Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Prophetic Word

David is well-known as a shepherd, poet, musician, military leader, adulterer, city planner, and king. He united the tribes of Israel to form a viable nation. He established Jerusalem as Israel’s capital—and its centrality became a key Scriptural concept. He collected materials for the temple that his son Solomon would build and he made extensive plans for the design of the building. When he brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, David established temple liturgy.

Among all his accomplishments, however, David's prophetic messages are rarely emphasized. But Psalm 22, written by David, is a key prophetic image. It provides a vivid picture of Christ’s crucifixion: My God, My God, why have You forsaken me. . . ? I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint . . . They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots. (Ps. 22:1-8 NKJV)

Jesus learned Scripture as a child and He would have frequently quoted many Old Testament passages. He must have identified with David because many prophecies identified Him as the son of David. He knew all about the accomplishments of his forbearer.

Jesus also would have been familiar with Psalm 22, and He must have understood it as a prophecy related to His death. Although the rabbis or teachers of His time did not recognize a suffereing Savior, Jesus had a greater revelation than the rabbis. He knew how Romans killed people, and He knew how He would die. He told His disciples exactly what would happen to Him.

Jesus understood and received the prophetic Word of God.

Originally published March 6, 1987.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

God's Displeasure

King David brought the loosely-knit tribes of Israel together and formed them into a world power. During his reign, enemies on every side were subdued and humbled. Wealth poured into the nation's coffers.

But God never stopped dealing with David as an individual. In spite of all his accomplishments, David was still a human being and a sinner.

Psalm 39 reveals the inner struggles of a man who had to deal with the reality of sin and its consequences. David was weighed down by God’s displeasure. He said, You rebuke and discipline men for their sin . . . I dwell with you as an alien, a stranger. . . . (Ps. 39:11,12 NIV)

Is it possible that, at some point, David thought his position as king placed him on a pedestal of sorts? Perhaps he felt he no longer needed to face his sin. When God began to deal with him, his first thought was to hide his wrongdoing. He said, I will watch my ways. . . . (v. 1)

But it did not work. He describes what happened: My heart grew hot within me, and as I meditated, the fire burned. . . . (v. 3) Those of us who have tried to walk this road can only smile ruefully in recognition. The pain is real.

Out of pure desperation, David changed his direction. He turned his thoughts toward God and he opened up his heart for scrutiny by this God who offered salvation. He prayed, But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you. Save me. . . . (v. 7)

Originally published September 9, 1983 and September 5, 1986.
Picture: Palm trees, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 2008. Photo by Solveig.

Monday, September 28, 2009

He Gave Up His Plan

When people love God, they want to do something for Him. David had the power to do big things, and he wanted to build a temple for God’s glory. See now, he said, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells inside tent curtains. (II Sam. 7:2b NKJV) As a reigning king who had won many battles, he had collected much spoil that would provide precious metals to be used in the structure. It was an exciting project. (II Chron. 22)

God understood and valued David’s intentions. But God had a different plan. While David desired to build an earthly house for God, God desired to build a spiritual house through David. God said, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body . . . He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. (II Sam. 7:12b,13)

David might have been disappointed. (In fact, much later, Solomon referred to his father's disappointment.) However, instead of focusing on his loss, David focused on God's promise to him for the future generations. In response to a the prophet’s Word, he gave up his heartfelt and worthy desire—his precious plan—and submitted to God. He said in his heart, As for God, His way is perfect. . . . (II Sam. 22:31a)

Originally published October 2, 1987.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Inside the Tent

The ark of God’s presence did not have a permanent home during David’s lifetime. Before Saul and David became kings, the Israelites were a losely organized nation. The ark had rested in several locations and at one time it was even captured by the Philistines who were enemies of the Israelites. Although it had been returned, Saul had been content to leave the ark where it rested.

But the Ark of the Covenant was God’s ordained means of speaking to His people at that point in time. It was the focus of pure worship, and David determined in his heart to bring it to Jerusalem.

