Monday, 29 February 2016

Enlarge my mouth

And Hannah prayed and said:
“My heart rejoiceth in the Lord;
My horn is exalted in the Lord.
My mouth in enlarged over my enemies,
Because I rejoice in Your salvation. – 1 Samuel 2.1

Sometimes I almost wish we still spoke 17th century English. I really like some of the expressions. Of course it helps that I cut my teeth on the old King James translation.

Here we have one of those phrase – ‘my mouth is enlarged over my enemies.’ This is Hannah’s praise song after God gave her a son.

‘My heart rejoices in the Lord. My strength is lifted up in the Lord.’

And then the wonderful line ‘my mouth is enlarged.’ I love the image here. Today was would say ‘I smiled at my enemies,’ but can't you just see a great big smile on her face? Think about how someone looks when a smile breaks out – doesn’t ‘my mouth in enlarged’ make a good picture?

Anyway, Hannah could do that because she was rejoicing in God’s salvation and deliverance.

We too can smile when things are going well because we can rest assured that God as it sorted. This old song comes so close to getting it right but falls just short:

Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it's breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you'll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You'll see the sun come shining through for you

But we can end the song with ‘smile and be sure tomorrow you’ll see the Son come shining through for you.’

No matter what we face we can smile because we rejoice in the salvation of the Lord.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

I prayed and God answered

And she said, “O my lord! As your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood by you here, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. Therefore I also have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the Lord.” So they worshiped the Lord there.  – 1 Samuel 1.26-28

This is a very special verse to me.

The story goes back to late 1954 in Fairbanks, The Alaskan Territory. My mom and dad were living at Ladd AFB where my dad was a young American soldier. In the winter of 1954 she discovered that she was pregnant.

She really wanted a son. She had just read the story of Hannah. So she decided to pray and she told God that is He gave her a son she would dedicate him to the Lord. A few months later I was born and for a while that was the end of the story. I knew nothing about it.

Fast forward to January 1992. I had just sat through my ordination council and approved to be ordained to the gospel ministry the next day. My dear mother came up in tears and told me this wonderful story. ‘I remembered Hannah’s story,’ mom said, ‘I prayed for a son and told God I would dedicate my son to the Lord to be a preacher. I prayed for that every day. Today God answered.’

‘I prayed and God answered’ was not just for Hannah. It was for my mom, and it is for all of us.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Let God establish His way

Now the man Elkanah and all his house went up to offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice and his vow. But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “Not until the child is weaned; then I will take him, that he may appear before the Lord and remain there forever.” So Elkanah her husband said to her, “Do what seems best to you; wait until you have weaned him. Only let the Lord establish His word.” Then the woman stayed and nursed her son until she had weaned him. – 1 Samuel 1.21-23

I wonder what happened in Hannah’s heart around this verse. When she prayed she told God that if He gave her a son she would give him back to the Lord. I am sure that sounded great at the time, and even when Samuel was born.

But now he was getting a little older. When it came time to go up for the yearly sacrifice she didn’t want to go.

Of course, we cannot guess her heart. But is there a chance that she was not ready to let Samuel go?

Her husband was brilliant – ‘Okay, do what you think is best. Keep him until he is completely weaned – but make sure that this is God’s will.’

That is the kind of godly advice we all need. God gives us a free will. He gives is great liberty. He gives us the freedom to make choices. He does not rule with an iron first.

But we are wise to make sure the choices we make are God’s plan and God’s way and that we are not led by our own wishes.

Friday, 26 February 2016

The Lord remembered her

Then they rose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD, and returned and came to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her. So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, "Because I have asked for him from the LORD." – 1 Samuel 1.19-20

There is a lot happening here, but the fact that it takes place in just a couple of verse makes it easy to miss what is going on. I mentioned this bit yesterday, but want to look at it a little closer.

The Lord remembered Hannah.

That sounds like He had forgotten about her doesn’t it?

Of course God cannot forget – but the explanation is not that hard. We might say today that ‘the Lord called her prayer to mind.’

There are times when we all may feel forgotten. We may feel like no one hears or no one cares.

