Joel 3

Not Choosing is also a Choice

Have you ever been caught betwixt two courses of action, both of which had profound implications morally, monetarily, socially, or physically, only to find yourself paralyzed? I’ve been there.

Recently I had the opportunity to purchase a barely used front-loading washing machine. This machine sold at retail for over $600. It was offered to me for $350.

I found myself paralyzed. I didn’t know what to do. I already had a perfectly functioning washing machine at home. True it is ancient, but it still works. I didn’t have $350 extra dollars laying around. However, I’m sure I could have come up with it if I had tried. I didn’t want to be seen as taking advantage of the seller. But then again, our washing machine isn’t going to last forever, parts will wear out, it will eventually leak or simply stop functioning…

I vacillated, and the machine was sold to someone else during the several-day period that I was trying to make up my mind. By not choosing, I had chosen. The message implied to the seller was that I was not interested enough to act. There is an old axiom that says;

“Better a bird in hand than two in the bush.”

The seller found a bird in his hand rather than chase the ones in the bushes – me.

You could describe my situation as a valley of decision. I say valley, because I needed to climb up and out in order to move on, before progress could be evidenced. Instead I sat there. The seller never saw my head clear the valley rim.

What other things am I in a valley of decision about?

Am I still vacillating about obeying traffic laws? Am I guarding my eyes like a savage warrior, or do I allow the occasional visual dalliance to cross my optic nerves? Do I invest regular time getting to know God, or is he a casual acquaintance who hopefully understands my busy schedule? Do I keep putting off work assignments hoping that they’ll eventually become irrelevant or forgotten?

Thousands upon thousands are waiting in the valley of decision. It is there that the day of the LORD will soon arrive. – Joel 3:14

Just like the washing machine deal, there is a day coming when it will be too late. And we don’t know when it is. But it is much closer than we think, it will soon arrive. Thousands upon thousands will feign surprise. But in reality they have already chosen. For you see, in the verse above, the Hebrew word translated as ‘decision’ is a past participle. It indicates that the decision has happened already. By going into the valley of decision, and staying there – waiting – the decision has been made. Not choosing is a choice.

Heavenly Father, may I have the courage to reject Adam’s blood-line curse of passivity. Please give me wisdom when needed, and a holy boldness to seize whatever opportunities are presented. Please grant to me the strength to choose that which brings you pleasure, not my enemy. Help me to love you better and to choose you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

We are to go through the valley, don’t stop. Jan

Joel 2

A Warning

Recently a friend and I visited a spiritual father, a true sage, in the hospital. I love to hear this man recount his exploits of how he shared the good news of Jesus around the world. He is a true missionary, a disciple. He’s been in prison, been in danger while behind the iron curtain of communism, experienced the intolerance of islam, seen the beauty of Jerusalem, and lived the life of one completely sold out to Jesus Christ. If there is any doubt, let me put it plainly, I respect and trust this man more than most I’ve ever known. So when he motioned for us to lean in a bit closer while he was talking, believe me we did. We did not want to miss any pearls of wisdom.

However, what he had to say were not words of encouragement, they were a prophetic warning. He warned that within the next 12 to 24 months we would start to see the persecution of Christianity. He predicted the loss of tax-exempt status for religious organizations. In short, he said that the time of the end is near.

Did he say this to frighten us. No, absolutely not. He told us so that we would be prepared, so that the times would not take us by surprise. And I believe that he told us so that we can try to do something about it.

That is why the LORD says, “Turn to me now, while there is time! Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief; instead, tear your hearts.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful. He is not easily angered. He is filled with kindness and is eager not to punish you. Who knows? Perhaps even yet he will give you a reprieve, sending you a blessing instead of this terrible curse. – Joel 2:12-14a

There are numerous incidents in scripture where the Lord announced destruction and a curse on his people, if they did not change. I believe that we still have a chance for a reprieve. Eventually the end will come, just as it has been foretold in the book of Revelation, the book of Daniel and others. However, that day does not have the be just yet.

Heavenly Father spare your people. They belong to you, so don’t let us become an object of mockery. Don’t let the name “Christian” become a proverb of unbelievers who say, ‘Where is their God? He must be helpless!'” Father please have mercy on us and our children. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Standing between the altar and the people. Jan

Joel 1

Ingrained Memory

I recall with some amusement how my aunt Lydie and uncle Jara would rinse, and hang to dry, used zip-lock bags and used paper towels. Their pantry was lined with neatly stacked and labeled coffee jars, re-purposed for holding anything from flour to peanuts. They kept their air-conditioner set at an uncomfortable 80 degrees or more Fahrenheit. And despite living solely off of Social Security in their retirement years they managed to pay all of their bills, send money to numerous charities, buy gifts for their relatives special occasions, and amass a sizable nest-egg in the bank. They were very frugal.

My wife’s mother, while not to the extremes of my aunt and uncle, would wash and reuse plastic ‘solo’ cups. She was careful about every penny that she spent.

Why did that generation live that way?

Because they remembered.

Hear this, you leaders of the people! Everyone listen! In all your history, has anything like this ever happened before? Tell your children about it in the years to come. Pass the awful story down from generation to generation. – Joel 1:2-3

They remembered what it was like to be in severe want. They lived through the world-wide great depression. Nothing like it had ever happened in their or their relatives memories. My aunt and uncle and my mother-in-law were just children when hunger and joblessness washed over the nations of the world like a flood. They knew what it was like to go to bed hungry. And they determined that with whatever power they had within them they would save and conserve for those days and times when they might be in need again. Interestingly, despite their thrifty ways, one thing that all of them shared was that anyone who came to their homes never left hungry.

Why do we know about their struggles? Because they did pass the awful story down from their generation to the next. They warned us. They showed us how they lived.

Sadly we did not listen well. It appears as though the world is slowly being swallowed up in another flood of hunger and joblessness. And we have not prepared for our rainy day as we should have, debt is at astonishing levels. Savings are abysmal. How bad does it have to get before we heed Joel’s warning?

Announce a time of fasting; call the people together for a solemn meeting. Bring the leaders and all the people into the Temple of the LORD  your God, and cry out to him there. – Joel 1:14

He warned the people not to taunt them, but to show them the way out. God is not capricious, he truly desires the best for us. Even in the opening statement of Joel’s prophetic condemnation to the people there was hope. Or did you not notice that the people were told to “tell your children” and pass it down “from generation to generation”? If they were going to be wiped out by hunger, enemies and disease there would be no children or generations to which knowledge could be passed down.

Father, forgive us for our flagrant consumerism, our disregard for principles of saving and sharing which you clearly spell out in your word. Please heal our land, restore your hand of blessing once again. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

What was I writing about? Jan

Judges 21

And that’s where Hillbillies come from

Seriously? I was reading the last chapter of Judges and I was stunned by the “advice” given to the women-less men of the tribe of Benjamin.

Then they thought of the annual festival of the LORD held in Shiloh, between Lebonah and Bethel, along the east side of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem. They told the men of Benjamin who still needed wives, “Go and hide in the vineyards. When the women of Shiloh come out for their dances, rush out from the vineyards, and each of you can take one of them home to be your wife!

So the men of Benjamin did as they were told. They kidnapped the women who took part in the celebration and carried them off to the land of their own inheritance. Then they rebuilt their towns and lived in them. – Judges 21:19-21,23

Great advice, kidnap someone and make them your wife. Sounds just a tad cruel to me. But wait, there’s more! And here’s where it gets twilight zonish in my opinion. They did this 200 times!

Um, you’d think that word would spread rather quickly that women were disappearing on the Bethel -Shechem highway.

Shiloh must have had an overabundance of ugly and or stupid young women. Maybe it was something in the water. I can see the conversation now.

Jeddediah says to his daughter Hogolah. “Daughter, the Lord has not graced you with fair features, wisdom, or wealthy parents. But alas, the Lord knows why. I want you to go on a little trip to Shechem, take your time, loiter in the woods, dance a bit.”

Here comes the bride… two-hundred times. Gotcha!

In those days Israel had no king, so the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes. – Judges 21:25

Yeah, like that’s an excuse. You had the written law. You should have known better. As they saying goes, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.” The entire episode with the near extermination of the tribe of Benjamin should have never happened. Once it did, Israel kept digging a pit for themselves that got deeper and deeper.

Father, may I not act rashly, especially when I feel I have justification. Please give me the grace to step back and listen for the voice of your Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I think they were dancing to the sound of Dueling Banjos. Jan

Judges 20

The Warriors of Israel

There are certain traits that we associate with masculinity. In the book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, Dr. John Gray, after extensive research, came up with a list of attributes, words, or values that are associated with men. They are;

  • Competence
  • Power
  • Efficiency
  • Achievement
  • Skills
  • Proving Oneself
  • Results
  • Accomplishment
  • Objects
  • Technology
  • Goal Oriented
  • Self-sufficiency
  • Success
  • Competition

I’d venture to say that nearly every boy has heard, “stop crying”, “grow up”, “be a man”, “just suck it up”, “quit being a baby about it”, “crying never changed anything”, and similar statements.