Moving the Ark was a monumental event—complete with tragedy, delay, blessing, and victory. David did finally succeed in bringing it all the way to Jerusalem where he had prepared a tent as temporary dwelling for it. Then he sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the Lord. (II Sam. 6:17 NIV)

Until David’s son Solomon built the temple, this tent housed the ark, and it was the center of worship. David wrote a psalm of thanksgiving: Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth. (Ps. 96:9 NKJV)

David did not feel restricted when he worshipped before the ark. He and all who desired could experience God's presence and holiness in the special tent.

Originally published January 11, 1985.
Picture: Commercial display, Greater Twin City area, 2009. Photo by Solveig.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Evil Conceived

God chose David to replace Saul as king, but David faced opposition to the end. A Benjamite named Cush (Saul had been from the tribe of Benjamin) sought to kill David. David, again fleeing for his life, wrote, He who is pregnant with evil and conceives trouble gives birth to disillusionment. (Ps. 7:14 NIV)

How strange that David recorded the psychology of evil-minded Cush in Psalm 7. But it has been preserved in Scripture so we can better understand the dangers of evil.

Perhaps David understood evil because he fought so many battles against it within himself—even while he fled from evil in others. Perhaps he had been pregnant with evil thoughts at some time during his many conflicts. He knew such thoughts eventually conceive and give birth. If evil thoughts remain unconfessed—remain outside of God’s grace—they seem to have life on their own.

The consequences of unconfessed evil are disastrous. He who digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit he had made. The trouble he caused recoils on himself; his violence comes down on his own head. (v. 15,16)

Truly, when evil is birthed, the result is disillusionment. For evil cannot satisfy. Instead, it returns to destroy those who give in to it.

Originally published June 3, 1988.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Praising God

Because human nature wants to focus on troubles, feelings, or perhaps a shaky future, many people have a hard time praising God during difficult circumstances.

But it’s possible to rise above human nature—at least some of the time. While David was hiding from Saul, he learned to praise God while living under great duress. Before he became King he even hid among neighboring tribes where Saul wouldn’t find him. At one point he hid with King Achish of Gath—among the Philistines—and pretended insanity so the Philistines wouldn’t kill him!

The introduction to Psalm 34 gives us an example of David's words written during times of extreme duress. As a result, we have this psalm of praise: “I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. . . . I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. . . . O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him . . . The Lord is nigh [near] unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. (Ps. 34:1,4,8,18 KJV)

Praise lifted David out of despair into the wonder and glory of his God.

Originally published February 13, 1987.
Picture: Greater Twin City area, 2009. Photo by Solveig.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Place of Refuge and Danger

The introduction to Psalm 18 tells us that David wrote this psalm when he was finally free from the attacks of many enemies, including Saul. It recounts some a strategic lesson he learned during the years when he found refuge in a wilderness.

After leaving Nob, David fled to the rock caves of Adullum, so he could have had a specific image in mind when he wrote, God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. (Ps. 18:2b NIV) He describes his desperate circumstance: The chords of the grave coiled around me; the snare of death confronted me. In my distress I called to the Lord. . . . (v. 5b, 6a)

But then we read, the foundations of the mountains shook. . . . (v. 7b) The rocks that had provided shelter had become a place of danger!

This can happen when we cry out to God. He might provide a place of refuge. But later, when we cry out again, He might answer by shaking the very things He gave us for security in the past. That’s when we’re called to draw from His abiding presence. David wrote, He reached down from on high and took hold of me . . . the Lord was my support. (v. 16,18)

His circumstances had changed, but his God had not.

The same holds true today. Everything around us can seem to crumble when things don’t fit our doctrine or theology—our concept of God. But His reality is bigger than circumstances. He is bigger than we can imagine. He is with us through the depths.

Originally published August 5, 1988.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Green Olive Tree

Saul became jealous of David—not only because David's of ever-increasing success on the battlefield. He also sensed the young man's anointing and destiny. Saul knew his kingdom was in jeopardy.

