Tag Archives: sacrifice

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 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 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 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 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

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 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 31

He was blameless, a man of complete integrity

As I read Job’s final defense, I couldn’t help but compare his righteousness against my own…

He didn’t: lust, lie, cheat others, treat others unfairly, ignore people no matter who they were – friend or foe, withhold his attention and material possessions to those in need, treat others unkindly, trust his wealth, worship other gods, gloat over others misfortune, curse anyone – even enemies, steal, or hide his sins.

Man do I fall short.

Job was truly perplexed, and with good reason. Even God himself had declared him “a man of complete integrity”. He could not understand why calamity was upon him. He thought he was being unfairly punished and wanted an opportunity to plead his case.

Job is thinking, “Surely there must be a clerical error Lord.”

I would face the accusation proudly. I would treasure it like a crown. For I would tell him exactly what I have done. I would come before him like a prince. – Job 31:36-37

What about me? There certainly would not need to be clerical error to convict me.

Thank God for Jesus!

But our High Priest offered himself to God as one sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down at the place of highest honor at God’s right hand… For by that one offering he perfected forever all those whom he is making holy… Then he adds, “I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.” – Hebrews 10:12, 14, 17

In and of myself I definitely fall short of the mark set by God, even the one set by Job. But, because of Jesus, I am perfected forever. And he is not done with me yet, “he is making” me “holy.”

Lord, may I continue to let your Holy Spirit work in my life and make me holy, like your Son Jesus. In His name, Amen.

How do you measure up? Jan

Job 30

Kal’Hyah

It has been many years since I’ve watched Star Trek the Next Generation, but the memories of Worf and the Klingon warriors is still pretty vivid. I think because it is in such stark contrast to the world in which I live, a world full of gray areas, of cowardice, situational ethics, and increasing loss of rights due to governmental intrusion. However, I don’t think I’d trade my world for theirs. It was after-all rather brutal.

What brought the Klingons to mind was the anguish of Job; the trials and tests that he was enduring.

My heart is troubled and restless. Days of affliction have come upon me. – Job 30:27

Job has experienced six different trials.

Deprivation – He lost everything

“Your oxen were plowing, with the donkeys feeding beside them, when the Sabeans raided us. They stole all the animals and killed all the farmhands. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”

While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived with this news: “The fire of God has fallen from heaven and burned up your sheep and all the shepherds. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”

While he was still speaking, a third messenger arrived with this news: “Three bands of Chaldean raiders have stolen your camels and killed your servants. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.” – Job 1:14-17

Blood – His family was destroyed

While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived with this news: “Your sons and daughters were feasting in their oldest brother’s home. Suddenly, a powerful wind swept in from the desert and hit the house on all sides. The house collapsed, and all your children are dead. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.” – Job 1:18-19

Anguish – He was in mental agony of losing everything and everyone

Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground before God. – Job 1:20

Pain – He was now mentally and physically in anguish

So Satan left the LORD’s presence, and he struck Job with a terrible case of boils from head to foot. Then Job scraped his skin with a piece of broken pottery as he sat among the ashes. – Job 2:7-8

Sacrifice – Despite the circumstances he worshiped, sacrificed

Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground before God. He said,
“I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be stripped of everything when I die. The LORD gave me everything I had, and the LORD has taken it away. Praise the name of the LORD!”
In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God. – Job 1:20-22

Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him. – Job 13:15

Death – He knew the path he was on

And I know that you are sending me to my death—the destination of all who live. – Job 30:23

Perhaps Job understood the path of the warrior better than we do.

From the Star Trek Encyclopedia.

Kal’Hyah

A mental and spiritual journey that a Klingon man and his friends traditionally share during the last four nights before his wedding.  The ritual was made up of six trials: deprivation, blood, pain, sacrifice, anguish, and death.

Job experienced the journey with his friends. Unfortunately as I’ve seen, they were not there to share in it. Instead they made the journey more difficult.

Father, when my friends must undergo a trial, may I go with them rather than throw rocks from the sidelines. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

R’uustai – Jan

Job 22

Nothing to Gain

We value altruism in others when we see it, Mother Terresa, David Livingstone, Eric Liddell, and Florence Nightingale, to name a few. But rarely do we want to engage in that type of self-sacrifice ourselves. Yet even these undoubtedly good-hearted people had a motive beyond the mere desire to do good. They were motivated by a vision of the future, of entrance into heaven. I’m not saying that they thought their works would get them there, but their works were greatly influenced by their eternal destiny. So, they did in fact have something to gain.