Men are expected to be able to accidentally cut off a limb, duct-tape it back on, use the blood for lubricant, and keep working without ever showing any outward indication of pain. And if it is not too much of an inconvenience they might seek medical attention when and only when the task they were working on is completed.

I noticed something in scripture today about the warriors of Israel that directly contradicts the current culture’s lunacy.

The Israelites in Judges chapter twenty are on a righteous mission to exact justice for great evil. Most unexpectedly they are severely beaten by the bad-guys in the first encounter – 22,000 died.

But the Israelites took courage and assembled at the same place they had fought the previous day. (For they had gone up to Bethel and wept in the presence of the LORD until evening. Then they asked the LORD, “Should we fight against our relatives from Benjamin again?” And the LORD said, “Go out and fight against them.”) – Judges 20:22-23

So they went out to fight again, and got severely beaten again – another 18,000 dead.

Then all the Israelites went up to Bethel and wept in the presence of the LORD and fasted until evening. They also brought burnt offerings and peace offerings to the LORD. – Judges 20:26

These battle-hardened warriors, experts in inflicting destruction and death, were openly weeping in front of each other and God – all day until evening!

The word wept is the Hebrew word bakah, which means to weep bitterly, to wail. This was no quiet affair of tears softly falling on the ground. The men were in anguish over their defeat and the loss of their friends’ and relatives’ lives.

Also notice that in verse twenty-three they are fighting against their relatives from Benjamin. And they succeeded, only 600 men of Benjamin survived.

Did they rejoice, suppress familial feelings, and act macho, grunting and pawing at the ground about their success?

And the people went to Bethel and sat in the presence of God until evening, raising their voices and weeping bitterly. “O LORD, God of Israel,” they cried out, “why has this happened? Now one of our tribes is missing!” – Judges 21:2-3

Again they wept – bitterly. It would appear to me that weeping is not solely reserved for the Venusian race. It is a most definitely manly in the appropriate circumstance.

Father, may I live my life, may I allow my emotions, to be dictated by you and how you fashioned me. Please forgive me for how much I allow the culture to influence who I am. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Weep with those who weep. Rejoice with those who rejoice.
Peace, Jan

Judges 19

The Concubine

What is a concubine? I’d never really thought much about that word until I saw a movie version of the Dune book series. In it, one of the characters talked about how wives inherited the name and created alliances by being married amongst the royal houses, but concubines were the woman that the man chose to bear his children and receive his love.

Dictionary.com defined the word concubine as – a female conjugally united to a man, but in a relation inferior to that of a wife. Among the early Jews, from various causes, the difference between a wife and a concubine was less marked than it would be amongst us. The concubine was a wife of secondary rank. There are various laws recorded providing for their protection (Ex. 21:7; Deut. 21:10-14), and setting limits to the relation they sustained to the household to which they belonged (Gen. 21:14; 25:6). They had no authority in the family, nor could they share in the household government.

Now in those days Israel had no king. There was a man from the tribe of Levi living in a remote area of the hill country of Ephraim. One day he brought home a woman from Bethlehem in Judah to be his concubine. – Judges 19:1

For whatever reason, the Levite man described in the verse above chose to add a woman to his life.  But he did not bestow the right of “wife” on her. Maybe he was just horny. Maybe his parents had already picked out a different woman to create a strategic alliance between two households. Whatever the reason, she knew she was viewed as lesser rank.

But she was unfaithful to him and returned to her father’s home in Bethlehem. – Judges 19:2

Say what? Unfaithful to him and returned to her father’s home? No, I don’t think so. “Unfaithful to him” would have resulted in the death-penalty for her. Something is amiss here.

The New Living Translation Second Edition words verse two a bit differently.

But she became angry with him and returned to her father’s home in Bethlehem. – Judges 19:2 (NLTse)

This makes a lot more sense, especially in light of what the man did in response – nothing at first. He stewed for quite some time, and then, four months later, he went to win her back.

After about four months, her husband took a servant and an extra donkey to Bethlehem to persuade her to come back. When he arrived at her father’s house, she took him inside, and her father welcomed him. – Judges 19:2b-3

If she had been unfaithful to him he would have had her executed. He would have never spoken kindly to her (as some translations read), she would not have willingly took him into her father’s home, and her father would not have welcomed him. He even brought along an extra donkey for her to ride on.

And after this things turn tragic. She eventually leaves with him. We then learn why the woman became angry with him and left in the first place. He did not deserve her love or respect. He was all about himself. He did not defend her when it was his duty to do so. He treated her as disposable, as mere property. He allowed her to be brutalized and to die of the injuries; all to save his own skin. (Judges 19:25-27)

Pathetic excuse for a man.

It is so easy to judge him from this side of the keyboard. But as my wife says on occasion, “Our insecurities reduce us to lunatics.” I wonder how deep my depravity, my self-preserving cowardly flesh would take me if I was truly tested? How pathetic would I be?

Oh, I pray that I would listen for and obey the voice of the Holy Spirit. Would I, in the words of William Wallace from the movie Braveheart, have the courage to die well?

Father, please give me the strength live well. May I listen to your Holy Spirit and follow your commands. May I live my life sacrificially for those you’ve placed in my charge. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Freedom is being Christ’s slave. Jan

Judges 18

Laying back in Laish

Pain is a great motivator. If I put my hand on a hot stove, I’m not going to do that again. If get violently ill due to eating certain foods, I’m not going near those foods again. But, with the absence of pain or discomfort, is there any reason to alter my course, to change any behavior?

Which brings me to the citizens of the town of Laish.

…living carefree lives, like the Sidonians; they were peaceful and secure. The people were also wealthy because their land was very fertile. – Judges 18:7a

Sidonians?

Inhabitants of the city of Sidon on the Mediterranean coast, just above Israel. Their extensive sea-trading network made them both powerful and rich. It was the oldest and most important city of the Phonetician trade routes. The city’s glass and purple dye production was lauded by most of the ancient world. Even the poet Homer wrote about their amazing craftsmen. Citizens of Sidon later expanded and founded the equally wealthy city of Tyre.

And now we resume our regularly scheduled program already in progress…

So, these people in Laish are sitting pretty, laying back living the good life. They have everything they want. Unfortunately they don’t have everything they need.

When people are saying, “All is well; everything is peaceful and secure,” then disaster will fall upon them as suddenly as a woman’s birth pains begin when her child is about to be born. And there will be no escape. “- 1 Thessalonians 5:3

They were missing something very important.

…they lived a great distance from Sidon and had no allies nearby. – Judges 18:7b

In my life I used to live isolated. I had everything I needed, a wife, house, cars, pets, my television, and a good job.  What more did I need?

Allies – noun – a  person,  group,  or  nation  that  is  associated  with  another  or  others  for  some  common  cause  or  purpose. One  in  helpful  association  with  another.

Bring on the inciting incident. God was not going to allow me to sit on my haunches and not bless his people through the gifts and abilities that he’d given me. He wanted a man of passion, of purpose. He wanted a man fully alive, not sleeping in a Lazy-boy recliner. Like the men of Laish, I was blissfully ignorant.

My wife left me. My carefully constructed comfortable world disintegrated around me.

…the men of Dan came to the town of Laish, whose people were peaceful and secure. They attacked and killed all the people and burned the town to the ground. There was no one to rescue the residents of the town, for they lived a great distance from Sidon and had no allies nearby. – Judges 18:27-28

I needed allies. I needed men who would walk with me through the issues of life; men who were not afraid to confront my weaknesses and failings. I did not have that. Fortunately my ‘town’ was merely sacked, it was not burned to the ground. The inhabitants lived, but sadly divorced. Yes, a great price was paid for my lack of having allies nearby. I suspect if I’d known then what I know now, life would have been very different.

I now live in a fellowship of men. I give my strength, time and hard earned wisdom to others. I freely give what I have been given. We are allies.

A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:12

I no longer stand alone.

Father, thank you for the men in my life who allow me the joy of calling them friend. May I be a good friend to them. Thank you for second chances. And thank you for the third man, Jesus. It is in his authority I pray, Amen.

Stand, Crawl, Walk, Run! Jan

Judges 17

Crap on my shoe

A few weeks ago I sat down for a nice relaxing lunch with a couple of friends of mine. I was hoping for some affirmation, things hadn’t exactly been going my way at work, and I just needed to be wanted for being me. And normally my friends do exactly that, they make me feel welcome, wanted, and appreciated.

However, on this day things were different. They kept their distance, they were standoffish. In fact it seemed as though my very presence offended them. I was starting to get upset. Then one of my friends pointed out that I had crap on my shoe, and that it was stinking up the entire restaurant.

Boy was I embarrassed. No wonder things were not going my way. No wonder I wasn’t feeling welcome anywhere.