David eventually had to flee for his life. As he journeyed he made a brief stop at Nob where the Ark of the Covenant rested. While there, the priest Ahimelech fed him. The introductory lines of Psalm 52 describes David's response when he learned what happened in Nob after he left.

A man named Doeg saw David with the priest Ahimelech. Doeg, a man of evil heart, told Saul that Ahimelech had helped David. Because of Doeg’s betrayal, Saul killed eighty-five of God’s anointed priests and David’s life as a fugitive began in earnest. (I Sam. 21 &22)

David gained new appreciation for the depths of Saul’s intent that day. He was concerned about his own life, but he was appalled by the injustice of Saul's actions against God’s servants. And he mourned the loss. Small wonder that he cried, Why do you boast, O mighty man, of mischief done against the godly. . . ? God will break you down forever. (Ps. 51:1,5a RSV)

But David was not content to merely decry evil in others. He examined his own position as well—and he sought to reaffirm it. The psalm does not end until he could say, But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. (v. 8a) He knew he had to come before God and trust in God's love in spite of a great tragedy.

Originally published August 5, 1988.
Picture: Commercial display, West Fargp, 2009. Photo by Solveig.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Rising above Taunts and Threats

David was a young boy who stayed home and took care of his father’s sheep during the early years of Saul’s reign. Out in the fields, he developed an intimate relationship with his God and he learned to trust God’s leading and protection. When his father sent him to check on the status of his older brothers who were part of Saul’s army, David had confidence in the God who had proven Himself faithful.

When David expressed his confidence, however, his brothers taunted him.

This was a test and an important first step for David. He would not have gone against Goliath if he had not first stood strong against his own brothers.

When he did go against the giant named Goliath in a fight to the death, Goliath came at him with threats as well as more taunts. The Bible says Goliath looked down upon him as someone insignificant. He cursed David by his gods. He said, Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field. (I Sam. 17:42,44 NKJV)

David had something to say in return: I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts. . . This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand . . . for the battle is the Lord’s. . . . (v. 45,46) And once again, David prevailed because God gave him the victory.

If David was afraid, the Bible does not tell us. He knew his God and he knew his God was in control, regardless of anything that anyone might say.

Originally published April 18, 1986.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

If King Saul Had Repented

Saul began his reign as a good king. He was humble because he was insecure. During the early days of his reign he listened to Samuel and accepted direction from the prophet. Then, as Samuel had foretold, Saul’s focus changed from God to himself. After a victory over the Amalekites—an occasion when he did not obey God—Saul built a monument to himself. (I Sam. 15:12)

God spoke to His prophet Samuel about the event and told Samuel that He regretted making Saul king: he has turned back from following Me. . . . (v. 11 NKJV)

Samuel felt the weight, and sought God all through the night. (v. 11) The next day he confronted Saul with God’s message.

If Saul had repented—and maintained a repentant heart—he could have remained king. But he did not. Instead, he blamed others. But the people. . . . he said. (v. 21)

At that point a devastated Samuel responded with a hard word: Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king. (vs. 22,23) Saul lost his kingdom because he refused to repent. Samuel anointed David to replace him.

Originally published September 28, 1990.
Picture: Greater Twin City area, 2009. Photo by Solveig.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Solemnly Forewarned

After the prophet Samuel had served many years as the Israelite’s judge—years during which he judged the people fairly—they decided they wanted a king like the nations that surrounded them.

Samuel was distraught. He felt they were rejecting him and his ministry, but God spoke to Samuel and provided a different viewpoint: they have rejected Me . . . However, you shall solemnly forewarn them and show them the behavior of the king who will reign. . . . ( I Sam. 8:7,9 NKJV)

Samuel obeyed God and warned the people as God said he should. He listed the cruel demands and devices of kings. But when they persisted, and when God arranged the circumstances, Samuel followed God’s Word to him. He anointed Saul—and the people of Israel made Saul their king.

