Tag Archives: sin

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 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 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

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 36

Life Interrupted

When we think of a life being cut short we think of an untimely death, or perhaps some debilitating injury or disease. But I noticed a different form of life interruption today.

In the book of Job, Elihu says the following about those who do try to follow after God, those who are not engaged in open willful rebellion.

If troubles come upon them and they are enslaved and afflicted, he takes the trouble to show them the reason. He shows them their sins, for they have behaved proudly. He gets their attention and says they must turn away from evil. – Job 36:8-10

How does God show them the reason? How does he show them their sins? How does he get their attention?

But by means of their suffering, he rescues those who suffer. For he gets their attention through adversity… Be on guard! Turn back from evil, for it was to prevent you from getting into a life of evil that God sent this suffering. – Job 36:15,21

I’ve always known that God allows suffering in our lives so that we change, but I’ve never seen it spelled out so clearly before.

God allows, even sends, suffering to interrupt our lives to effect change. Having what could potentially be a life of sin interrupted by God is blessing, not punishment.

Are you suffering?

Examine your life. Is God trying to get your attention? If so, please listen – and change.

Then take Elihu’s advice, which is pretty good in this instance.

Instead, glorify his mighty works, singing songs of praise. – Job 36:24

This echoes a verse from the New Testament.

Always be joyful. Keep on praying. No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Other translations say to be thankful “in all things”. Note that we are not asked to be thankful for all things, but in them. Praise to the one who is truly worthy changes our perspective and has the ability to restart an interrupted life – in the right direction.

Father, may I be quick to examine the circumstances of adversity, of suffering and trouble, to determine if they are a gift from you, or an attack from our enemy. If it is the former, please give me the grace to change – quickly. If the latter, then please give me the grace to stand up under it and come out on the other side still praising you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Restart your life. Jan

Job 35

Sin’s Effect

What is the price of sin? What effect or effects are there as a result of choices we make or don’t make?

In the passage below, Elihu, one of Job’s friends, commented about sin’s lack of effect on God.

If you sin, what do you accomplish against him? Even if you sin again and again, what effect will it have on him? If you are good, is this some great gift to him? What could you possibly give him? No, your sins affect only people like yourself, and your good deeds affect only other people. – Job 35:6-8

But is that really true?

In 1961 a scientist by the name of Edward Lorenz was working on some weather prediction models. Instead of entering the number .506127 into his computer, thinking that it would make little difference, he entered .506 and walked away for a short time. When he returned he was astounded at the result; the resulting computer weather simulation was completely different than what he expected. Later, while writing and speaking about this discovery he said, “One flap of a butterfly’s wings could alter the weather forever.” In a 1972 conference the scenario was posed as the question, “Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?” The conclusion is that a minute alteration in wind-pattern could have radical results.

Therefore I disagree with Elihu, for two reasons. The first being as a result of Edward Lorenz’ work. Sin can and does alter God’s perfect will for our world. One tiny act that is outside of God’s desire for us affects the course of our lives and that of others. If even one person doesn’t make it to Heaven, then God’s perfect plan is disrupted – we’ve affected him.

The second reason I disagree is because of the following words from Jesus.

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

The world spoken about is not the globe, it is the inhabitants of it. If you love someone, and they make choices that are contrary to what you know is best for them, it pains you. Lest you think that I’m making it up that it pains God to see us sin, look at the following verses.

Now the LORD observed the extent of the people’s wickedness, and he saw that all their thoughts were consistently and totally evil. So the LORD was sorry he had ever made them. It broke his heart. – Genesis 6:5-6

God’s heart was broken over man’s sinful condition and depravity.

So, sorry Elihu. Sin affects both people and God.

Father, please help me to not flap my wings in ways that would disrupt your perfect plans. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Ride the current of God’s will. Jan

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 2

Mrs. Job

I think most people who read the book of Job, specifically the second chapter, see Mrs. Job’s outburst and immediately label her as some shrew or heathen.

His wife said to him, “Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die.” – Job 2:9

How quick we are to forget what she had just endured.

Women were prized for two things in that culture, beauty and their ability to bear children. Their righteousness was measured by the amount of children God blessed them with. Just look at the two passages below.

Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she became jealous of her sister; and she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or else I die.” – Genesis 30:1

After these days Elizabeth his wife became pregnant, and she kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying, “This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men.” – Luke 1:24-25

Notice the passion regarding children “or else I die!”, “my disgrace among men”. Having children was vital to the existence of a middle-eastern woman.

Unless she was some sort of monster, Mrs. Job loved the 10 children she gave birth to, 10 children she’d just buried. So, put yourself in Mrs. Job’s sandals for a moment. Nearly everything your husband owned has either been stolen or destroyed – you’re broke. Your children are all dead, meaning that you have no future security since poor older women were taken care of by their children once their husband died. Your husband is very sick, not to mention pretty repulsive looking with all of the oozing sores, and is likely to die soon. And since you are an older woman, you’re probably not given much of a second glance by the men of the area. Meaning you have very little prospect for remarriage. Therefore, when Job dies, she may as well have them bury her with him.

Notice however, that Job does not call her a Godless woman. Even in his own distress and pain he speaks carefully selected words.

But Job replied, “You talk like a godless woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” So in all this, Job said nothing wrong. – Job 2:10

He said she is speaking like, not that she is, a Godless woman. This is a key distinction. I like how the Rotherham translation worded the verse above.

And he said unto her, As one of the base women speaketh, speakest thou? Blessing shall we accept from God, and, misfortune, shall we not accept? In all this, Job sinned not with his lips. – Job 2:10 (Rotherham Emphasized Version)

The translator phrased it as a question. In modern parlance I’d phrase it, “Are you going to speak like a woman who doesn’t know God?” It wasn’t a slap in the face. It was a reminder of who she was, a Godly woman.

She was not unrighteous. I challenge you to look up God rebuking her, or Job needing to sacrifice to atone for her sin. It isn’t there. In fact God blesses her in the end. Job doesn’t get a new wife, he still has the same one when the following is written.

So the LORD blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning. For now he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand teams of oxen, and one thousand female donkeys. He also gave Job seven more sons and three more daughters. He named his first daughter Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. In all the land there were no other women as lovely as the daughters of Job. And their father put them into his will along with their brothers. – Job 42:12-15

Remember how women were prized? Job’s daughters had a triple-blessing; they were beautiful, rich (put them into his will), and they bore him grandchildren. And yes, Mrs. Job was there to enjoy all of the restored blessings too.

Father, may I not be quick to judge. There is often much more going on than meets the eye. Thank you for lessons from Mrs. Job. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

A blessing, not a curse. Jan

1 Timothy 2

Deluded

I wonder, are you among those men who seem surprised when a police officer pulls you over for speeding? After all, it isn’t like your car doesn’t have a speedometer, and it isn’t like the speed-limit isn’t posted. Perhaps since so many others break the law, you have been deceived into thinking that it is not enforced and thereby moot.

In reading the following scripture I wonder if something similar didn’t enter Adam’s mind.

And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. – 1 Timothy 2:14

However, Paul omits a key piece of information in this brief passage. Look at the account of this transgression in Genesis.

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. – Genesis 3:6

Her husband, Adam, was with her!

Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins. – James 4:17

When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. – Ezekiel 33:8

Adam was right there. He knew what the right thing, the good thing, to do was. He did nothing to stop Eve from sinning.

Eve might have been deceived, but Adam was deluded into thinking that God was not going to act. Perhaps Adam even used her as the food-taster. “Hmm, she didn’t drop dead. I guess it is OK to eat the fruit after all…”

Frankly, Adam sinned first, and in greater measure. It was his responsibility to care for everything in Eden, including his wife. He stood right there, watched what was happening, and did nothing!

How often am I deluded into thinking that my actions don’t have consequences simply because they are not immediate? How about you?

Father, please forgive me for my presumptuous sins. May I live my daily life with an eye to eternity, doing what brings you glory and pleasure. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Don’t be deluded. Jan

1 Timothy 1

Unsealed Orders

During WWII my grandmother, then in a German slave-labor camp with her family, was given sealed-orders to bring to the commander of a different camp to which she and her family were being transferred. Her maiden name was Hoffman and she was trying to convince them that she was of German descent. Non-Germans were often worked to death, whereas those of German origin were treated less harshly.

