Thursday, March 31, 2011

1 Kings 1-3

1  & 2 Kings was originally written as a single book.  It is a book of history that covers the years from the end of David's reign into the age of the divided kingdom and the appearance of Elijah.  It is a period of about 150 years.  We do not know who wrote it although some sources give credit to Jeremiah, the prophet.

The story begins near the end of David's life, is approximately 70 years old.  The nation is waiting to see who will succeed David as King.  Adonijah is logical because he is the oldest of David's remaining sons.  Amnon, the 1st born, was murdered by Absalom after he raped his sister.  Daniel, the 2nd born, is thought to have died before adulthood.  Absalom, the 3rd born, was killed after his revolt against his father.  Adonijah decides he will be king and exalts himself, proclaiming himself to be king.  He is wrong to do this and there is a lesson in his failure for us.  We are to walk humbly...before God and our brothers and doing so we allow God to exalt us based upon his desire for us.  when we desire the praise of our fellows it becomes covetousness.  When God exalts us it is because it serves his purpose to do so  Adonijah was coveting the kingship which God intended for Solomon.

Nathan and Bathsheba consult with each other and devise a plan that will help David do what God has intended and David has promised.  Consider the mercy of God; Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah, the Hittite and committed adultery with David yet David uses the child of Bathsheba and David to continue the line of David and ultimately God will bless all of the world as he reveals himself to us through Christ Jesus who is humanly related to Bathsheba through the lineage of Solomon.  While we are yet sinners God can redeem us and use us in his master plan to be a blessing to the world.  Is that amazing or what !!!!

David sets in motion the events that need to occur to thwart Adonijah's plans and to place Solomon on the throne.  His greatest and wisest advice to Solomon are found in the 2nd chapter, "be strong, show yourself a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go, and that the Lord may keep his promise to me: 'If your descendants watch how the live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and sould, you will never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel."  David had been an over indulgent parent, but this was and is good advice worthy of repeating to our own children, be strong, walk in God's ways, keep his commandments that God can be faithful to you. 

Solomon becomes a very wise and wealthy ruler.  We read of his dream and of his request of God that he have a "discerning" heart that he might rule God's people wisely.  That should be the desire of our hearts as well, that we would discern God's will and be obedient in following that will, that God might bless us and all those that we love and care about. 

We see in these early chapters one of the flaws of Solomon's character and the seeds of the eventual downfall of Israel as he takes his 1st wife, a princess of Egypt.  Remember that God has directed Israel not to marry foreign wives.  This is the first of many for Solomon.  Eventually they (the wives) will introduce foreign Gods and these will be worshiped along side of the one true God.  Walking faithfully in God's ways is difficult for we humans even for someone as wise as Solomon and yet the failure to do so causes pain and suffering, possibly for generations.  Pray that we will be a faithful in our service to the King. 

Hope you have a great time enjoying the promised springtime weather.  I am praying for a miracle today that the Royals might win their home opener.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

2 Samuel 22-24

We are near the end of David's reign and we read this great Psalm of praise written by David in celebration of his God whom he describes as his "rock, his fortress and hid deliverer."  David writes this song of praise out of his experiences with God.  Those experiences have led him to believe absolutely in God's sovereignty and of his omnipotence, his power and majesty and that he is always at work in and among his people who are called by his name.  Certainly we have read of many times when God delivered David.  He was delivered from Goliath, many times from the murderous jealousy of Saul, from the rebellion of Absalom and of others who rebelled and he was delivered from his own sin.  What would our song of praise be like if we sat down and reflected upon God's presence in our lives?  Would we be as effusive in our praise?  would we recognize God's power and presence working to save us from our own sin and from the evil of others? 

David speaks of his "mighty men" and in his praise of them we are reminded that none of us stand alone in our successes.  We are surrounded by people who assist us in our pursuit of God's ideal.  I think of our own little church and of all those who serve so faithfully in so many ways; of Joyce Austin and her kitchen crew serving meals to all comers at Logos, of Rachael Marchetti as she assembles and rehearses the wonderful music that the choir presents, of Bill Robb and his trustees who spent many, many hours caring for our building and grounds, of Mike Butler and his boys who come in the dark of winter to blade our parking lot and driveway, of Sharon Johnson and the children's church crew, of those who minister as Sunday school teachers, of our Opal and Chuck, and Skye and Kim and Amy and Cathy who insure that we have music each Sunday morning, volunteers who usher and greet and on and on and on.  We have way more than 30 mighty persons who make this a great place to worship and be a part of this great army of witnesses who are seeking to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to the world.

And a final thought about this day's reading; as David goes to make an altar on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite (this is believed to be Mt. Moriah, the same place where Abraham offered Isaac to God, and later where Solomon builds the temple and where Jesus will one day teach and preach), Araunah offers to give David everything he needs to make a sacrifice, but David says no, "I will not make an offering that costs me nothing."  We need to remember that an offering that is not sacrificial is not an offering at all.  When we consider that every breath that we take is a gift from God it should make us much more expressive in our thanksgiving, much more generous in our effort to live for Christ, much more joyful our sharing of the blessings that we possess while we live on this earth in preparation for our eternity with God.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

2 Samuel 19-21

David has won and the rebellion of Absalom has been defeated but in the victory comes the death of David's son Absalom.  He mourns with the heart of a father that has been broken.  David's soldiers and loyalists see his mourning and it prevents them from rejoicing in the victory.  David is rebuked by his general Joab.  There is pain in victory sometimes and we must be careful not to allow the pain to keep us from the joy that God intends.  This story is much like an allegory.  David is the rightful king, a man anointed by God, used by God, a man after God's own heart.  Absalom rebels and leads Israel into the rebellion.  This is satan at his worst as the world falls victim to the lies of the chief rebel and they are led in rebellion against the King (God/Jesus).  There are casualties in war and we are in a war....a war that has eternal implications.  We must rejoice in the victories and give thanks to God that we are equipped for the abundant life.  There will be sorrow, there will be some temporary defeats, we may lose a friend or two, but we must defend the rightful possessor of the Throne and that would be King Jesus!!

Israel is divided into two camps.  Judah has remained loyal to David while the 10 northern tribes had followed Absalom in the rebellion.  What should they do now that their leader has been conquered?  Shimei shows the proper response.  Remember him who cursed David as he fled Jerusalem for his life?  Now he approaches the conquering king and prostrates himself on the ground and begs for forgiveness.  He knows that he is undeserving but he puts himself at the mercy of David and David spares his life.  Can you see the similarities? Jesus is the conquering day every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess.  We are not worthy, but God has promised that every sinner who confesses before God will be saved the fate of a sinner by the blood of Jesus.  Hallelujah what a Savior!!

And a further correlation is found in this story.  David will not return as king of Israel unless he is welcomed to do so by those who have rebelled.  We have rebelled against our Creator God.  We have sinned and obeyed the chief liar.  God desires to be king of our lives but he will not enter in unless invited.  God does not force himself upon us....he is a gentleman God and will only take control of your heart at your invitation.  Invite him now!  Such an invitation means a future in Glory!  The symbolism continues as David crosses the Jordan into a land of milk and honey blessed by God.  That is the promise that God offers to us if we will be faithful to the one that he has crowned as king of kings and Lord of Lords.  Our faithfulness will be rewarded when we, too, will one day cross over the figurative Jordan to a land that is fairer than anything that we can imagine....a land of milk and honey.

The story continues of the struggle that we face in a world that seems to be in constant rebellion as Sheba rebels against David and leads the 10 northern tribes into disobedience.  David again subdues the rebellion but this is a foreshadowing of the rebellion that will come with Solomon's sons and Israel will be divided into the Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Judah and Israel.  There is a very good reason why the Apostle Paul preaches unity to all Christians.  Without unity we are much easier prey for the one who would keep us from the richness of our Savior.

The weatherman is promising that Springtime is close.  I'm looking forward to some warmer days.  I hope that your heart is warmed as you read these marvelous God inspired scriptures.  Have a most blessed day.

Monday, March 28, 2011

2 Samuel 16-18

Absalom was a very handsome man.  His hair was long and luxurious.  He was fully aware of his good looks.  He was also aware that likes a sympathetic ear.  Israel was drawn to his good looks and he told Israel what it wanted to hear.  The combination of his youthful good looks and his promise to make life better for them led to a rebellion against his father, David.  There are a lot of good things that you can say about David, but being a good parent doesn't seem to be one of them.  His sons are murderers, rapists and revolutionaries.......what a group of miscreants.

David gathers his family and those who are loyal to him and flees Jerusalem.  He leaves behind some trusted servants as spies including Hushai.  Husahi had been a loyal advisor to David but persuades Absalom that he is now loyal to him.  Absalom accepts Hushai's advice of Ahitophel and thus saves the day for David.  Absalom hesitates before pressing the attack against his father which gives David's loyals time to rest, organize and prepare.  Absalom attacks David on David's chosen turf and is routed.  Absalom seeks to flee and catches his long beautiful locks in the branches of a tree.  One of David's generals finds him there and ends his life, against the orders of David.  In spite of his wickedness, his treachery and his rebellion; David loved his son, Absalom and now he mourns the loss of another child.

Further examples of why God blessed David and called David a man after God's own heart.  When David is being cursed as he leaves Jerusalem he tells his men not to harm his verbal assailant.  Why?  because David sees God at work in everything and if that is true, God's will be done.  What a wonderful attitude and how that would help us to keep our own blood pressure in check when the world seems to turn against us.  God's will be done!  Certainly when David was surrounded by treachery and deceit, it served David well to believe that God would win inspite of all of the evil around him.  And that is bad as the world may seem to be.....God still wins.  Hold onto that faith and the journey of life will be a little easier.