But we must remember that God never forgets us. He remembers us wherever we are and whatever we are going through. We are never alone. We are never forgotten. God remembers.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

She worshipped

Then they rose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD, and returned and came to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her. So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, "Because I have asked for him from the LORD." – 1 Samuel 1.19-20

Hannah prayed and Eli (after he accused her of being drunk – poor girl) prayed that God would hear her. She got up and dried her tears.

The next morning, before they went back home and before they did anything else she and Elkanah did something that is a challenge to us all.

They rose up in the morning early – and they worshipped.

Did you notice that they worshipped before God answered their prayer? Their faith was so strong that they didn’t have to see anything before they worshipped God.

Our for the kind of faith and trust that allows me to trust God and worship Him before I see Him act.

But notice one key point of this story. They worshipped, they went home, and ‘Elkanah knew his wife.’

They worshipped God. They acted on their faith – and God ‘remembered them.’

Obviously God can’t forget – God called their pray and their faith to mind. Hannah conceived and had a son.

Then she kept doing right – she honoured the Lord in naming her son Samuel, which means ‘asked of the Lord.’

This is a pretty special woman. She had the kind of faith that we ought to seek in our lives.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Take it to the Lord in Prayer

Then Elkanah her husband said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?” So Hannah arose after they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the tabernacle of the Lord. And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish. – 1 Samuel 1.8-10

Before we look at a great woman’s faith I want to briefly look at a God example of how men should not talk to their wives. Poor Hannah wanted a baby and was heartbroken over it. She was in bits. She couldn’t eat.

So what does her husband say? ‘Am I not better than ten sons? Why are you so sad?’

Not so smart, huh?

But seriously. Let's think about it. She is broken. She can’t get pregnant. And then her husband says something stupid like ‘aren’t I enough?’

He truly does love her. He knows she is hurting and even gets her special gifts – but it doesn’t slave the problem.

So what does she do?

In her bitterness of soul and her anguish she prayed to the Lord and wept.

I hope that all of us have the same attitude when things get bad. We have all had that devastating of a death or an illness or a financial blow or a disaster or whatever. I will never forget sitting with my son when the doctor told him that his wife had a form of leukaemia that could very well kill in in a few days. Those are painful days that can shake us to the very core.

So what do we do? We mourn, we weep, but we take it to the Lord in prayer.

There is a wonderful old hymn that seems to me to have kind of dropped off the scene – but sometimes when we do that we miss some wonderful messages. It was written in 1855 by Joseph Scriven and is called ‘What A Friend We Have in Jesus.’ Scriven caught the Hannah like spirit of her prayer.

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Saviour, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
May we ever, Lord, be bringing
All to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
There will be no need for prayer—
Rapture, praise, and endless worship

Will be our sweet portion there.  

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Blessed be the Lord

Then the women said to Naomi, "Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel! And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him." Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her bosom, and became a nurse to him. Also the neighbour women gave him a name, saying, "There is a son born to Naomi." And they called his name Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David. - Ruth 4.14-17

It is interesting to see how God is honoured through the whole story of Ruth and Boaz. The longer it went the more obvious it was that God was in control of this whole thing.

Now the women of the area realised it and proclaim to Naomi ‘blessed be the Lord.’

And why is He to be blessed?

He provided a kinsman redeemer
He gave her Ruth who loved her more than seven sons could

But that’s not all. We know the rest of the story.

God blessed the family by giving Ruth and Boaz and son and Naomi was so special that the neighbour women proclaimed ‘Naomi has a son!’ God gave her the family she had lost.

But there is one thing more. Ruth the Moabitess became a part of Israel’s royal line. She and Boaz called their son Obed grew and had a son named Jesse. Jesse was the father of David – Israel’s greatest king.

God turned triumph into tragedy  - and eventually Jesus would be born into the line of David.

Blessed be the Lord.

Monday, 22 February 2016


Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, "Blessed be he of the LORD, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead!" And Naomi said to her, "This man is a relation of ours, one of our close relatives." – Ruth 2.20

I like to see the kind of change that takes place in situations like Naomi went through. She was in utter despair and misery when she got back to Bethlehem. The full impact of what Ruth had done had not sunk in.

But then things began to fall into place. Boaz had taken them under his protection. They were being provided for.

But Naomi knew the source of the their success.

‘Blessed be the Lord, who has nor forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead.’

I love it when God is referred to as kind. Kind is such a nice word.