Job’s so-called friend Eliphaz asked an interesting question.

Can a person’s actions be of benefit to God? Can even a wise person be helpful to him? Is it any pleasure to the Almighty if you are righteous? Would it be any gain to him if you were perfect? – Job 22:2-3

No matter how good anyone behaves or thinks, it really is of no benefit to God. He does not need us in any way whatsoever.

Ponder that for a moment. God does not need you. Nothing you could ever do will change that…

The beauty is that he wants you!

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s judgment. For since we were restored to friendship with God by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be delivered from eternal punishment by his life. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God—all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us in making us friends of God. – Romans 5:8-11

If we accept the offer of life, then he calls us friends. Wow!

Father, thank you for life and friendship that will never end. Thank you for making a way for me to come to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I gain everything! Jan

Romans 11

Little Flowers

Today as I was reading I was reminded of the book, Little Flowers by St. Francis of Assisi. In it is the following account of a trip he took with a fellow friar.

CHAPTER VIII
HOW ST FRANCIS, WALKING ONE DAY WITH BROTHER LEO, EXPLAINED TO HIM WHAT THINGS ARE PERFECT JOY

One day in winter, as St Francis was going with Brother Leo from Perugia to St Mary of the Angels, and was suffering greatly from the cold, he called to Brother Leo, who was walking on before him, and said to him:

“Brother Leo, if it were to please God that the Friars Minor should give, in all lands, a great example of holiness and edification, write down, and note carefully, that this would not be perfect joy.”

A little further on, St Francis called to him a second time: “O Brother Leo, if the Friars Minor were to make the lame to walk, if they should make straight the crooked, chase away demons, give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb, and, what is even a far greater work, if they should raise the dead after four days, write that this would not be perfect joy.”

Shortly after, he cried out again: “O Brother Leo, if the Friars Minor knew all languages; if they were versed in all science; if they could explain all Scripture; if they had the gift of prophecy, and could reveal, not only all future things, but likewise the secrets of all consciences and all souls, write that this would not be perfect joy.”

After proceeding a few steps farther, he cried out again with a loud voice: “O Brother Leo, thou little lamb of God! if the Friars Minor could speak with the tongues of angels; if they could explain the course of the stars; if they knew the virtues of all plants; if all the treasures of the earth were revealed to them; if they were acquainted with the various qualities of all birds, of all fish, of all animals, of men, of trees, of stones, of roots, and of waters – write that this would not be perfect joy.”

Shortly after, he cried out again: “O Brother Leo, if the Friars Minor had the gift of preaching so as to convert all infidels to the faith of Christ, write that this would not be perfect joy.”

Now when this manner of discourse had lasted for the space of two miles, Brother Leo wondered much within himself; and, questioning the saint, he said: “Father, I pray thee teach me wherein is perfect joy.”

St Francis answered: “If, when we shall arrive at St Mary of the Angels, all drenched with rain and trembling with cold, all covered with mud and exhausted from hunger; if, when we knock at the convent-gate, the porter should come angrily and ask us who we are; if, after we have told him, ‘We are two of the brethren’, he should answer angrily, ‘What ye say is not the truth; ye are but two impostors going about to deceive the world, and take away the alms of the poor; begone I say’; if then he refuse to open to us, and leave us outside, exposed to the snow and rain, suffering from cold and hunger till nightfall – then, if we accept such injustice, such cruelty and such contempt with patience, without being ruffled and without murmuring, believing with humility and charity that the porter really knows us, and that it is God who maketh him to speak thus against us, write down, O Brother Leo, that this is perfect joy.

And if we knock again, and the porter come out in anger to drive us away with oaths and blows, as if we were vile impostors, saying, ‘Begone, miserable robbers! to to the hospital, for here you shall neither eat nor sleep!’ – and if we accept all this with patience, with joy, and with charity, O Brother Leo, write that this indeed is perfect joy. And if, urged by cold and hunger, we knock again, calling to the porter and entreating him with many tears to open to us and give us shelter, for the love of God, and if he come out more angry than before, exclaiming, ‘These are but importunate rascals, I will deal with them as they deserve’; and taking a knotted stick, he seize us by the hood, throwing us on the ground, rolling us in the snow, and shall beat and wound us with the knots in the stick – if we bear all these injuries with patience and joy, thinking of the sufferings of our Blessed Lord, which we would share out of love for him, write, O Brother Leo, that here, finally, is perfect joy.