Judges chapter seventeen begins the story of Micah. It is a peculiar story of a guy who apparently wants to do the right thing. He wants the Lord’s blessing on him.

A man named Micah lived in the hill country of Ephraim. One day he said to his mother, “I heard you curse the thief who stole eleven hundred pieces of silver from you. Well, here they are. I was the one who took them.” “The LORD bless you for admitting it,” his mother replied. He returned the money to her, and she said, “I now dedicate these silver coins to the LORD.” – Judges 17:1-3a

Good job Micah, you’ve put on your new shiny shoes. You’ve decided to do the right thing.

So his mother took two hundred of the silver coins to a silversmith, who made them into an image and an idol. And these were placed in Micah’s house. Micah set up a shrine, and he made a sacred ephod and some household idols.  – Judges 17:4-5a

What is that smell Micah? What the heck did you just step in?

Um, which God are you worshiping? Is it the one who said the following?

Do not make idols of any kind, whether in the shape of birds or animals or fish. You must never worship or bow down to them… – Exodus 20:4-5a

The amazing thing is that Micah has a professional cobbler visit him. And this guy ignores the problem. In fact he gets hired on to regularly add some shoe polish to the top of the shoes!

So Micah ordained the Levite as his personal priest, and he lived in Micah’s house. – Judges 17:12

I guess you can feel pretty good about yourself as long as nobody points out the dung. And the stench gets a bit stronger.

“I know the LORD will bless me now,” Micah said, “because I have a Levite serving as my priest.” – Judges 17:13

Far from it Micah. I suspect that you will be judged even more harshly, because the professional should have done something about the problem.

Father, thank you that I have friends in my life who will point out things that need change. Thank you for men who hold me accountable. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I should probably mention that my restaurant incident never happened. But sadly, Micah’s idolatry did. – Jan

Judges 16

The Lord had left him

Is it just me or does Samson seem to have the intelligence of a rock?

How many times must the numskull be assaulted, betrayed, and ambushed before a candle flames up in his little brain?

  • One day when Samson was in Timnah, he noticed a certain Philistine woman. – Judges 14:1
  • Later on, during the wheat harvest, Samson took a young goat as a present to his wife (the woman he’d abandoned). He intended to sleep with her, but her father wouldn’t let him in. – Judges 15:1
  • One day Samson went to the Philistine city of Gaza and spent the night with a prostitute. – Judges 16:1
  • Later Samson fell in love with a woman named Delilah, who lived in the valley of Sorek. – Judges 16:4

Do you see a pattern in the verses above? Samson’s problem wasn’t the head on his shoulders. It appears that he did most of his thinking with the little head; the one a tad lower.

Eventually the little head shut down his brain to the point that he gave away the secret of his strength.

When he woke up, he thought, “I will do as before and shake myself free.” But he didn’t realize the LORD had left him. – Judges 16:20b

You’d think he’d notice that the presence of God was gone. The New Testament has a great verse describing Samson’s behavior.

Don’t give what is holy to unholy people. Don’t give pearls to swine! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you. – Matthew 7:6

Samson had been set apart, he was consecrated to God from birth. Yet he chose to give himself to unholy people, he gave his family jewels to any Philistine woman who’d have him, and he paid the price – the Lord left him. Pain and humiliation resulted, and it eventually cost him his life.

Father, may I not give my pearls to swine. May I remember at all times that I am consecrated to you. I am bought with a price, the blood of your son Jesus. Please give me the strength to no only die well, but live well. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Keep the Lord close. Jan

Judges 15

It’s not my fault

“Blame him, not me! I had no choice. They deserved it. Paybacks are fair game. Because!”

Do these words sound familiar?

They sure do to me… I’ve said them, many times. But as I look at them now, on the other side of whatever incident or event that prompted them, they somehow feel like sand in my throat. They are all rooted in self. I didn’t get something. Something didn’t happen in the way I expected. I got angry…

Samson said, “This time I cannot be blamed for everything I am going to do to you Philistines.” – Judges 15:3

Really Samson, you cannot be blamed? Um, you abandoned your “wife” on your wedding night! And you didn’t return for weeks, perhaps months. Then you have the gall to say that you cannot be blamed because her father later gave her in marriage to a man who would actually take his wife with him – like he was supposed to do?

What a pathetic excuse for an irrational temper, prone to fits of rage, and fueled by the supernatural power of God.

“Because you did this,” Samson vowed, “I will take my revenge on you, and I won’t stop until I’m satisfied!” – Judges 15:7

Notice that it is all about him. The “I” word is rather prominent in both “outrage” verses. Now, I do know that Samson accomplished God’s work in putting some fear into the Philistines. But imagine how much more could have been done if he had also lived a holy life, a life which sought after the heart of God instead of the fleshly wants of Samson? He was designed to lead, not merely destroy.

How much more could I accomplish for God if I lived a holy life, a life which sought after the heart of God instead of the fleshly wants of Jan? How different would life be if I didn’t cast blame, or if I looked a bit harder and prayed for alternatives rather than having knee-jerk reactions? What if I didn’t payback evil with evil? What if I truly sought God for any and all actions which I was unsure about?

I suspect that there would not be quite as much sand scratching my uvula.

Father, blame me. I had a choice. They deserve your mercy and mine. Paybacks are the devil’s tool. Because your son died so that I would live life as he did, for others, not for myself. Please forgive me for failing so often. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

It is my fault. That’s why Jesus came, to take it away. Jan

Judges 14

Highway to Timnah

I recently learned that to be a Nazirite meant that you take a specific vow as defined in the sixth chapter of the book of Numbers. The summary is as follows:

  • No wine, or any byproducts
  • Nothing fermented
  • No grapes, not skins, raisins, or even seeds
  • No haircuts
  • No going near a dead body (Nephesh, that which breathes)
  • No messing with the hairdo

Sampson was dedicated by his parents with a Nazirite vow from before his birth. He was to maintain that vow for life.

You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and his hair must never be cut. For he will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth. – Judges 13:5

So I read with some surprise the following passage.

As Samson and his parents were going down to Timnah, a young lion attacked Samson near the vineyards of Timnah. At that moment the Spirit of the LORD powerfully took control of him, and he ripped the lion’s jaws apart with his bare hands. He did it as easily as if it were a young goat. But he didn’t tell his father or mother about it. When Samson arrived in Timnah, he talked with the woman and was very pleased with her.

Later, when he returned to Timnah for the wedding, he turned off the path to look at the carcass of the lion. And he found that a swarm of bees had made some honey in the carcass. He scooped some of the honey into his hands and ate it along the way. He also gave some to his father and mother, and they ate it. But he didn’t tell them he had taken the honey from the carcass of the lion. – Judges 14:5-9

Um, where did the honey come from? A dead lion!

The book of Leviticus calls them unclean animals.

Of the animals that walk on all fours, those that have paws are unclean for you. If you touch the dead body of such an animal, you will be defiled until evening. If you pick up and move its carcass, you must immediately wash your clothes, and you will remain defiled until evening. – Leviticus 11:27-28

Double whammy here. Samson just defiled himself and his parents! He wasn’t even supposed to be near a dead body (something that’s been dead for a while). Then there is the whole Philistine wife thing.  And notice that the lion attacked near the vineyards of Timnah. I wonder why Samson hung out in Timnah? I’m starting to see a pattern in this man, and it would appear to me that he is disdaining his calling. He is not just on the highway to Timnah, he’s on the highway to hell.

Father, may I be mindful of what I choose to participate in, and what I ask others to participate in. Please give me wisdom and disceretion. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Turn or burn. Jan

Judges 13

Nazirite

I’ve heard this word most of my life, but today is the first time I actually looked to see what it means.

Naziyr – consecrated or devoted one, untrimmed vines. It comes from the root word, Nazar – to dedicate oneself, devote oneself , separate oneself from others.

With that in mind I read the following passage.

In those days, a man named Manoah from the tribe of Dan lived in the town of Zorah. His wife was unable to become pregnant, and they had no children. The angel of the LORD appeared to Manoah’s wife and said, “Even though you have been unable to have children, you will soon become pregnant and give birth to a son. You must not drink wine or any other alcoholic drink or eat any forbidden food. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and his hair must never be cut. For he will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth. He will rescue Israel from the Philistines.” – Judges 13:2-5

Ok, so he will be set apart. But then the angel gives specific “set apart” instructions. And in the following passage he adds a bit more for Mrs. Manoah, as if to say, “I know you guys have forgotten what it means to be set apart, you don’t read the law of Moses anymore. So let me remind you.”

“Be sure your wife follows the instructions I gave her. She must not eat grapes or raisins, drink wine or any other alcoholic drink, or eat any forbidden food.” – Judges 13:-13-14

What was he reminding them about? The following verses from the book of Numbers.