God is love. God is good. God is holy. God is just. God is righteous. God is all knowing. God is all seeing. God is everywhere. God is eternal. God is unchanging.

But isn’t it nice to know that God is kind?

Sunday, 21 February 2016


So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, "Why have I found favour in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?" And Boaz answered and said to her, "It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before. The LORD repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge." – Ruth 2.10-12

There is no doubt that the Old Testament is primarily a story of God dealing with the Jews. They are called His chosen people. Almost everything that happens happens to and with the Jewish people.

But every so often we find a non-Jew, what are called ‘Gentiles’ getting in to the story.

Ruth is one of those people. Not only was she not a Jew, she was not just a Gentile, she was a Moabitess and the Moabites were one of the enemies of the Jewish nation. She can’t understand why she has been shown such kindness.Boaz told her that he took note of here because of how she had treated Naomi.

But it is the next part that really makes a difference. She was blessed and found refuge because she honoured God with her choices.

According to Boaz the Lord would bless Ruth because she ‘came under His wings for refuge.’

I don’t know the details about the theology, but this seems to say that Ruth chose to come to the Lord for His refuge and provision and protection. God will not refuse anyone who comes to Him for refuge.

God gives refuge without reserve. Ruth will used by God in a mighty way because she came to Him – and He can use us.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

A good testimony

So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, "Why have I found favour in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?" And Boaz answered and said to her, "It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before. The LORD repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge." – Ruth 2.10-12

Ruth and Naomi were in a struggle. They had returned to Bethlehem after Naomi’s ten years in Moab. Naomi, or Mara as she called herself now, was a woman of great sorrow. She had lost everything except Ruth.

They were at the point where they had to go to distant family members and ask to be allowed to glean in the fields. Gleaning is basically picking up the scraps left over from the harvest. They decided to approach a relative named Boaz to see about gleaning his fields. They decided, as two single women, to look to him for protection.

Ruth was from Moab. She was a stranger and a foreigner. And still Boaz agreed to favour her and leave extra in the fields where she was gleaning.

When Ruth asked why Boaz told her it was because she had proven her character by her care for her mother-in-law.

This is an illustration of how important our testimony is. Eventually God is going to use Ruth in a very special way –and it all started because she was loyal and devoted to her grieving mother-in-law.

What do our testimonies say about us? How would people respond to us based on how we treat others?

Thursday, 18 February 2016

No such thing

When her master arose in the morning, and opened the doors of the house and went out to go his way, there was his concubine, fallen at the door of the house with her hands on the threshold. And he said to her, "Get up and let us be going." But there was no answer. So the man lifted her onto the donkey; and the man got up and went to his place. When he entered his house he took a knife, laid hold of his concubine, and divided her into twelve pieces, limb by limb, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel. And so it was that all who saw it said, "No such deed has been done or seen from the day that the children of Israel came up from the land of Egypt until this day. Consider it, confer, and speak up!" – Judges 19.27-30

While there are great stories of human kindness and benevolence and charity to encourage us about mankind – there are  also plenty of terrible events which shake our faith in mankind. Indeed, apart from God anything is possible. The is no wickedness that man cannot do.

Here we have a terrible example. It is as bad as any news story we might hear today. It sound like something you might see on CSI or Criminal Minds.

This chap in Israel had a guest in his home. During the night a crowd of men showed up banging on the door and demanding that the visitor come out so they could have sex with him. Being a ‘good host’ he could not allow that so he offered them his daughter and a concubine instead. The men still insisted on the visitor, but the man sent out his concubine.

These evil men raped and abused her. In the morning when the man woke up he found her dead on his doorstep reaching for the threshold. He thinks she is asleep and tries to stir her before he discovers that she is indeed dead.

So the man cuts her up into twelve pieces and send her parts all over the country.

That’s how bad man can be. Something had to be done.

‘Consider it, confer, and speak up.’

Man is still trying to consider, confer, and speak up to deal with sin.

People often confuse knowing God with having religion. These folks had plenty of religion, but they had forgotten God. Without God and with people doing whatever is right in their own eyes all sorts of evil are possible.