But Samuel was still disturbed. Although he had warned the people once, he warned them again: if you do not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel . . . that Lord will be against you. . . . 12:14,15) He emphasized that the people must serve and obey God rather than the king, but he knew it his heart, that his warnings would not have a lasting effect. He knew the people would turn to their king. And yet, as a prophet, he felt compelled to warn them. (12:14,15)

Originally published September 19, 1986.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Moments of Love?

Do we experience the love of Jesus? Even more significantly, do we experience loving Him in return? Does the thought of Jesus bring joy?

Peter said, Though you have not seen him, you love him . . . and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy. . . . (I Pet. 1:8 NIV)

Of course, there will be times when we don’t feel love. There are times when love will be a choice—even if we feel more-or-less dead inside. But a close walk with God—just like a close walk with any other person—should include moments of tangible love and moments of joy.

These moments may come when we set time aside to be with Him—to pray, to ask questions, or to enjoy His Presence. They may come when we struggle with a specific task He sets before us. They may even come when we aren’t consciously thinking of Him at all.

Those special moments are like visitations. Whatever the circumstance, treasure His tangible expressions of love. We are precious in His sight, and He wants to be precious in our sight. He desires a love relationship with His children.

Originally published February 17, 1989.
Picture: Como Park, St. Paul, MN 2009. Photo by Solveig.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Abounding in Mercy

A young woman said, I love the word “abounding.” She smiled when the made the statement, feeling a bit foolish over her emphasis on a single word. She was referring to its use in a psalm she had read that morning: The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. (Ps. 103:8 NKJV) By was of explanation she went on to say, “It sounds so,” and she paused while extending her arms, “inclusive. It sounds so round . . . like it’s expanding.”

According to the psalm, God desires to be inclusive and His kingdom is always expanding. The psalm says that God doesn’t remain angry forever. He continually expands His love as He reaches out to accept all who come to Him with repentant hearts. In addition, as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. (v. 11,12)

Furthermore, God’s mercy never ends. It expands into eternity. (v. 17) All who belong to Him benefit from His never-ending, inclusive, expanding, and abounding mercy—in this life and in heaven where He reigns as King of Kings and Lord of Lord.(v. 19)

Originally published February 7, 1992.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Who Needs God?

Who needs God?

All sorts of people need God.

Psalm 107 tells us about people who suffered from emotional distress or fainting hearts. Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distress. (v. 6 KJV)

Other people experienced calamities, financial troubles, and lost hopes. These also fell down . . . Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses. (v. 13)

Still others were afflicted by physical disease. And so, they also, cry unto the Lord in their trouble. And He saved them out of their distresses. (v. 19)

And finally, some lived with physical danger, typified by those who go down to the sea in ships. . . . (v. 23) And they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and He bringeth them out of their distresses. (v, 28)

All sorts of people can recognize God’s desire to save sinners. Yes, especially and specifically the people who know they are sinners. The people of the psalm lived with an understanding of judgment for their sin. But they also knew God could redeem them—could salvage their lives.

Only God can do the impossible.

Originally published December 6, 1991.
Picture: Como Park, St. Paul, MN 2009. Photo by Solveig.

Monday, September 14, 2009

He Understands

An omniscient God is an awesome Being—because He truly knows everything. The book of Hebrews tells us, all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. (Heb. 4:13 NKJV)

This would be overwhelming and frightening if God’s purpose was judgment. But He has another reason for searching people’s hearts. He desires to bring us to Himself. Furthermore, we’re told he will sympathize with our weaknesses. . . . (v. 15)

Jesus our High Priest died on the cross as a sacrifice for sin because He understood our dilemma. And He alone could pay the penalty for sin—because He alone is perfect or without sin. So although He knows all things—including our sin—He identified with our sinful human nature. His sacrifice is effective because He is one of us—but one of us without sin.

And so, the writer of Hebrews continues with an invitation from the awesome, omniscient God: Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (v. 16)

Are you glad God knows us—knows you? That He understands every need? That He understands sin and sent Jesus to pay the price? Respond to His invitation today. Ask Him to reveal Himself. Enter into His goodness, His mercy, His grace.