If some of the people, either men or women, take the special vow of a Nazirite, setting themselves apart to the LORD in a special way, they must give up wine and other alcoholic drinks. They must not use vinegar made from wine, they must not drink other fermented drinks or fresh grape juice, and they must not eat grapes or raisins. As long as they are bound by their Nazirite vow, they are not allowed to eat or drink anything that comes from a grapevine, not even the grape seeds or skins.

“They must never cut their hair throughout the time of their vow, for they are holy and set apart to the LORD. That is why they must let their hair grow long. And they may not go near a dead body during the entire period of their vow to the LORD, even if their own father, mother, brother, or sister has died. They must not defile the hair on their head, because it is the symbol of their separation to God. This applies as long as they are set apart to the LORD. – Numbers 6:2-8

There is a lot of stuff there; nothing from grapes – not even skin, no cutting of their hair, don’t go near dead bodies, and don’t mess with the hairdo. Add in the rest of Jewish dietary and custom restrictions on top of all that.

Being wise, the listened.

When her son was born, they named him Samson. And the LORD  blessed him as he grew up. – Judges 13:24

I love the last part of the verse, and the Lord blessed him as…

Father, thank you that you bless us because you choose to. We’ve done nothing to deserve it. You do it simply because you love us. May I love you back, no matter what. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Maybe I should let my beard keep growing… Hmm, but I do like raisins. Jan

Judges 12

Ibzan

After Jephthah, Ibzan became Israel’s judge. He lived in Bethlehem, and he had thirty sons and thirty daughters. He married his daughters to men outside his clan and brought in thirty young women from outside his clan to marry his sons. Ibzan judged Israel for seven years. When he died, he was buried at Bethlehem. – Judges 12:8-10

What an interesting passage. Bethlehem, the place Jesus was born. God’s perfect number – seven. Intermarrying his children with other clans – that sounds familiar.

The name Izban is defined by Strong’s dictionary as, “their whiteness”. Ok, not very interesting. However, I stumbled upon the following translation too, “father of a target”. Whoa! That is interesting! Then I see the following from the Jewish Talmudists.

The Talmud (Bava Batra 91a) asserts that Ibzan is to be identified with Boaz from the story of Ruth, who lived in the Bethlehem of Judah, and that he consummated his marriage with Ruth on the last night of his life. – (Source: Jewish Encylopedia and Wikipedia)

It would appear that this Izban might have been Boaz. If that is the case, then he would be an earthly ancestor of Jesus. Cool.

Father, thank you for interesting forays into your word. Whether this is truly what happened or not, it made me think. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Father of a target… hmm – Jan

Judges 11

Smooth Move Sherlock

The story of Jephthah could have been such a wonderful story of rising above the circumstances of your birth, of fulfilling a destiny set by God. Instead he was a short-lived flame that burned itself out. He was certainly useful, but sadly also lamentable.

Jephthah was the son of Gilead and an unnamed prostitute. As such, his father’s family wanted nothing to do with him. Can you imagine the chip on his shoulder? He was probably in a lot of fights as a boy. As soon as dad was dead and his brothers were old enough they chased him away.

So Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob. Soon he had a large band of rebels following him. – Judges 11:3

Why would a large band of rebels follow anyone? Um, because their leader is one too.

Then opportunity knocks.

When the Ammonites attacked, the leaders of Gilead sent for Jephthah in the land of Tob. They said, “Come and be our commander! Help us fight the Ammonites! – Judges 11:5-6

Of course Jephthah is suspicious. But he sees and opportunity and takes it. He has a chance to be someone.

The Ammonites have a god by the name of Chemosh. This god likes human sacrifice. Note, there are only two gods. There is God who created the heavens and the Earth. And there is Satan, who was created by God and rebelled. Chemosh is just another manifestation of Satan on this earth.

Jephthah, in his reply to the king of Ammon said the following.

You keep whatever your god Chemosh gives you, and we will keep whatever the LORD our God gives us. – Judges 11:24

Sounds good. And it is true, in a sense. But, essentially he just challenged Satan – openly.

Now, if he had truly sought the Lord and relied upon Him for all decisions and actions things probably would have gone well. Sadly, Jephthah’s hot-headed nature takes over.

And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD. He said, “If you give me victory over the Ammonites, I will give to the LORD the first thing coming out of my house to greet me when I return in triumph. I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.” – Judges 11:30-31

What, do cows and sheep regularly come out of his house to greet him? What in the @#$% was he thinking? Maybe he wanted to get rid of Mrs. Jephthah. Smooth move Jephthah.

After Israel wins the battle, his only child, his daughter runs out to greet him, dancing for joy… Cue the regret music and chortling of Chemosh.

He does what any normal person would do in the situation, he burns her alive. Yes, he really did it. But no, he was not a normal person. His stupid rash vow clearly violated God’s word and will.

I want you to be merciful; I don’t want your sacrifices. I want you to know God; that’s more important than burnt offerings. – Hosea 6:6

However, there was a god who was quite pleased on the day the sacrifice was made… Chemosh. Jephthah’s victory turned to ash.

In case you think that I’m being harsh on Jephthah by calling him a hot-head, look at his response to an insult by the leaders of the tribe of Ephraim.

The leaders of Ephraim responded, “The men of Gilead are nothing more than rejects from Ephraim and Manasseh.” So Jephthah called out his army and attacked the men of Ephraim and defeated them. – Judges 12:4

He slaughtered forty-two thousand of his fellow Israelites over that insult! No wonder God only left him around for six years.

Jephthah was Israel’s judge for six years. When he died, he was buried in one of the towns of Gilead. – Judges 12:7

Cue another judge.

Lord, how often do I do things without consulting you? Please forgive me. I need to learn to wait, to listen, to not move outside of your will. Thank you for your patience with me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Time for a cool drink in the shade. Jan

Judges 10

Here comes ‘da Judge

In reading the book of Judges I was reminded of a 1995 movie starring Sylvester Stallone. The movie was Judge Dredd. Below is an excerpt from a Wikipedia article about the movie.

In 2139, people live in a single city, Mega City, ruled by The Council. Crime is dealt with by a special police force, Street Judges, who may act as judge, jury and executioner of criminals.

The power of the Judges in this sci-fi tale sounds very similar to that of the biblical judges in the book of the same name. The following Wikipedia excerpt really was interesting to me.

Dredd’s commander and mentor, Chief Judge Fargo, assigns him to teach a class in ethics at the academy where he tells the recruits they must be prepared to live in isolation until they take the Long Walk, a time when a retired Judge leaves the city and goes into the “cursed earth” to take the “law to the lawless”, those who live outside the city.

Now paint this portrait biblically. Judges, typically quite alone, are assigned by God to go into the cursed earth to take the law to the lawless, those who live outside of heaven.

Again the Israelites did evil in the LORD’s sight. They worshiped images of Baal and Ashtoreth, and the gods of Aram, Sidon, Moab, Ammon, and Philistia. Not only this, but they abandoned the LORD and no longer served him at all. – Judges 10:6

Why did they need judges? Why did they sin so much? Why did they abandon God so easily and chase after other things and other Gods?

For the answer I go to a New Testament book of the bible.

What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Isn’t it the whole army of evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous for what others have, and you can’t possess it, so you fight and quarrel to take it away from them. And yet the reason you don’t have what you want is that you don’t ask God for it. And even when you do ask, you don’t get it because your whole motive is wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.

You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with this world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again, that if your aim is to enjoy this world, you can’t be a friend of God. – James 4:1-4

The whole army of evil desires at war within them… Within us.

So was there hope for the Israelites? Of course there was!

But the Israelites pleaded with the LORD and said, “We have sinned. Punish us as you see fit, only rescue us today from our enemies.” Then the Israelites put aside their foreign gods and served the LORD. And he was grieved by their misery. – Judges 10:15-16

So is there hope for us? Of course there is!

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw close to God, and God will draw close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, you hypocrites. Let there be tears for the wrong things you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. When you bow down before the Lord and admit your dependence on him, he will lift you up and give you honor. – James 4:7-10

The greatest honor we could ever be afforded is a place at our Lord’s table. And if we are his children, then we know that we have that place guaranteed.

Father, may I humble myself daily before you. May I resist the Devil, May I draw close to you in prayer, reading, and in waiting. May I truly grieve and turn from any and all wicked ways. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

He is the Law. Jan

Judges 9

Legacy

What kind of legacy am I leaving behind? Am I leaving a good example to follow? Will my children be Godly men who wholeheartedly follow after Christ? What do my words, actions, inactions, and mannerisms reveal to them about my daily walk?

I hope and pray that I do a better job than Jerubbaal, or Gideon. This man, who God physically appeared to in the form of an angel, who subsequently delivered Israel from the Moabites, apparently decided to sit back on his haunches and not do much afterward. In fact his actions caused Israel to sin, and he did not stop it.