That is clear today. People don’t need religion. They don’t need a moral revolution. They don’t need man defined rules. What the world needs is a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

A mercenary spirit

When these went into Micah's house and took the carved image, the ephod, the household idols, and the molded image, the priest said to them, "What are you doing?" And they said to him, "Be quiet, put your hand over your mouth, and come with us; be a father and a priest to us. Is it better for you to be a priest to the household of one man, or that you be a priest to a tribe and a family in Israel?" So the priest's heart was glad; and he took the ephod, the household idols, and the carved image, and took his place among the people. – Judges 18.18-20

The priests were supposed to be special. They had all kinds of special rules. They were to live holy lives and carry out all kinds of rituals and sacrifices, but their goal was supposed to be to point the nation to the Lord.

They were not meant to be mercenaries.

You’d have to wonder about this guy for hiring himself out to start with, but now we see his true heart. Another group comes to him comes in to Micah’s house, and gathers up his idols and paraphernalia. Then they persuade him to come and priest for them. The amazing this is that this Levite is carrying all these idols and images around with him.

They make him a better offer, and he leaves.

You can almost understand it with a this guy, he wasn’t a spiritual example to start with.

What is tragic though is that it is possible to serve God the same way today. It is too easy to make decisions about serving God based on what we can get out of it instead of what God wants us to do.

Lord, keep this mercenary spirit far from me. Remind be to be content and trust you where you call me to serve You. Help me to trust You to sort out the rest.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

A good luck charm

Then Micah said, "Now I know that the LORD will be good to me, since I have a Levite as priest!" – Judges 17.13

Things were really a mess. The people seem to have all idea of what it meant to be God’s people. They rejected authority and were constantly running in and out of sin. When people reject God and His way anything is possible. Morals collapse, the sense of right and wrong collapse, unbelievable wickedness is possible. As we see here this can happen with or without ‘religion’ because religion often has nothing to do with God.

He we have a chap named Micah. He was an Israelite, but he was so far from God that he had no knowledge of God or his blessings. The reality of a relationship with God was totally foreign.

So he sorted out his own way to try and get God’s blessings. He hired his own personal priest and thought, ‘there, now God will bless me.’

But God doesn’t bless because of good luck charms. He doesn’t bless because of statues on the dashboard or carrying a Bible wherever we go. He doesn’t bless because we go to church or sing the songs or do anything else as a token of our religion.

Most of us are not going to try to hire a priest to get God on our side. But that doesn’t mean we are beyond trying to use our own machinations to try to persuade God to bless us.

But real blessing doesn’t come that way. Real blessing comes through faith and obedience and love and fellowship with Him.

God doesn’t bless our tokens  - He blesses our obedience.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Right in his own eyes

In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes. – Judges 17.6

‘Every man did that which was right in his own eyes.’

What do you know – post modern thinking before modernism. Modern man, despite all his claim of modernity and liberalism and freedom and no need for God is no different from these people of 3500 years ago.

There was no king, and without authority every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

Everyman doing what is right in his own eyes is not a pretty sight. The stuff that happens in the book of Acts beggars belief. And then it doesn’t take much looking to see what happens in a day like today when once again men seem meant on doing what is right in his own eyes. Some of the news stories we see today almost seem unreal in their horror.

Knowing how bad ‘in their own eyes’ philosophy can be, why is it that we Christians can sometimes dabble with it? How can we think that our own way is better than God’s way?

Whenever I do things according to what is right in my eyes I get into trouble. It os only when I do what is right in God’s eyes that I see success.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Let your gods help you

And the children of Israel cried out to the LORD, saying, "We have sinned against You, because we have both forsaken our God and served the Baals!" So the LORD said to the children of Israel, "Did I not deliver you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites and from the people of Ammon and from the Philistines? Also the Sidonians and Amalekites and Maonites oppressed you; and you cried out to Me, and I delivered you from their hand. Yet you have forsaken Me and served other gods. Therefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in your time of distress." – Judges 10.10-14

I don’t know if ‘frustrated’ is the right word for what happens here. Does God get frustrated? I don’t know. But Israel here it looks like God had had enough of Israel’s cycles of sin.

The people cry out to God again. They must have been a little stunned at His response:

Haven’t I delivered you over and over again
Every time you have called Me I have responded
And yet every time you go after the false gods again
That's enough – I am not going to deliver you again
Go to your gods and let them help you

That sounds fair enough – you want to worship your false gods, let them help you. I am done.