And now, brother, listen to the conclusion. Above all the graces and all the gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ grants to his friends, is the grace of overcoming oneself, and accepting willingly, out of love for Christ, all suffering, injury, discomfort and contempt; for in all other gifts of God we cannot glory, seeing they proceed not from ourselves but from God, according to the words of the Apostle, ‘What hast thou that thou hast not received from God? and if thou hast received it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it?’ But in the cross of tribulation and affliction we may glory, because, as the Apostle says again, ‘I will not glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Amen.”

I was reminded once again that there is nothing that we can give to God to compare with what he has given us.

For who can know what the Lord is thinking? Who knows enough to be his counselor? And who could ever give him so much that he would have to pay it back? For everything comes from him; everything exists by his power and is intended for his glory. To him be glory evermore. Amen. – Romans 11:34-36

The only thing we have that we can give God, that has any worth whatsoever, is how we respond to circumstances of this life. Do we bring him glory through it or not?

Father, may I bring you glory in whatever comes my way. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Practice Perfect Joy. Jan

2 Samuel 24

It stopped where it started

I’m still confused a bit about what really happened with God getting angry at Israel and the whole he “caused David” to sin thing.

The LORD became angry with Israel again, so he provoked David to turn against Israel. He said, “Go, count Israel and Judah.” – 2 Samuel 24:1

There is an alternate reading that blames Satan.

Satan attempted to attack Israel by provoking David to count the Israelites. – 1 Chronicles 21:1

No matter whom was to blame, God was not pleased with David having chosen the sin of pride and not following God’s way of conducting a census.

Whenever you take a census of the people of Israel, each man who is counted must pay a ransom for himself to the LORD. Then there will be no plagues among the people as you count them. – Exodus 30:12

As a result God sent word that destruction would result.

When David got up in the morning, the LORD spoke his word to the prophet Gad, David’s seer. “Go and tell David, ‘This is what the LORD says: I’m offering you three choices. Choose the one you want me to do to you.’”

When Gad came to David, he told David this and asked, “Should seven years of famine come to you and your land, or three months during which you flee from your enemies as they pursue you, or should there be a three-day plague in your land? Think it over, and decide what answer I should give the one who sent me.”

“I’m in a desperate situation,” David told Gad. “Please let us fall into the LORD’s hands because he is very merciful. But don’t let me fall into human hands.” – 2 Samuel 24:11-14

In response, God sent the “three-day plague”. I wondered about this event, so I checked what Flavius Josephus wrote about it. Here is his description:

When the prophet had heard this, he declared it to God; who thereupon sent a pestilence and a mortality upon the Hebrews; nor did they die after one and the same manner, nor so that it was easy to know what the distemper was. Now the miserable disease was one indeed, but it carried them off by ten thousand causes and occasions, which those that were afflicted could not understand; for one died upon the neck of another, and the terrible malady seized them before they were aware, and brought them to their end suddenly, some giving up the ghost immediately with very great pains and bitter grief, and some were worn away by their distempers, and had nothing remaining to be buried, but as soon as ever they fell were entirely macerated; some were choked, and greatly lamented their case, as being also stricken with a sudden darkness; some there were who, as they were burying a relation, fell down dead, without finishing the rites of the funeral.

Now there perished of this disease, which began with the morning, and lasted till the hour of dinner, seventy thousand. Nay, the angel stretched out his hand over Jerusalem, as sending this terrible judgment upon it. But David had put on sackcloth, and lay upon the ground, entreating God, and begging that the distemper might now cease, and that he would be satisfied with those that had already perished. And when the king looked up into the air, and saw the angel carried along thereby into Jerusalem, with his sword drawn, he said to God, that he might justly be punished, who was their shepherd, but that the sheep ought to be preserved, as not having sinned at all; and he implored God that he would send his wrath upon him, and upon all his family, but spare the people.

When God heard his supplication, he caused the pestilence to cease, and sent Gad the prophet to him, and commanded him to go up immediately to the thrashing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite, and build an altar there to God, and offer sacrifices. – Antiquities of the Jews, Book 7 Chapter 13

Wow, what a nasty horrible way for the people to die!