Originally published March 23, 1990.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Prophetic Prayer

On the crucial day when Hannah returned to Shiloh to leave her son Samuel with Eli the priest, she could have focused on her loss. Instead, she prayed. I smile at my enemies, she said, because I rejoice in Your salvation. (I Sam. 2:1 NKJV)

God did something special for Hannah that day. He gave her a vision and she prayed prophetically. She looked beyond the painful task at hand and looked into the future. In that moment, because she had released her son, she understood God’s plan for Israel and all humanity. She prophetically proclaimed the Second Coming of the Son of God. For by strength no man shall prevail, she declared. The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken in pieces . . .The Lord will judge the ends of the earth. He will give strength to His king, and exalt the horn of His anointed. (v. 10)

We could gloss over Hannah’s trauma, decide it would be easy for her to leave her little Samuel with Eli because he was in God’s care. The Bible gives us a glimpse of reality. As the family continued their yearly pilgrimages to Shiloh, Hannah continued to provide for him. She took robes that she had painstakingly made for her son so he would have something to wear during the coming year.

Can you imagine those yearly meetings?

We don’t know if Hannah asked for more children, but God gave her three additional sons and two daughters. No longer barren, she walked in His blessings. God honored the woman of faith who rejoiced in Him.

Originally published June 4, 1993.
Picture: Como Park, St. Paul, MN, 2009. Photo by Solveig.

Friday, September 11, 2009

She Made a Vow

Sometimes God’s people have to get serious when they pray. And sometimes, when they get serious, they make a vow.

Hannah did. After years of taunting and emotional persecution by members of the family, she had a purpose when she went on the family’s yearly pilgrimage to the Tabernacle in Shiloh. There she wept and bared her heart before God, and then she prayed, [I]f you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord . . .” (I Sam. 1:11a NIV)

After Eli the priest blessed her, Hannah returned home, and within a year she gave birth to Samuel. Several years later, when Samuel was weaned, Hannah fulfilled her vow. She took him back to Shiloh, and there she gave him to the Lord by placing him with Eli.

Samuel ministered to the Lord in Shiloh. He became a prophet who called Israel back to God. He was also the last judge to serve as the governmental leader of Israel. He even anointed Saul, the first king—and then he anointed King David.

The heart-felt vow of the desperate Hannah helped shape the history of Israel.

Originally published May 13, 1983.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

"I Poured Out My Soul"

Why is it hard to admit failure and disappointment? Psychologists tell us it is dangerous to stuff such feelings because, when we do, they eat away at our internal strengths.

There is a Biblical alternative. We see it in Hannah, wife of Elkannah. She thought herself a failure when she couldn’t produce a child. She might have suppressed her disappointment for some time, but eventually she wept.

Hannah’s husband tried to console her by asking her to stop weeping. That might have been a convenient solution for Elkanah, but it would have been detrimental for Hannah.

God responded to the depths of Hannah’s sorrow. When she yielded to weeping, she released pent-up emotions and she directed her sorrows to the One who could help. The Bible says, she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish. (I Sam. 1:10 NKJV) She said of the experience, [I] poured out my soul. . . . (v. 15)

Eli the priest did not understand and was judgmental until she spoke to him. Then he understood and responded to Hannah with a word from God. Hannah received the word in faith and, when she did, God set her free from the burden of failure.

Originally published January 17, 1992.
Picture: Como Park, St. Paul, MN, 2009. Photo by Solveig.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Good and Evil Tests

Some people test God because they sincerely want answers. But some people test God because they want to prove Him wrong. That was true throughout both the Old and New Testaments. When the Pharisees asked Jesus if they should pay taxes, Jesus understood they had an evil purpose. He said, Why do you test me. . . ? (Mk. 12, 15,17 NKJV) He knew they weren’t interested in the answer. They just wanted to trick Him.