Prior to arriving at the other camp my grandmother carefully steamed the envelope open, unsealing the orders. They stated that if the commander was not fully satisfied that she and her family were German, they should be taken out and immediately executed.

In reading Paul’s letter to Timothy I noticed some unsealed-orders.

Timothy, my son, here are my instructions for you, based on the prophetic words spoken about you earlier. May they give you the confidence to fight well in the Lord’s battles. – 1 Timothy 1:18

Paul gave him instructions that were going to be crucial in aiding Timothy in the great war in which he was engaged. So what were those orders that inspired confidence to fight well?

  • Don’t let people waste time in spiritual arguments. – 1 Timothy 1:4
  • Cling tightly to faith in Christ. – 1 Timothy 1:19
  • Always keep a clear conscience. – 1 Timothy 1:19
  • Pray for everyone. – 1 Timothy 2:1
  • Plead for God’s mercy for everyone – 1 Timothy 2:1
  • Give thanks. – 1 Timothy 2:1
  • Pray with actions, not just words. – 1 Timothy 2:8
  • Pray free from anger and controversy. – 1 Timothy 2:8
  • Be faithful. – 1 Timothy 3:2
  • Be self-controlled – 1 Timothy 3:2
  • Live well. – 1 Timothy 3:2
  • Cultivate a good reputation. 1 Timothy 3:2
  • Be hospitable. – 1 Timothy 3:2
  • Be a capable teacher. – 1 Timothy 3:2
  • Be temperate (not a drunkard). – 1 Timothy 3:3
  • Be gentle – peace loving. – 1 Timothy 3:3
  • Not motivated by money. – 1 Timothy 3:3
  • Manage your family well. – 1 Timothy 3:4
  • Don’t be prideful. – 1 Timothy 3:6
  • Have integrity. – 1 Timothy 3:8
  • Be responsible. – 1 Timothy 3:10
  • Receive everything with a thankful heart. – 1 Timothy 4:4-5
  • Don’t waste time in arguments. – 1 Timothy 4:7
  • Exercise both physically and even more spiritually. – 1 Timothy 4:8
  • Work hard, suffer if you must. – 1 Timothy 4:10
  • Teach others; insist they learn. – 1 Timothy 4:11
  • Your youth is not an obstacle. – 1 Timothy 4:12
  • Be an example in; life, love, faith, and purity. – 1 Timothy 4:12
  • Encourage others by teaching them from the scriptures. – 1 Timothy 4:13
  • Be enthusiastic in your mission. – 1 Timothy 4:15
  • Let others see your progress. – 1 Timothy 4:15
  • Check regularly to ensure you don’t stray from the truth. – 1 Timothy 4:16
  • Never speak harshly to elders. – 1 Timothy 5:1
  • Speak to younger men as you would your own brothers. – 1 Timothy 5:1
  • Treat older women as you would your mother. – 1 Timothy 5:2
  • Treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters. – 1 Timothy 5:2
  • Ensure that true widows’ needs are met. – 1 Timothy 5:3-7
  • Those who work hard for God should be paid for their work. – 1 Timothy 5:17-18
  • Unless there are 2 or 3 witnesses, do not listen to accusations against leaders. – 1 Timothy 5:19
  • Publicly rebuke those who sin. – 1 Timothy 5:20
  • Be impartial, no favoritism. – 1 Timothy 5:21
  • Take your time in appointing leaders, don’t be hasty. – 1 Timothy 5:22
  • Don’t take part in other people’s sin – stay pure. – 1 Timothy 5:22
  • Take your medicine. Being sick doesn’t help anyone. – 1 Timothy 5:23
  • Workers should honor their employers by working hard. – 1 Timothy 6:1-2
  • Teach these truths to others and encourage others to obey them. – 1 Timothy 6:2
  • If your material needs are being met, be content. – 1 Timothy 6:7-8
  • Don’t let money tempt you and derail you. – 1 Timothy 6:9-10
  • Run from evil things. – 1 Timothy 6:11
  • Pursue, run after, a godly life. – 1 Timothy 6:11
  • Continue to fight God’s battle. – 1 Timothy 6:12
  • Hold tightly to what you’ve come to believe. – 1 Timothy 6:12
  • In purity obey Christ Jesus’ commands! – 1 Timothy 6:13
  • Trust the living God. – 1 Timothy 6:17
  • Know that God richly gives you everything you need for enjoyment. – 1 Timothy 6:18
  • Tell the wealthy to use their money to do good. – 1 Timothy 6:17-19
  • Guard what God has entrusted you with. – 1 Timothy 6:20
  • Avoid foolish godless foolish discussions with those who think they are wise. – 1 Timothy 6:20