How David mourned the loss of another child.  It is unnatural for a parent to have to bury a child and David has done so several times now, beginning with the child born to he and Bathsheba.  Do you remember how Nathan, the high priest, rebuked David after his great sin involving the death of Uriah the Hittite and David's sinful relationship with Bathsheba?  Nathan told David that "the sword shall never leave your house because of your sin against God and I (God) will raise up adversity against you from within your own house."  Part of David's mourning must surely have been because he realized that much of this great tragedy was the consequence of his own sin.

As I have often told you before; sin will take you to places that you never meant to go and it will keep you there longer than you ever meant to stay and it will cost you more than you will ever be able to pay.  God save us from our sin!! 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

2 Samuel 11-15

What a mess!!  How can God make anything out such a circus?  How can this be the family of a man after God's own heart?

The story of David and Bathsheba is a story of the fallen nature of man.  David with all of his wives and concubines saw another beautiful women and desired her.  What is that 10th commandment?  Something about coveting another man's wife.  David sinned in his heart and then he sinned in the flesh and then he sinned again by trying to cover up his sin.  the result......a murder and the death of an innocent child.  What good could ever come from such a person.  I do not try to defend any of this, but then their is the story of his great remorse.  "I have sinned against the Lord!"  this is far different from King Saul's refusal to confess his sin.   David confesses and repents.  There is  the residual damage of the sin.  there is the death of Uriah and the death of the child.  We cannot escape the effect of our sin even if God forgives us of that sin.  David sat in sack clothe and ashes, refused food for 7 days in the hope that God would spare the child, but he did not.  The consequences of our sin are ever before us.  We hurt and even destroy others.

Remember Nathan's prophecy, "God will raise up adversity in your own house."  And then, before you know it, here it comes.  Even though polygamous marriages are allowed in the Old Testament, nearly every example of familial life is filled with discord.  Amnon rapes Tamar.  Absolom kills Amon in revenge for his sister.  Absolom flees Jerusalem to escape the blood avenger of his 1/2 brother.  David forgives Absolom and calls him back to Jerusalem.  Absolom sees weakness in his father's actions and plots an insurrection.  David flees the city fearful of his life.  Can it get any messier than this soap opera?  But there is David.....a man after God's own heart.  you can see it in his words as he sends the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem.... "if God sees fit he will bring me back, but if not let him do to me whatever seems good to him."  Can you see the humility before God? the faithful belief that whatever God allows is righteous and good.  that is the characteristic in David that God can use to bless the world.  That is the characteristic in us that God can use to bless the world.  Would that we could endure the difficulties of this world in the knowledge that God is in control and whatever seems good to him will be best for us.  Now that is a belief that will see you through hard times.  We will discover in the next few chapters that just such a faith saw David return from exile although the familial tragedy continued.

Hope your Sabbath was filled with blessing.  Have a God Blessed week.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

2 Samuel 8-10

Today's reading includes one of the most beautiful stories in all of the Old Testament; the story of Mephiboseth.  It is easy to miss in this great saga that belongs primarily to King David, but please linger on it for a moment and consider how much Mephiboseth's story is like our own.

Mephiboseth is Jonathon's son which makes him a grandson of King Saul.  He was born into the palace lifestyle and had all of the advantageous of being the son of a prince.  I don't know what that would have been like, but I assume that nothing was denied him as an infant, he had every advantage that being born into the family of a King could have.

And then came the tragedy of Saul's death and with him the death of his sons including Jonathon, the father of Mephiboseth.  Mephiboseth was only 5 years old and the palace was filled with terror at the news of the fall of Saul.  Surely the Philistines would press on to the capital city and the palace and put all of the royal family to the sword.  That was what usually happened to the King's survivors in those days.  Mephiboseth's nurse wanted desperately to save him from that possible fate and she was trying to gather him and his things quickly and escape into the countryside when somehow, in her haste, she dropped little Mephiboseth and severely damage his little legs.  Maybe in a better time, doctors could have repaired his injuries, but there was no time to wait, his life was in danger so they hurried on.  As a result, his injuries became permanent and he was crippled for the rest of his life.  I don't know quite what that means, perhaps he walked with a limp or perhaps he needed a cane or a crutch; whatever the case, he was crippled in both feet and was limited in his mobility.

Years later, Mephiboseth is living in obscurity, his palace days a mere memory.  David has ascended to his throne and has brought peace and prosperity to Israel.  He remembers his promise to his great and true friend Jonathon and asks is there anyone left of Jonathon's family that he might show kindness to  because of the goodness that Jonathon had once shown him?  Someone in the King's court remembered the crippled son that lived in the country.  David summoned Mephiboseth to the King's court.  It had to be a scary moment.  What could the king want with me?  Remember in the days of the Kings the throne would fall to the eldest son and be passed from generation to generation in that way.  Could David want to rid Israel of the one descendant of Saul and thus insure that no other families could lay claim to the throne?

No....that wasn't the reason for the summons.  David wanted to bestow an unearned kindness....a bit of grace upon Mephiboseth because of the goodness of Jonathon, his father.  Saul's lands were returned to Mephiboseth and his family and Mephiboseth was invited to eat at the King's table. 

This story reminds me of the great mercy and grace that is mind because of the goodness of my Savior Jesus.  He died in my place and because of his great love for me, God has said that I will one day eat at the table of the King.  I will be restored to the position for which God created me and I will dwell in the palace of the king forever.  i did not earn such a wonderful reward.  It is mine because someone else did a great kindness to me.  Just as Mephiboseth has earned grace at the table of David, I will one day share in a reward that was earned by someone else's great love.  How great is God's goodness to me through the grace and love of my Lord Jesus Christ!! 

I hope your weekend is filled with grace and that you have a little time to celebrate God's great gift of Love.  Thanks to all who came by Church this morning and helped with our clean up projects in the sanctuary.   Blessings and Peace to you.

Friday, March 25, 2011

2 Samuel 5-7

David Ascends to the throne of all of Israel at the age of 30.  He was probably anointed by Samuel at somewhere around the age of 12.  He has spent the last 15-18 years of his life preparing to become King.  He rules Israel for 40 years.

David takes Jerusalem from the Jebusites and makes it his capital city.  It is known throughout the bible as the city of David.  This is an important move on David's part as he prepares to centralize Israel's government.  Later the same will be done with the building of the Jerusalem Temple which will make Jerusalem the center of worship as well.

David defeats the Philistines and brings peace to Israel.  It is important to note that David consults with God before making his military moves.  Note, too, the movement of the Holy Spirit in this campaign (see it it the passage about the angels in the tree tops?)  We would be wise to note the movement of God's spirit around us as well.  To be aligned with God's Holy Spirit (one part of the trinity) means to be at one with God's purpose and that is a very good place to be.

A palace (made of cedar) is built for David and he wants to bring the ark of the covenant to the capital city.  He goes to Kiriath Jearim where the Ark had been kept during Saul's reign.  He builds a new cart to move the ark on.  This is a mistake.  Remember that the Ark was built to be carried on poles and was transported across the wilderness, the Jordan and around Jericho in that manner.  When the Ark shifts on the cart and Uzzah reaches out to steady it, he is struck dead.  David fears that he has displeased God and stops the movement of the Ark. 

Later David returns to continue the movement of the Ark to Jerusalem.  He sacrifices before the Ark and to the shouts of his people and the sounds of trumpets David dances before the Lord as the Ark continues its journey to Jerusalem.  Mical, David's wife considers his dancing to be a disgrace and she tells him so, but David is not deterred, his dance is a celebration of God's goodness.  We should be less worried about what the world thinks of our worship and celebration and more unrestrained in our expression of joy when we are in the midst of praises of God.  God inhabits the praises of his people and there should be shouts of joy whenever we are in the presence of God's holy spirit.  The city and all of Israel celebrates the return of the ark to the midst of Israel.

David wants to build a proper temple for the ark instead of the tent that it rests in.  God, through the prophet Nathan, tells him that the ark has been at home in a tent for 400 years since the days of Moses and David will not be allowed to build a grander structure for the Ark.  But God also reveals that he is pleased with David and the house of David will continue forever.  This is a prediction that the Savior will come from the line of David.  David's son Solomon will later be allowed to build the grand temple that becomes the home for the Ark

The psalm of praise found in chapter 7 contains a question that reminds us of David's humility and why God has chosen him because of his heart.  "who am I that you have chosen me?"  David acknowledges that he is more blessed than he deserves.  We should all consider how blessed we are and that realization should drive us to our knees in thanksgiving at God's goodness that he would consider us worthy of his presence and his blessing.

Hope today is a day of blessing for you and that you find someway and some time to make a little difference for God in the world around you.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

2 Samuel 2-4

David ascends to power after the death of Saul but very slowly.  He does not force his way to the throne even though he was anointed as a boy and there seems to be a general knowledge throughout Israel that David is the rightful king.  Isn't that a little like Jesus?  We all know that he is the rightful ruler of the throne of our hearts, but we don't give him full control.  And, too, Jesus will not force himself on us.  He only occupies that which is offered.  How much  better off we would be if we allowed him to ascend to the throne room of our hearts.