Gideon made a sacred ephod from the gold and put it in Ophrah, his hometown. But soon all the Israelites prostituted themselves by worshiping it, and it became a trap for Gideon and his family. – Judges 8:27

The obvious thing would have been to immediately destroy the ephod, melt it down. But instead it became a trap for Gideon and his family.

If that was the creation of the trap, it was set as a result of Gideon’s pride and indiscretion. He had a child with his concubine, another word for that is slave-girl.

He also had a concubine in Shechem, who bore him a son named Abimelech. – Judges 8:31

He had seventy other sons with assorted wives. Um, can you say profligate? He apparently had a slight issue with the ladies. In that culture, no problem, marry them. You can have as many wives as you want.

Well, Gideon dies and his son Abimelech decides that he needs to be the one in charge. Why? Why Abimelech? Why not one of the other seventy sons?

Words have power, words have meaning. Abimelech, means something. It means “father is king”.

Who knows how often he actually saw Gideon, he lived in another town. But he did know that his name meant that he is the king’s son. Upon his father’s death he decided to claim his legacy, and these so-called brothers whom he hardly ever saw. Well, there was no love-loss or relationship there. They even called him son of the slave.

And you have chosen his slave woman’s son, Abimelech, to be your king just because he is your relative. – Judges 9:18b

He’d show them what the slave woman’s son could do. And he did.

He hired some “worthless human beings” – that is literally what the text says – and made a blood sacrifice to Baal.

He went to his father’s home in Ophrah and on one stone murdered his seventy brothers, the sons of Jerub-Baal. But Jotham, the youngest son of Jerub-Baal, escaped by hiding. – Judges 9:5

Killing them all in a ritualistic manner, on one stone, can only be viewed as a sacrifice to his god Baal.

Pain, sorrow and eventually justice came to those who helped and made possible Abimelech’s abomination.

Gideon had other plans. He did want a bright future for his people and family. He had good intentions. Unfortunately the trap that he had set years earlier was never dealt with, and it sprung.

The son who escaped being killed, his name was Jotham. It means Jehovah is perfect.

Oh Lord, so many plans, so many mistakes. Please help me to be a man who truly follows after you. I want to leave a Godly legacy. May my children all grow up to love and serve you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Walk with God. Jan

Judges 8

Under Whom?

Gideon defeats the forces of Midian, immediately upon returning from battle the people want to make Gideon their king.

Then the Israelites said to Gideon, “Be our ruler! You and your son and your grandson will be our rulers, for you have rescued us from Midian.” – Judges 8:22

It has been observed that people who are under oppression for an extended period of time, when freed, have no idea how to behave. Former prisoners sleep on the floor because the bed is too soft, or prefer the closet instead of a room that is too big. They can’t make independent decisions and are continually asking for direction. They even gravitate toward those who exhibit the same traits and habits as their former jailers or oppressors. One clinical example is called Stockholm Syndrome.

I think the people of Gideon’s time were experiencing Midian Syndrome. They had been oppressed and controlled for so long that they didn’t know how to live otherwise. They needed to be in bondage, to someone, anyone, anything.

Gideon made a sacred ephod from the gold and put it in Ophrah, his hometown. But soon all the Israelites prostituted themselves by worshiping it, and it became a trap for Gideon and his family. – Judges 8:27

Gideon makes a trophy, a symbol of his conquest of war – some special gold clothing. The people, instead of seeing this thing as a memorial or a great honor to Gideon and his family, worship it. They had to have something they could see, smell, and touch be in charge of them. And it gets worse.

As soon as Gideon was dead, the Israelites prostituted themselves by worshiping the images of Baal, making Baal-berith their god. – Judges 8:33

Those words, as soon as… wow. Could it be any clearer. They could not live without being oppressed.

In case you think it wasn’t oppressive, look at what it entailed.

Ritualistic Baal worship, in sum, looked a little like this: Adults would gather around the altar of Baal. Infants would then be burned alive as a sacrificial offering to the deity. Amid horrific screams and the stench of charred human flesh, congregants – men and women alike – would engage in bisexual orgies. The ritual of convenience was intended to produce economic prosperity by prompting Baal to bring rain for the fertility of “mother earth.”

Um, no thank you.

They forgot the LORD their God, who had rescued them from all their enemies surrounding them. – Judges 8:34

What a sad epitaph for that generation.

Then I get knocked right off my self-righteous high horse and realize that the same could be said of me…

Father, please forgive me for my oft wanderings. May I live my life in a way which honors you. May I desire to be subject to you alone. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Under God. Jan

Judges 7

The Weapon

In the book of Judges, in the section about Gideon, there is a dream and an interpretation of that dream is given. I’ve always been a bit puzzled by it. God tells Gideon to take his armor-bearer Purah and reconnoiter the enemy camp.

When Gideon came to the enemy camp, he heard a man telling his friend about a dream. He was saying, “I dreamed that a loaf of barley bread rolled into the camp of Midian. It hit the tent so hard that the tent turned over and fell flat!” – Judges 7:13

Now I don’t know about you, but my interpretation of the dream would have gone something like the following.

“Well obviously this is about the fact that we haven’t brought enough food with us. These Israelis can barely feed themselves. Look how many of us there are! We’re going to have to scour the countryside for food or we will all collapse in hunger.”

But no, a different interpretation was given by the friend.

The man’s friend said, “Your dream is about the sword of Gideon son of Joash, a man of Israel. God will hand Midian and the whole army over to him!” – Judges 7:14

Huh? Where did that come from?

An interesting thing happens when you dig into the etymology of words. you find that the Hebrew word for bread is ‘Lechem’. However, this word has a root word of ‘Lacham’. This word means to fight or to battle, in addition to eat or consume. The word for rolled is the Hebrew word “Bo”. Another meaning of that word is to fall-upon, as in an attack.  So this round cake of barley bread attacked and beat down a tent.

Stay with me.

Gideon means “hewer”. Which means, “to strike forcibly with an ax, sword, or other cutting instrument; chop; hack.”

Notice that the friend who interpreted the dream doesn’t say that the cake of bread is Gideon attacking the camp. No, he says, “Your dream is about the sword of Gideon…”

The hewer’s tool (or weapon) forcibly struck the enemy camp and leveled it.

The friend, understanding the symbolism and words behind them, saw the full implied meaning – they were going to be hewed down.

Funny thing is that they themselves were the instrument of their own destruction.

When Gideon’s three hundred men blew their trumpets,  the LORD made all the Midianites fight each other with their swords! – Judges 7:22a

Father, may I listen to my friends. Often times they have knowledge or revelation that I desperately need. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I’m feeling sleepy. Jan

Judges 6

Least to Greatest

An interesting thing happened in the sixth chapter of Judges, God took a nobody and made him famous.

The Israelites were under the cruel oppression of several surrounding countries. In fact “Israel was reduced to starvation” according to the text. When we first encounter Gideon he is a nobody who is hiding down in a hole, threshing wheat, so that no one will know what he is doing. While there an Angel visits him and he receives an instruction that mystifies him.

Then the LORD turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!” – Judges 6:14

It must have seemed like a cruel joke, “Go with the strength you have…” What strength? He’s hiding.

“But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!” – Judges 6:15

Gideon essentially says, “I’m a nobody from a clan of nobodies.”

The angel tells him that the Lord will be with him, gives Gideon a demonstration of his power, then he disappears.

Silence… until night-fall, when Gideon hears the Lord tell him to destroy the town’s altar to the false god Baal, and use the altar-remains to build an altar to God, and to sacrifice his father’s 2nd best bull on it.

Incredibly, Gideon does it! I wonder if I would have responded the same?

The towns people wake up, and they are ticked. They demand that Gideon be killed.

But Joash (Gideon’s father) shouted to the mob, “Why are you defending Baal? Will you argue his case? Whoever pleads his case will be put to death by morning! If Baal truly is a god, let him defend himself and destroy the one who knocked down his altar!” – Judges 4:31

Sounds reasonable to me. If I was a god and someone messed with my property, they’d be toast. But, I digress. Back to Gideon. An amazing thing happened at that moment. He lived. And he continued to live. In fact, as a result of not dying, he was renamed by the people.

From then on Gideon was called Jerubbaal, which means “Let Baal defend himself,” because he knocked down Baal’s altar. – Judges 6:32

Gideon took on a god and lived! He was no longer a nobody. He was famous – about as famous as you can get.

That is why when this former nobody called for warriors to join him in battle a little while later, they all came.

Then the Spirit of the LORD took possession of Gideon. He blew a ram’s horn as a call to arms, and the men of the clan of Abiezer came to him. He also sent messengers throughout Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, summoning their warriors, and all of them responded. – Judges 4:34-35

The Lord knows how to promote those who are called and chosen. They only need to be obedient.

Father, thank you for lessons from Gideon. May I be willing to do whatever you ask. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Got any altars you need destroyed? Jan

Judges 5

Come back and fight like a man

Until now, I’d never noticed the sequence of what occurred in the battle between the forces  of Barak and Sisera.  An interesting happened on the way to the battle, the enemy ran away! And they did it before Barak’s soldiers engaged them.