Of course, God is not done. His grace reigns. The confess their sins and turn to God and He will deliver them – but this was a wake up call. They knew that their false gods could not do what God could do.

I can only thank God that He doesn’t leave me to my own devices. My gods or my things or my notions or my ideas would always fail. Praise God that He doesn’t just throw up His hands and give up on me when I rebel and choose my own ways.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Reaping what we sow

And all the evil of the men of Shechem God returned on their own heads, and on them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal. – Judges 9.57

We have all heard it said ‘you reap what you so.’ Even the world has their own version when they talk about ‘karma.’ It is all based on the idea that you get what you deserve.

And there is some truth to that. The ‘reap what you so sow’ notion comes straight from the word of God – ‘whatever a man sows he is going to reap.’

So the men n of Shechem got what they deserved. All that the evil they had done God turned back on them. They did wrong, they were evil, and the suffered the consequences when they got what they sowed.

But I am glad that we serve a God of grace. He sent His Son to die for me and so that He reaped the results of my sin. It hardly seems fair, and it isn’t fair. It isn’t fair that Jesus reaped what I sowed.

But it happened. God loved the world so much that Christ came and took on all the evil I had done. I a practical way I still reap what I sow. When I do something stupid I am going to real the results.

But for eternity I am secure. Jesus paid it all. He did reap the results of the sin I sowed – and He did it because He loves me.

Friday, 12 February 2016

As soon as he was dead

So it was, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel again played the harlot with the Baals, and made Baal-Berith their god. Thus the children of Israel did not remember the LORD their God, who had delivered them from the hands of all their enemies on every side; nor did they show kindness to the house of Jerubbaal (Gideon) in accordance with the good he had done for Israel. - Judges 8.33-35

Things were going well with Gideon as judge. God had delivered the nation. They had a godly man who was a hero to the nation as their judge.

There is nothing wrong with following after good and godly men.

But when that happens there is always a danger to beware of.

Men are men. They are not God and they are not forever. Sometimes men fail and sometimes they leave and even if they don’t eventually they are going to die. Men are not going to be here forever.

Gideon died. With their hero gone Israel went right back to their old ways and fell back into sin.

We need to beware of having men as our hope.

Only God as our ruler lasts forever. Only He won't change. Only He won’t go.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

The Lord will rule

But Gideon said to them, "I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the LORD shall rule over you." – Judges 8.23

Gideon had just done the impossible. He had led his tiny army to defeat the powerful oppressors.

Of course the people were overjoyed. Somehow Gideon had beaten off the enemy and once again they were free. The crowd came to Gideon and begged him to be their king.

When I try to put myself in Gideon’s sandals I wonder what I would do. I know what I think I would do. I think I would love the idea and jump at the chance. I know my grandson AJ would. He wants to lead so bad he think that members of the government should pay us for the chance to do the job instead of us paying them!

But Gideon did not jump at the chance. ‘I’m not going to rule you. My sons are not going to rule you. Instead the Lord is going to rule you.’

Gideon was wise enough to recognise the sovereignty of God. He passed up his rule so that God could rule.

Most of us are never going to be offered the leadership of a nation or a people. Our problems come from demanding the rulership of our own lives.

At the root is the problem Gideon avoided – pride. He knew that God knew best for the land. He refused the offer to lead and left God in control.

Gideon did that with a whole nation. Why can’t I seem to do it for just my life?

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

He worshipped

And so it was, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, that he worshiped. He returned to the camp of Israel, and said, "Arise, for the LORD has delivered the camp of Midian into your hand." – Judges 7.15

It was about time to move. The battle was laid out. The shrunken army was chosen. Gideon and his tiny army of 300 were about to go out and face the massive Midianite army.

In human eyes they didn’t have a chance. Walking by sight they were hopeless. Looking at the visible things it was a doomed effort.

But look what Gideon did. After God gave him the strange battle plans in a dream we read that Gideon worshipped. His worship was not based on results, but on faith.

It is easy to worship after the battle. It is easy to worship after the trial. It is easy to worship after the storm. It is easy to worship after the illness. It is easy to worship after the financial need is met.

But God is worthy of our worship before the answer is seen. He is worthy of our worship before the result.

God is worthy of worship because He is God.

May my worship of Him never depend on what is happening or what I can see, but because of who He is. 

