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Friday, April 12, 2024

Seven Interesting Parallels in the book of Judges and the Present

 1. Failure to work together and giving up when things get tough. Once the individual tribes received their allotment, there still were areas to conquer. Though a few of the tribes joined together to help each other, most attempted to go it alone and only had limited success and gave up. [Judges 1:19, 21, 27, 29, 30, 31, 33, 34.] 

 2. Failure to teach their children the ways of the Lord. “That whole generation was also gathered to their ancestors, After them another generation rose up who did not know the Lord or the works he had done for Israel.” [Judges 2:10; see also 3:1-4] 

 3. They cried out to God only when they thought they needed Him. When suffering the consequences of their idolatry at the hands of their enemies, they would cry out to God, who in mercy and grace would send a leader. Their desire to be released from their suffering was greater than their desire to seek and follow God. [A major theme throughout the book.] 

 4. Weaknesses of the leaders led them to worship the trappings of victory, rather than the God of victory. After Gideon’s triumph, the people began to worship the ephod he had made, rather than the God who had given them the victory. [Judges 8:27] 

 5. Leadership started well but failed to finish well. [Gideon, Judges 8:25-32] 

 6. The people chose leaders who openly violated God's laws, choosing those with the appearance of “strength” rather than Godly character and leadership. [Abimelech-Judges 9, Samson-Judges 13-16] 

 7. The people followed ‘their own truth,” and not God. “In those days there was no king in Israel, everyone did whatever seemed right to him.” [Judges 17:6, 21:25] 

 So What? 

Rather than culture shaping our beliefs, culture has had a greater influence than the church. We need to embrace the principles given in Scripture. Unfortunately, the Christian community is more recognized for the divisions within and the moral failures of leaders than for living examples of Christ’s teachings. We have failed to show to those outside of the church the difference Christ can make in living with integrity and emotional health. We need to seek and worship God because of Who He is, not just because of what He can do for us, and seek leadership who will do the same. 

Let’s join in prayer and repentance to become all that God calls us to be and share the Gospel that is “good news” for our day and culture. 

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Focus: Just a few words of encouragement...

“Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and harsh labor.”   [Exodus 6:9]

Initially, the Israelites recognized Moses was sent from God, that God had heard their cries of suffering and was now going to lead them out of Egypt. But when Moses and Aaron go to Pharaoh and ask to leave, Pharaoh calls them “slackers” and increases their load of labor, requiring the same quota of bricks, but not giving them the straw to make them. Then, he has their overseers beat them because they are not “keeping up.” 

The people go to Moses complaining, stating that he was the cause of their suffering. Moses goes to God, telling Him that he had obeyed,  Pharaoh’s response and that the people are worse off than before. God assures Moses who “He Is” and tells the Israelites that now they will see the hand of God at work– but they cannot hear or believe because of their pain.

The pain and suffering are real. The blood from the lashes on the backs of the laborers was not an illusion. The hope of deliverance vanished in the hopelessness they saw in the situation.  When we shift our focus from the truth of who God is and His promise to the difficult circumstances we may be experiencing, we will lose hope and discouragement will come.  When we choose to focus on the truth of who God is, we are not denying the gravity of the pain, and the severity of our circumstances, but placing them into the hands of the only one who can really do anything about them. 

Through trusting God amid hurt, we get to know Him in deeper and richer ways: in distress and grief, our Comforter; in confusion, our Rock and Teacher; in sickness, our Healer; in danger, our Shelter.  Leaning on what s the truth of God in our circumstances builds our faith and helps us grow in Him.  

How can we do this?  Here are some ways to begin: 

1. Lay out your hurts and situation before the Lord in prayer. Share your honest feelings and fears, confusion, anger, and hurts to Him. 

2. Recall Who God is, His great works, His love for us that sent Jesus to suffer and die for us; recall His greatness, His mercy, and grace.  

3. Thank Him for Who He Is and that He has not changed. 

4. Give Him, lay before His feet all these feelings, people, situations, —give them all to Him in faith.  

5. Remember Jehoshaphat’s prayer when surrounded by the enemy: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” [2 Chronicles 20:12]. 

6. Thank Him for what He is going to do. Wait and hope in Him. 

7. Remember: You are not alone, He has promised never to leave or forsake us.