Stay with me, here is where it gets good. The angel stopped his destruction of Israel at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. David quickly goes there and tells Araunah that he wants to purchase the entire property.

Araunah said to David, “Take it, Your Majesty, and offer whatever you think is right. There are oxen for the burnt offering, and there are threshers and oxen yokes for firewood.” All this Araunah gave to the king and said, “May the LORD your God accept you.”

“No!” the king said to Araunah. “I must buy it from you at a {fair} price. I won’t offer the LORD my God burnt sacrifices that cost me nothing.”

So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for 1¼ pounds of silver. David built an altar for the LORD there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. So the LORD heard the prayers for the country, and the plague on Israel stopped. – 2 Samuel 24:22-25

Thus ends the book of Second Samuel. However, that is not the end of the property that was formerly Araunah’s! This land was one where an angel of the Lord was stopped from his destruction of Israel. If he had been allowed to go on for the full three days it is likely that nobody would have survived. After all, just four angels are enough to eradicate one third of the population of our planet (Revelation 9:15). Suffice it to say, this ground is pretty special now. It was set-apart to sacrifice to the Lord. It was now hallowed ground.

Then David said, “This is where the LORD God’s temple will be. Israel’s altar for burnt offerings will also be here.” – 1 Chronicles 22:1

Israel was saved here. This is the place where the Temple would one day stand. At this spot, at the rebuilt temple, Jesus was judged and mankind was saved. But there was one more salvation at this location. One that Josephus wrote about when he described what David did.

And when he had built an altar, he performed Divine service, and brought a burnt-offering, and offered peace-offerings also. With these God was pacified, and became gracious to them again.

Now it happened that Abraham came and offered his son Isaac for a burnt-offering at that very place; and when the youth was ready to have his throat cut, a ram appeared on a sudden, standing by the altar, which Abraham sacrificed in the stead of his son, as we have before related.

Now when king David saw that God had heard his prayer, and had graciously accepted of his sacrifice, he resolved to call that entire place The Altar of all the People, and to build a temple to God there; which words he uttered very appositely to what was to be done afterward; for God sent the prophet to him, and told him that there should his son build him an altar, that son who was to take the kingdom after him. – Antiquities of the Jews Book 7 Chapter 13

The birth of the nation of Israel came about through Abraham’s trusting of God; on this very spot his trust was proven. It was a foreshadowing of what our redemption would look like – a lamb being sacrificed in Isaac’s stead. Centuries later on this very spot, the Lamb of God would be condemned to be sacrificed in all of our steads.

Father, thank you for the sacrifice of Abraham, David, and Jesus. May I honor you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Special spot, ain’t it? Jan

2 Samuel 21

Nexus

nex⋅us [nek-suhs] – noun, plural nex⋅us⋅es, nex⋅us.
1. a means of connection; tie; link.
2. a connected series or group.
3. the core or center, as of a matter or situation.
4. Cell Biology. a specialized area of the cell membrane involved in intercellular communication and adhesion.

In reading second Samuel chapter twenty-one I came across a familiar name – Rizpah. I first saw her in second Samuel chapter three.

One day Ishbosheth, Saul’s son, accused Abner of sleeping with one of his father’s concubines, a woman named Rizpah. – 2 Samuel 3:7

Abner was a faithful righteous man. The accusation offended him so badly that he left Ishbosheth and pledged loyalty to David. It was this event that triggered David’s ascension to rule a unified Israel. Rizpah was at the center of it. She was the nexus.

Today I read that God was withholding rain from the land as punishment for Saul trying to eradicate the Gibeonites. David enquired of God as to what he should do. God instructed him to do whatever the Gibeonites required of him.

What they required was seven male descendants of Saul to pay for his crimes against the Gibeonites – a death sentence.

Two of the men were sons of Rizpah, the same Rizpah who was at the center of David’s receiving the full kingdom.

It is clear that she loved her sons.

Then Rizpah, the mother of two of the men, spread sackcloth on a rock and stayed there the entire harvest season. She prevented vultures from tearing at their bodies during the day and stopped wild animals from eating them at night. – 2 Samuel 21:10

What I found of particular interest was that the rain did not return, God did not stop his chastisement, until after David did the right thing for Rizpah and Saul’s family.