Next, the Sadducees tested Jesus with evil in their hearts. (v. 18-27)

Then one of the scribes came. . . . (v. 28) And this man was different. Although he tested Jesus by asking a hard question, he did so with a pure motive. Jesus answered him, and the two had a discussion. Jesus recognized the scribe’s motives—and appreciated the scribe’s wise replies. Jesus said to the scribe, You are not far from the kingdom of God. (v. 34)

The scribe desired truth. Jesus’ response to him demonstrated His pleasure in a person who tests rightly—who asks questions because he seeks God.

Originally published May 5, 1989.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Enemy Within

The Israelites struggled for 400 years after entering Canaan before they actually possessed the land God had promised. During many of those years, they endured hardship. At one time, the neighboring nation of Midian was so strong that the Israelites lived in mountain crevices and caves. Often, when they planted their crops, the Midianites or other nations would raid them and take their harvest.

But when the Israelites turned away from idols to their true God—when they cried out to the Lord for help (v. 6)—He answered their prayers.

One day the Angel of the Lord came to an inexperienced youth named Gideon, telling him he would lead the Israelites in battle against the Midianites. But the angel's first assignment was a special task. Before he could defeat an enemy from another nation, he must defeat the enemy within. God said, Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. Then build a proper kind of altar to the Lord. . . . (v. 25,26 NIV)

This was no small test. Gideon knew people would react in anger and he was afraid for his life. He asked for signs to reassure him all would go well before he followed God’s instruction—and God, who knew his heart, honored his ultimate obedience.

All went well when he followed God's instructions. After that, with a unique and remarkable strategy he led the people and defeated the Midianites. Then he served as an Israelite judge (governmental leader) for 40 years.

Originally published October 5, 1984.
Picture: Como Park, St. Paul, MN, 2009. Photo by Solveig.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Throw Them Away

The Canaanites were the people who occupied the promised land before the Israelites arrived. They worshipped idols, and they often enshrined their idols on hills. These idols were a problem for the Israelites. There were even times when the Israelites loved the idols.

We wonder why they would, but idols did not tell them they were sinners. Idols did not tell them to repent—or to feel sorry for sin—or to give up sin. In fact, the people who worshipped idols delighted in encouraging others to get involved in idol worship. When more were involved, they could feel just a little bit better about their activities. At one point, the Israelites said to God’s servant, Give us no more visions of what is right. Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. (Is. 30:10b NIV) They gave themselves to sin.

Throughout Israel’s history, however, a faithful remnant of believers resisted idol worship. And then there were the godly prophets who faithfully brought God's messages of truth.

True messages from God share two facets of His love. Isaiah prophesied judgment. He also prophesied healing from the effects of sin. And he spoke about a time when the Israelites would return to the Lord and throw them [their idols] away. (v. 22)

The Israelites might have felt they could live life however they pleased when they worshipped idols that remained silent. But during times of trouble, the Israelites discovered problems with a god who said nothing—who seemed to be asleep. Then they needed and wanted a living God.

Originally published April 25, 1984 and June 22, 1984.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Respond to the Call

Deborah was one of the early judges or governmental leaders of the Israelites after they settled in Canaan. She was also a prophetess, and she met the needs of the people as she sat under a Palm tree. Truly, these were primitive people living in primitive times—but they responded to a woman’s leadership.

When Israel was called to fight a Canaanite commander named Sisera, Deborah knew it was a time to exercise a different type of leadership. She became a military leader, and in this new position she called for a united effort by reaching out to all twelve tribes of Israel.

Some responded and some did not, but with her general named Barak, she led the army into battle. Then another woman, a woman named Jael , entered the story by responding to the call as well. She killed the enemy general!

When it was over—and when the battle was won through the efforts of many and through the initiatives of two women—Deborah sang a song of victory. She mentioned those who failed to respond: there was much searching of heart . . . Why did you stay among the campfires. . . ? (Judges 5:15c,16a NIV) She emphasized those who came forward to join: When the princes in Israel take the lead, when the people willingly offer themselves—praise the Lord! (v. 2)

God had encouraged the people and given them the faith, wisdom, and strength they needed to prevail. Deborah had reason to rejoice.