Then Deborah said to Barak, “Get ready! Today the LORD  will give you victory over Sisera, for the LORD is marching ahead of you.” So Barak led his ten thousand warriors down the slopes of Mount Tabor into battle. When Barak attacked, the LORD threw Sisera and all his charioteers and warriors into a panic. Then Sisera leaped down from his chariot and escaped on foot. Barak chased the enemy and their chariots all the way to Harosheth-haggoyim, killing all of Sisera’s warriors. Not a single one was left alive. – Judges 4:14-16

Notice that the Lord marched out ahead of Barak, and that Sisera’s forces were in a panic because of the Lord, not Barak. Why did they panic?

I found it interesting that God made sure to mention that Sisera’s focres had nine hundred iron chariots.

Sisera called together all his chariots, nine hundred iron chariots, and all the people who were with him, from Harosheth-hagoyim to the river Kishon. – Judges 4:13

He actually mentioned them earlier in the chapter too, and then he also ensured that Sisera’s leap from his chariot was recorded.

An iron chariot was the equivalent of our modern day tank. Infantry is no match for one. And all of Israel had was infantry. So I ask you, why would you jump out of your battle-wagon? Why would you abandon your armor? Why leave the tank behind?

I think the following section of the song of Deborah and Barak explains it.

LORD, when You went out from Seir, when You marched from the field of Edom, the earth quaked, the heavens also dripped, even the clouds dripped water. The mountains quaked at the presence of the LORD, this Sinai, at the presence of the LORD, the God of Israel… The stars fought from heaven, from their courses they fought against Sisera. – Judges 5:4-5, 20

Hmm, heavens dripping. Could that be rain? The earth quaked, the mountains quaked. Sounds like thunder. The stars fought from heaven. Sounds like lightning. I don’t have definitive proof, and I’ll have to wait to see it on God’s Blue-Ray screen, but I suspect that Sisera’s iron chariots become lightning-rods. God was having himself a Canaanite barbecue.

Sisera, seeing his forces being roasted as they stood in their Smokey Joe’s, jumped out of the spit as fast as he could and started running for his life – as did the rest of his troops. And Israel began the mop-up operation.

Father, thank you that if we trust you, often times you will battle for us. Of course there are times that you expect us to engage as the Israelites had to. But you certainly know how to put our opposition to flight. Thank you for allowing me the honor of being on your side. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I smell rain… Jan

Judges 4

An Excellent Woman

I find it amazing how people, myself included, tend to interpret scripture through paradigms we’ve been raised with or taught. Yet wouldn’t it make the most sense to read scripture from the paradigm of the author and intended audience – the audience of the time to whom it was written?

My wife teaches writing. One of the examples she gives her students is to find what is wrong with the following sentence.

“The dog ran down the road.”

While the sentence is structurally sound, it lacks much information. Why is the dog running. Is there a destination? What type of dog, what sex, what color? Is the dog in fear, running for joy, with a purpose? What kind of road is it? What is the setting? You get the idea.

In the book of Proverbs there is a chapter which talks about a woman who is praised. The leading sentence about her is most often translated as follows.

An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. – Proverbs 31:10

or

Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. – Proverbs 31:10

But, if you look at the word translated as “excellent” or “virtuous” you find alternate translations that, had this been a man in the verse, would have been used. Words such as; valiant, warrior, strong, capable, and very powerful. Why weren’t they used?

Because of the paradigm of the translators. Women are not supposed to be associated with those particular descriptors, therefore the translators chose alternate meanings. It is a cultural view that women are “the weaker sex” needing protection, that they are the nurturers and not fighters or leaders.

So, in reading about Deborah in the book of Judges I mentioned to my wife that a woman was in charge of the men.

My wife replied, “That is because no man would step up and take the role. God had no choice but to use a woman.”

Whoah! Where did that come from?

She confessed that it was what she’d been taught.

So I challenged, “Where is that found in scripture?”

The answer is, it is not. Someone’s paradigm had altered how she interpreted scripture rather than reading the narrative as it was written.

This made me a bit more curious than usual, so I pulled out my trusty Palm OS powered Garmin iQue3600, and consulted the Olive Tree Eerdmans Bible Dictionary about Deborah. What I read caused a paradigm shift in my brain too. However, my need for a course alteration was not due to my preconceived notions, rather it was due to that of nearly all bible translators.

Universally Deborah is introduced with a verse nearly identical to the following.

Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. – Judges 4:4

I’d taken those words at face value and not looked at the Hebrew words behind the scenes. In particular what I should have looked at, and didn’t, was “wife of” and “Lappidoth”.

The word for wife is “ishshah”. However, it simply means woman. If it is used in conjunction with “belonging to”, or “of”, then it is assumed that it means wife. And on first glance, even second, it would appear that this is indeed the context of this verse. However, the word “Lappidoth” is not used anywhere in scripture as a proper name. In fact, this is the only time this particular word is used. It is derived from the Hebrew word “Lappiyd”, which means torch, firebrand, burning, or lightning. Further, Lappidoth is the feminine form of the word, not masculine! So, ishshah lappidoth could be translated, “woman of burning”.

Try this on for a verse translation and see what it does to your paradigm.

Now Deborah, a prophetess, a fiery woman, was judging Israel at that time. – Judges 4:4

Wait, where did her husband go? I don’t know. Perhaps there wasn’t one. Maybe he died. Whatever the reason, God apparently didn’t think he was crucial to the tale.

Eerdmans Dictionary pointed out that her lineage was implied by the description in the next verse, and if she were identified with a specific man, that geographic description would have been superfluous.

‘Because of the overlap between territory and kinship groups in ancient Israel, her family identity is supplied by the information in Judges 4:5 about her geographical locale – that she comes from a place “between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim” – rather than by the name of a male relative.’

Who can find an ‘excellent’ woman? God can! And he can also find a capable, valiant, strong,  fiery woman who is willing and able to execute justice and take command.

Father, please help me to look at your word through fresh eyes. I want to know the things that you have for me, not someone else’s interpretation. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

My wife is a “Chayil”, “Lappidoth” woman. – Jan

Judges 3

Rescue Them

I have a pretty good overview of the Old Testament history of the Hebrews. Frankly if I was God I would have abandoned them and started over with a people a bit more receptive to obeying his commands. He certainly had plenty of nations to choose from. But no, he remained faithful even if they didn’t. However, he did discipline them.

Since they wanted to live for themselves, God withdrew his protection and allowed natural consequences to take effect. Soon they were conquered by their enemies and enslaved.

No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it is painful! But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. – Hebrews 12:11

Once they experienced the discipline, the consequences of their actions, they cried out for relief. Funny how we always seem to remember God once we are in trouble, but never when we are getting into it.

But when Israel cried out to the LORD for help, the LORD raised up a man to rescue them… – Judges 3:9

And again.

But when Israel cried out to the LORD for help, the LORD raised up a man to rescue them… – Judges 3:15

And again.

After Ehud, Shamgar son of Anath rescued Israel… – Judges 3:31

And the same sad story continues through the entire book. They do evil. God lets them have their way. They are overcome, they are enslaved. They cry for help. God sends rescue.

Isn’t that our story? It is my story.

If I was God, I would have abandoned me long ago and left me to rot. But he didn’t and he doesn’t.

He considers me infinitely valuable.

How do I know that? His Son Jesus created infinity and God allowed him to die to pay the penalty for all of my sins: past, present and future. He rescued me.

Heavenly Father, please continue to create in me the desire to be holy. I want to love the things you love, hate the things you hate. Help me to see everyone through your eyes. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I’m Rescued

Judges 2

Resistance

What does it mean to resist?

re-sist
–verb (used with object)
1. to withstand, strive against, or oppose: to resist infection; to resist temptation.
2. to withstand the action or effect of: to resist spoilage.
3. to refrain or abstain from, esp. with difficulty or reluctance: They couldn’t resist the chocolates.

I really like the third one where it adds, with difficulty or reluctance.

If you are one of the 1% of men who have no struggle with visual purity, or are female, go ahead and stop reading. You just don’t understand. But, if I am speaking to you, those of us who have difficulty or reluctance, then read on.

As I was reading in the second chapter of Judges I encountered something I’d seen many times in scripture, but never investigated before. It was the relation of Baal and Ashtoreth. Both of these pagan deities are well documented. And both of them, among other functions, are fertility symbols. One reference wrote of “the orgiastic nature of Baal worship.” Part of the worship of Ashtoreth involved “Ashtoreth Poles”. You don’t need too much imagination to conjure up a mental image of their probable appearance. “Archeological excavations in Canaanite locations have uncovered temples with chambers where sexual activity took place. Also, many iconographic representations of the fertility goddess, Asthoreth, with exaggerated sexual features have been discovered.” So, suffice it to say, worship of these gods was at least partially sexual in nature.