When David learned what Rizpah, Saul’s concubine, had done, he went to the people of Jabesh-gilead and asked for the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan. (When Saul and Jonathan had died in a battle with the Philistines, it was the people of Jabesh-gilead who had retrieved their bodies from the public square of the Philistine city of Beth-shan.) So David brought the bones of Saul and Jonathan, as well as the bones of the men the Gibeonites had executed. He buried them all in the tomb of Kish, Saul’s father, at the town of Zela in the land of Benjamin. After that, God ended the famine in the land of Israel. – 2 Samuel 11 – 14

Twice Rizpah was a nexus in David’s life. Once in establishing his rule, and the second time in ending a famine.

How many nexuses are in my life that I fail to notice? How about you? I suspect there are many more than we’ll ever guess.

Father, may I be mindful of those times when a choice presents itself, those that once taken shape the course of all that is to follow. Please give me eyes to see and wisdom to know the correct path. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

When at a crossroad, stop and pray. Jan

2 Samuel 1

Amalekites

Amazing what happens when we don’t listen to our parents. When I married my first wife it was with the grudging permission of my father. He knew that something was not right even though he couldn’t identify it. As it turned out, neither of us was mature enough and eventually after many years the marriage ended. I caused my parents much grief due to my choice. 

In this chapter I noticed that David and his men had just returned from defeating the Amalekites. First Samuel chapter thirty contains the account of that battle if you’d like to read it. 

However, what jumped out at me was that the young man in this chapter, the young man that killed Saul, is also an Amalekite. 

Then David said to the young man who had brought the news, “Where are you from?” And he replied, “I am a foreigner, an Amalekite, who lives in your land.” 

“Were you not afraid to kill the LORD’s anointed one?” David asked. Then David said to one of his men, “Kill him!” So the man thrust his sword into the Amalekite and killed him. “You die self-condemned,” David said, “for you yourself confessed that you killed the LORD’s anointed one.” – 2 Samuel 1:13-16 

In first Samuel chapter fifteen God had ordered Saul to eradicate all traces of Amalekites. Obviously this was not obeyed. In fact it was Saul’s handling of this particular encounter that was the cause of his loss of favor with God. 

So why did God want the Amalekites wiped out? 

Hundreds of years earlier, in Exodus seventeen, Israel is finally free from Egypt. They are camped at Rephidim when the Amalekites attacked them. The Israelites prevailed and beat them back. However, God pronounced an eternal curse against them. 

Then the LORD instructed Moses, “Write this down as a permanent record, and announce it to Joshua: I will blot out every trace of Amalek from under heaven.” – Exodus 17:14 

Yet, even this did not need to happen. Let’s travel a few hundred years further back into Israelite history. 

Isaac was commanded by his father Abraham to not marry any of the local women, to only marry those from his tribe. He obeyed his father’s wishes and married Rebekah. It is reasonable to deduce that a similar desire would have been passed on to his two sons, Jacob and Esau. 

The father of the nation of Israel was Jacob, he in fact bore the name Israel later in life. His twin brother was Esau. And it is from him that things went horribly wrong. 

At the age of forty, Esau married a young woman named Judith, the daughter of Beeri the Hittite. He also married Basemath, the daughter of Elon the Hittite. But Esau’s wives made life miserable for Isaac and Rebekah. – Genesis 26:34-35 

I think it can be safely inferred from the verses above that these marriages were against his parents wishes. 

Here’s the kicker, Amalek was the grandson of Esau and his wife Adah, also known as Basemath. 

If Esau had listened to his parents, the Amalekites would never have existed! Who knows how the history of the nation of Israel would have turned out had one man listened to his parents. 

Who knows how my life would have turned out had I listened to my parents. 

But, God is a redemptive God. He can take our broken things and create something wonderful with them. 

 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. – Romans 8:28 

Now many years later I am remarried to a wonderful woman that both of my parents approved of and loved as if she was their own daughter. One of the last things my father did on this earth was to pay for my bride to attend a Christian retreat in Colorado. (My father passed away in March of 2008). 

I don’t think that it is a coincidence that the quote “obedience is better than sacrifice” comes out of Saul’s failure with the Amalekites in first Samuel fifteen. God wants us to obey him and those he has placed over us. 

Lord, may I remember to obey you in all things, whether I agree or understand them. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Listen. Jan