David leaves Ziklag and returns to Judah.  He is king there but the surviving son of Saul is king over the other 11 tribes for more than two years, assisted by Abner who had been Saul's leading general in the absence of David.  The two competing armies fight each other and David's army wins and routs Abner, but for some reason when they have Abner on the run they do not press home for the victory and as a result war between the two continues for a long time.  Sometimes we are like that in our spiritual life.  We have the devil on the run.....we are practicing our spiritual disciplines.....we are praying hard......into the word......fellowshiping with fellow believers and then, for some reason....we relax rather than winning the war against the deceiver, we let him hang around and the war between good and evil continues in our hearts and lives.

Just a thought about David's 6 wives and sons in Chapter 3.  While the Bible never specifically speaks against this multiple wife arrangement, it simply reports the facts, but keep in mind as you follow the stories that heartbreak is almost always the fruit of these households.  Just look what happens to these sons: Amnon rapes his half sister and then in turn is murdered by his half brother, Absalom leads a revolt against his father, and Adonijah tries to seize control of his father's throne and sleeps with one of his father's concubines.  This is a messed up family.....the fruit of a family that is out of step with God's will for family.

Abner deserts his King to join David.  Abner knew that David was the rightful king but stayed with Saul's family out of some sort of misguided loyalty.  When comes to David he is in turn murdered by Joab.  Joab is his family's avenger (remember the cities of refuge?) and is avenging the death of his brother Asahel in Chapter 2.

When Abner defects, Ish-Bosheth, Saul's last son, is murdered.  The royal family flees and in their haste a nurse drops Mephiboseth, Jonathon's son, and he is maimed for life.  I mention Mephiboseth because he is an important part of a later story and evidence of David's continuing love and loyalty to Jonathon.

These are fascinating stories of real people and of a real time in history when God was working with his people.  If someone were writing our stories would future generations be able to see the hand of God at work because of our faithful living? 

Don't forget your coat and hat tomorrow.  Spring is not quite here.  We will be having a work day Saturday beginning at 9 a.m.  going to try to clean the pew chairs and paint some walls.  Stop and help if you have time.  God's best to you.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

1 Samuel 30-31, 2 Samuel 1

We come to the close of Saul's life and reign as the 1st King of Israel.  He ruled for more than 40 years but his reign was a great disappointment.  God had chosen Saul but Saul had walked away from God.  His life is marked by continual bouts of madness and paranoia.  In his death he does not cry out to God in repentance; his sons fall around him, victims of the enemies arrows.

The Amalekites take advantage of the Philistines attack on Israel and on David's absence from Ziklag.  They attack and burn David's city and steal all things of value including men, women, children, livestock and other valuables.  David and his 600 men return to find all that they love and possess gone.  You have perhaps heard me say that I am "better than I deserve."  This is a time when David certainly received more than he deserved.  He has made his life raiding neighboring cities and putting man, woman and child to the sword.  Here we find the Amalekites attacking David's city but showing restraint in destroying human life.

David and his men are in deep mourning at their loss.  See what David does.... "David strengthened himself in the Lord."  David knows he has to do something and do it quickly, but success will best be gained if he proceeds in God's way.  He strengthens himself in the Lord before setting out in pursuit of the Amalekites.  How do you suppose he does this?  Of course he prays, but he also remembers all that God has already done.  He remembers God's faithfulness and remembers the many times that God has preserved him in the past.  Such practices will help us to walk boldly as we seek to live the abundant life that God has promised us.  Such practices will help us to avoid the pitfalls that the tempter would have us languish in.

As they pursue the Amalekites 200 of the men are too weary to continue, they remain behind.  As they approach the Amalekite camp they come upon an Egyptian.  they show him kindness with food and water and they ask him "to whom do you belong?"  A great question and one that could be asked of us as well.  there is probably a sermon in that question.  To whom do you belong could be answered in a lot of ways.  Who our parents are.  Where we were born.  Where we were educated.  Who we are married to.  the nation to which we are citizens.  What we do as a vocation.  What the angels see us doing.  Did you catch the last one?  What the angels see us doing when no one else is watching is probably the best evidence regarding to whom we belong.  guard your heart, my friends because the angels are watching.

After David and the 400 defeat the Amalekites and rescue all that has been taken from them and more, they return to where they have left their companions.  Many of the 400 do not want to share in the spoils but David remembers that he has been treated better than he deserves and he insists that the 200 are treated in the same way.  How like God's grace is that!  We look forward to receiving the gift of heaven and all that it contains and we will because of God's grace and that he desires to bless us in ways that we have not earned nor do we deserve.

Saul dies in battle and his sons with him.  the Philistines nail his body to a wall in a pagan temple in Beth Shan.  The people of Jabesh Gilead come to take it down and give him a proper burial.  Saul had delivered the people of Jabesh Gilead from the Ammonites years earlier.  They remember that kindness and honor the one who had delivered them.  David mournes the loss of Saul and Jonathon.  Even though this means he will become king, he mourns the loss of God's annointed one.  He does not delight in the loss of the King or his great good friend Jonathon.  Nor should we delight in the falling even of our enemies.  All are children of God, created in the image of God.  We should mourn the falling as a lost opportunity to deliver a soul from the clutches of the one who would separate us from the promise of God's eternal love.

We begin tomorrow with more of the great story of David.  I hope you are enjoying this trip through the Bible.  I pray that God is blessing your faithfulness.  Enjoy his creation.  Talk to you tomorrow.  God Bless You!!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

1 Samuel 27-29

an easy read for us today, but and important one.  We are nearing the end of Saul's time as King and approaching David's elevation into that role.  This is a dark time in David's life.  He has said in his own heart that "I shall Perish" and "there is nothing better than to escape."  The result of David believing in his own heart that there is nothing better is that he will dwell in Gath among a people that worships idols and does not believe in God.  David fails to trust in God for his protection and security.  We must guard our hearts.  Once we say in our own hearts, I cannot rely on God or God does not know me or God does not see and care for me, then it is easy to dwell in the despondency and confusion that would come for one who does not rely on the eternal and faithful promises of God.  The heart is the gateway to all other emotions.  Believing and trusting and beginning each day claiming the relationship of a child of God will keep us from the negative things that Satan would put upon us.  I suspect that these few chapters with David living in Ziklag and raiding and murdering and looting are outside of God's preferred future for David, but still God is faithful.  God has chosen David because he is a man after his own heart and he has not removed his love and care for him.  Even as this reading closes and the Philistines refuse to allow David and his 600 men to fight with them against Saul is evidence of God's providential care.  What would David have done if he saw his best friend Jonathon surrounded by Philistines?  What would David have done to protect Saul at the time of his death when he had so carefully preserved his life in other episodes because he was anointed of God?  to be present at the death of Jonathon and Saul might have put David's life at risk as well and God had much greater plans for him.

The sad story of the Witch of Endor and Saul has a lesson or two for us as well.  Saul has outlawed the occult practices but now with Samuel's voice gone and God having left him, he is desperate for a word that will help him as he prepares for battle against the Philistines.  In his desperation he seeks out the help of the Witch of Endor and her black magic.  The use of witches, tarot cards, ouiza boards, palm readers, relying on horoscopes are all practices that our un-christian in our understanding.  they rely on powers that do not come from God to make their predictions.  We are cautioned in scripture about them because they lead us away from fully relying on God as our source and our strength. 

This is among the final chapters of Saul's life.  How sad, he was chosen by God, but over the term of his life he has rejected God so much that God has abandoned him to his own devices.  In essence, Saul has hardened his own heart and God can no longer be felt or heard.  A great cautionary tale is here for us about our own relationship with God.  God chooses us but we must also choose God for this to be an abundant life.  The witch calls on Samuel and then fears the powers of the Holy Spirit when Samuel appears and foretells the death of Saul and his sons in this next battle.  Even the powers of evil quake at the truth of God.  Go to the true source for your wisdom rather than relying on a fake power, and a power that will one day be cast into the darkness for all of eternity.

I hope you are having a great week and that God grants you an opportunity to witness to his great love.  And then a pray that you will boldly be an agent of God's presence.  God bless you!!!

Monday, March 21, 2011

1 Samuel 24-26

Stories of David's exploits in the wilderness as God taught him the lessons that he would need to be King of Israel.

Twice in these stories David has the opportunity to kill his enemy, the man who pursues him relentlessly to end his life.  The 1st occurs in a cave where David and his men are hidden and Saul enters to relieve himself.  The 2nd occurs as Saul sleeps, surrounded by him men and David enters the camp and takes Saul's water jug and his spear.  In both instances David could have ended Saul's life but chose instead to honor God's anointed one.  The Bible tells us that we should not try to overcome evil with evil but rather to overcome evil with good.  Treating evil evilly will only incite more evil.  David returns Saul's vindictiveness with kindness.  In each instance Saul repents of his sin and swears that he will no longer pursue David, but his madness cannot be controlled and he will not keep his word.

David's words, "let the Lord judge between me and you" should serve as a guiding light for our lives.  We are not appointed as judges over the rest of humanity.  That right and responsibility belongs to God.  We are called to love God and love our neighbor even though those tasks are extraordinarily difficult.  Can they be more difficult that David's life as he flees his enemy and even spares his enemy's life rather than kill the anointed one of God.

Even in his madness, Saul has moments of lucidity.  "I have played the fool" he says.  How often we have done the same when we have treated one another unkindly and failed to do the good works that God has prepared for us since before the beginning of time.  This life of the Christian is not for sissies.  David knows that God has promised him the kingdom, but he must wait for God's perfect timing.  We know that God has promised us victory, but we, too, must wait God's perfect timing.

