Monthly Archives: February 2010

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

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Book of Job

The Song

A friend sent me the following YouTube video.

It is a great wrap-up to the book.

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