Originally published July 29, 1988.
Picture: Commercial landscape, Fargo, 2009. Photo by Solveig.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Give Me This Mountain

Caleb was fearless during the early days of Israel’s wandering through the Wilderness. As one of twelve spies sent into Canaan, he recommended taking immediate possession of the land.

Because that didn’t happen, Moses promised Caleb that he would receive land as an inheritance for him and his children when they eventually did enter—because he had, “wholly followed the Lord.” (Josh. 14:9b NKJV)

For forty years Caleb wandered through the wilderness with the rest of the Israelites, but his faith remained strong and he did not forget the promise. But when they finally entered Canaan, Moses was dead. And so Caleb approached his friend Joshua and said, As yet I am as strong this day as I was on the day that Moses sent me. Now therefore, give me this mountain. . . . (v. 11a,12a)

Caleb did not think the task would be small—he even reminded Joshua of the giant Anakim who lived in fortified cities. But he declared God would be with him and he would defeat them.

Joshua blessed him, and gave Hebron to Caleb. . . . (v. 13a) And Caleb, fearless for the glory of God, did what he said he would do. He conquered a mountain.

Originally published June 5, 1987.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Only Be Strong

It’s never easy to replace a strong leader. Joshua had served as Moses’ assistant during the Israelites 40 years in the wilderness. As the assistant, Joshua witnessed multiple miracles. He led the Israelites in battle. He even entered the cloud of God’s presence with Moses when they climbed up Mount Sinai. Joshua received the best training possible.

But Moses had carried all the authority and all the responsibility. After Moses died, when Joshua assumed the position of leadership, Joshua responded as a normal human responds. He was afraid and he felt weighed down by the burden and challenge.

God prepared Joshua by speaking a Word into his heart that specifically addressed his fear: Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land. . . . (Josh. 1:6a NKJV)

Remarkable things happen inside a person who hears and believes God’s Word. Joshua got the message, and the people were ready for his leadership. They said, All that you command us we will do . . . Just as we heeded Moses in all things, so we will heed you.” (v. 16a,17a)

And so, when the time came to cross the Jordan and enter Canaan, Joshua was ready. He provided the leadership necessary for his army and for the people.

Originally published September 4, 1987.
Picture: Commercial display, Grand Forks, 2009. Photo by Solveig.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Little by Little

Human nature wants instant success.

Sometimes God works that way in our behalf. The Bible tells of many occasions when individuals or nations were instantly delivered—set free—from terrible affliction or oppression.

But the Bible also tells us that sometimes God worked slowly—over a period of time. When the Israelites were about to conquer Canaan, God spoke through their leader Moses that they would not experience quick, painless victory. Rather, they would gradually dominate the people they conquered. He said, And he Lord your God will drive out those nations before you little by little; you will be unable to destroy them at once. . . . (Deut. 7:2 2 NKJV)

Moses also said, [N]o one shall be able to stand against you. . . . (v. 24b)

The words must have been a shock to the Israelites. During their march toward Canaan, they won swift victories. Hearing from Moses that the future would be different surely challenged their mindset and their resolve, but the promise of ultimate victory was their goal. When they had trouble they could remember the promise and trust the God who gave the promise.

Originally published July 31, 1987.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

He Cares, Provides, and Protects

The Israelites were unique among ancient cultures. While other nations had different gods for different aspects of life, the God of Israel was One God, and He was Lord of every aspect of their lives. He was God of agriculture and God of the hunt. He directed military campaigns and commercial endeavors. He regulated public and private conduct.

One psalm reads, Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house: your children like olive plants all around your your table. (Ps. 128:3 NKJV) Another psalm reads, In my distress I cried unto the Lord, and He heard me. Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue. (Ps. 120:1,2)

Central to their belief in an all-pervasive God was their belief in a God who cared about them—a God who provided for them and protected them: Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people, from this time forth and forever. (Ps. 125:1,2)

Originally published May 22, 1992.
Picture: Lindenwood Park, Fargo, 2009. Photo by Solveig.