Wow, what a list! And I’ve probably missed some.

Father, thank you for inspiring Paul to write this. Please help me to make this part of my life as Timothy did. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

And yes, my grandmother did convince the German commander. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here. Jan

Romans 14

I’m not God

It is so easy to fall into the trap of judging or condemning someone else. They may not be doing work the way that I think it should be done. They might simply be sitting around… Paul had some rather blunt words for people who are quick to judge.

Who are you to condemn God’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong. The Lord’s power will help them do as they should. – Romans 14:4

Although Paul is specifically speaking about eating certain types of foods, and observing or celebrating certain days, the principle holds for nearly everything in life. To emphasize the fact, he reiterated the point one more time.

So why do you condemn another Christian? Why do you look down on another Christian? Remember, each of us will stand personally before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say,

‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow to me
and every tongue will confess allegiance to God.’

Yes, each of us will have to give a personal account to God. So don’t condemn each other anymore. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not put an obstacle in another Christian’s path.  – Romans 14:10-13

Since I’m not God, I have no right to decide how one of his servants is doing as long as they are not in outright sin. However, if I am entrusted with leadership over someone, then delgated authority comes into play and I am commanded to exercise the authority invested in me by Christ.

It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your job to judge those inside the church who are sinning in these ways. – 1 Corinthians 5:12

It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict of sin. It is our job to ensure that the sin is not contaminating the rest of the body of believers.

Father, may I know when to shut-up and when to speak; when to act and when to watch. Please give me wisdom. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I’m just me. Jan

Romans 9

My Purpose

I used to joke with people that the purpose of my life was to serve as a warning to others. The statement comes from a de-motivational poster.

However, today I read this from the Apostle Paul.

For the Scriptures say that God told Pharaoh, “I have appointed you for the very purpose of displaying my power in you, and so that my fame might spread throughout the earth.” – Romans 9:17

Um, kinda sounds like the poster. The purpose of Pharaoh’s life was to serve as a warning to others.

But imagine knowing your purpose, knowing exactly what you were built to do and then following that path unwaveringly. Appealing isn’t it?

My family and I have been watching a SciFi channel program on DVD, StarGate Atlantis. In a recent episode, Dr. Rodney McKay created an artificial human using nano-technology – a Replicator. This machine’s sole purpose for existing was to serve as a weapon against an enemy comprised of other sentient nano-technology Replicators. In the fulfillment of her purpose she would be destroyed.  As they are approaching the time and place where she would deploy a very interesting exchange of dialog occurs.  “Fran” is the name Dr. McKay gave her – Friendly Replicator ANdroid.

(Fran the Replicator is gazing out of the window as hyperspace rushes past. It turns and looks at Rodney as he types on a computer tablet.)
FRAN
: This is quite exciting, isn’t it?
(Rodney looks up at it awkwardly.)
McKAY: It’s a bit nerve-wracking, yeah.
FRAN: I quite look forward to it.
McKAY: You do?
FRAN: One always wishes to fulfill one’s purpose.
(Behind Rodney, Radek is frowning at Fran in surprise.)
McKAY: … Right. And you’re fine with all this?
FRAN: Why would I not be? It’s my reason for being.
McKAY: Well, I know. It’s just that you’re … you’re gonna cease to be.
FRAN: Yes.
McKAY: Well, I just … I just imagined you’d rather keep being than, uh … uh, than not.
FRAN: Certainly you’re not worried for me, are you, Doctor?
McKAY: No, no, that would be silly.
FRAN (smiling at him): Yes, it would.

