God May Be Silent, But He Is Still at Work

March 28, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts | Leave a comment

“The word of the LORD was rare in those days.”  (1 Samuel 3:1 ESV)  Reading that, one might think God was not at work, because there were no prophets and visions from God were infrequent.  However, God was still working in the world to carry out his eternal plan.  I pondered this statement in my devotions when I read it last week, and over the next few days, thought about some numbers.  This verse takes place when Samuel was a little boy.  God brought about a miracle birth for Samuel to come into the world.  But about the same time that was happening, God was doing something else.

The priest Eli was old at this time, and though we know he was a judge of Israel for 40 years, we don’t know how long he lived after this event.  We can assume it wasn’t long because Samuel began to rule Israel when he was still a youth.  We don’t know how long Samuel ruled, or at least I didn’t see any definite numbers in my quick scan, we only know it was “all the days of his life,” (7:15); and “from his youth until he was old and gray.” (12:2)  After Samuel, Saul ruled as king in Israel for 40 years.  So it was roughly 10 years of rule under Eli, 50 years under Samuel, and 40 under Saul from this event until the coronation of David.

On another front, David was 30 when he became king (2 Samuel 5:4).  He was the eighth of son of Jesse, who, to have that many children, must have been near 40 at the time of David’s birth.  Jesse’s father was Obed, who we can assume was probably 20-something when Jesse was born.

In other words, it was about 100 years before David became king, when the Lord called Samuel, and it was about that same 100 years when Ruth and Naomi came to Bethlehem, where Ruth became Obed’s mother and, eventually, David’s great-grandmother.  Just when the “word of the Lord was rare,” God was raising up the family of the ruler he promised would come from the tribe of Judah many years before. (See Genesis 49:10)

Even when God seems silent in your life, he is at work on his eternal plan.

Jephthah and Sovereignty (Part 2)

March 17, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, It's All About God | Leave a comment

In my last post we looked at the people around Jephthah, emphasizing their motives for praying to God.  But Jephthah himself is an interesting study.  First, he believes, or at least gives lip service, to God’s sovereignty.  His first mention of possibly leading the people, after they ask him, is either a second question (NIV, NASB, KJV) or a negotiation demand (ESV, HCSB).  Either way, the manner in which he says it is insightful.  He doesn’t say “if I bring you victory,” but rather, “if the Lord gives me victory.”  “Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, ‘If you bring me home again to fight with the Ammonites, and the LORD gives them over to me, I will be your head.’” (Judges 11:9 ESV or “will I really be your head?” NIV)  He recognizes that any success he has will be God’s doing.  That’s a great beginning.

Second, Jephthah knows God’s covenant history with Israel.  His letter to the Ammonite king (11:14-27) is a good history lesson which corrects the opposition’s misrepresentation of that history.  That king is coming to war against Israel because, he asserts, Israel took land from him when they came out of Egypt (12-13).  But, Jephthah corrects, the land he claims as his was actually taken from Sihon, the king of the Amorites.  Notice that, though those names are similar, the second one is a different nation.  In fact, the text of that history says Israel took land from Sihon, king of the Amorites, only as far as the border of the Ammonites (Numbers 21:24).

Third, notice that Jephthah is devoted to God and willing to do anything God requires.  Before we get too critical we must give him credit here; he did what he believed God demanded of him, even though it cost him dearly.  He is even on God’s list of faithful people in Hebrew 11!  When it became evident that war was unavoidable, he made a promise to God: “Jephthah made a vow to the LORD and said, ‘If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.’” (30-31 ESV)  Unfortunately, what came out of his house after the victory was his only child.  Jephthah was serious enough about his commitment to carry out that tragic vow.  In spite of the tragedy, I guess we should give him credit for consistency and commitment.

However, this is a tragedy simply because he doesn’t know God’s law or the value God places on human life.  God strictly prohibited his people sacrificing their children (Deut 12:31, 18:10) and he made provision for those people dedicated to God to be redeemed (Ex 13:13-15; Lev 27).  Though none of these passages address Jephthah’s exact situation, I believe they spell out God’s heart in the matter of sacrificing people to him, and a better knowledge of those principles would have saved Jephthah a lot of heartache.

If we believe God is sovereign, then we will want to know what he has said.  If we want to please him, we will study his word to know how to do that.  People who want to honestly worship a sovereign God will study his word, know his principles and know his heart.  The lesson of Jephthah’s tragedy must be to spend time in God’s word and know his heart.

Jephthah and Sovereignty (Part 1)

March 14, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, It's All About God | Leave a comment

Two years ago I posted an entry called “Following Jesus with Selfish Motives.”  There is an interesting example of that same attitude in Judges.  The author of that Old Testament book reminds us often that it was easy for the Israelites to turn away from the Lord while things were going well; but when they themselves got into trouble, they remembered the Lord and returned to him.  However, one wonders how sincere they were, since they always fell away again.   In chapters ten and eleven there is the fascinating story of a judge named Jephthah.  Here, once again, the people of Israel turned away from the Lord and worshiped false gods (10:6-7).  So the true God allowed them to be oppressed by the Philistines and the Ammonites, so that, after eighteen years, Israel was “severely distressed.” (10:7-9 ESV)  Once again, they cried out to the Lord, but this time he answered them negatively.  “You have forsaken me and served other gods; therefore I will save you no more.  Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress.” (10:13-14)  Their answer to that is insightful:  “We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you.  Only please deliver us this day.” (10:15)  It sounds like they are admitting God’s sovereignty while demanding he act in their way and with their timing.  Of course, that is a contradiction.  If we believe that God is truly sovereign, we will allow him to work in his way and in his time.  We Christians today never act like that now, do we!?

But that’s not the end of the matter.  This character called Jephthah enters the picture.  He was an outcast from his home town and his own family because he was born to a prostitute (11:1-2).  But Jephthah demonstrated his leadership gifts with some “worthless fellows,” so the people of his hometown wanted him back to lead their freedom fight against the Ammonites (11:3-6).  Jephthah rightly questions their motives, “Did you not hate me and drive me out of my father’s house?  Why have you come to me now when you are in distress?” (11:7)  Their answer sounds eerily similar to the answer they gave God’s earlier challenge.  They said, “That is why we have turned to you now, that you may go with us and fight with the Ammonites and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.” (11:8)  We are in big trouble, they say, so help us now.  Again that is like people today; we befriend whomever can help us with our agenda now.  The way they acted toward Jephthah is reflective of the way they acted toward God.

God is gracious, and even in this matter, he acts with grace.  When they put away their foreign gods, “he became impatient over the misery of Israel.” (10:16)  Or as the NIV puts it, “he could bear Israel’s misery no longer.”  So Jephthah is used of God to free Israel from bondage to the Ammonites.  But that story is a fascinating matter for another day.  Today I wonder, do we trust God as sovereign allowing him to do his work, or do we give lip service to sovereignty while pushing our agenda and our timing?  Do we follow Jesus because he is Lord, or because we think we can get our way from him?

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.