and I find myself much more easily swayed. It says that Samson was asleep when Delilah tested what he said. Over and over she tested him and wore him down. Although he was physically strong, his spirit was weak. He abused his gift of strength from God for his own purpose. Jesus said that we are to pray and watch because the "spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Mark 14:38) In Samson's case it was just the opposite.

Finally the end of the story, after he's lost not only his strength, but his eye sight, which I believe is significant. Everything he did prior to this event, it was what he wanted because he "saw it". Now he was blind to everything and could only focus on his purpose as to why God chose him. This is why it is better we choose to humble ourselves before God sooner instead of later so we don't bring humilation upon ourselves. Now Samson was ready destroy the Philistines that God had originally intended for him to defeat. He destroyed more Philistines that day than in all of his "strong" years. You see, no matter what, God's purpose will prevail, even if we mess it up. I think that is the moral of the stories in this book. We can learn a lot of lessons from the people in this book so we don't have to learn the hard way.

Monday, March 10, 2014

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Silver and Gold

The phrase “silver and gold” often makes me think of a song sung by Beryl Ives in one of those Christmas clay-mation movies.  But instead, this phrase was something I read in Exodus about God telling Moses to tell the Israelites to go and ask the Egyptians for clothing and articles of gold and silver (Exodus 11:1-3).  God was going to strike the Egyptians one more time with a plague and after that Pharaoh would let them go. Exodus 12:35 & 36 says And the people of Israel did as Moses had instructed; they asked the Egyptians for clothing and articles of silver and gold. 36 The Lord caused the Egyptians to look favorably on the Israelites, and they gave the Israelites whatever they asked for. So they stripped the Egyptians of their wealth!” (NLT)

I’ve always heard that the Israelites left Egypt wealthy and had everything they needed for their journey.  I’ve wondered about some of the items they received from the Egyptians, silver and gold.  What would they need with silver and gold in the desert? Maybe the silver and gold could be used when they reached the Promised Land to buy and sell with.

I began reading and looking at the scripture in more detail and it was soon after they reached the wilderness and Moses was up on Mount Sinai getting the Covenant or Law that they used that wealth to build a golden calf (Exodus 32:1-7).  What I really find interesting is that Aaron told them to remove their "gold earrings." Imagine how many earrings were piled up? What caught my attention was that it was gold earrings, not "jewelry." I realized that the gold earrings had been what marked their slavery in Egypt.  In ancient times, slaves were marked by a ring in their ear or nose. In their ignorance, they must have thought they were doing something good. 

When Moses returned with the law, the first two commandments had had already been broken, no other gods or images. The people may be broken the law, but Moses was so angry he literally broke the law.  God was angry and wanted to destroy this stiff-necked people, but Moses pleaded with God not to destroy them.  In Moses anger with them, he in turn melted the gold down into dust and had them pour it into the water and drink it.  I know God must have been angry that they made an idol out of it to worship, but they didn’t yet know about the law that Moses had been working on with God.  So to some degree they were ignorant.  Yet, I wonder if God was angered because that gold was for something else.  Kind of like when He blesses us financially and we spend it on our own pleasures before we give Him his portion. With God it’s all about sharing.

As I read on, I realized that God had them get these precious minerals for the building of the tabernacle. In Exodus 25 God gives instructions on what to use to build the Ark of the Covenant which is where the Law would be kept and the tabernacle that would hold the Ark and for His presence to dwell.  It was important for God to be able to come down and dwell among the children of Israel.  I’ve heard that gold represents “diety” in the Bible.  God being the great I AM would require a dwelling place that represented who He is.

After reading about all this silver and gold, I was reminded of Peter and John going to the temple and meeting the lame man there. Interesting that it was at the temple (formerly the tabernacle) where this event happened right after the Holy Spirit had come to them in the Upper Room.  Acts 3:6-10 says “Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.” 