The story of Nabal and Abigail is interesting.  Nabal is like the rich farmer in Jesus parable.  He has great wealth, but he has nothing at all.  He refuses hospitality to David's men even though hospitality to the sojourner is commanded by God of God's people.  David has provided a service in protecting Nabal's flocks and shepherds and now he asks for a kindness in return at harvest time (the time of sheep shearing would be the harvest for a sheep herder).  Nabal refuses and insults David and his men. 

David seeks revenge and plans to kill Nabal and all of his men.  One of the servants knows that nothing good can come from what Nabal has done.  He goes to Abigail, beautiful and wise, and asks her to somehow intervene.  She gathers great and generous gifts and sets off in a mini-caravan to intercept David in his anger.  She prostrates herself before him and begs his mercy, not for Nabal but for all of the innocents in the household.  David's anger is placated, he recieves the gifts and promises not to harm Nabal or his household. 

In fact David tells Abigail that he is now in her debt because she has kept him from shedding innocent blood in his anger.  Seeking revenge and/or acting out of anger will almost always lead to foolish mistakes.  there is a lesson to be learned in this story.  From Abigail's perspective; a soft answer does often turn away wrath.  Do our words inflame or soothe?  We are to be a balm to those who have already been wounded by the world.  We cannot offer the medicinal elixir of blood of Jesus Christ if we respond to the injustices of the world with further injustices.

God takes the life of Nabal.  Abigail becomes the wife of David.  Most likely all of the wife of Nabal will also end up with David.  Interesting note at the end of the chapter that tells us that Saul has given David's first wife, Mical to another man.  Does the make Abigail David's 2nd wife or his 2nd 1st wife.  Will polygamy was not expressly forbidden by God at this time in the Bible, we never read of multiple wives without somewhere reading of discord in the family structure.  That will be true of David's household as well.

Please find a few moments to enjoy this early spring weather.  Breath deep of the God's goodness and be blessed as he renews the earth around us. 

1 Samuel 19-23

Sorry to be late with this posting, as usual Sunday has been a long day for me including a quick trip to the Lake of the Ozarks to be recognized by my old education companions who honored me with an Emeritus Educator award.  It was nice but it caused me to lose a few hours sleep.  I am writing this on Monday morning before resuming my normal church duties.  Hope it is helpful to you as you think about David's life in the wilderness as Saul pursues him relentlessly.

Just a few thoughts; the 1st about the friendship between Jonathon and David.  What a wonderful but tragic thing to see.  Jonathon recognizes his Father's madness and pledges his loyalty to the one that he knows is blessed by God.  How difficult that must have been to deceive one's own father.  And how difficult to be ordered to kill his best friend!  Jonathon refuses and he and David make a pledge to each other.  The result of that pledge much later is the story of Jonathon's son Mephiboseth (2 Samuel 9) who is protected by David because of his pledge of love to Jonathon.

Most of the rest of these reading are about incidents in David's life as he evades the pursuit of his pursuer Saul.  Jonathon saves him, Mical saves him, the Priest of Nob saves him, his feigning of madness saves him, others who grow weary of the king's madness join him and become part of David's defense.

In all of this God's hand can be seen.  How difficult it must have been for David to feel God's presence as he hid in caves and the wilderness, as he trusted his parents to the care of strangers when he took them to the King of Moab for protection from Saul.  But God was there, encouraging by his Holy Spirit and providing providential care that prevented Saul from finding and killing this one who was "a man after God's own heart".  Later many of these incidents become the inspiration for the Psalms that David wrote as he worshiped the God who was his protector.  Remember to read the descriptors when we get to our reading of the Psalms.  Just a few that come to my mind are Psalm 34 which was written out of David's experience as he feigned insanity to elude the Philistines.  Psalm 52 written about Doeg the Edomite who betrayed David and the slew the Priests of Nob who have David bread and the sword of Goliath.  Psalm 142 written about his experience as he hid from his pursuers in a cave. 

We must be careful, even in the most difficult times of our lives, to remember that God is present in all things and that while all things are not good, God can use all things for good.  Trusting in his benevolence, his mercy and his love will help us to keep a positive outlook as we experience the bumps and bruises of life.  God can use our wilderness experiences and times when life is crushing us to shape us into something even more useful for the kingdom work that he is preparing us for.  Be faithful in all things and look for a few good friends like Jonathon who will be an encouragement and protector as you make your way on the upward path that leads to God's glorious eternity.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

1 Samuel 16-18

These are some of my most favorite stories.  Perhaps it is because his name and mine are the same.  I think that one of the beautiful things about names is that if we tell the stories it gives our children something to live up to.  I think the stories of Hannah, Mary, Sarah, David, Joshua, Levi and so many more are wonderful names that are filled with meaning, but I is the beginning of the story about a man after God's own heart.....a man named David who becomes one of the leading characters of the Old Testament.

God asks Samuel, "how long will you mourn Saul?"  God has chosen another and while there is a time to mourn, there is also a time to pick up and move one.  God has a plan and the moral failure of one man will not keep God from accomplishing his purpose.  Mourn the dead but do not allow your mourning to prevent you from walking faithfully in God's desires for your life.

God sends Samuel to the house of David to anoint this new one that God has preordained to be the King of Israel.  Each of Jesse's sons are presented, they are tall and handsome, strong and well equipped to be regal men, but God does not look on the outward appearance.....he searches the heart, the inward being.  Jesse asks, "is there another?"  And, of course there is.  David, the 8th and youngest, is summoned from the fields where he is shepherding the family flock.  Remember that being a shepherd is a servant's job, but God has used this shepherding experience to prepare David for that which lies ahead.  How many of the psalms do you suppose were formed in David's heart as he cared for the flock?  Certainly the 23rd Psalm that opens with, "the Lord is my Shepherd."  How about the 90th, "O Lord you are my dwelling place." Or 80, "Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel." Or 42 which begins, "as the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs for thee."

Samuel anoints David and the Spirit of the Lord descends upon him.  this is a sign of the Holy Spirit present in David much like the tongues of fire at Pentecost were to the disciples and the descending dove was to Jesus at his baptism.

David's shepherding skills were quite useful in his tussle with Goliath.  Goliath is a descendant from Gad who were descended from the Anakim, a tribe of giants.  The measurements given us indicate that he was over 9 feet tall and that his weapons and armor weighed 150 to 200 pounds.  He was a very large and powerful man and he struck terror in the minds and hearts of the Israelites.  But David knew that this was not a battle between men....this was God's battle and he was fully equipped.  Had been since his days in the wilderness protecting those that had been placed in his charge.  He rejected the armor and weapons of another and used the gifts that God had given him.  That is a good reminder to us, we are each gifted in a variety of ways.  Use your gifts and do not covet those of another.  God has prepared you for such a time as this to do great deeds that will glorify him and cause the kingdom of heaven to come near at hand.  A smooth stone in the sling and a shot that he had made a 1000 times as he protected the sheep and the rest is history.  Goliath fell, the Philistines fled and David becomes a who remains humble and gives glory to God.  Always remember that humility is a mark of the Christian.  "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble."  (Proverbs 3:34)

Another thing to remember about this incident is that God has used a young person to bring him honor and glory.  God uses youth.  Be faithful.  Practice your skills.  Honor God in all that you do and he will raise you up and bless you as he blesses others through your faithfulness.

Jonathon and David become great friends, true friends.  There is not jealousy.  They seek to build each other up.  They honor one another and seek the best for one another.  Their relationship is a good model for us about how we are to treat one another. 

God is seeking others, at this very moment, who will serve as his humble servants.  He is seeking those who will be faithful shepherds.  he is seeking those who will be faithful in little places, doing little things that he might prepare them to one day do great things.  Our prayer should be that Faith will be a place where humility, faithfulness and encouragement are practiced in ways that lead others to become the next generation of Davids and Jonathons (don't forget to extrapolate that to mean great women of faith as well.)

Friday, March 18, 2011

1 Samuel 13-15

We discover Saul's failure and the reason that his crown will not be handed down to his own son.   Israel is preparing for war with the Philistine's.  They are awaiting Samuel, the high priest, to come and offer a sacrifice to God and bless the Israelite effort.  When Samuel is late in arrival, Saul takes matters into his own hands and offers the sacrifice himself.  Remember that this duty has been reserved for the Levites since the time of Moses.  Not only does he usurp the role of the Priest but when Samuel arrives he blames his offense on Samuel.  His sin is compounded by his arrogance and refusal to admit his sin.  Remember this was the sin of Adam and Eve as well as they blamed others for their failure.  Samuel tells Saul that God is looking for a man after his own heart thus telling us well in advance that Saul's days as king are limited.  Remember those words, "a man after God's own heart" as we are introduced to a shepherd boy named David in future chapters.

We are introduced to Saul's son Jonathon.  Jonathon exhibits some of those characteristic that endeared him to David.  He was brave and valiant, a great warrior and leader of men.  He engages the Philistines in battle and slays many causing the rest of the Israelite army to join in the routing of the enemy.  Saul again violates God's will be failing to be obedient to the instructions to dedicate the enemy and the spoils to God. (remember Jericho)  When Samuel asks about the failure, Saul blames the men for keeping the best of the stock, etc.  Again he is unable to be repentant of his own sin.  Samuel tells Saul he is done with him.  He cannot help him if he is unable and or unwilling to confess his sins before God.