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Too many soldiers

Then Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, and all the people that were with him, rose up early, and pitched beside the well of Harod: so that the host of the Midianites were on the north side of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley. And the Lord said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me. – Judges 7.1-2

Gideon was preparing for his battle against the Midianites. God had commissioned him to deliver Israel from their captivity. Gideon had 22,000 men in his army. I don’t think we know how many men were in the Midianites army, but their camels were ‘like the sand on the seashore’ so it must have been a huge army. Gideon was surely greatly out numbered, but 22,000 men is still a good number. It might be hard, but defeating Midian was surely possible.

But God said ‘wait, you have too many men.’

Wait, too many men? How is that even possible?

But God said it was too many. Then through a series of tests God winnows the number down to 300 soldiers.

Why does God do that? We can’t know the mind of God, but I think God wants us to know that He is more than able what needs done. God gave Gideon an impossible situation so He could prove that he was the God of the impossible.

We all face situations where it seems like things are tough – and then God allows it to get a little tougher so that He can show who is in control. Sometimes it seems our resources are limited and God allows them to get even more limited.

But whenever He does He proves Himself faithful. I remember about 30 years ago when Mary and I were teaching in a small Christian school. As it was our income was not really enough to meet our needs.

Then things got tighter. Like Gideon our resources got even more limited. For nearly a year Mary taught for nothing.

And guess what? God got us though it. I have no idea how. It makes no sense. But God did it.

And that is God. That's how He works. He excels in meeting needs and giving the victory especially when we seem powerless.

He did it for Gideon. He did it for us 30 years ago. He does it today. And He will do it tomorrow.

Monday, 8 February 2016


And the Lord said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die. Then Gideon built an altar there unto the Lord, and called it Jehovah-shalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. – Judges 6.23-24

I love the Jehovah names of God in the Old Testament. It has been many years since my pastor, Greg McLaughlin taught a series on these names on Wednesday nights. 

I was intrigued and it led to a lot more study on my own. These are usually the names of places or altars established to remember Jehovah, or sometimes they are used to refer to God Himself. 

I am sure that Gideon was a bit intimidated and maybe even a little worried about the task God was calling him to. 

I may not be facing the Midianites, but I certainly understand the lack of peace that comes with facing the unknown. One of my spiritual weaknesses is looking down the road at a long term problem, not seeing a solution that suits me, then losing the ‘peace of God that passes all understanding’ because I ignore the instruction to ‘be care-ful’ for nothing. 

Both Gideon and me can take great comfort from the name of the altar Gideon builds here, Jehovah-Shalom, or ‘The LORD is my peace.’

‘God is my peace’ is something that is a constant theme, but some of us struggle with it. If we could just really grasp this thing we could know the truth of things like ‘great peace have they which love thy law and nothing shall offend them.’ We could claim the peace that Jesus promised when He said ‘my peace I leave with you.’

There is no need to live in turmoil and despair. There is no benefit to worry and fretting. We have the God who is ‘God Is My Peace.’ 

Can I rest at the altar of Jehovah-Shalom? 

Only if I really believe that God is my peace, and indeed my only peace. 

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Me God?

Now the Angel of the LORD came and sat under the terebinth tree which was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites. And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him, and said to him, "The LORD is with you, you mighty man of valor!" Gideon said to Him, "O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, 'Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?' But now the LORD has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites." Then the LORD turned to him and said, "Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?" So he said to Him, "O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house." And the LORD said to him, "Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man." Then he said to Him, "If now I have found favor in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who talk with me. – Judges 6.11-17

A lot happened in the book of Judges. There are all kinds of great lessons and events. We learn a lot about people and why they do what they do. We also that God uses all kinds of people, and he often uses the ones we would think the most unlikely. Of course we shouldn’t be surprised. God tells us in 1 Corinthians that God most often uses he weak and the feeble and those who are not extra smart or extra wise. He tends to use the everyday Joe Bloggs of this world to do His work.

Gideon was such a man.

When we meet Gideon we could hardly guess that he was destined for such great things. He is hiding from the Midianites threshing wheat on a wine press. It seem like much of an auspicious beginning.

Imagine he thoughts when the angel say ‘You mighty man of valour!’

He ignores that at first when he questions why they are where they are. He didn’t understand why they left Egypt, went through all their conquests, and yet were now in captivity to the Midianites.