As I read this today I noticed some words that connected some interesting dots for me.

They abandoned the LORD to serve Baal and the images of Ashtoreth. – Judges 2:13

Men are such visual creatures, we see something, we want it. We are hard-wired for visual stimuli. So, the men abandoned the Lord to serve Baal and the images of Ashtoreth.

Images!

How many of us have abandoned our principles, our morals, our purity, because of an image, a picture – be it moving or still? Thank you very little Mr. Hefner.

When we do, what happens?

This made the LORD burn with anger against Israel, so he handed them over to marauders who stole their possessions. He sold them to their enemies all around, and they were no longer able to resist them. – Judges 2:14

Have you had your purity stolen? How about your finances, job, or even family? Have they been given over to the marauders because you were no longer able to resist?

re-sist
3. to refrain or abstain from, esp. with difficulty or reluctance:
They couldn’t resist the images.

What have we allowed the marauders to steal because of reluctance?

Every time Israel went out to battle, the LORD fought against them, bringing them defeat, just as he promised. And the people were very distressed. – Judges 2:15

Distressed yet?

Every time (insert your name here) went out to battle, the LORD fought against him…

Don’t be misled. Remember that you can’t ignore God and get away with it. You will always reap what you sow! Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful desires will harvest the consequences of decay and death. – Galatians 6:7-8a

OK, I get it, I’ll buck up. I’ll resist. I’ll never let the Ashtoreth images into my life again.

Fool.

You can’t do it alone. As the old expression states. “The man who has himself for a lawyer has a fool for a client.”

Two people can accomplish more than twice as much as one; they get a better return for their labor. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble. – Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

In this battle there are but two courses of action. The first is to be open and honest with at least one other man who can help you if you should start to stumble. The other is RUN.

Run from anything that stimulates youthful lust. – 2 Timothy 2:22a

There is another part to the verses about reaping and sowing.

But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time. – Galatians 6:8b-9

One name for the Holy Spirit is Counselor. That word translates as Lawyer. If the Holy Spirit is your lawyer, you are definitely not a fool. He will never lose in court against the devil.

If we are truly living in a way where we desire to please the Holy Spirit, it is he who gives us everlasting life! We are told not to become discouraged, not to give up the fight. If we resist spoilage of our purity, we will reap a harvest of blessing. It isn’t easy. We refrain, we abstain with difficulty. But it is worth the harvest.

Lord, this battle is one where our enemy knows our weaknesses much better than we ever could. Please give me the desire and ability to surround myself with men who will both hold me up, and hold me accountable – as they have been doing. Give me fleet feet. Please bless the men in my life and give them the same. Thank you for your Holy Spirit who brings the harvest. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Resistance is not futile!

Judges 1

Hang Together, or Hang Separately

In 1776 a new nation was painfully being given birth. It was not a good time to be an independent thinker. England expected unwavering allegiance. Any opposition was swiftly dealt with. Spies were everywhere, Red-Coated soldiers of the crown were plentiful, and treason against the King was punishable by death. It was under these circumstances that our Continental Congress fired a shot across the bow of an empire so vast that the sun never set on it. They declared their independence and then had the audacity to sign their names to the official proclamation. One delegate to the meeting had the following to say just prior to signing his name.

“We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

Benjamin Franklin – In the Continental Congress just before signing
the Declaration of Independence, 1776.

The struggle was long and hard, but obviously they did prevail. If they had not, they would have been hung separately on a gallows until dead. But they hung-together, worked together, and a new nation was born.

I see a similar struggle happening in the book of Judges. God has told the Israelites to conquer the land – to wipe everyone out.

After Joshua died, the Israelites asked the LORD, “Which tribe should attack the Canaanites first?”

The LORD answered, “Judah, for I have given them victory over the land.” – Judges 1:1-2

Great job, they asked the question, “Who should lead the battle?” Notice Judah’s response.

The leaders of Judah said to their relatives from the tribe of Simeon, “Join with us to fight against the Canaanites living in the territory allotted to us. Then we will help you conquer your territory.” So the men of Simeon went with Judah. – Judges 1:3

Very wise! They knew they were to go fight, but they also knew that by working together they could accomplish much more. The results speak for themselves.

When the men of Judah attacked, the LORD gave them victory over the Canaanites and Perizzites, and they killed ten thousand enemy warriors at the town of Bezek. – Judges 1:4

And the story was similar everywhere else they attacked. Together they prevailed.

Then Judah joined with Simeon to fight against the Canaanites living in Zephath, and they completely destroyed the town. So the town was named Hormah. – Judges 1:17

But, then things changed. They hung separately…

The tribe of Benjamin, however, failed to drive out the…
But they (Judah) failed to drive out the people living in…
The tribe of Manasseh failed to drive out the people living in…
The tribe of Ephraim also failed to drive out the…
The tribe of Zebulun also failed to drive out the…
The tribe of Asher also failed to drive out the residents of…
The tribe of Naphtali also failed to drive out the residents of…
As for the tribe of Dan, the Amorites forced them…

Notice that the various tribes are fighting alone. They lost alone.

A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:12

A sure sign of spiritual attack, of spiritual weakness which the enemy will smell like a blood-crazed hound, is when we think we can do it alone.

Lord, may I remember to call on my brothers. I cannot do it alone. I was not made to do it alone. Thank you for placing faithful men in my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Hang Together! Jan

Job 42

Focus

Focus changes things. If you focus the rays of the sun they transform from merely warmth and light to something quite powerful. When you concentrate and focus water-drops, they can cut through steel. When you focus eyes using corrective lenses (glasses), you see clearly. When Habitat For Humanity focuses dozens of construction professionals and willing amateurs in one location, a home can be built in as little as one day.

When my eyes focus on something far away, the things that are near lose their clarity – they lose focus. Conversely when I focus on something nearby, that which is far away loses clarity and becomes peripheral noise.

Today I noticed something about the book of Job I had not noticed before. I was focusing on the verses, individually, intently, trying to find hidden nuggets of truth in them. However, if I shift my focus to the entire book I see another picture. I see a macro view vs. a micro view.

The character of Job is introduced as follows.

There was a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz. He was blameless, a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil. Job 1:1

That tells me two things, he had no unconfessed sin in his life, and he lived his life righteously. A little later there is another aspect of Job’s character revealed.

Job would purify his children. He would get up early in the morning and offer a burnt offering for each of them. For Job said to himself, “Perhaps my children have sinned and have cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular practice. – Job 1:4b

Job regularly prayed for others.

Then calamity came on him. He cries out to God, but where is the praying for others? It does not reappear until the last chapter.

Now take seven young bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer on your behalf. I will not treat you as you deserve, for you have not been right in what you said about me, as my servant Job was.”

So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite did as the LORD commanded them, and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer. – Job 42:8-9

Notice that God essentially told the trio of discouragers to ask Job to pray for them. He didn’t want to hear from them. (Sorry, I started down a bunny-trail.)

Look at the result of Job’s prayer.

When Job prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes. In fact, the LORD gave him twice as much as before! – Job 42:10

It makes me wonder; what if Job had prayed for his friends earlier? What if he had continued his practice of doing good for others, instead of sitting and moaning? What if he had refocused? What if by doing as much as he could, with what he had left, on behalf of others, he would have altered what he saw around him? And what if he had prayed for…?

Lord, my I remember to pray for others. Please forgive me for focusing on myself and my issues as often as I do. May I live my life in a way that does not block the path of your blessing. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Re-Focus. Jan

p.s. Another interesting thing in this chapter, and the preceding few, was that God only reprimanded four out of the five. Elihu, Obviousman, was not addressed by God at all. Apparently, even though he was quite redundant, he was right.

Job 41

Dra-gon!

In the Disney animated cartoon Mulan, one of the characters is a feisty red dragon by the name of Mushu. He has a big heart, a tiny brain, and a body to match. When he first appears on the scene, Mulan, her cricket, and her horse are rather unimpressed. They think he is a lizard. Mushu responds.

“Dra-gon! Not lizard.” – Drawing out the two syllables of the word dragon as much us possible, and with as much contempt as possible. He also lets Mulan know that he is “Travel sized for” her “convenience.”

In reading in Job I ran across what can only be a dragon, not travel sized for my convenience.