The destruction of the Amalekites had been ordained back in the days of Moses when they had attacked the Israelites after they had left Egypt.  (Exodus 17) Using Saul to accomplish this task was a further test of Saul's ability to be obedient to God's will.  What test is God using to ascertain our loyalty?  Saul set up a monument to himself.  How audacious and certainly a violation of God's call to have no other God's.  Saul fails to honor God and to give God glory for his victories.  Pride and disobedience are part of Saul's character.  God rejects Saul and regrets his selection of a King.  Samuel grieves over Saul and laments what lies ahead

Thursday, March 17, 2011

1 Samuel 10-12

Samuel anoints Saul in a private ceremony.  The anointing is symbolic of what Samuel hopes is happening in the spiritual world; that as he is pouring oil upon Saul's head, God is pouring himself out in the Holy Spirit upon Saul as well.  Later in the chapter as Saul finds the promises and prophesies of Samuel to be true, he does receive an outpouring of the Holy Spirit and begins to prophesy.  Samuel reminds Saul that Israel belongs to God but that he has been chosen to be the caretaker over these people.

Later the confirming of Saul is done publicly at Gilgal.  Gilgal is a sacred place and was the place where Israel renewed its vows with God after crossing the Jordan (Joshua 4). Saul is chosen by lot confirming him as God's selection for their first king.  Following this pronouncement, Samuel reminds Israel that in receiving a King they have also rejected God's perfect will for them.

The story of the deliverance of Jabesh is interesting.  Saul's victory secures the allegiance of all of Israel for his monarchy, but look at it closely......there is more.  Jabesh sees that it cannot win.  Its only hope is a savior.  The one who seeks to conquer it, Nahash the Ammonite, not only wants to defeat it but to abuse and humiliate as well.  Only a Savior will do in this situation.  Do you see how this story is a precursor of our fate.  There is one who seeks to defeat us, to humiliate us, to debase us and to destroy any chance that we would be able to effectively battle him again.  Only a Savior can save us from this fate.  Praise God, he has raised up a savior for us just as he did for Jabesh in Saul, Jesus has come to save us from our oppressor.  Isn't it interesting that we find so many illustrations that point us to the cross.

Samuel gives his farewell speech in chapter 12, but we will see him a lot in the next several chapters.  Even as he resigns his position before the people, they now have a king and a judge is not longer necessary, he reminds them of the great history of God's presence and deliverance.  He reminds them that a king will not be able to do all that God has done and just in case they needed a little reminder of his power he calls for thunder and rain during a season when thunder and rain do not normally occur.  God shows up again and they are convicted of their sin.  Like every good pastor, Samuel promises to continue to pray for the people and to teach them the ways that God calls on them to live.  Remember to do good and honor God or both you and your king will be swept away by history and by God.  A not so gentle reminder to us that we cannot hide behind power and wealth, God will be honored or God will deal with our failure to honor. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

1 Samuel 6-9

Samuel is the last of the Judges and the instrument that God uses to announce the time of the kings for Israel.  By the time of Samuel, Israel lies in ruins; its cities have been plundered, its armies defeated and the Philistines are dominating Israel.  Samuel calls the nation to a time of prayer and repentance at Mizpah.  "Return with all your heart and put away your foreign gods and serve God only" was Samuel's instruction to the people.  Doesn't that remind you of the prophets call at a later time in 1 Chronicles 7:14, " if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways then I will hear from heaven and I will forgive their sin and heal their land."
That is exactly what Samuel was leading Israel to do! 

Israel had never quit worshiping God, but had layered other gods into their daily lives.  they offered their sacrifices to Jehovah but they also asked the blessing of Baal and the ashteroths.  Are we guilty of the same?  Have we layered our spiritual lives with other little idols that keep us from full allegiance?

Even as Samuel led them in this time of prayer and repentance God was doing what God does.....he was preparing a blessing for those who sought him with their whole heart.  the Philistines are sneaking up on Israel thinking they can catch them off guard but our God never sleeps and he intervenes in supernatural way.  Israel chases the Philistines right out of the country and for as long as Samuel continues in his duties as God's emissary the Philistines are never a problem again. 

Samuel raises a large stone called an Ebenezer as a symbol of what God had done.  Does this remind you of a pile of 12 stones on the banks of the Jordan?  Visual reminders to tell the stories seem to be a theme in the Old Testament.  Any time you see the word ebenezer think of this story and how Samuel raises an Ebenezer as a sign of God's work in that place.  Many churches have used Ebenezer in their names.

The story goes on to tell of how Samuel's sons fail to follow faithfully in their father's footsteps.  We are reminded that salvation is an individual decision.  The prayers of a faithful parent avails much, but each generation must decide for themselves who they will serve.  All the more reason that we should redouble our efforts as the Body of Christ to seek those who have not heard the story of God's Amazing Love.

Israel wants a king like other nations.  God knew that they would one day have a king, but his preferred future for Israel and for us is that God would be our king; that we would walk in obedience to his decrees.  Wouldn't the world be a wonderful place if we could live in a society where all loved God and their neighbor?  God consents to Israels desire even though he reminds them that a King will not be all that it is cracked up to be.  Our God gives and gives and gives, but a king will take and take and take.  Their is an army, and taxes and servants and castles and courts and all of it to paid for with our money.

God has selected a man, his name is Saul, the son of Kish and wealthy and prominent member of the tribe of Benjamin.   Chapter 9 retells how God orchestrates the meeting of Saul and Samuel and how God instructs Samuel in recognizing him.  We often think things happen just by chance, but looking back on our lives, it ought to be apparent that God had his hand in many of the events that have shaped us and divinely led us to appointed places and people who have blessed our lives.  God cares about every event of your life and can work his purpose even when we think he doesn't see or care about what is going on.

Hope you get a chance to enjoy a little sunshine today.  God is obviously at work in Eastern Jackson County.  Please continue to pray for the people of Japan and those who are trying to contain the potential nuclear disaster their. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

1 Samuel 4-6

An interesting story about a very bad time in Israel.  As I have previously mentioned, the Philistines are becoming a major political influence in the Eastern Mediterranean.  The are migrating from the Island of Crete in large numbers and they are bringing the implements of war from Greece including iron technology.  Their military expertise makes them the superior fighting force in the region.  There are 5 Philistine kings ruling 5 city-states.  They are aligned with each other.

The Philistines have picked a fight with Israel and they have roundly defeated them.  4000 men lose their lives in the fight.  Israel decided that they will bring God with them in the form of the Ark of the Covenant to the next fight.  This strikes fear in the Philistines because they have heard what the Israeli armies led by the Ark have done to the Egyptians and at Jericho and as Israel took over this part of the country.  They know this is a mighty God and they spur their soldiers forward with the advice that if you don't fight now prepare to be made subjects of Israel.

Phineas and Hopni, the evil priest sons of Eli, are leading the Ark into the battle.  Here is the problem.  Israel is using the Ark like a lucky rabbits foot.  They are trusting the Ark rather than trusting God.  That was somewhat like what happened during the crusades when the European forces were led into the battles with soldiers bearing the cross.  Talismans, lucky charms, 4 leaf clovers......God is not in any of those........his blessing of Israel comes out of obedience.  Israel has strayed, there is sin in the camp and some of the chief sinners are those two priests who are leading the Ark of the Covenant.  The Ark was to be kept in the Holy of Holies, ministered to there by the Chief Priests and only once per year at the time of the Atonement not paraded around as an implement of war.  Israel is crushed, 30,000 soldiers die, Phineas and Hopni are killed and when the results of the battle and the loss of the Ark are reported to Eli, he too dies.  Sad, Sad story!!  The prophecy of 1 Samuel 2:34 comes true; Hopni and Phineas die on the same day.  Israel weeps.  The Glory of The Lord has left Israel.....or has it?

The Glory of the Lord was not the tabernacle per se.  The Glory of the Lord was not in the Ark of the Tabernacle per se.  The Glory of the Lord was not in the offerings or the altar.  The Glory of the Lord was in his Spirit and his Spirit was made manifest in the people of God as the obeyed his will and his way.  The Glory of God abounds in God's people!  When God's people refuse God's way then God's Glory has no place to abide.  Where God's people are serving in obedience.....God's Glory can also be found.  Israel was trusting the wrong article of Faith.

The Philistines discover more about Jehovah than they wanted.  The take the captured Ark to their temple of worship to Dagon.  In the night Jehovah topples Dagon.  The idols hands and head are broken off.  This symbolizes the Dagon has neither the wisdom or the strength to stand before the One True God!!  A plague begins to decimate the Philistine city.  The pass the Ark off to another Philistine City and the plague follows.  It is thought that the plague may have been transmitted by mice or rats thus the golden rats and golden tumors (probably shaped like the tumors that the plague was raising on them) as an offering to the God of Israel as they returned the Ark.  The Ark is a "hot potato" to the Philistines.  After 7 months they want it out of there.  They devise an elaborate scheme to send it back and at the same time to test whether the God of Israel is really real.  The cows, the cart, the offering are all headed up a dirt road and, would you believe it,  they traveled 10 miles to an Israelite village.  When the kings of Philistia saw this they were convinced that they didn't want to mess with this God who could control such events.

Israel recieved the Ark and rejoiced at its return.  Again they failed to honor the God who had given instruction for the building of the Ark and for what it was to contain.  They violated the instruction to not touch it.  Some of them looked inside of it.  1000's were struck down.  Does it seem that God holds Israel to a higher standard?  Indeed he does, even as he does all those that he calls his people.  We should be aware of this principle as well.  God expects more of us having heard the good news of Jesus Christ.  "Who can stand before this Holy Lord God??"  Of course, none of us can.  When we realize the holiness of God, we pale at his righteousness and if we are lucid in our thoughts, we drop to our knees in adoration and praise.  God is in the house,  holy, holy, holy should be the cry from our lips even as it should have been from the lips of Israel.