God ignores the complaint and just says ‘you go out and defeat the Midianites.’

‘Me? I am the least man of the least tribes from Israel!’ ‘Who am I,’ Gideon thought, ‘to do such a thing?’

Then God gives the answer that makes it all possible – ‘I am with you,  the victory is yours.’

We may often feel overwhelmed at the job God has called us to do. It may seem like it is just too much for people like us. I certainly know I can feel like that sometimes.

But the same God who was with Gideon is with me today. I feel like the least of the least of the tribes or the chief of sinners. How can God use me?

He can and will be cause He is God and he loves to use those who don’t seem like the ones to use. That way we have no choice but to give Him the glory for any success.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

The courage of a woman

And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go. And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh. – Joshua 4.8-9

We get to read a lot about godly women in the word of God. So many of women are used by God in so many special ways as mothers and teachers. Some are known for their servant's hearts. Many are seen as godly wives standing my their husbands. We read about a woman named Jael who nailed an enemy kings head to the ground. The Bible certainly is not lacking when it comes to great women.

But here we have a woman who stands out as a real hero. Her courage is an example to all. Her name is Deborah and she was the only female judge in Israel. Her leadership is a great example of how God sometimes uses women outside of the more traditional roles.

Deborah was judge and Barak was her general. Israel was in the middle of one of her seven cycles of sin and Deborah commissioned her general Barak to go out and fight the enemy.

But he wouldn’t go – ‘I won’t go unless you go with me.’

So she said ‘ ‘I’ll go, but for all of history people will know that a woman killed Sisera.’ That must have crushed his male ego, but he did it they won the battle and she rightfully got the credit.

Deborah is a great example of truly trusting God. Barak was afraid to go – but Deborah wasn’t. God rewarded her faith and we have the record of it.

Praise God for her example to all of God’s servants.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Sin Cycles

Nevertheless, the LORD raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand of those who plundered them. Yet they would not listen to their judges, but they played the harlot with other gods, and bowed down to them. They turned quickly from the way in which their fathers walked, in obeying the commandments of the LORD; they did not do so. And when the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed them and harassed them. And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they reverted and behaved more corruptly than their fathers, by following other gods, to serve them and bow down to them. They did not cease from their own doings nor from their stubborn way. Then the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel; and He said, "Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers, and has not heeded My voice, - Judges 2.16-20

Israel’s refusal to listen to the God sent judges had a serious consequence related here. This section is a preview of what is going to happen for the whole book. There is going to be a series of seven cycles that they go through. All that really differs in the oppressor and deliverer and sin. Here is how it goes.


The people don’t listen to God and fall into sin. Because of their sin they become slaves to another nation. Once they are there that pray for help (supplication). God answers by sending them a deliverer (saviour) and they fall back into a period of silence. Soon the silence is broken by another time of sin and the whole cycle starts all over again. Seven times Israel goes through the same cycle. They could have broken it at any time by just listening to the God sent judge.

We are not a lot different today. We too can get caught in the trap of repeating the same sin cycles.

We are coasting along and because we are not listening to the word of God we slip into sin. If we still don’t listen that sin becomes a part of our way of life. We may not fail every day, but we always eventually slip back. We finally get fed up and we ask God for forgiveness and help. God sends the help and life goes back to normal, until the next time we ignore the word of God and slip back into sin, sometimes the same one.

There is only one way to break out. We are not going to escape until we have a heart change and truly listen to and obey the word of God. We can’t even do that on our own. We must have the help of the Holy Spirit as we ‘submit our bodies as a living sacrifice to God.’

We avoid the cycles as we listen, trust, and obey. 

Thursday, 4 February 2016

They would not listen

Nevertheless, the LORD raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand of those who plundered them. Yet they would not listen to their judges, but they played the harlot with other gods, and bowed down to them. They turned quickly from the way in which their fathers walked, in obeying the commandments of the LORD; they did not do so. – Judges 2.16-17

Joshua was dead an Israel was now going to enter a period where they would be ruled by God appointed judges. These judges would deliver them from the enemies who would attack them because they had fallen away from God. Even at a time like this when God allowed the enemies in to punish Israel because of her sin He graciously also supplied a way to be delivered.