These two stories, I think are divinely connected.  Under the Old Covenant, God was restricted to live in a building that He instructed man to build for His presence to dwell.  And even then, only the Priests were allowed to even go into the tabernacle and temple.  God needed the silver and gold to physically show them who He was and to give Him a dwelling place.  But after Jesus died and rose again, God was no longer bound to a building, but instead released to dwell in man.  Because of that no longer was silver and gold a necessity.  God’s spirit was now able to dwell in man and there was no longer a need for the temple.  Instead we are the temple (2 Corinthians 6:16 & 19 ). Interesting that the first act that Peter and John did after receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit, they demonstrated God’s power in them by healing a lame man.  They were now living under the New Covenant which Jesus bought and paid for with his own blood that every one of us has the opportunity to receive. A gift of eternal life which more precious that silver and gold.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Possessing Promises

 In the back ground I hear the swell of violins, horns, a bass drum and cymbals as God is telling Joshua that "it's time to possess the land."  Like something you might see at the end of a motion picture as your heart's been racing throughout the movie. As the ending draws near and you finally catch your breath with relief. “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:2-9.

It would almost seem that the first chapter in Joshua is the perfect ending to the story of the children of Israel coming into the Promised Land.  Instead, it's a new beginning of a new story or chapter as they cross over the Jordan River.  God instructed Joshua that once again he had to send spies to check out the first city that they needed to conquer.  Conquer?  I thought God was giving this land to them.  This is where my thoughts begin.

God was going to hand this land over to them, but it didn't come without a fight. When God gives us promises we have to "drive out" the inhabitants of doubt in our lives.  The first instruction God gave to Joshua after crossing the Jordan, was to build a memorial of twelve stones from the Jordan River.  This was to serve as a reminder for generations to come of them crossing the Jordan on dry ground (Joshua 4).  

What really caught my attention was the names of the inhabitants of Canaan.  Back in Genesis 9 when God cursed Ham for having looked upon Noah in his nakedness, he sent him away.  Canaan was a son of Ham. Genesis 10:15-20 says "Canaan was the father of
Sidon his firstborn, and of the Hittites, 16 Jebusites, Amorites, Girgashites, 17 Hivites, Arkites, Sinites, 18 Arvadites, Zemarites and Hamathites. Later the Canaanite clans scattered 19 and the borders of Canaan reached from Sidon toward Gerar as far as Gaza, and then toward Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboyim, as far as Lasha. 20 These are the sons of Ham by their clans and languages, in their territories and nations. These are the names of the inhabitants of the land that the children of Israel were to conquer.  That's when I realized that God wanted this land redeemed.  Just like He wants our heart's redeemed from sin.

Before Joshua and the people could begin taking their inheritance, God instructed them to go through a circumcision, again (Joshua 5:2).  They did this once in the wilderness, but this was a new generation that God was with. Under the New Covenant, God is concerned with the circumcision of our heart (Romans 2:29).  This is why it is important for us to daily "clean our hearts" of the trash that gets thrown in.  Whether it's by others or by our own admission. They were also to celebrate a Passover supper to remind them of what God did for them in Egypt.

After the fall of Jericho, God became angry with His people because of "sin in the camp." It was one person, Achan. He had taken a robe from Babylonia some gold and silver and had hidden them under his tent (Joshua 7:20-21).  Some translations call these the "devoted things."  Unforgiveness is kind of like these devoted things.  We treasure our hurts from other people in hopes that it will punish them.  When in reality it destroys us.  God doesn't want us to be devoted to our unforgiveness of others and even against ourselves.

In Joshua 9, Joshua and his men come across the Gibeonites. They were deceptive people in the fact that they had heard what the Israelites were doing to the cities in Canaan and thought if they came to them as travelers from a distant land they wouldn't kill them.  Just as they thought, Joshua believed them and made a peace treaty with them.  Because Joshua had made an oath to them, they were never driven out of the land and this caused them grief throughout history.  I think we often make "peace treaties" with our circumstances.  We say, "it is what it is." That's okay because often we can't do anything about our circumstances. I like to look at it like this. The definition of "circum" is to go around. The definition of "stance" is a position while standing.  Put this together and life is going to happen around us, but it's our stance that holds us in place with the hope of victory. We can live with our circumstances if we choose to live victorious rather than defeated.

After they had driven out the inhabitants and allotted the inheritance Joshua 21:44 & 45 says this, "The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their ancestors. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord gave all their enemies into their hands. 45 Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled."  God wants to fulfill his promises to his children, us.  We have to fight against the inhabitants of sin and unforgiveness.  It is crucial for us to keep our heart's pure and humble before the Lord. Jesus fought the battle for us at Calvary. He already won the battle. We already have victory. Like the Passover before they conquered Jericho, Jesus is our Passover sacrifice that conquered sin and redeemed us so that we could possess the promises of God in our lives.