They sent the Ark on to the village of Kiriath Jearim and there it remained for 70 years until King David takes it to Jerusalem.  Another story for another day.  Enjoy the sunshine.  God is good.  Worship him in the fullness of his glory and perhaps he will reveal himself to you. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

1 Samuel 1-3

The Books of Samuel are a part of the section of the Bible called he books of History.  We don't know who wrote Samuel.  We can be sure that Samuel had a hand in it, but some of what is written in these books occurs after Samuel's death.  Obviously, someone else was a part of this piece of the Bible.  Samuel is a great Prophet and Priest, the greatest in Jewish history since Moses.  He is part of the transition between the 400 year period of the Judges and the age of the Jewish Monarchy.  His story is one of faithfulness that has its beginnings in the prayers of his mother, Hannah.

One should also note that this is a period in Jewish history when the Philistines are growing in their influence in the area.  The Philistines are a war like people who have migrated from the Island of Crete.  The have brought with them the military prowess of Greece and the use of iron weapons.  The have iron shields, armor, helmets and weapons.  The are a growing menace to all who live in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Hannah is barren and to be a woman in that time who is barren is to be viewed as less than whole.  Hannah's plight is magnified in that her husband has a 2nd wife who never lets Hannah forget that she is unable to have children.  (does that remind you a little bit of Sarah and Haggar?)  Each year when Elkanah, Peninnah and Hannah go to Shiloh to make their offering to the Lord, Hannah pours out her heart to God asking that he would bless her with a child.  God hears her prayer and Samuel is born.  Hannah has made a promise to God that if he grants her a son that she will dedicate him to the Lord and he will be a Nazirite.  Hannah keeps her promise and after he is weaned (probably 2 or 3 years old) little Samuel is taken to Shiloh and to the Priest Eli to be dedicated to the Lord and to serve him in the tabernacle.

Eli is the high priest and he has two sons, Hopni and Phineas who also serve in the temple, but they are bad, bad men.  They dishonor God and bully those who come to worship.  They will come to an untimely end and are a lesson on the importance of parenthood.  It is an amazing thing to watch Samuel grow in grace and truth in the shadow of these two evil men.

The 2nd Chapter of 1 Samuel is often called Hannah's song.  It is her tribute of praise to a God who hears the prayers and the cries of those who love and serve him.  It is interesting to note that Zecharias (the father of John the Baptist) and Mary both quote this song in their great songs of praise as they anticipate the births of their children.  Also in verse 10 we may see a bit of prophesy since Israel has no King but Hannah speaks of the strength that will be in God's king or is she speaking of the Messiah yet to come?  Just interesting to think about.

In verse 22 we hear of more of the great sins of Phineas and Hopni as they entice the women who serve at the tabernacle door into illicit sexual affairs.  I only mention this to remind you that Jephthah's daughter in Judges was dedicated to the tabernacle.  These ladies served the Lord at the door to the altar by assisting those who came to worship.  Imagine the anger that must have welled up in the heart of God to see these ungodly priests violate the sanctity of this place of worship and adoration.  Those who are called to serve God are held to a higher standard of conduct than the world.  When they stumble and fail, the church often suffers as well.  These men were violating a sacred trust.

Chapter 3 is the beautiful story of Samuels' call.  I think I will preach from this text on Sunday so I won't say much today.  But It is good to think about what it means to be called by God.  How does God call?  Who does God call?  How do we hear him?  When Samuel understood that it was the voice of God that he was hearing, he was prompt to reply, "Here I am, Lord"  Would that we would be so prompt in our response.  When Samuel responded faithfully to God's call, the bible tells us that God was with him and through his obedience the Lord revealed himself at Shiloh.  Our prayer should be that we too would respond faithfully to God's call upon our lives and that the evidence of our obedience would be that all the world would see the Lord revealed in the places where we worship, live, work and play.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Ruth is a wonderful story of God's redeeming love for all those created in his image.  It takes place during the time of the Judges, not so very long after Israel has taken possession of the Promised land.  A famine has come upon the land around Bethlehem.  Elimelech take his young family across the Jordan to Moab in search of a better life for his wife Naomi and there two sons Mahlon and Kilion.  While the family is in Moab, Mahlon and Kilion grow into adulthood and marry to young ladies from Moab, Ruth and Orpah.  Israelites were forbidden to marry women from the tribes that surrounded them, but obviously Naomi and Elimelech are ignoring God's direction in this part of their life.

During the sojourn in Moab (sojourning indicates that they did not intend to stay their for all of their lives) all of the men die.   This is a terrible tragedy in that era in that women have no means of making a living outside of their family other than begging or worse.  Naomi considers her options and decides the best course for her is to return to the land of her fathers.  She tells her young daughters in law to return to their families.  They are still young and may marry again and yet have families.  It seems like the wisest course of action.  They will have a better chance with their own families.

Naomi kisses Orpah goodbye but Ruth refuses to leave.  What she says is one of the greatest lines in all of the Old Testament, a testimony to a kind of love that we all want for our lives, "Don't urge me to leave you or turn back from you.  Where you go I will go, where you stay I will stay.  Your people will be my people and your God will be my God.  Where you die I will die and there will I be buried."

Ruth returns to Bethlehem with Naomi and makes her home their.  Their Ruth follows Naomi's instructions and gleans in the field of their family.  Remember that gleaning in the fields was established in Exodus in the law of Moses as a way to provide food for the poor.  Ruth works tirelessly and catches the eye of one of Naomi's kinsmen, a man named Boaz.  Boaz becomes a protector for Ruth and Naomi and over the course of the harvest, Boaz and Ruth develop a respect for one another.  At the end of the harvest Naomi directs Ruth to the threshing floor with specific instructions to lie at the feet of Boaz.  This is a sign of submission in the Israelite culture.  It is asking that the Kinsman would become the protector.  Boaz accepts the offer, but first must make sure that one who is a closer relative to Elimelech does not wish to enforce his rights as kinsman-redeemer.

Remember that the office of Kinsman Redeemer was also established in the Mosaic code.  There were a number of things that the Kinsman Redeemer was to do.  He was to buy back relative who may have sold themselves into slavery because of hard times.  He was to be the blood avenger in the case that a member of the family might be murdered.  He was to buy back family land that may have sold.  (Elimelech may have sold the family land in order to finance the trip to Moab)  He was to insure that the family name lived on by marrying any widow of a family marriage that had not had sons.

When the closer relative did not chose to honor the role of Kinsman Redeemer, Boaz was delighted to do so.  Many biblical scholars believe that Boaz was much older than Ruth.  He had probably never married.  The other relative who refused to redeem Naomi and Ruth had sons and did not wish to create problems for those who would inherit from him.  Boaz became a kinsman redeemer for these two widows.  He restored them as persons in the community, he restored their property and, finally, he restores the family posterity when a son is born to the Ruth and Boaz who was named Obed.

Many New Testament scholars say this story is a precursor to the person of Jesus who became our Kinsman Redeemer.  He restores our person by his sacrificial love for us.  He restores our place in the Kingdom of God and he ensures our inheritance and posterity as he guarantees all who say yes to his offer of safety "under his wing" a place in eternity.

One more note, the story tells us that Ruth and Boaz begat Obed who begat Jesse who begat David who became King of Israel.  We know that Jesus lineage is traced back to David.  We should also note that the mother of Boaz was a lady named Rahab.  You may remember her from the story of the fall of Jericho.  She was the prostitute who protected Israel's spies and in return was saved from the devastation of Jericho.  She married Salmon and together that had a family, one of her sons was Boaz.  I find this to be a wonderful illustration of God's grace and goodness.  Both Rahab and Ruth were not Israelites.  Rahab was a Canaanite and Ruth a Moabite.  God had called for their destruction, but both turned their faces to God and repented of the lifestyles that God detested.  their repentence marks them for salvation.  They  become part of the great legacy of Faith and are sewn by God's love into this wonderful story that leads us to Jesus Christ.  They are the proof that many of us need to know, that none are beyond God's reach; that none are beyond God's love.

Ruth is a wonderful love story.....both in human terms and in terms of God's eternal love and pursuit of all those who bear is image.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Judges 20-21

What a beautiful day. Hope you got to enjoy it.  Tomorrow is Girls Scout Sunday.  I know that we will have some guests as a result.  I hope you will be in attendance to help me make them welcome.  Hospitality is an important biblical mandate.  Much of this lurid story found in the closing chapters in Judges is the result of Israel failing to remember that they were once aliens in a foreign land and of course failing to keep God's commandments as well.  I have read all three chapters for today, including Ruth 1, but I am only going to comment on the last 2 chapters of Judges.  I will address the entirety of Ruth tomorrow.  By the way, if you have never read Ruth, welcome to one of the great love stories of all times.

Isn't this an incredible story?  What does God want us to learn from this passage of scripture?  A sin so vile and a guilt so deep, what is its purpose here in the pages of the Bible?

The Levite who has dismembered his dead concubine and sent twelve parts to the twelve tribes of Israel has so offended the sensibilities of Israel that a great meeting of all the tribes is called and they gather to determine what must be done.  There is sin in the camp (remember Ai following the great victory at Jericho).  It must be removed.  The tribes invite the tribe of Benjamin to participate in the solution but they refuse.  The refuse to turn on their brothers in Gebeah.  The remaining tribes go before the Lord and ask if they should go against Benjamin and utterly destroy Gibeah.  God tells them to go.