So God gave an answer and a solution to the problem. The judges tried to draw them back to God.They warned the people and showed the way back. But there was a MAJOR problem.

‘They would not listen to the judges, but continued to play around with their other gods.’

Doesn’t that also describe the disobedient believer? God tells us exactly how we should live. We have His word. It is right there on our lap or on our shelf or on the table or our computer or e-reader or tablet or what ever. The problem for a lot of us is not one of access, but of listening and obeying.

Their not listening sent them into seven cycles of sin. Over and over they made the same mistakes and suffered the same consequences and all because they did not listen to God.

When we don’t listen we can't learn. I hope we can do a better job than these folks did. 

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

When the excitement fades

If ye forsake the Lord, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good. And the people said unto Joshua, Nay; but we will serve the Lord. And Joshua said unto the people, Ye are witnesses against yourselves that ye have chosen you the Lord, to serve him. And they said, We are witnesses. – Joshua 24.20-22

And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim: And they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the Lord to anger. And they forsook the Lord, and served Baal and Ashtaroth. – Judges 2.11-13

The people of Israel were full of good intentions. In all of the excitement about the conquests and victories and when Joshua was promising that he and his house were going to serve the Lord the people made a promise too. Joshua told them that this was not something they could give themselves to half-heartedly. This was a serious commitment.

So they said ‘Yes, we too are going to serve God.’ Joshua called them on it and questioned their commitment and they still said ‘we really will serve the Lord.’ He called them to stand as witnesses against themselves and they said ‘that’s grand, we will serve Him in sincerity and truth.’

It all sounded really good. Here was commitment! These folks were serious!

And yet, as time went on and Joshua died and passed off the scene everything changed. The very things they had promised they soon forgot.

To Joshua they said “we will serve the Lord!’

But nearly as soon as he was gone ‘they forsook the Lord God of their fathers.’

It is easy enough to make commitments and promises and vow vows and swear oaths in the excitement of victory, but what happens when we get back to the plain old every day drudgery of life?

When the excitement wears off it is too easy to forget all those promises and commitments. We can be as serious and committed and sincere and true and dedicated as we want in the excitement of the moment, but when everyday life returns those things can get lost in the shuffle and and the routine.

Of course Satan loves to quench the fire and he loves to encourage us to quench the Holy Spirit when He does those great works.

So let’s enjoy those exciting mountain tops and victories. But by the grace of God may we keep the fire alive when we are back on the plains or in the valleys. 

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

As for me and my house

Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD! And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." – Joshua 24.14-15

The second part of this passage makes the decision personal. Joshua could not decide for anyone else about who they were going to serve. He had warned the rest of the nation and told them that they needed to make a choice, but it was all up to them.

But Joshua could decide for one family, and that same choice is still true today.

‘As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.’

It is indeed only ‘me and my house’ that I can make a decision for. It is only my family. I can’t do it for my friends or neighbours or church members or anyone else. It is only me and my house.

That really puts the onus on us. It is the parents who have the primary task of training our children to serve the Lord. It is not the church or youth group or Christian school or even worthy mentors who have that primary job. They all have their place and sometimes individuals within the home choose to serve the Lord. And, sometimes, those within a home choose not to serve the Lord when they leave.

But in the home is where service and training for service begin.

What about me and my house? What about you and your house? Are we willing to stand with Joshua?

Monday, 1 February 2016

Sincerity and truth

Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD! And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." – Joshua 24.14-15

Joshua’s closing challenge to Israel was brilliant. They had seen all kinds of idols and false gods and they had seen all kinds of people worshipping them. Now that the settlement and conquest was done it was time to make a choice.

So Joshua reminds them to fear the Lord. Remember, as you move on to the next phase of your lives how holy God is. Not lose that holy reverence as time goes by. Put away all those false gods and serve God. Make a choice. Don’t just serve God but serve Him in sincerity and truth.

The only way to really serve God is to so do so without holding back, no reservations, with no hypocrisy. And we must do so in truth.

There is no room for half-hearted service. There is no room for service that is not totally sold out. I think that's why Paul implores us to ‘submit our bodies as a living sacrifice’ to the Lord. We can’t jump back and forth between serving the Lord and serving our own set of false gods. If the Lord is God follow Him, if the world is our god follow it.

We just can’t do both.