One always wishes to fulfill one’s purpose… Am I doing that? Or do I complain or try to avoid the things I feel, or even know, that my creator has ordained for me to do? Wouldn’t that be silly?

Who are you, a mere human being, to criticize God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who made it, “Why have you made me like this?” When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into? God has every right to exercise his judgment and his power, but he also has the right to be very patient with those who are the objects of his judgment and are fit only for destruction. He also has the right to pour out the riches of his glory upon those he prepared to be the objects of his mercy—even upon us, whom he selected, both from the Jews and from the Gentiles. – Romans 9:20b-24

God has a purpose for each of us. If there is a conviction of sin in you, if you feel the weight of wrong when you do it, that means that God has given you the gift of being able to receive his mercy. Otherwise he would not torment you with guilt that cannot be assuaged. And if you know you are not right with God there is always hope. I know, I’ve read ahead to the next chapter.

For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who believes in him will not be disappointed.” Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They all have the same Lord, who generously gives his riches to all who ask for them. For “Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” – Romans 10:9-13

The word anyone means just that, anyone. If you believe (not an intellectual exercise, but one of obedience too) then you will be saved.

Father, thank you for making me. May I fulfill my purpose. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I quite look forward to it… Jan

Romans 3

An Unpayable Debt

When I was about ten years old my brother and I had way too much time on our hands. My mother worked a late shift at a factory, and my father, exhausted from a long day of work gave us boys freedom – too much freedom.

Wherever they go, destruction and misery follow them.
They do not know what true peace is.
They have no fear of God to restrain them. – Romans 3:16-18

One evening we found ourselves in a condominium project that had apparently run out of money to complete the construction. Something is hard-wired in a boy to where they love to see things break and blow up… We found some chunks of concrete and started breaking things. To make a long story short; the event involved police, a ride in the back of a cruiser, humiliated and mortified parents, angry construction project owners, and two very guilty boys.

For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard. – Romans 3:23

It was clear that my brother and I had sinned, sinned against the owners of the condominium, our parents, and against God. We had broken laws and hearts. Our parents could never afford to replace or fix the damage that my brother and I had caused…

Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins. – Romans 3:24

I do not remember his name and I don’t know the exact details, but the owner had mercy on my parents. He worked out an arrangement whereby my brother and I would spend every day after school, and all day during summer, working in and around that condominium complex cleaning, doing whatever grunt work was required. We were forgiven a debt we could never repay and in its place asked to do, what now in retrospect was, light, easy work.

Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on our good deeds. It is based on our faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.  – Romans 3:27-28

There was nothing we could have done to make up for our sins, but we were forgiven. In comparison to our mountain of crime, our “good deeds” didn’t amount to a feather-pillow. Yet by the time our term of service was over we were free. We had faith that when the man in charge told us not to return that we would never face punishment for that crime again. The unpayable debt had been forgiven.

Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.  – Romans 3:31

Likewise, when we come to Christ Jesus we have a mountain of sin piled up that we could never remove ourselves. We must trust the man in charge who states, “I forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.” By believing, accepting his words as true – that the sin is indeed paid-in-full – it is. And thereby the law and its need for retribution is fulfilled.

Father, thank you for sending your sinless son to do what I couldn’t. He took the weight of my sin and set me free. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Go and sin no more. – 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 20

Sons of Zeruiah

When I wrote about second Samuel chapter nineteen I noticed how the phrase “Sons of Zeruiah” seemed to be used by King David as an epithet. As I was reading a little while ago I noticed another example of why their moniker should be considered as something derogatory.

Absalom’s rebellion had been crushed. Due to Joab’s harsh treatment of David in regards to his grief over the death of Absalom (2 Samuel 19:5-7), David had appointed Amasa, Joab’s cousin, as head of the army instead of Joab (2 Samuel 19:13).

David then sent Amasa to mobilize the army to suppress a growing revolt led by a guy named Sheba. He gave him three days to do so and return to him. On the fourth day David got nervous and sent Joab, his brother Abishai, and some elite guards to hunt down Sheba and stop the rebellion before it got traction.