What follows is a bitter battle that sees Israel lose the first two days of battle and in the process 40,000 men.  If God has sent Israel to destroy Gibeah for its great sin, why the first two days of defeat?  Why the great loss of human life?  Could it be that it wasn't until the defeat that Israel finally prostrated themselves before the Lord with contrite hearts and confessed their own sin and their complicity in the sin of Gibeah.  Sin does not grow in a vacuum and all of Israel had strayed from God's purpose for them.  Gibeah was put to the sword and burned to the ground but more than Gibeah paid a great price. 

The tribe of Benjamin defended their brothers in their sin and in so doing nearly caused their tribe to become the lost tribe of Israel.  Every man, woman and child was destroyed except the 600 warriors that had escaped into the mountains.  Can you see the price of sin unrepented?  It always takes you places that you did not intend to go, it keeps you longer than you ever intended to stay and it costs you more than you will ever be able to pay.

The rash oath that the remaining 11 tribes make to withhold their women from the remaining 600 Benjaminites leads to further inane actions on the part of Israel.  The 400 virgins are given in marriage and then permission is given to kidnap other you maidens from Shechem.  Can this be the will of God?  Let me say, I emphatically do not believe so.  Remember that the motto for this chapter is the found in the failure of Israel to remember who their King is and to be obedient to the way that he has called them to live.  "In Israel there was no king and everyone did as he saw fit."  The great sin was living as though there was no standard for living.  Everyone did as they saw fit is not the call for those who follow God.  There is a standard against which everything is measured.  There is right and there is wrong.  Israel has failed to love God with their whole heart, soul, strength and mind.  God is going to have to come up with a new plan if Israel and we are to be saved from our own evil ways.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Judges 17-19

This is some tough reading, but I know God has a word in this for us somewhere.  In fact I am so sure of it that I am going to preach from this passage on Sunday.  Hope you will be there.  Baptism during 2nd service.....beautiful little Rylan Robertson will be baptized and her mama and daddy will be joining the church.  It is also the 99th birthday for the Girl Scouts of America.  We will have some of those young ladies in attendance as well.  Lots of reasons to celebrate on a beautiful Sabbath Day.  Hope you got outside today and enjoyed the warmth.  Patty and I took 1/2 the day off to play a round of golf.  Didn't play very good but it was a joy to be out and enjoy the early springlike weather.  Our prayers are with the folks in much loss of life and property.

Do you ever think the world is upside down?  Certainly this story of Micah is an upside down world.  1st he steals from his mother, then he gives it back, she blesses him for his kindness(?) and rewards him by giving him what he has previously stolen.  If that isn't enough......he builds and idol, ordains his own priest and then has the audacity to think that God will surely bless him because he has his own priest now.  That's not enough so he hires a passing levite for 10 shekels of silver per year.  Now he figures he is really in like flint.  And what is this Levite thinking....that God is for hire.  Reminds me of Balaam in the Exodus story.......being bought to put a curse on the Israelites.  God's word, God's promises, God's people are not mercenaries to be bought and sold except that we have already been bought at a very high price by the blood of Jesus.

Chapter 18 continues to reveal the lack of Faith that is permeating Israel.  The tribe of Dan has not conquered and possessed that which God has given them at the end of the Exodus.  They are looking for easier land to take and their eyes wander into their neighbor Ephraim's territory.  Ephraim hasn't been totally obedient either.  Their is part of their tribal territory that is occupied by pagan's.  The tribe of Dan sends spies and then a small army to take possession of this city for their own people.  On the way, they stop at Micah's place; they steal his idol, his ephod and his priest.  Always room for another priest and God's blessing when you are going into war because you failed to take that which God has already bequeathed to you.  Did I say that these stories portray a world that is upside down?  Before these men are through they set up a rival tabernacle to the one established by God at Shiloh and institutional idolatry comes to Israel.  Before this we saw evidence of household idols and idolatry, but this is on a much bigger scale.

Chapter 19 is so vile that many Old Testament scholars do not comment on it, but it reveals how low Israel has sunk in its moral turpitude.  There is no hospitality to the alien.  There is sexual debauchery much like that which we read about in the fall of Sodom and Gomorrah.  How can this have happened in a few short centuries since the crossing of Jordan?  It certainly should cause us a moment's pause and force us to reflect upon the slippery slope that it seems that America is on.  Perhaps the key to this moral slide is found in the statement, "Israel had no king and every person did as seemed right to them."  Once we begin to decide for ourselves what is right and wrong, we begin to measure everything by what feels good to us and we immediately begin to elevate our judgments, our values, our desires to places that belong to God and God alone.  There is a fact there is a King of Kings and a Lord of Lords and he has shown us what is right and good.  To ignore his imperatives is to flirt with a most disastrous possibility......even a fate worse than death.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Judges 14-16

The story of Samson is often told as a great story of Triumph as Samson brings the temple of the false god Dagon tumbling down onto the heads of thousands of pagan worshipers.  We are older now, more mature; can there be another view of this great story?

Consider that Samson is a Nazirite, a  person dedicated to God before his birth.  His parents have raised him in the strict guidelines related to one who is a Nazirite.  He has never drank wine, he has never touched a dead body, a razor has never touched his head.

Our story opens in chapter 14 with a story of love at first sight, but a love that is outside of God's perfect will.  God has explicitly instructed the Israelites to marry within their own nation.  Samson, chosen by God, allows himself to "fall" in love with a pagan.  I know this is a difficult thing for us, but God has given us instructions as well regarding marriage.  We are not to be "unequally yoked".  This has nothing to do with the other person being lovable.  God loves all and commands that we love all as well.  The difficulty for a marriage outside of the faith is that our partner who is not a Christian cannot look at the world in the same way that a Christian does.  They do not have a Christian worldview.  That doesn't make them bad people, but it is not possible for them to view Christ as the center of their world if they have not accepted him as Christ and Savior.

Samson violates his Nazirite vow when he reaches into the Lion's carcass to get a handful of honey.  The Lion is a dead animal.  We don't know for sure from our reading, but it is certainly true that when the wedding party was held (think bachelor party) there was another opportunity to violate his Nazirite vow.  I would expect that there was some fruit of the vine (think wine) available there.  And still, God used Samson to punish the Philistines.  This is a proof that God can use even broken vessels to his good will.  Our failures can be overcome by a God who desires to use us in a superhuman kind of way.

Samson is betrayed throughout these chapters by the women that he loves.  Perhaps this speaks more to how we approach love than anything else.  Certainly love must be more, much more than a physical attraction.  The biblical admonition to "guard your heart" is very appropriate when we are looking to find the person that God intends for us to be yoked to "til death do us part".

These stories are also filled with retaliation which is not God's perfect way.  God calls on us to "turn the other cheek" and to love our neighbor as ourself.  Surely God would have us to destroy the enemy by the power of his love which can also save their souls rather than to beat them to death with the jawbone of an ass.  The result of Samson's vengeful retaliation for his betrayal and subsequent anger is that he finds himself living in a cave because he doesn't know who he can trust.  And still God can use this man.

Samson falls (that doesn't even sound like love to me) for another woman....Delilah.  This relationship is one sided and headed for disaster from the beginning.  Delilah is aligned with a pagan god and a heritage that makes real love impossible.  They use each other until Delilah finally finds a way to destroy the one who proclaims his love to her.  She sells her lover for what is the equivalent of 140 pounds of silver.  Samson has his eyes gouged out and put into bondage.  he is a laughingstock and proof to the Philistines that their god (dagon) is mightier than Jehovah.  (not true as they are about to find out.)  Samson has been so weakened that the Philistines lead him about with a small boy.  How low has Samson fallen that he who once slew the Philistines by the 100's is now controlled by a boy.  But what man has violated, abused and desecrated God can use in a glorious way.  Sin demands its wages.  Samson is blind in bondage and in slavery, but God can make a way.  Having been humbled before men, God restores by the power of the Holy Spirit and more than 3000 + the temple of dagon are destroyed in a moment; a testimony to the power of Jehovah Jireh.

There is a great deal in the story of Samson, more than we have discussed here, but perhaps one of the greatest lessons is about wasted potential.  God had gifted Samson mightily and he was used mightily, but how much more might there have been if Samson had been obedient to his vows as a Nazirite.  How much more might we be and do and be used by God if we kept our vows as Christ followers?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Judges 11-13

Wow, what do you do with a story like this one about Jephthah?  Jephthah was the son of a prostitute, and outcast from his family and from society.  Is it any wonder that he surrounded himself with other outcasts?  But God chooses to use the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; God chose to use the weak things of this world to confuse the mighty.  God chose to use Jephthah and Jephthah responded and because of his faithful response he becomes one that the Apostle Paul cites in the great chapter of Faith in Hebrews 11:32.  I think that we should be reminded that all human life is made in the image of God and God desires that all who are created in his image should walk by faith.  We should not look down on any because of the circumstance of their birth.

When God chooses Jephthah, he makes a very foolish vow; promising that if God makes him victorious that he will consecrate the first thing that he sees coming from his house.  Who or what did Jephthah imagine would come from his house?  Some have interpreted this passage to mean that Jephthah offered his daughter as a sacrifice, but I think that is an incorrect interpretation.   I think that what Jephthah did was more like what Hannah did with her son Samuel; that Jephthah's daughter was dedicated to God and become a part of the servants who ministered at the temple.  This would explain the grief regarding not being married.  Most of the women who became dedicated to the temple were widows. 

God would never require human sacrifice, in fact, one of the abominations of the Philistines, Amorites, Ammonites and others was their worship of Chemosh and Molech; both of whom required child sacrifice in their worship.