No one is brave enough to provoke Leviathan… I will not be silent about Leviathan’s limbs, its strength, or its graceful form. Who can skin its hide? Who can approach it with a harness? Who can open its closed mouth? Its teeth are surrounded by terror. Its back has rows of scales that are tightly sealed. One is so close to the other that there is no space between them. Each is joined to the other. They are locked together and inseparable. When Leviathan sneezes, it gives out a flash of light. Its eyes are like the first rays of the dawn. Flames shoot from its mouth. Sparks of fire fly from it. Smoke comes from its nostrils like a boiling pot heated over brushwood. Its breath sets coals on fire, and a flame pours from its mouth. Strength resides in its neck, and power dances in front of it. The folds of its flesh stick to each other. They are solid and cannot be moved. Its chest is solid like a rock, solid like a millstone. The mighty are afraid when Leviathan rises. Broken down, they draw back. A sword may strike it but not pierce it. Neither will a spear, lance, or dart. It considers iron to be like straw and bronze to be like rotten wood. An arrow won’t make it run away. Stones from a sling turn to dust against it. It considers clubs to be like stubble, and it laughs at a rattling javelin. Its underside is like sharp pieces of broken pottery. It stretches out like a threshing sledge on the mud. It makes the deep sea boil like a pot. It stirs up the ocean like a boiling kettle. It leaves a shining path behind it so that the sea appears to have silvery hair. Nothing on land can compare to it. It was made fearless. – Job 41:10, 11-33

I won’t belabor the point. But If God can create something as improbable as the Platypus, he can certainly create a fire-breathing dragon named Leviathan. I don’t know why there aren’t any around now. Perhaps they went extinct. But I clearly see one described in the verses above.

Lord, thank you for interesting mysteries in your word. I look forward to learning about the rest of the story when I finally get to see you face-to-face. Your works truly are too marvelous for words. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

If I was my real size… Jan

Job 40

Critics

It is so easy to be a critic.

“If I was in charge…”

“No, you should do it this way.”

“Well, if you ask me…”

Yeah right. Walk a mile or two in my shoes, or the one’s of the person you are criticizing, and see how well you do.

Job has been busy criticizing God’s dealings with him. God responds and lets Job know that he is still indeed in charge. Then he challenges him.

Do you still want to argue with the Almighty? You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers? – Job 40:2

It reminds me of the movie Bruce Almighty. Bruce is critical of God. So God shows up, puts Bruce in charge and then goes on vacation.

In one scene Bruce decides to answer everyone’s prayers with a yes. The results are a hilarious disaster. There are hundreds of lottery winners all from one local area, people losing weight on the Krispe Kreme diet, people getting taller, and unlikely sports teams winning.

Yes to all, was not the answer. Some prayers needed a wait, and some needed a firm no.

It doesn’t take long for Bruce to realize that his answers are not going to work. The only thing that works is self sacrifice, continually giving of yourself.

If we could see perfectly into the future, and know all possible outcomes, and weigh every nuance, then, and only then could we even think about criticizing God about his dealings. But even then, only he knows what is best for us. He knows that sometimes, no, most-times, it is the suffering that produces the necessary changes in us; changes that make us like his son Jesus. Left to our own devices, we would never experience pain, hardship, or suffering. And as a result we’d never change.

Lord, thank you for all that you allow into my life. May I remember that when I am in the midst of the hard times. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Jan, not-so-mighty.

Job 39

Pent Up Warrior

I love God’s description of a horse’s qualities.

Have you given the horse its strength or clothed its neck with a flowing mane? Did you give it the ability to leap forward like a locust? Its majestic snorting is something to hear! It paws the earth and rejoices in its strength. When it charges to war, it is unafraid. It does not run from the sword. The arrows rattle against it, and the spear and javelin flash. Fiercely it paws the ground and rushes forward into battle when the trumpet blows. It snorts at the sound of the bugle. It senses the battle even at a distance. It quivers at the noise of battle and the shout of the captain’s commands. – Job 39:19-25

He’s pretty proud of it isn’t he?

And look at what he’s primarily touting about the horse. It is not the horse’s size, speed, or ability to save man labor. No, it is the warrior attributes.

  • Strength
  • Agility
  • Snorting (aggressive sound)
  • Hooves stomping the ground (eagerness)
  • Charging into war unafraid
  • Not retreating
  • Eager anticipation of battle

I makes me wonder if that isn’t the sort of qualities that God expects in me? After-all, the horse is not going to go into battle alone. By itself the horse is nothing but a cannonless tank. It might run over a few people, but that is all. But, if you place a warrior astride that same horse, you have heavy armor.

As a child of the King, I am automatically enlisted as a soldier of Christ; I am part of a vast army that is engaged in a conflict that transcends time. Do I live in that knowledge on a daily basis? Do I embody the attributes that God so highly vaunted about the horse? Or am I simply doing my duty, trudging along, pulling the plow, head down, eager only for my bag of oats and a nice night’s sleep?

Lord, forgive me for allowing myself to be lulled into complacency so often. May I lift my eyes while plowing and be consciously aware of the battle, and may I jump in eagerly when you shout out your commands, when the bugle sounds. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Charge! Jan

Job 38

Then the Lord…

What an amazing three words, “Then the Lord”. Literally anything could come afterward. There is no limit within this or any other realm of existence or thought which constrain his activity or intentions. Then the Lord…

This particular “Then the Lord” comes from the following verse.

Then the LORD answered Job from the whirlwind – Job 38:1

I know that God is the one doing the speaking, but now there are three additional pieces of information given.

1 – It was an answer or response to something.
2 – Job was the questioner.
3 – The Lord spoke from a whirlwind, or violent storm.

The third item sort of jumped out at me. A violent storm? Where did that come from? Did it just pop up the moment God’s voice was heard?

If I go back in the book of Job a chapter I see the following verses when Elihu is pontificating.

My heart pounds as I think of this. It leaps within me. Listen carefully to the thunder of God’s voice as it rolls from his mouth. It rolls across the heavens, and his lightning flashes out in every direction. Then comes the roaring of the thunder—the tremendous voice of his majesty. He does not restrain the thunder when he speaks. God’s voice is glorious in the thunder. We cannot comprehend the greatness of his power… Do you know how God controls the storm and causes the lightning to flash forth from his clouds? Do you understand how he balances the clouds with wonderful perfection and skill? – Job 37:1-5,15-16

I’ve always assumed that these verses were mere poetic language by Elihu, more of him rattling off his knowledge of God’s attributes.

However, now I think that Elihu was borrowing from the current atmospheric condition outside of Job’s home.

Imagine the five of them sitting there on the floor in Job’s home. Elihu is speaking. His back is to the open window and he feels the breeze begin to kick up. He thinks to himself, “That’s right, God controls all of the weather too.” Elihu is so focused on being heard that he doesn’t notice that Zophar, and Bildad, who are facing the window, are now staring wide-eyed straight ahead. They are seeing a storm like they’ve never seen before materializing right in front of them. The storm resembles the shape of a man – legs, torso, and arms. They can’t see above mid-chest as that is above their line of sight. Suddenly lightning flashes from above. Terror grips the duo, Eliphaz now glances toward the window and his blood runs cold. Job is just staring at the ground wishing Elihu would shut up already. Elihu makes some comment about God controlling lightning. The storm engulfs the house, darkness descends like a blanket. Elihu continues to speak. Then the Lord…

Everything changes. Nothing is the same. Then the Lord…

Lord, give us patience to wait on you. Sometimes you speak from and through the storm, sometimes from the stillness. But you are speaking, you don’t withhold your voice or presence from your children. You never abandon your children. Lord, please give us spiritual ears to hear. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Answered! Jan

Job 37

Obviousman

One of the things I truly enjoy is reading comics, some people call them the funny pages. Wiley Miller is the the creator of one named Non Sequitur. The name is Latin for “does not follow“, or loosely translated, “that doesn’t make sense“. He has several running story-lines and a cadre of assorted characters. One of my favorites is Obviousman. His super-skill is pointing out the things in life that are obvious or nonsensical. The crest emblazoned on his super-uniform is the word DUH with a red slash through it.

While reading through the book of Job I was struck by how Elihu is the equivalent of Obviousman. His revelations are mostly “DUH” statments.

Just look at how he starts out in chapter thirty-seven.

My heart pounds as I think of this. It leaps within me. Listen carefully to the thunder of God’s voice as it rolls from his mouth. It rolls across the heavens, and his lightning flashes out in every direction. Then comes the roaring of the thunder—the tremendous voice of his majesty. He does not restrain the thunder when he speaks. God’s voice is glorious in the thunder. We cannot comprehend the greatness of his power. – Job 37:1-5

Duh!

Tell us something we don’t know Elihu. What a comfort he must be to Job, “Let me tell you everything you already know about God…”

Sady, many of us are Elihu’s or Obviousmen. We parrot things that others already know, but rarely do we take time to dig and wait on the Lord to reveal truth to us. God hides things from us for many reasons.

There are secret things that belong to the LORD our God, but the revealed things belong to us and our descendants forever, so that we may obey these words of the law. – Deuteronomy 29:29

Sometimes he wants us to pursue him. We learn so much through the chase, things we would have never learned otherwise.

But you, Timothy, belong to God; so run from all these evil things, and follow what is right and good. Pursue a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. – 1 Timothy 6:11

But you Jan… follow, pursue.

Lord, please grant me the wisdom to know when I’m being obvious, when being silent is the better course of action. Also, please grant me the wisdom to know what to say when you want something said. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Duh! Jan