There was not a king in Israel at this time and everyone did as he saw fit. “Everyone did as he saw fit” could describe the driving practices of Burma (Myanmar). When I was thirty-five years old Russell cared for our kiddos in Thailand and for twelve days I traveled throughout Burma’s Shan State with two younger ladies. National traffic flow had changed from the left to the right but several cars still operate for right side driving, which means a passenger sees oncoming traffic on a curve long before the driver does. Adding to the chaos, horns are preferred over turn signals, stop signs treated as optional and the roads that were maintained when the British occupied Burma had become a series of potholes. It was very natural to talk to God frequently about our safety as well as the human rights issues that affect so many in what should be a thriving country.
Israel also should have been a thriving nation, but instead of following God and His ways, they did as they saw fit and it led to head-on-collisions with sin. Micah was a man who lived during this time and told his mother, “The eleven hundred shekels of silver that were taken from you and about which I heard you utter a curse—I have that silver with me; I took it.” Then his mother said, “The LORD bless you, my son!” This story goes on to illustrate the corrupt nature of the Israelites as some of them sought to live disconnected from God.
Now, just like then, a compromise with even the smallest things can lead to big deviations that affect more people than we might ever guess. In Burma the situation has gone from bad to horrendous. God, we pray for the people within Burma to have not only Your protection but to know You as their Savior. May the corruption end and Your justice go forth. Amen.
Judges 17:2 NIV
During this time in history, the Israelites wavered continually concerning their faithfulness to the Lord. Once more, after doing evil in the eyes of the Lord, they were delivered into the hands of their enemies, the Philistines; at this point for a period of forty years. Then someone who looked like an angel delivered life-changing news to a childless couple. The woman gave birth to a boy and named him Samson. He grew and the LORD blessed him, and the Spirit of the LORD began to stir within him…
Even those who may not know much about the Bible have probably heard of Samson, a man made supernaturally strong by God. Before birth Samson was set apart with a purpose from God: to begin to rescue the Israelites from the hands of their enemies. He may not have always made the best choices when it came to women, but when he lived according to his purpose, he did great things.
Five chapters of God’s Story are reserved for telling Samson’s movie-worthy story. Not everyone who is born has a starring role in the big Story, but each of us can be faithful with what God has called us to do. It is good for us to give some thought as to how God has created and gifted us individually, and how living out our calling can make a difference. Samson’s uneven faithfulness in life was meaningful, but his wholehearted devotion at his death ended up being more effective than all he had done to that point.
The sooner we use our uniqueness to honor the Lord with our lives, living on purpose for Him, the better. But even if we have been uneven up to now, there is still time to trust Him.
Judges 13:24-25a NIV
The courageous judge Deborah, who bravely took God’s army into battle, led the troops home with a song of praise to the Lord when God provided the victory (and He saw fit to include Jael as well). Although Barak was slow to accept the plan, I like it that he joined in with the victory praise to God. Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day: “That the leaders took the lead in Israel, that the people offered themselves willingly, bless the LORD!” The song continues to tell of the Lord’s praise-worthiness: “My heart goes out to the commanders of Israel who offered themselves willingly among the people. Bless the LORD.”
At times we may need to lead out courageously in order to take action and when God blesses us with the victory, let us not forget to offer praise right back to Him.
Judges 5:1-2; 9 ESV
Summers in Michigan are best when they are spent by a lake and when I was growing up my family did a lot of lakeside camping. Meals around a campfire, waterskiing, and catching fireflies are all wonderful childhood memories. The experience of living from time-to-time in a tent blessed me to better connect with a tent-dwelling woman of the Old Testament.
After Joshua died, having served the Lord faithfully, there was still more of the Promised Land to conquer. Unfortunately, this conquest did not go well. By embracing pagan influences the Israelites allow themselves to be led astray and immediately the people of God found themselves far from Him. Time after time though, as they repented, God continued to provide for them. God told Deborah (the nation’s judge at that time) that He would bring about the victory they needed. However, when Israel’s commander Barak, heard the battle plan he balked. God was not thwarted and used a woman to achieve the goal in an intriguing manner.
Jael was very brave, strong and yet gentle. When Sisera the fleeing enemy commander approached her tent for a respite, Jael tended his needs by offering milk to drink and a blanket to make him feel cozy. When he fell asleep exhausted from battle, she softly entered the tent and drove a tent peg through his temple with a hammer. Jael accomplished what a mighty military army failed to do and Sisera lay dead at her feet. Deborah wrote a song praising Jael and giving the glory to God for the victory.
I re-pictured Jael’s story while pitching a tent for a camping weekend with my sisters and their families in the summer of 2012. My reflection on this interesting part of God’s Story, is to use the tools God provides us so we can faithfully serve Him. I hope my tools will not be hammers and tent pegs, but that is what they were for Jael and she was blessed for using them. “Jael is most blessed of women, the wife of Heber the Kenite; she is most blessed among tent-dwelling women.”
Judges 5:24 HCSB