So Abishai and Joab set out after Sheba with an elite guard from Joab’s army and the king’s own bodyguard. As they arrived at the great stone in Gibeon, Amasa met them, coming from the opposite direction. Joab was wearing his uniform with a dagger strapped to his belt. As he stepped forward to greet Amasa, he secretly slipped the dagger from its sheath.

“How are you, my cousin?” Joab said and took him by the beard with his right hand as though to kiss him. Amasa didn’t notice the dagger in his left hand, and Joab stabbed him in the stomach with it so that his insides gushed out onto the ground.

Joab did not need to strike again, and Amasa soon died. Joab and his brother Abishai left him lying there and continued after Sheba. – 2 Samuel 20:7-10

Amasa was on his way back to King David with the troops, as ordered. Joab murdered his own cousin so that he would regain control of the army, and his brother Abishai did nothing to stop him.

Sons of Zeruiah indeed!

Several times King David expressed that these “sons of Zeruiah” were too powerful for him to deal with. However, that does not mean that they got away with their crimes. No, God’s justice may be slow (he gives us time to repent), but it is sure.

Many years later, after David’s rule came to an end, he set his son Solomon up as king in his stead. Solomon dealt with Joab’s treachery and meted out justice.

Benaiah went into the sacred tent of the LORD and said to Joab, “The king orders you to come out!” But Joab answered, “No, I will die here.” So Benaiah returned to the king and told him what Joab had said.

“Do as he said,” the king replied. “Kill him there beside the altar and bury him. This will remove the guilt of his senseless murders from me and from my father’s family. Then the LORD will repay him for the murders of two men who were more righteous and better than he. For my father was no party to the deaths of Abner son of Ner, commander of the army of Israel, and Amasa son of Jether, commander of the army of Judah. May Joab and his descendants be forever guilty of these murders, and may the LORD grant peace to David and his descendants and to his throne forever.

So Benaiah son of Jehoiada returned to the sacred tent and killed Joab, and Joab was buried at his home in the wilderness.” – 1 Kings 2:30-34

There is a definitely a difference in being a son of Zeruiah and being a son of David. The one exhibits grasping, jealous, self-serving behavior. The other exhibits wisdom in service to his subjects.

Father, may we too live our lives as sons of David. Thank you for adopting us into his royal lineage through the death and resurrection of your son Jesus. In his name, Amen.

Be a son of God. Jan

2 Samuel 15

Revenge is a dish best served cold

Ahithophel was the royal adviser. Hushai the Arkite was the king’s friend. – 1 Chronicles 27:33

A few days ago I wrote a possible scenario regarding how Bathsheba came to live in Jerusalem. In that posting I wrote about her family lineage. In a list of King David’s “Thirty Mighty Men” Ahithophel, David’s royal adviser is mentioned.

Eliphelet son of Ahasbai from Maacah; Eliam son of Ahithophel from Giloh… – 2 Samuel 23:34

Ahithophel’s son, Eliam, one of the Mighty Men is Bathsheba’s father.

…She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam… – 2 Samuel 11:3

That means that King David’s trusted royal adviser was the grandfather of Bathsheba. Ahithophel was the king’s adviser, a member of the royal court, during the David’s episode in sin with Bathsheba. He knew what had happened.

The fact that Ahithophel had no qualms about supporting a coup against King David is proof that he had an axe to grind.

While he (Absalom) was offering the sacrifices, he sent for Ahithophel, one of David’s counselors who lived in Giloh. Soon many others also joined Absalom, and the conspiracy gained momentum. – 2 Samuel 15:12

As further proof of his motive, look at his advice to David’s son Absalom upon reaching Jerusalem.

Ahithophel told him, “Go and sleep with your father’s concubines, for he has left them here to keep the house. Then all Israel will know that you have insulted him beyond hope of reconciliation, and they will give you their support.” So they set up a tent on the palace roof where everyone could see it, and Absalom went into the tent to sleep with his father’s concubines. – 2 Samuel 16:21-22

Ahithophel had Absalom commit a crime against David that was nearly identical to the one David committed against his own son-in-law Uriah.