The tribe of Ephraim seems to be a bunch of whiners.  They used this same device in their complaint to Gideon.  What they really seemed to want was to have credit for the victory.  Christians must serve without worrying about who gets the credit.  One of Jesus' complaints against the Pharisees was that they prayed loudly and did good deeds to receive the praise of men.  We are to lay up treasure in heaven and do good deeds that bring honor and glory to God.  We, as John the Baptist said, must become less that he, Jesus, will become more.  The Ephraimites hadn't quite figured this out yet and paid a terrible price for their disobedience.

In chapter 13 we see the words again, "the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord."  God allows the Philistines to harass and abuse Israel to force them back into right relationship.  Israel cries out to God and God prepares to raise up another champion.  this one is the familiar story of Samson.  Samson is to be a Nazarite.  An angel of God appears to his parents (remember the word for this is a Theophany) and predicts that this barren couple will bear a child that will be used by God.  He is to be dedicated to God even before his birth.  We remember him because God says that no razor is to used upon his head and he will be used in the deliverance of Israel from the Philistines.  His is a story that mirrors that of Israel during the time of the Judges.

Hope you have a blessed day.  Stop by church tonight and join us in our Ash Wednesday Services at 7:00.  It is a different service than Sunday, darker, because it is a service that asks us to contemplate our own sins, to repent and be restored to the fullness of the Father.  Repenting was a hard thing for Israel, let it not be so with we who claim to be the children of God.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Judges 8-10

Ephraim is jealous of Gideon.  "why didn't you call on us to help in defeating the enemies of Israel?"  Of course Gideon had called on all of Israel.  Ephraim hadn't responded until it was obvious that Gideon was going to be successful.  Isn't that the way of the world?  You step out in Faith and the world tells you that it can't be done, but when success comes, the world wants in on the action. 

Gideon asks the residents of other cities to feed the troops as they pursue the enemy.  The residents of Succoth and Penuel refuse to help their brothers......Gideon says he will be back when God has finished the task that he has begun.  God does give the enemy over into Gideon's hands and Succoth and Penuel are destroyed for their failure.

When success has come and peace is again in Israel, the people want to make a king of Gideon.  Gideon refuses the offer but he does accept tribute in the form of gold.....50 pounds.....a fortune and then he has some of the gold cast into an ephod.  You will remember that an ephod was a part of the priestly garments.  Gideon was not a levite or a priest, he was committing a sin against God.  He set the Ephod up as an Idol and allowed people to worship it.  Gideon had been a chosen instrument of God and he chose to set himself up in a place that belonged only God.  We must always guard against allowing success to separate us from the most important things, the eternal things.  Gideon takes a harem and while polygamy seems to have been a norm for the wealthy in the Old Testament, it almost always comes with discord and disharmony.  This polygamy will also lead to an evil end.  While there was peace in Gideon's time, his son Abimelech (son of a king) will lead Israel to sin again.

Baal worship returns.  Abimelech convinces Shechem to follow him.  He hires some hooligans and thugs and kills all of his brothers except one who escapes.  Abimelech is crowned king in Shechem.  This is the same place where Joshua wrote down the laws and degrees that Moses had given to them and which the people had sworn to obey.  Ironic, don't you think?  The pillar of stone that served as Abimelech's place of coronation was the same stone that Joshua placed there to commemorate the peoples promise of obedience.

As the story of violence unfolds......the violent Abimelech devours and destroys Shechem and all of its inhabitants.  There is no honor among thieves.  Then Abimelech turns of the neighboring city of Thebez, but there he is killed.  Violence begets violence and all who plotted in the destruction of the family of Gideon end their lives in violence.  Violence never resolves an issue.  Violence sows seeds of future violence and the wheel of violence continues.  Jesus is the Prince of Peace, only the power of love, pure love can overcome the inclination to violent behavior.  Peace will finally come when the Prince of Peace has authority over every heart and life.

Abimelech and Shechem were repaid for their evil.  This is a truth....God will ultimately repay those who reign violence on the this life or in eternity.

An interesting item in chapter 10 is this statement, "the children of Isreael did evil in the sight of the Lord."  this statement appears 7 times in Judges and it always means trouble.  The cycle of sin returns.  Worshp of Baals, Ashtoreths and other false gods is embraced by Israel.  Baal is a god of wealth and power, the Ashtoreths were gods of fertility, love and sexuality.  While we may call them by different names, these are the same gods that wreck havoc in America and around the world today.  Why did Jesus say that it is easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven?  Wealth is a powerful entrapment.  In America, the wealthy are getting more wealthy and the poor are getting poorer.  Think God has something to say about that?  You bet he does.

The Philistines and the Amorites are used as instruments of God's reproof.  Israel cries out to God.  God replies, "why should I believe you?"  Of course God know what will happen, but for a time Israel again puts away the idols and the ashtoreths.....they gather expectantly at Mizpah.  And their question was, "who will be the man to lead us in victory?"  Will God send such a man.  He always has and again he does.  The sad story of a frivolous oath is told as God raises up the next Judge.....a man called Jephthah.

Thanks for faithfully staying the course with me in this Bible reading project.  You are a great encouragement to me.  Patty returned home tonight from her trip to Texas with our daughter and 3 of our granddaughters.  They had a wonderful trip.  Thanks for your prayers for safe travel.  God heard your prayers.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Judges 5-7

The story of Deborah is a great anthem for women's liberation.  it speaks to us of how God does not limit us by gender, ethnicity, etc.  God does not see us in any way except as children of God.  Chapter 5 is the song of what God has done for Israel through the obedience of Deborah and Jael.  Notice the opening lines, "when the princes (leaders) in Israel take the lead, when the people willingly offer themselves......praise the Lord!"  Isn't that true?  When leaders lead and the people offer themselves, God can and will do wonderful things.  When leaders fail in their responsibility, when the people fail in their responsibility; it makes it easy for the deceiver to accomplish his purpose and usher in a time of failure in the church.  The Church is designed under the kingship of Jesus to be fully equipped for victory.  A church that is failing is lacking in one of the key elements that are praised in this hymn of praise.  God inspired leadership and God inspired laity can conquer the land in the name of the one true God.

Chapter 6 begins with this continuous cycle of blessing and curses.  We know that following the great victory of Deborah there was a season of 40 years of peace, but once again Israel did evil in the eyes of the Lord and God sent the Midianites to drive them back into repentence.  This might be hard to think about, but is it possible that the Midianites were an instrument of God's grace?  God could have allowed Israel to continue to sink in the abyss of idol worship and evil, but God did not.  He sent the Midianite raiders to cause Israel to cry out again to the God of their Ancestors and he could answer their prayers.  The Midianites were desert people.  Israel had defeated them during the time of the Exodus, but they didn't finish the job and here they are back giving them fits.  They come in raiding parties during the time of harvest to steal the fruit of Israel's labor.  Isn't that what sin does?  It robs us of the 1st fruits that God intends for us.

Gideon is an unlikely hero.  He is from the half tribe of Manasseh and the least among them.  He had a pretty low opinion of himself.  But he does have some things going for him.  1st he is a humble man.  winnowing barley in the winepress is an indicator of his humility and of some good thinking.  Instead of winnowing in the open where others could see the harvest he lowers himself into this place that is hot and sticky and dirty (the wind does not blow through the wine press).  2nd he cares.  He is thoughtful about Israel's problems and how they no longer bring honor to themselves or to God.  He has knowledge of God's care for Israel in the past and he is spiritually hungering to see God again to marvelous works to and through Israel.  And he is teachable.  None of the rest matters if Gideon is not ready to hear and respond to God.  But he is so God shows up.  this is called a theophany when God appears in a bodily form to interact with a human being.  god tells Gideon that he is going to use him to defeat the Midianites.  Gideon asks for a sign and the Angel of the Lord consumes Gideon's offering in the fire.  Gideon asks for another sign.  The fleece is wet and the ground is dry.  Gideon presses God for another sign.  The fleece is dry and the ground is wet.  Does this remind you of Abraham arguing with God over Sodom and Gommorah?

convinced that God is indeed with him, Gideon destroys the Baal altar in his community.  But he is not 100% convinced that God will protect him so he does this work in the cover of darkness.  God does protect him and Gideon is further encouraged.  he calls for an army and 32,000 answer the call.  God say, "too many".  If I allow you to defeat Midian with this army, you will think it is because of your great power.  Obey me and know that I am God and I fight this fight for you.

God winnowed that army down to 300 men and then he allowed Gideon to overhear the Midianite soldiers discussing a dream about a loaf of barley bread rolling into and destroying their camp.  Do you remember what kind of farmer Gideon was?  he raises barley.  God had given a vision to Midian that a loaf of Barley bread would be their undoing.  If he needed more assurance that God was using him in a mighty way, Gideon had it.  he immediately called his army of 300 to prepare for war.  He armed each man with a earthen pot with a torch inside, a sword and a trumpet.  They surrounded the Gideon camp and at Gideon's command each man broke the clay pot revealing the lighted torch and they sounded their trumpets.  The lights and the trumpets caused the Midianite armies to believe that they were surrounded by a vast army.  Each lamp and each trumpet represented a company of men.  The Midianites fled in confusion and even fought each other.  Gideon called for the men of Israel to pursue and complete the rout that God had ordained.

What should we take from this story?  God can do more than we can imagine.  We do not have to have a vast and powerful army of volunteers to conquer sin and evil.  God does speak through signs and they are visible to those with eyes to see and ears to hear.  Are you looking for a sign?  It might be right in front of you.  Is your fleece wet or dry?  Give God glory for your victories.  Know that God's strength is made perfect in our weakness.