Ahithophel bided his time. He waited until the matter that had happened between David, Bathsheba, and Uriah was cold for several years. Then when he felt the time was right, when the object of his hate did not expect it, he exacted his revenge.

But there is more. A chapter later Ahithophel has more advice for Absalom.

Now Ahithophel urged Absalom, “Let me choose twelve thousand men to start out after David tonight. I will catch up to him while he is weary and discouraged. He and his troops will panic, and everyone will run away. Then I will kill only the king, and I will bring all the people back to you as a bride returns to her husband. After all, it is only this man’s life that you seek. Then all the people will remain unharmed and peaceful.” – 2 Samuel 17:1-3

What I found particularly interesting was that Ahitophel wanted to be the one to do it. The “I” portions jump off the page. The proverbial “smoking gun” is the statement about, “as a bride returns to her husband”. This is a clear allusion to Bathsheba having been taken from Uriah. Ahitophel had been plotting this revenge against David for quite some time.

However, God is the judge. Not man.

I will take vengeance; I will repay those who deserve it. In due time their feet will slip. Their day of disaster will arrive, and their destiny will overtake them.’ – Deuteronomy 32:35

The Apostle Paul put it as follows.

Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God. For it is written, “I will take vengeance; I will repay those who deserve it,” says the Lord. – Romans 12:19

Ahitophel’s revenge was fulfilled, but it cost him his position and his life in very short order.

Heavenly Father, may I leave room for your justice and mercy. If you forgive, may I not place myself above you and hold onto an offense. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Don’t serve leftovers. Jan

2 Samuel 12

Who caused the sin?

I have grown up in and around the church, so I have a pretty good grasp of theology and the nances of God and his character. But there are times that my paradigm is challenged. I have always understood that God does not do evil, that he only does that which is good.

No one, when tempted, should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. – James 1:13

The verse seems pretty clear. God is not tempted by evil, and conversely he does not tempt anyone with evil. So how do a verses like the following fit in with that belief?

‘From this time on, the sword will be a constant threat to your family, because you have despised me by taking Uriah’s wife to be your own.

Because of what you have done, I, the LORD, will cause your own household to rebel against you. I will give your wives to another man, and he will go to bed with them in public view. You did it secretly, but I will do this to you openly in the sight of all Israel.’ – 2 Samuel 12:10-12

Do you see who is going to cause this to come on David’s household? It is God! And, a son sleeping with his father’s wife is something God explicitly commanded against, something he calls evil worthy of death.

If a man has intercourse with his father’s wife, both the man and the woman must die, for they are guilty of a capital offense. – Leviticus 20:11

‘Cursed is anyone who has sexual intercourse with his father’s wife, for he has violated his father.’ And all the people will reply, ‘Amen.’ – Deuteronomy 27:20

 
It would definitely seem to me that God is the one causing this, it is inescapable.
Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it? – Amos 3:6
Notice again who did the evil…
God sent an angel to Jerusalem to destroy it, and as he was destroying, the Lord beheld, and He regretted and relented of the evil and said to the destroying angel, It is enough; now stay your hand. And the angel of the Lord stood by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. – 1 Chronicles 21:15
I am not in any way implying that God is evil. But it seems clear that God does use it for his own purposes and certainly can direct and cause it to come upon those he is punishing.
 
To be fair, I do need to point out that many of the instances of the word ‘evil’ are alternatively translated as ‘disaster’ or ‘calamity’. But the incident below is crystal clear. 
But an evil spirit from the LORD came upon Saul as he was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand. While David was playing the harp… – 1 Samuel 19:9 
There is no mistaking that the Lord sent the evil spirit.
 
I don’t pretend to know what all this means. But, I do know this; I don’t want to anger God. I don’t want his judgment. I much rather prefer his mercy. Thank God for his son Jesus. 

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. – Romans 8:1-4

It isn’t that I never sin. However, that is no longer my nature. Christ living in me cleanses me from all unrighteousness.

Father, thank you for Jesus. Without him I would deserve all the evil that exists. May I bring honor to your name. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Don’t cause evil. Jan